Back in 1983, the CIA wrote an obscure report looking into the "Gateway Experience," claiming that an altered state of human consciousness may be able to transcend space and time. Decades on, the document has since been declassified and is now experiencing a resurgence on social media.
However, despite what you saw on TikTok and YouTube, the document doesn’t provide proof of the “Law of Attraction,” nor does it reveal the benefits of sending “good vibes” out to the universe.
The 29-page document titled "Analysis and Assessment of the Gateway Process" was declassified in 2003. It’s thought the report was part of the CIA’s wider investigation into whether concepts of mind control and hypnosis could be used in the espionage efforts of the Cold War.
It’s an intensely wordy and dense report that touches on everything from neuroscience to quantum mechanics, wavering between hard science and pseudoscience as if wobbling between the two on a tightrope. It essentially boils down to the CIA investigating the idea of inducing a profound out-of-body experience that could possibly tune into some kind of higher realm beyond reality.
“Fundamentally, the Gateway experience is a training system designed to bring enhanced strength, focus, and coherence to the amplitude and frequency of brainwave output between the left and right hemispheres so as to alter consciousness, moving it outside the physical sphere so as to ultimately escape even the restrictions of time and space,” the report reads.
The technique, called the Gateway Process, is based on ideas developed by the Monroe Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on the exploration of human consciousness. The theory is that certain exercises can allow the brain to “hemi-sync”, whereby brain waves in the right and left hemispheres synchronize at the same frequency and amplitude. Hemi-sync, the report argues, can be achieved through a series of meditation-like exercises while listening to a set bunch of soundwaves, known as the Gateway Tapes.
As per the report, the universe is a complex system of “interacting energy fields” in which states are simply variations in energy. Human consciousness is no different, according to the report, it’s just a vibrational pattern of energy. Once "hemi-sync" is achieved, the report says, it can trigger an altered state of consciousness in which the vibration of a person’s consciousness is free from physical reality and tunes into this pure energy field.
Drawing on ideas of quantum entanglement, the report claims it may be possible for human consciousness to profoundly alter the universe since reality is a holographic projection; the part encodes the whole. In this understanding of reality, everything is deeply connected in a matrix of interconnected energy vibrations, from your consciousness to the depths of the universe.
"This consciousness participates in the all-knowing infinite continuum of consciousness which is a characteristic of energy in the ever-present," continues the report. "Consequently, it is accurate to observe that when a person experiences the out-of-body state he is, in fact, projecting that eternal spark of consciousness and memory which constitutes the ultimate source of his identity to let it play in and learn from dimensions both inside and outside the time-space world in which his physical component currently enjoys a short period of reality."
Some readers of the report have dug into this idea deeper and taken it as proof of the law of attraction – the philosophy that positive thoughts bring positive results into a person's life, while negative thoughts bring negative outcomes.
So, what to make of all this? No doubt the document makes for an interesting read, but it shouldn’t be treated as scientific, despite the scientific language and concepts it draws influence on. Many of the ideas in the report are drawn from real research, but when pieced all together, they aren’t testable. There are also a lot of questionable theories and leaps of logic chucked into the mix.
But hey, don’t let us stop you on your journey to the realm beyond this reality.
An earlier version of this article was first published in March 2021.