In the 1960s a group of new-age thinkers in the US had athletes and coaches convinced that with no more than the power of their own minds they could be bigger, faster and able to control their opponent’s minds.
It was so big that it even influenced the Star Wars franchise.
Award-winning jouranalist Ed Hawkins explores the lengths teams will go to in his new book The Men on Magic Carpets.
An example he says is the the British cycling team which was absolutely obsessed with detail, to the point that they painted the bike room white so they could find any speck of dust because they discovered that dust on machine and an impact on their performance.
“I thought if some teams are as anal-retentive as that, would a team go cosmic or use gurus or mystics, had anyone tried anything really, really weird to get an edge out on the field of play?”
In the 1970s, before a FA Cup match, when Halifax Town were playing Manchester City, Halifax Town were hypnotised to make them believe they would win, and they did.
“That was just one example of some of the bonkers things that teams have tried.”
Hawkins discovered that in the 1960s, on the West Coast of the United States, a movement believed they could create superhuman sports stars through yoga, meditation and teach athletes that the could do things like slow down time, put thoughts in their opponents head and feel no pain.
“All of these comic hero-type things and it really sort of took hold in the 60s.”
It might have had a little bit of help from some illegal substances at the time, he says.
The CIA got wind of the movement and thought perhaps these people might be able to teach soldiers to do the same.
“Of course, this was at the height of the Cold War so suddenly, the hippy guru movement who just wanted to be faster, stronger, weirder, had the might of the US military behind them.
"The military’s goal was to create a super soldier because they believed the Russians were doing the same thing, and it was the Cold War era.”
Hawkins believes there was a situation where the US and Russia were both egging each other on with what may have been false information.
“The strange thing about this story is that the American hippies and the Russian hippies, who were being manipulated by their governments and military powers, had been in touch decades before. They’d swapped stories and they had swapped plans, things that did work and things which didn’t work.”
It was an underground movement being controlled by military powers, says Hawkins.
“The people who were at the core, the people who were controlling the movement… they very much believed in the psychic, in the woo-woo, in the esoteric.”
Hugely influential in the movement was Mike Murphy, of the Esalen Institute, who would go to baseball games and believed with the power of his mind he could knock over a pitcher.
The Esalen Institute tried to stop the heart of a goat by staring at it, and tried to walk through walls, among other things.
“[Murphy] was very much of the belief that there was a psychic energy, that there was a force which some people are better able to connect to than others and the use of the words ‘the force’ is not a mistake, it is what the Star Wars movie franchise is entirely based on, the Mike Murphy and Esalen movement basically inspired the Star Wars movie franchise.
“It's all about allowing your body to do what it’s brilliantly able to do and stopping your mind getting in the way.”
We promised a link to Uri Geller's trick during Uri 96. Find it here