Jack Sarfatti

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Jack Sarfatti
Born (1939-09-14) September 14, 1939 (age 75)[1]
Brooklyn, New York
Residence North Beach, San Francisco
Education B.A. (Cornell University, 1960)
M.S. (UC San Diego, 1967)
Ph.D. (UC Riverside, 1969)

Jack Sarfatti (born September 14, 1939) is an American theoretical physicist. Working largely outside academia, Sarfatti specializes in the idea that there is a relationship between quantum physics and consciousness.[2] He argues that mind may be crucial to the structure of matter, that retrocausality may be possible, and that physics—which he calls the "Conceptual Art of the late 20th Century"—has replaced philosophy as the unifying force between science and art.[3]

Sarfatti was part of an informal group of physicists in California known as the Fundamental Fysiks Group, who in the 1970s, according to David Kaiser, a physicist and historian of science at MIT, helped to nurture some of the alternative ideas in quantum physics that today form the basis of quantum information science.[4]

He was co-author, along with physicist Fred Alan Wolf, of Bob Toben's Space-Time and Beyond (1975), and has self-published three of his own books, Space-Time And Beyond II (2002), Destiny Matrix (2002), and Super Cosmos (2005).[5]



Sarfatti was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Hyman and Millie Sarfatti.[6] He attended Midwood High School in Flatbush, Brooklyn, graduating in 1956.[7] In 1960 he obtained his B.A. in physics from Cornell University, and in 1963 published his first paper, "Quantum-Mechanical Correlation Theory of Electromagnetic Fields", in Nuovo Cimento, the journal of the Italian Physical Society. He obtained his M.S. in physics in 1967 from the University of California, San Diego, and his Ph.D. in 1969 from the University of California, Riverside—where he studied under Fred Cummings—for a thesis entitled "Gauge Invariance in the Theory of Superfluidity."[8] He and Cummings co-wrote a paper, "Beyond the Hartree–Fock Theory in Superfluid Helium", published in Physica Scripta in 1970.[1]

Academic career[edit]

He worked from 1967 to 1971 as assistant professor of physics at San Diego State University, and in 1971–1972 held a research fellowship at Birkbeck College, London, where he worked with David Bohm.[1] He also studied at the Cornell Space Science Centre, the UK Atomic Energy Research Establishment, and the Max Planck Institute for Physics in Munich.[7] In 1973–1974 he conducted research into mini black holes at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, after which he left academia.[9]

Research, ideas, and reception[edit]

Fundamental Fysiks Group[edit]

Further information: Fundamental Fysiks Group
Sarfatti (left) with physicist Fred Alan Wolf in Paris, 1973

Sarfatti was one of a group of around 10 physicists in the San Francisco area in the 1970s who became part of the Fundamental Fysiks Group at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.[10] Apart from Sarfatti, the group included its founder Elizabeth Rauscher, as well as Henry Stapp, Fred Alan Wolf, Nick Herbert, Fritjof Capra, John Clauser, Philippe Eberhard, Saul-Paul Sirag, and George Weissman—a "very smart and very playful" group, according to Kaiser, with Sarfatti as the star.[11]

Some of them held jobs within academia, but others had been left under-employed when the post-war boom in physics ended. Kaiser writes that, holding PhDs in theoretical physics from elite universities, they tried to carve out new roles for themselves, writing about quantum mysticism and becoming part of the Bay Area's counterculture and New Age movement.[11] Sarfatti's involvement with these issues did not advance his academic career, though he regarded his exile from academia as self-imposed.[7]

According to Kaiser, quantum theory—particularly Bell's theorem and the concept of quantum entanglement—had raised questions about parapsychology and issues such as telepathy. In How the Hippies Saved Physics (2011), he explains how the Fundamental Fysiks Group cultivated patrons outside academia, including the human potential movement (see below), who they hoped might be interested in the broader application of these ideas.[11] There was also significant government interest. The Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency set up a program called ESPionage, financing experiments into telepathy and remote viewing to the tune of tens of millions each year. The research was conducted by the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), where Sarfatti and the Fundamental Fysiks Group became what Kaiser calls its "house theorists."[12]

External images
The Fundamental Fysiks Group, as they appeared in City Magazine, 1975. Left to right: Jack Sarfatti, Saul-Paul Sirag, Nick Herbert, and Fred Alan Wolf (seated).

The group became local celebrities in San Francisco. When the film director Francis Ford Coppola bought out City Magazine in 1975, one of its earliest features was a photo spread of Sarfatti, Saul-Paul Sirag, Fred Alan Wolf and Nick Herbert (see right), an article that cemented their position within the local counter-cultural community. The spread played up what Kaiser called their "guru" status, and discussed the group "going into trances, working at telepathy, and dipping into their subconscious in experiments toward psychic mobility."[13]

Research into Uri Geller[edit]

Uri Geller with Sarfatti (right), photographed by Mark Pilkington in October 2006

In 1974 Sarfatti and the group helped the Stanford Research Institute suggest a theoretical background to research involving Uri Geller, an Israeli who had become known for his assertion that he could bend spoons and make watches start or stop by using only what he said were his thoughts. The SRI had begun to study Geller in its parapsychology lab in 1972 to determine whether he was using psychokinesis; the studies were led by laser physicists Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff, and resulted in a paper in Nature in October 1974.[14] Sarfatti and the group were asked to use quantum theory, and specifically Bell's theorem, to explain what Kaiser said looked like a robust experimental result.[13]

Sarfatti organized follow-up tests at Birkbeck College, London. The study was led by John Hasted, and on June 21 and 22, 1974, Hasted and Sarfatti joined David Bohm, Arthur Koestler, Arthur C. Clarke, and two of Geller's associates, Ted Bastin and Brendan O'Regan, to watch Geller display what he said were his psychokinetic powers. Geller bent four brass Yale keys and a 1 cm disk, affected a Geiger counter and deflected a compass needle. New Scientist wrote at the time that any good magician could have bent the keys, no matter how closely the observers believed they were watching. Sarfatti issued two press releases saying he believed Geller had demonstrated genuine psycho-energetic ability, statements that were picked up by Science News and the international media, though he later retracted his view after he witnessed James Randi perform the same trick.[15]

Physics-Consciousness Research Group[edit]

Outside government, groups within the human potential movement were also interested in applying ideas from quantum theory. Werner Erhard, the founder of Erhard Seminars Training, or EST, believed there had to be a way to use quantum theory to expand human consciousness. He moved to the Bay Area and came into contact with Sarfatti and Fred Alan Wolf. According to Kaiser, they hit it off, and had their lawyers formally create a non-profit think tank called the Physics-Consciousness Research Group—with Sarfatti as president, and Saul-Paul Sirag vice-president—into which Erhard and others funneled significant amounts of money. The group gave local lectures, published pamphlets, and wrote an opera about quantum physics and the brain, which they staged in a Bay Area park.[16]

Erhard introduced Sarfatti to Michael Murphy, co-director of the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, which had become what Kaiser calls an incubator for New-Age ideas and their potential application. In January 1976, Sarfatti and the physics group gathered there for a month-long conference on physics and consciousness. Murphy's announcement of the conference said, "Perhaps a new kind of inspired physicist, experienced in the yogic modes of perception, must emerge to comprehend the further reaches of matter, space, and time." Sarfatti was the conference's intellectual director, and wrote to major figures asking them to address it. Gary Zukav's best-selling The Dancing Wu Li Masters (1979)—a book about these new ideas—was organized around his attendance at this conference; he and Sarfatti were roommates in North Beach at the time. The conference apart, the Esalen group held regular workshops on quantum theory, with physicists from around the world attending, mixing lectures with yoga and sessions in the hot tubs.[17]

Publication and research outside academia[edit]

Epistemological Letters and Unicorn Preprint Service[edit]

Further information: Epistemological Letters

The new ideas were not invariably welcome within mainstream academic physics. According to Kaiser, Samuel Goudsmit, editor of the prestigious Physical Review, formally banned discussion of the interpretation of quantum mechanics, drawing up special instructions to referees to reject material that even hinted at the philosophical debate. The new material therefore ended up being distributed in alternative media. One such publication was a hand-typed newsletter called Epistemological Letters, published by a Swiss Foundation. Several eminent physicists and philosophers had to publish their material there—including the Irish physicist John Bell, the originator of Bell's theorem—as well as Sarfatti and other members of the Physics-Consciousness Research Group.[18]

The group were also involved in a mailing list, the core members of which were Sarfatti and Fred Alan Wolf, called the Unicorn Preprint Service, which was financed by Ira Einhorn, an American anti-war and environmental activist with good New York publishing contacts. It was Einhorn who arranged for the publication of Bob Toben's Space-Time and Beyond (1975), co-written by Sarfatti and Wolf. The list distributed articles not published elsewhere, and included some eminent thinkers, people such as Thomas Kuhn and Gerald Feinberg, though recipients often had their names added without being asked. It was intended, as Kaiser puts it, as an end-run around mainstream, peer-reviewed publication. Kaiser calls it a "parallel universe", though he says it was a fragile one, which ended in the late 1970s when Einhorn was charged with the murder of his girlfriend.[19]

Caffe Trieste[edit]

Sarfatti became known in North Beach throughout the 1980s for his seminars on physics and consciousness at the Caffe Trieste on Vallejo Street.[20]

Sarfatti's local fame in North Beach, San Francisco, continued throughout the 1980s with regular seminars he gave on physics and consciousness in the Caffe Trieste on Vallejo Street. The novelist Herbert Gold in Bohemia (1994) called it "Sarfatti's Cave", after Plato's cave:

Sarfatti's Cave is the name I'll give to the Caffe Trieste in San Francisco, where Jack Sarfatti, Ph.D. in physics, writes his poetry, evokes his mystical, miracle-working ancestors, and has conducted a several-decade-long seminar on the nature of reality and his own love life to a rapt succession of espresso scholars. He sings Gilbert and Sullivan songs. He suffers tragic reverses among women. He issues ultimatums to the CIA, the FBI, Werner Erhard, the navy, the KGB, and the Esalen Institute. With ample charm and boyish smiles he issues nonnegotiable demands. He has access to a photocopying machine. It's Jack Sarfatti against the world, and he is indomitable.

One of his soaring theories is that things which have not happened yet can cause events in the present. ... With just a little more, one more grant, one venturesome patron, one young woman with a trust fund, he can build the machine to prove his theories. Already in his possession are the theorems, formula, algebra, and the poetry for it. He covers sheets of paper. He can prove everything—here's a sheet of paper with guaranteed algebra, physics, and citations from Faust.[21]

Conferences and Stardrive[edit]

Sarfatti continued to attend academic conferences and in February 1986 argued during a meeting at the New York Academy of Sciences that faster-than-light communication was possible using time loops, and said he had tried to attract the support of the Defense Department to develop the research.[22] In the 1990s he swapped the seminars for a website, Stardrive, and in 1995, as the Web started to become popular, he and his brother Michael began setting up websites for local charities in San Francisco, such as the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Hebrew Academy.[23]

His work outside academia continued into the 2000s. He was appointed senior scientist in 1999–2000 by the International Space Sciences Organization, a group set up by Joe Firmage, the Internet entrepreneur, to explore mind-matter issues.[24] Between 2002 and 2005 he self-published three books advancing his ideas, Destiny Matrix (2002), Space-Time and Beyond II (2002), and Super Cosmos: Through Struggles to the Stars (2005).[7]

He was one of three physicists whose invitations to an August 2010 conference on de Broglie-Bohm theory—organized by Mike Towler of the University of Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory—were withdrawn. Antony Valentini, another organizer, withdrew invitations from Sarfatti; F. David Peat, David Bohm's biographer; and Brian Josephson, who shared the 1973 Nobel Prize for Physics and led the Mind-Matter Unification Project at Cambridge. According to Times Higher Education (THE), Peat's invitation was withdrawn because he had written about Jungian synchronicity, and Josephson's because of his interest in parapsychology. Peat's and Josephson's invitations were later restored; THE did not explain why Sarfatti was uninvited.[25]

Sarfatti was invited to speak by Enzo Bianco, former Minister of Interior of all Italy in Catania, Sicily where he was Mayor in May, 2014. A video of Sarfatti's lecture is on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/user/JSarfatti

Starship Study[edit]

In October 2010 Sarfatti was among 30 people involved in setting up a one-year working group, the 100-Year Starship Study—financed to the tune of $1.1 million by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and NASA's Ames Research Center—on how to achieve interstellar space flight within the next 100 years.[26]


Selected papers

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Schwartz, Stephen. "The Universe, As Seen From North Beach", San Francisco Chronicle, August 17, 1997, p. 5.
  2. ^ Kaiser, David. How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival. W W Norton & Co Inc, 2011, pp. 65, 80.
  3. ^ For his work on consciousness, see Kane, Robert. The Oxford Handbook of Free Will. Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 110.
    • For mind and matter, see Towler, Michael. Cambridge University Lectures on David Bohm's Quantum Theory, Lecture 8 [1], Talbot, Michael. Mysticism and the New Physics. Penguin, 1993 (first published 1981), pp. 2, 65; and Kaiser 2011, p. 65.
    • For cause and effect, and "Conceptual Art", see Burns, Alex. "Jack Sarfatti: Weird Science", 21C magazine, 1996.
    • For physics replacing philosophy, see Schwartz 1997, p. 1.
  4. ^ Kaiser, David. "Lecture: How the Hippies Saved Physics" at the Wayback Machine (archived July 16, 2011), WGBH PBS, April 28, 2010, from 04:00 mins, particularly from 11:00 mins.
  5. ^ For Sarfatti co-writing Toben's book, see Kaiser 2010 at the Wayback Machine (archived July 16, 2011), from 23:22 mins.
  6. ^ For his father, see Technology Review, Association of Alumni and Alumnae of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1976, p. 1.
    • For his mother, see Sarfatti, Jack. Destiny Matrix. AuthorHouse, 2002, p. 93.
  7. ^ a b c d Burns, Alex. "Jack Sarfatti: Weird Science", 21C magazine, 1996.
  8. ^ For the M.S., see Schwartz 1997, p. 5.
  9. ^ For a paper he wrote in Trieste, see Sarfatti, Jack. "Toward a Unified Field Theory of Gravitation and Strong Interactions", Foundations of Physics, Vol 5, No. 2, 1975.
  10. ^ Kaiser 2010 at the Wayback Machine (archived July 16, 2011), from 24:00 mins.
  11. ^ a b c For a synopsis of the book, see Kaiser, David. "Research Interests: History of Science", MIT, accessed April 27, 2011.
  12. ^ Kaiser 2010 at the Wayback Machine (archived July 16, 2011), around 28 mins.
  13. ^ a b For Sarfatti and friends becoming local celebrities, and for the City Magazine spread, see Kaiser, David. "Lecture: How the Hippies Saved Physics" at the Wayback Machine (archived July 16, 2011), WGBH-TV PBS, April 28, 2010—Geller from 21:00 mins, Sarfatti's involvement from 23:22 mins.
    • Also see Kaiser 2011, p. xviii.
  14. ^ Targ, Russell and Puthoff, Harold. "Information transmission under conditions of sensory shielding", Nature, October 17, 1974.
  15. ^ "Geller performs at Birkbeck", New Scientist, October 17, 1974.
    • For Hasted's description of the research, and a reference to the press release without naming Sarfatti as the person behind it, see Hasted, J. B. The metal-benders. Routledge, 1981, p. 18.
    • For Sarfatti's press releases, see Kaiser 2010 at the Wayback Machine (archived July 16, 2011), from 23:22 mins.
    • For more on Sarfatti's involvement, see Rensberger, Boyce. "Magicians term Israeli 'psychic' a fraud", The New York Times, December 13, 1975: "Dr. Jack Sarfatti, an American physicist who saw both men [Geller and James Randi] perform at Birkbeck and who once endorsed Mr. Geller's authenticity, has recently issued a public retraction."
    • For background on the Geller study at the Stanford Research Institute, and related studies elsewhere at the time, see:
  16. ^ Kaiser 2010 at the Wayback Machine (archived July 16, 2011), from 28:00 mins.
  17. ^ Kaiser 2010 at the Wayback Machine (archived July 16, 2011), from 33:00 mins.
  18. ^ Kaiser 2010 at the Wayback Machine (archived July 16, 2011), from 38:00 mins.
  19. ^ Kaiser 2010 at the Wayback Machine (archived July 16, 2011), from 40:00 mins.
  20. ^ O'Reilly, James and Habegger, Sean O'Reilly. Travelers' Tales San Francisco. Travelers' Tales, 2002, p. 40.
  21. ^ Herbert, Gold. Bohemia: Where Art, Angst, Love, and Strong Coffee Meet. Simon & Schuster, 1993, p. 15.
  22. ^ Browne, Malcolm W. "Quantum Theory: Disturbing Questions Remain Unsolved", The New York Times, February 11, 1986, p. 2.
  23. ^ Schwartz, Stephen. "Volunteers needed. Brothers help organizations get on information superhighway for free", San Francisco Chronicle. November 20, 1995.
  24. ^ Enge, Marliee. "Physicist's 'Bohemian' Ways", San Jose Mercury News, August 7, 2000.
  25. ^ Reisz, Matthew. "He didn't see that coming, or did he?", Times Higher Education, April 29, 2010.
  26. ^ "100 Year Starship: Nasa's plan to colonise galaxy", The FirstPost, October 27, 2010.
  27. ^ Jacobson, Colin. "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home - Special Edition (1986)", DVD Movie Guide, 2003, accessed April 25, 2011; video courtesy of YouTube, accessed April 28, 2011.
  28. ^ "Staya Erusa", stayaerusa.org, accessed April 25, 2011.
  29. ^ "Fred Alan Wolf Directs Jack Sarfatti", galleryme.com, accessed April 25, 2011.


Further reading[edit]

External links and articles
  • Benjamin, Marina. Rocket Dreams. Simon and Schuster, 2003.
  • Bohm, David. Wholeness and the Implicate Order. Routledge, 2002 (first published 1980).
  • Davies, Paul. God and the New Physics. Simon & Schuster, 1984.
  • Dossey, Larry. Space, Time, and Medicine. Routledge, 1982.
  • Gardner, Martin. Science, Good, Bad and Bogus. Prometheus Books, 1989.
  • Gribbin, John. In Search of the Multiverse: Parallel Worlds, Hidden Dimensions, and the Ultimate Quest for the Frontiers of Reality. Wiley, 2010.
  • Gribbin, John. White Holes. Electric Book Co., 2005.
  • Margolis, Jonathan. The Secret Life of Uri Geller CIA Masterspy? Watkins, London, 2013 pp. 239–241
  • Mishlove, Jeffrey. The Roots of Consciousness. Random House, 1975.
  • Rucker, Rudy. Geometry, Relativity and the Fourth Dimension. Dover Publications, 1977.
  • Walker, Evan Harris. "The Physics of Consciousness: The Quantum Mind and the Meaning of Life. Perseus Publishing, 2000.
  • Wilson, Robert Anton. Schrödinger's Cat Trilogy. Random House of Canada, 1988.
  • Woodward, James F.. "Making Starships and Stargates". pp. 203–206. Springer-Praxis, New York, 2013