Jack Sarfatti

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Jack Sarfatti
Sarfatti in November 2007
Born (1939-09-14) September 14, 1939 (age 79)[1]
Brooklyn, New York
ResidenceNorth Beach, San Francisco, California
EducationCornell University
University of California, San Diego
University of California, Riverside

Jack Sarfatti (born September 14, 1939) is an American theoretical physicist. Working largely outside academia, most of Sarfatti's publications revolve around quantum physics and consciousness.[n 1] He argues for retrocausality, that mind is crucial to the structure of matter, 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.[n 2][6]

Sarfatti was a leading member of the Fundamental Fysiks Group, an informal group of physicists in California in the 1970s who, according to historian of science David Kaiser, helped to inspire some of the investigations into quantum physics that underly parts of quantum information science.[7][8] Sarfatti co-wrote Space-Time and Beyond (1975; credited to Bob Toben and Fred Alan Wolf) and has self-published several books.[9]



Sarfatti was born in Brooklyn, New York to Hyman and Millie Sarfatti.[10] His father was born in Kastoria, Greece, and moved to New York as a child with his family.[11]

Raised in the Midwood neighborhood, Sarfatti attended Midwood High School where he was in the All City Chorus and Math Club, graduating in 1956.[12] In Destiny Matrix (2002), Sarfatti wrote that, when he was 13, he received at least one telephone call from a voice that said it was a conscious computer on a spaceship. The voice said he had been identified as "one of 400 bright young receptive minds," and that he would be picked up shortly from his building's fire escape. He and several friends waited, he wrote, but nothing happened.[13][14]

Sarfatti has also alleged that numismatist and convicted child sex offender Walter H. Breen (who later offered guest workshops sponsored by Sarfatti at meetings of the Physics/Consciousness Research Group at the Esalen Institute in 1976) secured his admission to Cornell University while coordinating Sandia National Laboratories-funded parapsychological research studies of New York City gifted children (so-called "superkids," including Sarfatti and Robert Bashlow) in William Herbert Sheldon's Constitutional Laboratory at Columbia Medical School from 1953 to 1956.[15] The studies allegedly included immersion in New York science fiction fandom, a connection facilitated by Breen.[15]

In 1960, he obtained his B.A in physics from Cornell University, where he was also a lead tenor in the "Cornell Savoyards". Three years later, he published his first paper, "Quantum-Mechanical Correlation Theory of Electromagnetic Fields," in Nuovo Cimento, the journal of the Italian Physical Society. Following graduate studies at Cornell and Brandeis University, he obtained an M.S. in physics in 1967 from the University of California, San Diego before receiving a Ph.D. in the discipline in 1969 from the University of California, Riverside, where he studied under Fred Cummings; his dissertation was "Gauge Invariance in the Theory of Superfluidity."[16] 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]

From 1967 to 1971, Sarfatti was an assistant professor of physics at San Diego State University. During the 1971–1972 academic year, he held a research fellowship at Birkbeck, University of London, where he worked with David Bohm.[1] He also studied at the Cornell Space Science Center, the UK Atomic Energy Research Establishment, and the Max Planck Institute for Physics in Munich.[12] In 1973–1974 he conducted research into mini black holes at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste.[17] At around this time he decided to leave academia, seeing it as too sterile.


According to Kaiser, Sarfatti's politics have leaned to the right since the early 1980s, when he became dependent on a cadre of "politically conservative thinkers who were drawn to certain New Age ideas" for research funding following the dissolution of his relationship with Werner Erhard. He endorses the Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory and perceives the majority of faculty at American universities as constituting "the enemy within." In the 1980s, he worked with Lawry Chickering at the Institute for Contemporary Studies, a neoconservative think tank. For over forty years, Sarfatti has maintained a close friendship with conservative talk show host and medical anthropologist Michael Savage.[18]

Fundamental Fysiks Group[edit]

Sarfatti (left) with physicist Fred Alan Wolf in Paris, 1973

Sarfatti became a leading member of the Fundamental Fysiks Group, an informal group of physicists that conducted weekly discussions at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the 1970s.[19][20][21] The group—"very smart and very playful," according to David Kaiser—was founded by Elizabeth Rauscher and included Henry Stapp, Fred Alan Wolf, Nick Herbert, Fritjof Capra, John Clauser, Philippe Eberhard, Saul-Paul Sirag and George Weissman.[22]

Several held academic posts, but others had been left unemployed when the post-war boom in physics ended in 1968–1972. Physics, too, had changed; students were taught little or no philosophy and metaphysics.[23] The Fundamental Fysiks Group, with PhDs in theoretical physics, made names for themselves writing about consciousness, metaphysics and quantum mysticism.[24][25]

Quantum theory—particularly Bell's theorem and the concept of quantum entanglement—had raised questions about parapsychology and telepathy.[25] Kaiser argues that Sarfatti and the group kept several of these apparently fringe ideas alive. For example, they believed they could develop faster-than-light communication, discussions that led to the no-cloning theorem, which became part of quantum cryptography.[n 3] The group similarly kept Bell's theorem alive, which eventually led to quantum information science. According to historian Robert P. Crease and physicist Alfred Scharff Goldhaber, apart from one brief mention in 1966, Bell's theorem "did not enter mainstream physics textbooks until after the Fundamental Fysiks Group had left its impact."[n 4]

Kaiser writes that there was significant government interest in telepathy and remote viewing. The Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency set up a program called ESPionage, financing research conducted by the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), where Sarfatti and the Fundamental Fysiks Group became what Kaiser calls its "house theorists."[28] The group became celebrities in San Francisco.[29] City of San Francisco Magazine devoted two pages to them in 1975, shortly after the magazine was acquired by the film director Francis Ford Coppola. The spread included a photograph of Sarfatti, Saul-Paul Sirag, Fred Alan Wolf and Nick Herbert, and discussed them "going into trances, working at telepathy, [and] dipping into their subconscious in experiments toward psychic mobility."[30] In 1979 Sarfatti was featured on the cover of North Beach Magazine.[31][32]

Research into Uri Geller[edit]

Uri Geller with Sarfatti (right), October 2006

In 1974 Sarfatti and the Fundamental Fysiks Group were hired by the Stanford Research Institute to help with its research into Uri Geller.[33] Geller, an Israeli, maintained that he could bend spoons and control watches using only his thoughts. The SRI studies, led by laser physicists Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff, began in November 1972 and resulted in a paper in Nature in October 1974.[34][35] According to Kaiser, SRI asked Sarfatti and the group to use quantum theory, and specifically Bell's theorem, to explain what Geller appeared to be doing.[36] Joseph Hanlon wrote in New Scientist at the time that the SRI tests had been conducted in a "circus atmosphere," with Geller in control.[34][37]

Sarfatti and Fred Wolf helped to organize a series of tests at Birkbeck College, London, led by John Hasted.[33] 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 appear to bend four brass Yale keys and a 1 cm disk, affect a Geiger counter and deflect a compass needle. Hanlon wrote that any good magician could have bent the keys, no matter how closely the observers believed they were watching.[34][38] Sarfatti issued press releases saying he believed Geller had demonstrated psychokinetic ability, statements picked up by Science News and the international media.[39] Hasted, Bohm, Bastin and O'Regan described the experiments in Nature in April 1975.[40] Sarfatti retracted his view in December that year after watching magician James Randi perform the same trick.[41]

Physics–Consciousness Research Group[edit]

Outside government, groups within the human potential movement were also interested in quantum theory. Werner Erhard, founder of Erhard Seminars Training (EST), moved to the Bay Area and came into contact with Sarfatti and Fred Alan Wolf. In January 1975 Erhard and the physicists formally set up a non-profit think tank, the Physics–Consciousness Research Group, with Sarfatti as president and Saul-Paul Sirag vice-president.[42] Funded by Erhard, they held lectures, published pamphlets, and staged an opera in a Bay Area park about quantum physics and the brain.[43]

Erhard introduced Sarfatti to Michael Murphy of the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. In January 1976 Sarfatti and the Physics–Consciousness Research Group gathered there for a month-long conference on physics and consciousness. 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) 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 mixing lectures with yoga and sessions in the hot tubs.[44]

Epistemological Letters[edit]

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 was distributed instead in alternative media. One such publication was a hand-typed newsletter called Epistemological Letters, published by a Swiss Foundation. Several eminent physicists and philosophers published 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.[45]

Caffe Trieste[edit]

Caffe Trieste, North Beach

Sarfatti's local celebrity in San Francisco continued throughout the 1980s with seminars on physics and consciousness in the Caffe Trieste on Vallejo Street, North Beach.[8][12] In 1993 the novelist Herbert Gold called the café "Sarfatti's Cave," after Plato's cave[46]

100 Year Starship study[edit]

In 2010 Sarfatti was among 30 people invited to join a working group, the 100-Year Starship study, financed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and NASA's Ames Research Center, to discuss how interstellar space flight might be achieved.[47]

Selected works[edit]

  • Toben, Bob (1975). Space-Time and Beyond: Toward an Explanation of the Unexplainable. E.P. Dutton (Toben in conversation with Fred Alan Wolf and Jack Sarfatti). ISBN 978-0-525-47399-2


  1. ^ David Kaiser, 2011: "From [Eugene] Wigner and [John] Wheeler, Sarfatti took the point that everyone's consciousness participates in shaping quantum processes, both by deciding which observations to make and by collapsing the multiplying possibilities into definite outcomes. Sarfatti recast Wigner's main argument in terms of action and reaction. Surely matter can affect consciousness ... so why not posit an equal and opposite reaction of consciousness on matter?"[2]

    David Hodgson, 2005: "[P]hysicist Jack Sarfatti has devised a theory of consciousness and free will based upon Bohm's version of QM [quantum mechanics], or post-QM. Sarfatti's unorthodox work does not yet appear in any book or published article, but it can be found on the internet ..."[3]

  2. ^ Paavo T. I. Pylkkänen, 2006: "The physicist Jack Sarfatti, in particular, has emphasized the need for an explanation of how the individual particle influences its own field and has proposed mechanisms for such 'back-action,' also emphasizing, in a very interesting way, its importance in understanding the mind-matter relationship and how consciousness arises (see, for example, Sarfatti (1997)."[4]

    Steven M. Rosen, 1994: "A major theme of Tobin, Sarfatti, and Wolf's exposition is that 'all is consciousness.' At every level of organization in the hierarchy of space-time domains, singularities or holes develop at the fringes, destroying the continuity that prevailed in the middle regions. Consciousness is identified as the 'hidden variable' that creates the holes and then fills them, restoring continuity. In the process, the next level of hierarchy is produced. Thus the secret thread with which plural realities are sewn together is consciousness. ... Therefore, in his opening statement, Sarfatti offers 'the idea that consciousness is at the root of the material universe' (Toben, Sarfatti, and Wolf 1975, p. 126) ..."[5]

  3. ^ David Kaiser 2011: "The hippie physicists' concerted push on Bell's theorem and quantum entanglement instigated major breakthroughs ... The most important became known as the "no-cloning theorem," a new insight into quantum theory that emerged from spirited efforts to wrestle with hypothetical machines dreamed up by members of the Fundamental Fysiks Group."[26]
  4. ^ Robert P. Crease, Alfred Scharff Goldhaber, 2014: "The textbook that briefly mentioned Bell's theorem was Kurt Gottfried, Quantum Mechanics: Fundamentals (W. A. Benjamin, 1966). The first quantum mechanics textbook that Kaiser has found that devotes any attention to Bell's theorem was Sakurai's 1985 textbook Modern Quantum Mechanics, i.e. Bell's theorem did not enter mainstream physics textbooks until after the Fundamental Fysiks Group had left its impact."[27]


  1. ^ a b c Stephen Schwartz, "The Universe, As Seen From North Beach", San Francisco Chronicle, August 17, 1997, p. 5.
  2. ^ David Kaiser, How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival. W. W. Norton & Company Inc, 2011, p. 65.
  3. ^ David Hodgson, "Quantum Physics, Consciousness and Free Will," in Robert Kane (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 110, n. 4.
  4. ^ Paavo T. I. Pylkkänen, Mind, Matter and the Implicate Order, Springer Science & Business Media, 2006, p. 37.
  5. ^ Steven M. Rosen, Science, Paradox, and the Moebius Principle, State University of New York Press, 1994, p. 143.
  6. ^ Kaiser 2011, p. 65; Michael Talbot, Mysticism and the New Physics, Penguin, 1993, pp. 2, 65.
    Jack Sarfatti, "Retrocausality and Signal Nonlocality in Consciousness and Cosmology", Journal of Cosmology, 14, 2011.

    For "Conceptual Art," Alex Burns, "Jack Sarfatti: Weird Science", 21C magazine, 1996. For physics replacing philosophy, Schwartz 1997, p. 1.

  7. ^ Kaiser 2011, p. xxiiiff; David Kaiser, "Lecture: How the Hippies Saved Physics", WGBH PBS, April 28, 2010 (hereafter Kaiser 2010), from 04:00 mins, particularly from 11:00 mins.

    Hugh Gusterson, "Physics: Quantum outsiders", Nature, 476, 278–279, August 18, 2011.

  8. ^ a b George Johnson, "What Physics Owes the Counterculture", The New York Times, June 17, 2011.
  9. ^ For Sarfatti's authorship of Space-Time and Beyond, Kaiser 2011, p. 136; Rosen 1994, p.  141; also see Kaiser 2010, from 23:22 mins.
  10. ^ Technology Review, Association of Alumni and Alumnae of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1976, p. 1; Jack Sarfatti, Destiny Matrix. AuthorHouse, 2002, p. 93.
  11. ^ Hyman Sarfatti, "My Story: Cosmic Consciousness & Me", Scientific GOD Journal, 5(8), October 2014 (pp. 660–682), pp. 660, 664.
  12. ^ a b c Alex Burns, "Jack Sarfatti: Weird Science", 21C magazine, 1996.
  13. ^ Sarfatti, Destiny Matrix, pp. 24–27, 95; Kaiser 2011, p. 71.
  14. ^ Sharon Weinberger, "100 Year Starship: An interstellar leap for mankind?", BBC, March 22, 2012.
  15. ^ a b "Coming Soon". Praxisforlife.org. Archived from the original on December 26, 2013. Retrieved April 9, 2014.
  16. ^ For the MS, Schwartz 1997, p. 5; for the PhD, Jack Sarfatt[i], "Gauge Invariance in the Theory of Superfluidity", The Smithsonian/NASA Astrophysics Data System.
  17. ^ "If the beer don't get you, then the black holes must," New Scientist, October 18, 1973, p. 165.

    For a paper he wrote in Trieste, Jack Sarfatti, "Toward a Unified Field Theory of Gravitation and Strong Interactions", Foundations of Physics, 5(2), 1975.

  18. ^ Kaiser 2011, p. 63.
  19. ^ H. M. Collins and T. J. Pinch, Frames of Meaning: The Social Construction of Extraordinary Science, Routledge, 2013, p. 189, n. 4.
  20. ^ Kaiser 2010, from 24:00 mins.
  21. ^ "25th reunion of the Fundamental Physics Group", quantumtantra.com.
  22. ^ Kaiser 2010, from 23:22 mins; for Capra's membership, from 45:00 mins, and Kaiser 2011, p. 139.
  23. ^ Kaiser 2011, pp. xv–xvi.
  24. ^ Max Heirich, "Cultural Breakthroughs", "American Behavioral Scientist", 19(6), July/August 1976 (pp. 685–702), pp. 696–699.
  25. ^ a b Kaiser 2010, from 23:22 mins.
    Gary Zukav, The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics, HarperOne, 2001 (first published 1979), p. x.
    Martin Gardner and John Archibald Wheeler, "Quantum Theory and Quack Theory", New York Review of Books, May 17, 1979.

    Jack Sarfatti, "The Superluminal", The New York Review of Books, September 27, 1979.

  26. ^ Kaiser 2011, pp. xiii–xxxv.
  27. ^ Robert P. Crease, Alfred Scharff Goldhaber, The Quantum Moment: How Planck, Bohr, Einstein, and Heisenberg Taught Us to Love Uncertainty, W. W. Norton & Company, 2014, pp. 263–264, 304, n. 9.
  28. ^ Kaiser 2010, around 28 mins.

    For Stanford Research Institute, "The Magician And the Think Tank", Time magazine, March 12, 1973.

  29. ^ Kaiser 2011, p. xvii.
  30. ^ Kaiser 2011, p. xviii.
  31. ^ Kaiser 2011, p. xviii; Sarfatti, Destiny Matrix, p. 117.
  32. ^ *[1] Sarfatti with Russell Targ on CIA experiments in remote viewing
  33. ^ a b Kaiser 2011, pp. 71–72; Kaiser 2010: Geller from 21:00 mins, Sarfatti's involvement from 23:22 mins.
  34. ^ a b c Joseph Hanlon, "Uri Geller and Science," New Scientist, October 17, 1974, pp. 170–185: pp. 178–183 for Stanford Research Institute; p. 180 for "circus atmosphere" and Geller being in control; p. 184 for Birkbeck and Sarfatti.
  35. ^ "Investigating the paranormal", Nature, editorial, October 18, 1974; Russell Targ, Harold Puthoff, "Information transmission under conditions of sensory shielding", Nature, 251, October 17, 1974, pp. 602–607. doi:10.1038/251602a0
  36. ^ Kaiser 2010, from c. 23:44 mins.
  37. ^ Hanlon's view is, however, contradicted here: http://www.remoteviewed.com/remote_viewing_history_military.htm
  38. ^ J. B. Hasted, The metal-benders, Routledge, 1981, p. 18.

    Boyce Rensberger, "Physicists Test Telepathy In a 'Cheat-Proof' Setting; Random Selection", The New York Times, October 22, 1974.

  39. ^ Kaiser 2011, p. 72. Sarfatti wrote: "My personal professional judgment as a PhD physicist is that Geller demonstrated genuine psycho-energetic ability at Birkbeck, which is beyond the doubt of any reasonable man, under relatively well controlled and repeatable experimental conditions." Also see Kaiser 2010, from 23:22 mins.
  40. ^ J. B. Hasted, et al., News, Nature, 254, April 10, 1975, pp. 470–471. doi:10.1038/254470a0
  41. ^ Jack Sarfatti, "Retraction on Geller", Science News, 108(23), December 6, 1975, p. 355; Boyce Rensberger, "Magicians term Israeli 'psychic' a fraud", The New York Times, December 13, 1975.
  42. ^ Kaiser 2011, pp. 15, 298, n. 18.
  43. ^ Kaiser 2010, from 28:00 mins.
  44. ^ Kaiser 2011, p. 114; Kaiser 2010, from 33:00 mins.
  45. ^ Kaiser 2010, from 38:00 mins.
  46. ^ Herbert Gold, Bohemia: Where Art, Angst, Love, and Strong Coffee Meet, Simon & Schuster, 1993, p. 15.
  47. ^ "About", "100 Year Starship Study™ Public Symposium", 100yearstarshipstudy.com.

Further reading[edit]