In his documentary, "You Have Used Me as a Fish Long Enough", gifted film-maker Adam Curtis argues that mind control programmes such as MK-ULTRA ultimately proved unsuccessful.
As a result, Curtis' film argues, the military-industrial complex abandoned its dream of directly controlling the individual mind. Instead, it turned to ever more sophisticated forms of mass propaganda - such as the manipulation of the historical record and the shaping of contemporary reality as presented through network television news & current affairs.
Curtis' argument probably represents the consensus amongst those few academic historians who are interested in MK-ULTRA and its legacy. I believe that consensus to be wrong.
Many years of researching Bluebird/Artichoke/MK-ULTRA and its even more hidden British counterpart, and speaking and corresponding with individuals who claim to have been guinea pigs in these programmes, have convinced me that the covert mind control techniques had three main origins:
i) the medical and psychological research on soldiers with "shellshock" dating back to the Crimean and American Civil War, and continuing through WW1 & WW2. Many soldiers whose psyches had been fragmented by the experience of terrible events, and were suffering from what we now term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, effectively became experimental subjects. Whilst many of the shellshock doctors had the best of intentions, others were directly involved in the mind control programmes. For instance, perhaps the most famous of all the British shellshock doctors, William Sargant, collaborated extensively with Ewen Cameron and Sidney Gottlieb of MK-ULTRA notoriety. Sargant even betrayed CIA doctor Frank Olson to Gottlieb when Olson described his horror at witnessing terminal mind control experiments in 1953, probably either in Britain or in former IG Farben buildings in Frankfurt which were by then occupied by the CIA. Olson's son, Eric, has good evidence that his father was subsequently murdered by CIA elements;
ii) the very mechanical theories of the brain which were academically fashionable at the time of WW2, particularly Operant Conditioning, Classical Conditioning, and Behaviourism, and their gurus - IP Pavlov and BF Skinner. These very crude psychological frameworks suggested to the mind control doctors that the human brain could be programmed. These theories drove much of the research well into the 1970s when Drs Ervin and Mark, proteges of Robert G Heath (of brain electrode fame) and Louis Jolyon West (of MK-ULTRA notoriety) attempted to convert a disused missile base into a location for eradicating violent tendencies in primarily black prisoners using methods which can perhaps be best described as lobotomization of the limbic system. Ervin and Mark even suggested Lee Harvey Oswald's brain would have been ideal for their destructive techniques;
iii) the shamanic and occult techniques for creating trance and dissociated states, and for guiding or controlling the behaviour of an individual placed in such a state.
It is this third occult/shamanic element that Peter Levenda's concept of the "Manson Secret" captures (articulated in his brilliant Sinister Forces trilogy), and which Marks' concept of the "Manchurian Candidate" does not. The triggering of the dissociated state often involves the same techniques: eg hypnosis, narcotics, sensory deprivation, pain (whether self-inflicted, eg being made to stand with arms outstretched and fingers inches above a live electric wire, or inflicted by another person), trauma, fear. However, the "Manson Secret" concept makes explicit the fact that the people who best knew how to programme and control dissociated states were those with an occult or shamanic background.
These mind control programmes, which began with experiments on POWs, prisoners, enemy nationals and orphans, appear - over time - to have been increasingly contracted out. Sometimes this contracting out went to black military operations. I have testimony from several individuals of the increasingly sophisticated use of hypno-narcotic programming, and sensory deprivation/trauma experiments, occuring during the Vietnam War's Phoenix Program. Both on the individual level - programming of friendly operatives prior to a sensitive operation. And on the mass level - acts of horror designed psychologically to terrorize and traumatize the enemy. Douglas Valentine, the historian of the Phoenix Program, has described horrific events which take on an entirely different cast if viewed through the lens of MK-ULTRA.
The other major form of contracting out was to plausibly deniable fronts - particularly cults. Jim Jones was a protege of CIA torture specialist Dan Mitrione. Jonestown and the People's Temple, with its white leadership (many with family connections to the Chemical-Biological-Warfare nexus), its exotic and extensive pharmacy featuring drugs such as Thorazine, its medical wristbands for identifying cult members, and its "Blue-Eyed Monster" and sensory deprivation pit (a human version of mad behaviourist Harry Harlow's "pit of despair") being obvious examples.
[p388-9, Was Jonestown a CIA Medical Experiment?, Michael Meiers]The (People's) Temple also used electroshock treatments to modify the behavior of the children entrusted to their care. In a locked room of the San Francisco Temple was a machine that only the children to be disciplined and an attending nurse were allowed to see. The machine was named "The Blue-Eyed Monster" though later reports referred to it as "The Blue-Eyed Demon". Some said this Aryan devil was a simple cattle prod, others claimed it was a heart defibrulator or the shock treatment machine the Temple had acquired from Mendocino State Hospital. Few children would describe the apparatus; but those who did said it was a scaled-down version of an executioner's electric chair. The child was strapped into the metal chair and electrodes were attached to various parts of his or her body. Though the machine itself was hidden from the general adult congregation, Jones would call out the names of those children to be disciplined and they would be taken into the Blue-Eyed Monster's den. A microphone, attached to the public address system, was placed in the room. The general congregation heard no noises from the machine only the screams of the children attached to it. The child emerged from the room and ran to Jim Jones; grovelling at his feet to say "Thank you - Thank you" in robot-like repetition.
Later, in Jonestown, the physical beating and shock treatments of the Temple children were replaced with sheer terror in the form of "Big Foot"; a monster that Jones told them lived in a shallow well on the outskirts of the jungle community. Children who misbehaved were lowered into the well, where, unknown to them, adults were hiding in the darkness. The adults made animal sounds and grabbed at the child's dangling legs in a feigned attempt to pull him into the abyss.
Jim Jones was a charismatic leader and expert hypnotist who learnt many of his techniques studying evangelical street preachers, such as David Miranda and his "Church of God is Love" movement, in Brazil. However, Jones himself may have been programmed. He seems to have had a double who appeared for photo opportunities in Castro's Cuba whilst the real Jim was being "treated" in Hawaii as a patient in the Langley-Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute (LPNI) for several months. LPNI is known to have undertaken ELF experiments on behalf of ARPA (the Advanced Research Projects Agency). Nearly every single one of the Jonestown survivors was taken to LPNI for psychiatric "evaluation" after the massacre.
Jones and his People's Temple cult were creating dissociated individuals and providing them with a new, cult-created, framework in which to live. Jonestown itself, totally cut off from the outside world, can at one level be seen as a giant sensory deprivation experiment. However, Jones was at least providing a setting and a shared mythology for his human guinea pigs. The doctors of MK-ULTRA, who attempted to programme individuals for specific tasks such as assassination, provided no such shared mythology.
All shamans know that once you open the Pandora's Box of the mind, you have to provide the initiate with a cosmology, a map for the journey. Those who ran MK-ULTRA (and its successors) were truly blind to the Pandora's Box, the Manson Secret, they were unlocking. Indeed, they were more Behaviourist or Pavlovian than Shaman.
For the first-person testimony of a recently deceased gentleman who believes he was part of the human detritus of MK-ULTRA, and the Search for the Manson Secret, "vern's" account can be found at the link below. "vern" had no documentation to prove that what he believes happened to him actually did happen - so there is a possibility that his account is not entirely true. However, there is independent corroboration that Ditran - a powerful and very nasty hallucinogen - was secretly tested on humans, and one of its victims, in his own words, was Ken Kesey: