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November 11, 2016
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March 26, 1999
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September 1, 1971
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CPYRGHT CPYRGHTApproved For Release 1999/09/07 : CIA-RDP78-04491A000100090 irfir-,r7~i{~"~r?"~~1 ~Ii C, Ii An uttc; !y Silent coil, first devised by iho Chinese f or brainVwrashing, May have dramatic potential for medical cures and mental expancfion by Colin Wilson 25x1A CPYRGHT I',(" quietest place in the world is not the middle of the Sahara desert on a still day, or the top of Mount Everest ; it is a basement room in a building at Princeton University, New Jersey, with. walls so carefully padded and insulated that no sound or vibration can penetrate. When the light is turned off, it is like being in outer space. It is known as "the black room". It is also the most powerful instrument for brain washing ever devised. The American composer John Cage told rno an. interesting story about the black room. When he spent a few hours in the one at Harvard, he was surprised that he could still hear noises. When he carne out, he asked the engineer what they were. "Doscribe thorn", said the engineer. ,"Ono was a high-pitched whining, the other a low rumbling.11 "The whining noise was the sound of your nervous system. The rumbling was the sound made by the blood in your veins." 71 he Nazis were fond of using solitary confinement to soften up political prisoners. When used on intelligent prisoners, it was often more effective than torture. Stalin added various psycl-,ological refinements to extort "public confessions" during the mass trials in The mid-1930s. But it seems to have bean The Chinese who first grasped tl-,u potential of the black room for ?t )rain.vashing". They even invented the void (hsi' nao = wash-bruin) to de- cribe their attempts to indoctrinate )risoners during the Korean war. (I uspect they have' some psychological emus working for the military, because hey also made another' amazing dis- :ovory during the Korean war: that xactly 5% of all prisoners had loador- ualitips. If you removed that 5% from he rest of the prisoners, the other 95% ecarne so docile and tractable that hey could be left without guards,- and o one would try to escape. This iscovery helps to explain why there ere almost no escapes of prisoners uring the Korean war.) All this is still top-secret material, and inco I do not have the confidence of the I.A. I am not sure when the Chinese ound out about the black room), But at ome point they seen) to have )lade the iscovery that if prisoners were placed n total darkness and silence, they oftened up very quickly, and became (together more "persuadable". The anadian Defense Research Board asked no of the most eminent of modern lsychologiSts, Donald Hebb, to in- estigato the question. And so the first 'black box" was set up at McGill niversity in Montreal.. Hobb's black ox was misnamed, because it was ctually lit; a more correct term is Ianechoic chan{ber" (from) a Greek 'ord meaning deafness). And it was at his point that Princeton decided to go he whole hog, and build a black room o efficient that it would have shut out he sound of a steam hammer working ight outside, or a jot taking off. CRAVING VANISHES Most of the room is occupied by a bed. here is also a lavatory, and some kind of safe containing food and drink. Students were paid-to come and sleep in it, and describe what it was like. And most immediately, some curious para- oxes began to appear. Most people ould fall asleep fairly quickly, and leap for a long time-sometimes. 40 tours or more. When they woke up, hey usually felt fine-in fact, better than hey had felt in years. Three people who vent into the black room with bad colds ame out two days later without the lightest trace of a cold. Two men suffering from poison ivy sores wore used in about the same period of time; hat is more, they seem to have xherioi cad no temptation to scratch homselves., Habitual heavy smokers ound that they experienced no craving or a cigarette in the black room. For sonic reason not fully understood, he black room can cure minor illness in remarkably short time ; illnesses that ould 'normally last for a week,. may iisappear in as little as 10 hours. To orne extent, this may be due to the Hence; most people never, experience 1. 25X1A9a total rest durin ' their W1 old adult life. The black room { allo?A,s ev n Life s~,b- COf1SCiouS to go to steep. But E::part ,or,l that, it also scents likely that total silence has a kind oshock effect. It seoms so strange, so cerio, that old habits forget to nag. STAYING POWER ANDS>fUPIDI Y And now conies oneT of the odds paradoxes. Stupid people can stt 10 minutes. Even those who rnanagcd to stay in found it all unexpectedly nerve-wracking. It was fine for The first few hours: they lay There and thoug;?:t about all kinds of things, ar;d most Subjects found they Could think far more clearly in the black room. (These trait .i effectswore so good that students V ouki go into the black room just before ex-+ms, because they found that it clarifiod ti,:: mind and enabldd them to rccali everything they'd learned during the semester.) But evbrybody knows wi at happens when you've been thi k rig won! for an hour or two- perhaps setting out on tf train journey or a long drive : 'a point comes when the brain gets tired'. You want to relax, to get up and go for coffee, switch on the radio, pick up a newspaper. In the black room, you just have to he there. And the mind goes grinding on, recalling W. B. Yeas's phrase about "the old mill of the mind, Consuming its rag and bone". it is' impossible to switch it off. You can't go to sleep, because you've just slept for twice as long as usual. Besides, you're not physically tired. And this is the point. where the panic begins to build up. it is like lying awake with insomnia, when your left foot itches, and you scratch it, and then the right. foot itches, then the itch moves up toyouur knee, then your back... ATTHE MERCY OF YOUR MIND It is clear why stupid people can stand the black room longer then intelli- gent people: intelligent people have greater powers of auto-suggestion. Instead of taking it all calrnly, They bean to worry and develop nervous tensions. (Do you notice that now I am talking about itching, you are beginning to itch ... ?) Some of them became con- vinced that the temperature regulator had gone wrong, and the room was getting hotter and hotter. At which., point, they reached for the panic button. Oddly enough, animals don't scorn to mind the black room at all ; they just tie there, and sloop, and wonder what the holl 'it's 'al l about .. . Now it should be clear why the black room is soy effective in brainwashing. Because it leaves you cons,'Vetcly at the picq- aru 25X1A Approved For Release 1999/09/07 : CIA-RDP78-04491A000100090002-3 Approved For Release 1999/09/07 : CIA-RDP78-04491A000100090002-3 111 , c.'y of your own mind. The ?two men have boon a monastery, but that suffer rl , from poison-ivy rah said ilhey solution is no longer practicable. h As soon as ! read about the black tL;il t rlllll i., the Itcihillg, I)ecauss it gave Uieill oimlething to think about besides room ooxporirnents, I saw that they wore the. awful nlonotonv of silence and attacking the same problcrn. The quali- (:o ncs s. If you stay in the black room ties the Outsider needs to survive are the long enough, it destroys the mind with quelitics needed to survive in the black boredom. Because boreeclom, if you roorn ; a mont ,~ toughness and self- tilihf: about it, is a condition of tension. Sufflcmncy, the refusal to "panic. And if you are on a long train journey, a point this in turn suggested a fascinating coin(,, where you lose interest in the idea : that if black rooms were as com- scenery and the rllagazines, and even in mon as psychiatrists' consulting rooms, the dining- c:ar. You just wish you were "Outsiders" could train themselves to .arc ady at your destination. You tap your stay in then) for longer and longer eet, you yavA'n, you walk out in the periods, and could develop the kind of c:crrdo(, and as the Hours drag by, you strength they need to cease to be gat a feeling of constipation. Not just alienated misfits. The black roorn might ,physical constipation, but a feeling that become the 20th century equivalent The Mind itself is beginning to?seizo up. of 'the monastery, but altogether more i'!iyr tai constipation Often dotes result, Of ffective. i suspect this is a matter of the mind But the central problem remained : influencing the body.) how could you train a man to withstand This is why the black room is so the black room ? You can train a man to terrifyingly effective as a brain-washer. become physically tough by putting him it all ij) ifies ordinary boredom into a con- through a commando assault course. dill >n of agony. Even in the friendly But that depends on a series of circuillstances of laboratory research, it challenges. ?he black room is all anti s b,:0 enough. But if a man felt himself challenge: pure monotony. A Jamos si,rroundod by hostility in an -enemy Bond would go to pieces in the black t.ount y, it would 6000rnO Worse than room within a few clays. All Einstein or a i1;,+ 3C,al pain. Under such strains; the Beethoven would stand a better chance would begin to drift apart, like a of surviving it. raft on a rough sea. The art of brain - 12 [DAYS IS Tf iE I_hM!T washing is to catch the subject before .---------_-----------___,-_---------------_--_-- the c anlage is too serious. A few friendly I used the problem as the center of a wo ds from the interrogator, the sooth- novel--called The Black Room. The assurance that everything is going to situation is as follows: somewhere in be alright, and the, prisoner is eager to central Europe, a spying organization tell everything 118 knows ... has been brainwashing spies from both Ever since I learned about those sides-east and west--?-and using ahem experiments in the early 1960s, I' have as double agents. All the intelligence boon fascinated by the black room networks of the world are anxious to problem. The reasons had nothing to do find then) and destroy them. The ideal with politics or brainwashing. I had method would be to train their own men alwm's been obsessed by the men I to withstand the black room, and hope caiied "Outsiders". people who felt that the enemy will kidnap one of there str