Greetings and I apologize for the rather long interruption between blogs.
Cleve Backster is a scientist, who following World War II served with the US Counter Intelligence Corps and became a polygraph specialist with the CIA where he instituted their still active polygraph program. He served many years as the Chairman of The Research Committee of the American Polygraph Association and has testified before two Congressional Committees as an expert on these matters.
One evening, as he was sitting in his laboratory looking at the only bit of freshness and greenery in his stark environment, he decided to hook up electrodes on the leaves of a dracaena – a large leaved tropical plant which looks like a miniature palm tree. Backster wondered if he could measure the osmosis level after watering the plant. He hooked up a Wheatstone Bridge which is the basis of the galvanic skin response used in the polygraph – also known as the lie detection device used by the R.C.M.P and many police departments – and then he waited. In humans, when electrodes are connected, they pick up on changes in the electrical properties of the skin that appear when a person is stressing themselves by lying.
For some unknown reason, the readout produced by the stylus on the graph paper moved in the direction opposite to what he had expected. Puzzled, he wondered why. Then came one of those bizarre, intuitive leaps that opened up a new door and led him down a corridor of consciousness that forever changed his life. He thought – “What would happen if I got a match and burned the leaf?”. At that instant there was a sharp, sudden convulsion of the recording pen. He had not moved. Could the plant have read his mind? He left, returned with a match, and there was another surge by the pen. Perplexed, he shared this information with his associate who lit a match and went to burn the plant but was stopped by Backster. Again the plant reacted almost violently. When either of them only pretended to burn the plant, there was no reaction. Was the plant so sensitive as to distinguish between pretend and intent to being harmed?
Backster went on to conduct dozens of experiments with his polygraph and different species of plants. He named this particular quality of plants “primary perception” and, following a brief article in the Journal Electrotechnology, he was bombarded for requests of his research by over 5,000 scientists throughout the world. Medical World News also commented in an editorial that perhaps research on ESP might be on the verge of respectability.
Plants, of course are made up of cells which structurally and functionally are very similar to our own cells. Some plants, like humans, seemed to be smarter and quicker on picking up on thoughts than others.
Our thoughts and emotions are registered in every one of our cells – liver, heart, kidney and so on. A San Diego State University graduate student and laboratory assistant for Backster agreed to monitor cells collected from his own mouth. These are white cells, a migrating cell that enters the mouth through the gums and performs a type of house cleaning inside the mouth.
The cells were scraped from the mouth and connected to electrodes in a petrie dish and their electrical activity monitored through the polygraph. As the assistant tried to find an interview of William Shockley and his radical views on genetics in Playboy, he stopped for a moment at a page and there was a sudden and dramatic surge of electrical activity on the graph paper from the mouth cells over 20 feet away. He had paused to look at the centerfold that month.
Backster’s research has been replicated with mouth cells over two hundred yards distant in other another building. When the cell donor was shown pictures of violence or provocative sexual activity – again – the distant cells reacted sharply and dramatically to the stimuli – as if they were still inside the donor’s mouth.
Back to one of Backter’s most quoted studies – he placed Brine shrimp eggs in salt water and within 24 hours they would develop into tiny, active, swimming shrimp. With his plant, this time a philodendron, hooked up to a polygraph, Backster just thought of dropping the shrimp into boiling water and ending their existence. The philodendron reacted dramatically and violently at the thought of the demise of a totally different species. Each of the two or three times Backster went through with his little thought game, the plant again responded with a sharp increase in the electrical readout. However, after a while the plant stopped responding as it sensed the play-acting and that nothing serious was going to happen.
I must share my favorite Backster story:
Backster decided to create a serious crime in the plant world. He chose two large plants that were placed adjacent to each other. One was to be murdered. The other was left to witness the crime. Six of the research assistants in his lab drew lots to see who would be the murderer. One of the slips of paper provided directions as to how the murder should proceed. The five other students left the room and the “murderer” ripped the plant out of its pot and tore the leaves to shred.
Backster re-entered the room, attached his polygraph galvanometer to the surviving plant and then asked the students to enter the room one at a time. There was no response on the graph paper until the perp – the “murderer” entered the room. At that moment, the recording needle went into convulsive oscillations on the graph paper and the plant seemed to recognize the guilty party.
What did it recognize though? Certainly not the color of hair, clothing, facial features or even the guilty party’s expectations of being caught. Again, it is probably what Backster calls primary perception. While no one could say for certain, but I suspect it could be information from the implicate order, or the energy sea of consciousness that we are all bathed in and thereby connected to each other and in some mysterious way every living thing in our world – plant, animal and human.
At this point, I cannot help but share the perversity of my thinking at times. I have testified as an expert witness in the supreme court of British Columbia on 34 occasions over the years. Canadian Supreme Courts are modeled after the British system where lawyers or barristers wear black robes, white dickeys or tabs around their necks and we address the judge as “m’lord”. Can you picture a philodendron that was in the room of a major crime – say a murder – being the only witness and approached to be cross-examined by a stuffy prosecutor? That titillating fantasy always brings a smile to my face. Others – I am sure – may not be so amused.
In closing, be sure to tell your plants how much you love them and thereby developing another meaningful relationship in your life.