Sunday, November 23, 2008

Awareness of Life

One night in February 1966 lie detector expert Cleve Backster’s life was changed. He was working on a puzzle. A lie detector can measures changes in the Psycho-galvanic-response (PGR). These changes help the operator to know if a person is nervous. It measures the changes in the skin’s ability to conduct electricity. But exactly what is the change in conductivity of the skin really measuring? Some suggested that it was the change in the moisture content of the skin, as perhaps the subject is sweating. But that could not explain the changes back to lower conductivity when a truthful response was given. For the skin was still as wet as before. Still that seemed to be the best explanation. Cleve Backster had a plant in his office and he decided to hook up the PGR sensor and then watered it. But the plant didn't increase in its ability to conduct electricity, instead it decreased. If this reaction had been from the skin of a person it would indicate that the person was experiencing some kind of emotional response. That interpretation seemed hard to accept at first.

So he tried the next logical thing, that was to burn the leaf and see if a decrease in water content would send the needle in the other direction. Backster looked for a match. When he finally found one, he noticed that the graph had already begun to react to what he was doing. The plant seemed to have read his mind. The needle on the graph-paper had been making rapid-wide jerks for some time. It started when he had thought of burning the plant. This was the beginning of a long difficult time in the life of Cleve Backster. One of the conclusions he has reached is that a life signal may connect all creation; he calls it “primary perception.”

What interests me is that his little plants have shown a great deal of interest among their caretaker does. He reported, “We’ve found that whenever I’m away on a speaking engagement— even if it's a 1000 miles from New York—the moment a slide of that philodendron is flashed on the screen during my lecture there is a very dramatic reaction by the plant back in my laboratory. Backster has said, “We've done this many times. My associate in the lab attaches the electrodes to the philodendron. I keep a stopwatch record of the exact time the picture of the plant is projected on the screen. At that precise moment, bank in New York, the polygraph shows a leap. It's as though the plant were showing pleasure at being talked about.”

Plants also seem to be able to sense danger. Backster has established that death in particular seems to be sensed by plants. Death is reacting to, no matter what kind of death it is. Death is sensed when it is the death of plants, shrimps and even human cells. Plants are particularly sensitive to the condition of the person who most often takes care of them. When a lady asks Cleve to watch her plant when she went on a plane ride, he found that the plant reacted at the exact moment its owner’s plane touched down in Cincinnati. It seems that the owners stress during the landing was passed on to the plant.

If the plant can react to situations its mistress finds herself in, then there would have to be a sort of memory. If the plant can tell who has been good to it then it must be able to remember. So Backster looked into this. He made one plant the witness to the other plant’s destruction. To the witness this would be murder; for murder is to kill a member of your group. Then an experimenter, who didn't know which suspect had killed the plant, hooked up the lie detector to the witness plant. After that, five suspects were brought into the room, one by one. From the reactions of the plant the experimenter could tell which one of the five suspects committed the plants “murder.” Another scientist has duplicated this experiment.

Some people have had trouble duplicating these results. But if more scientists duplicate these results we would be looking at a whole new field, the psychology of plants. Plants become excited about growth and food, and also about death and danger. They are agitated when powerful people in their lives take an interest in them. Dr. Gardner Murphy has said that the relationship of all living things can be compared to volcanic islands in the Pacific. Each person and animal only appears to be separate. In fact, below the surface, we are all one. Just as below the surface all volcanic islands have their origins in the ocean bottom. Parts of each of us touch on all of us.

Backster, C. 1968. Evidence of a primary perception in plant life. International Journal of Parapsychology 10:329-348

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