Part I: Modern Research

Chapter 1: Plants and ESP

… plants could intentionally be put into a faint, or mesmerized, by humans, that something similar could be involved in the ritual of the slaughterer before an animal is killed in the kosher manner. Communicating with the victim, the killer may tranquilize it into a quiet death, also preventing its flesh from having a residue of “chemical fear,” disagreeable to the palate and perhaps noxious to the consumer. This brought up the possibility that plants and succulent fruits might wish to be eaten, but only in a sort of loving ritual, with a real communication between the eater and the eaten–somehow akin to the Christian rite of Communion–instead of the usual heartless carnage.

“It may be,” says Backster, “that a vegetable appreciates becoming part of another form of life rather than rotting on the ground, just as a human at death may experience relief to find himself in a higher realm of being.”

In another series of observations, Backster noted that a special communion or bond of affinity appeared to be created between a plant and its keeper, unaffected by distance. Once attuned to a particular person, plants appeared to be abe to maintain a link with that person, no matter where he went, even among thousands of people.

Since “telemetered” radio or TV signals traveling via electromagnetic waves at the speed of light take between six and six and one-half minutes to reach Mars and as many to return to Earth, the question was whether an emotional signal from an earthbound human would reach Mars faster than an electromagnetic wave or, as Backster suspects, the very instant it was sent. Were the round-trip time for a telemetered message to be cut in half it would indicate that mental or emotional messages operate outside time as we conceive it, and beyond the electromagnetic spectrum.

“We keep hearing about non-time-consuming communication from Eastern philosophic sources,” says Backster. “They tell us that the universe is in balance; if it happens to go out of balance someplace, you can’t wait a hundred light-years for the imbalance to be detected and corrected. This non-time-consuming communication, this oneness among all living things, could be the answer.”

Backster has no idea what kind of energy wave may carry man’s thoughts or internal feelings to a plant. He has tried to screen a plant by placing it in a Faraday cage as well as in a lead container. Neither shield appeared in any way to block or jam the communication channel linking the plant to the human being. The carrier-wave equivalent, whatever it might be, Backster concluded, must somehow operate beyond the electromagnetic spectrum. It also appeared to operate from the macrocosm down to the microcosm.

One day when Backster happened to cut his finger and dabbed it with iodine, the plant that was being monitored on the polygraph immediately reacted, apparently to the death of some cells in Backster’s finger. Though it might have been reacting to his emotional state at the sight of his own blood, or to the stinging of the iodine, Backster soon found a recognizable pattern in the graph whenever a plant was witnessing the death of some living tissue.

Could the plant, Backster wondered, be sensitive on a cellular level all the way down to the death of individual cells in its environment?

On another occasion the typical graph appeared as Backster was preparing to eat a cup of yogurt. This puzzled him till he realized there was a chemical preservative in the jam he was mixing into the yogurt that was terminating some of the live yogurt bacilli. Another inexplicable pattern on the chart was finally explained when it was realized the plants were reacting to hot water being poured down the drain, which was killing bacteria in the sink.

Backster’s medical consultant, the New Jersey cytologist Dr. Howard Miller, concluded that some sort of “cellular consciousness” must be common to all life.”

“Sentience,” says Backster, “does not seem to stop at the cellular level. It may go down to the molecular, the atomic and even the subatomic. All sorts of things which have been conventionally considered to be inanimate may have to be re-evaluated.”

A fortuitous occurrence led Backster into another whole realm of research. One evening, as he was about to feed a raw egg to his Doberman pinscher, Backster noticed that as he cracked the egg one of his plants attached to a polygraph reacted strenuously. The next evening he watched again as the same thing happened. Curious to see what the egg might be feeling, Backster attached it to a galvanometer, and was once more up to his ears in research.

For nine hours Backster got an active chart recording from the egg, corresponding to the rhythm of the heartbeats of the chicken embryo, the frequency being 160 and 170 beats per minute, appropriate to an embryo three or four days along in incubation. Only the egg was store-bought, acquired at the local delicatessen, and was unfertilized. Later, breaking the egg and dissecting it, Backster was astonished to find that it contained no physical circulatory structure of any sort to account for the pulsation. He appeared to have tapped into some sort of force field not conventionally understood within the present body of scientific knowledge.