Chapter 2

What particularly fascinated [Marcel] Vogel were [Franz] Mesmer‘s theory of a universal fluid whose equilibrium or disturbance explained health or disease, [Emily] Coué‘s idea of autosuggestion as they related to painless childbirth and self-betterment, and the postulates of various writers on “psychic energy,” a term popularized by Carl Jung, who, though he differentiated it from physical energy, believed it to be incommensurable.

. . .

With a philodendron attached to a galvanometer which produced a straight base line, Vogel stood before the plant, completely relaxed, breathing deeply and almost touching it with outspread fingers. At the same time, he began to shower the plant with the same kind of affectionate emotion he would flow to a friend. Each time he did this, a series of ascending oscillations was described on the chart by the pen holder. At the same time Vogel could tangibly feel, on the palms of his hands, an outpouring from the plant of some sort of energy

After three to five minutes, further release of emotion on Vogel’s part evoked no further action from the plant, which seemed to have “discharged all its energy” in response to his ministrations. To Vogel, the interreaction between himself and the philodendron appeared to be on the same order as that evoked when lovers or close friends meet, the intensity of mutual response evoking a surge of energy until it is finally expended and must be recharged. Like lovers, both Vogel and the plant appeared to remain suffused with joy and contentment.

In a botanical nursery, Vogel found that he could easily pick out a particularly sensitive plant by running his hands over a group until he felt a slight cooling sensation followed by what he describes as a series of electrical pulses, indicating a powerful field. Increasing the distance between himself and the plant, Vogel found, like Backster, that he could get a similar reaction from it, first from outside the house, then from down the block, and even from his laboratory in Los Gatos, eight miles away.

Adults, according to Vogel, are much less successful than children, which leads him to surmise that many scientists are not going to be able to repeat his or Backster’s experiments in laboratories. “If they approach the experimentation in a mechanistic way,” says Vogel, “and don’t enter into mutual communication with their plants and treat them as friends, they will fail. It is essential to have an open mind that eliminates all preconceptions before beginning experiments.”

Vogel stresses that experiments with plants can be extremely dangerous to those who do not have the ability properly to alter their states of consciousness. “Focused thought,” says Vogel, “can exert a tremendous effect on the body of a person in a higher mental state, if he lets his emotions interfere.”

No one, says Vogel, who is not in sound bodily health should become involved with plants or any other kind of psychic research. “One draws energy at high levels,” he said, “and this requires good nutrition.”