Body, Mind, Spirit Magazine

Secret Life of Plants

By Phoenixwriter @naesnest

Secret Life of Plants


By James F. Coyle, Author of Beyond Belief: The Ultimate Mindpower Instructional Manual

In 1966 a very strange event occurred. Cleve Backster, America’s top polygraph (lie detector) expert was working late in his New York office. His secretary had installed a Dragon pot plant to brighten the office.

Backster noticed that the plant needed water, and on impulse attached the leads of a lie detector to one of the leaves. The lie detector measures skin resistance and Backster knew that it would indicate when water reached the actual leaf. He poured water over the root system and waited to see how long before this moisture reached the leaves.

Nothing happened. In fact after a while the instrument appeared to indicate less moisture in the leaf. The pen-tracing equipment attached to the lie detector was trending downwards with a fair amount of “saw tooth” motion.

Backster was puzzled as this was exactly the same response expected from a human being experiencing an emotional stimulus of short duration. He wondered if the plant could be displaying emotion.

Backster knew from long experience that the best way to make a polygraph needle “jump” was to threaten the subjects well-being so he dunked the plant leaf in his hot coffee. There was no reaction. He thought about this for a couple of minutes then conceived a worse threat. (He used to work for the CIA). He would light a match and burn the leaf. The instant he conceived this thought something dramatic happened – something that has had far reaching scientific implications all over the world…


The pen-traced graph moved off its centerline into a pronounced upward curve.
Backster was staggered. He was some distance from the plant and he wondered if it could possibly have been reading his thoughts.

As later events will prove… IT WAS!

This was the start of an incredible reaction from the scientific community. And the interesting fact is that thousands of people have been able to duplicate this experiment. All you need is a “Wheatstone Bridge” circuit and a sensitive multimeter which any competent electronics enthusiast can easily assemble. With this simple equipment you can carry out your own experiments.

Backster initially wondered if his equipment was faulty but thorough tests over the following weeks eliminated this as a coincidental effect.

Backster discovered a further vital fact. When he only “pretended” to burn the leaf there was no reaction. In other words the emotion and intent had to be genuine.

Backster advised associates around the country as to what he had discovered and they were able to replicate his results which proved that it was not a “one off” effect between Backster and his plant and quelled the skeptics who claimed he had faulty equipment.

That was the start of an amazing series of experiments on different types of plants, fruits and vegetables such as bananas, oranges and onions.
Backster named this strange new effect – Primary Perception.

At this point Backster realized he was on to something with enormous potential so he converted his offices into a full scale scientific laboratory.

Over the following months all sorts of plant matter was tested. In one instance a plant leaf was totally shredded but when reattached to the electrodes it still exhibited the same response.

It was discovered accidentally that the plants also reacted to unexpected stimuli such as the sudden appearance of a dog in the room or a person who did not like plants.

It was also found that the plants reacted to the attempts of a spider attempting to escape from the close proximity of humans which it perceived as a threat. The plant reacted JUST BEFORE the spider made any movement – that is, it picked up the spiders intentions.

Backster concluded that while plants may be in “tune” with each other they are more in tune with animal life which is mobile and may present a threat.

Another interesting observation was that when a plant was seriously threatened it tended to “pass out” from “emotional” overload. The plant appears to go into a “deep faint” for a while and then recovers. Backster discovered this while he was demonstrating his effect to a group of visiting scientists. The plants simply would not respond on this occasion and it was discovered that one of the scientists in the group roasted plants in an oven to get their dry weight for experiments.
Forty five minutes after this person left the building the plants came back to normal. This “fainting” effect has been replicated on many occasions.

A skeptical reporter was invited by Backster to assist in an experiment to see if a philodendron could “read his mind”. The idea was to find the reporters year of birth by naming each of the 7 years between 1925 and 1931. The reporter was instructed to answer “no” to each question. Each year was read out and the plant responded strongly (via the polygraph) when the reporter answered no to the correct date. The resultant article created so much impact that it eventually appeared in the Readers Digest. Further tests indicated that plants could reliably indicate when a person was telling a lie, however this is fraught with legal dangers as the plant could easily be sabotaged by the subject mentally picturing the plant being burnt.

In another experiment a group of Backster’s students drew a folded slip of paper out of a hat. The instructions on one of the slips told its bearer to totally destroy one of two plants placed in the laboratory. This was to be done in secret at some point during the day, without anyone else knowing. The surviving plant was attached to the polygraph and the students were paraded past it. When the culprit approached the plant reacted strongly, positively identifying the “murderer”. The conclusion was that the plant could remember and identify the person who destroyed a sister plant.

Backster also noted that a bond appeared to develop between a plant and its owner. He used a synchronized stopwatch while he was making a trip out of town to New Jersey. The moment he made a conscious decision to return to his lab he triggered the stopwatch. When he returned he noted from the polygraph recording equipment that the plant had given a response at that critical instant he had pressed the stopwatch.

After years of testing Backster concluded that if a person genuinely liked a plant it would respond to him or her which might explain why some people have “green fingers” and others don’t. It appeared that a communication “bond” developed which was totally unaffected by distance and there is now considerable evidence that this communication is not limited to the speed of light (as radio waves are) but is instantaneous.

Obviously segments of the scientific community are wondering if this could be used for deep-space communication where a radio signal takes years to reach us, even traveling at the speed of light. Even the signals from our deep space probes out beyond Mars can take hours to reach us and we haven’t really started serious space probes yet! In a speech Backster made to the American Congress he indicated that it might be possible to modulate (overlay information) on signals between plant and human life.

His further experiments indicated that once a plant is “linked” to a particular person it seems to be able to maintain that link, no matter where that person is or how big a crowd of other people they are in.

Tests were carried out with the plant in a Faraday cage and a lead container. Both block out radio waves. The communication still went thru unchecked. Backster concluded that this primary perception was outside the usual electromagnetic spectrum.

On one occasion Backster cut his finger and as he applied iodine to the wound the polygraph attached to his plant reacted. It also reacted when somebody poured boiling water down the sink. After months of tests it was concluded that the plants were sensitive to the destruction of living cells and the bacteria in the sink plug-hole. This lead to lengthy experiments on single cells and simple cell structures including scrapings from a human mouth. When these scrapings were centrifuged and attached via fine gold electrodes to a polygraph it was found that they reacted to the emotions of their human donor – even when he was miles away! That is, human cells react in the same way that plants do!

This was quite an astounding finding because it explained for the first time how a persons emotions and thoughts might affect the individual body cells – and hence the functions and health of that body! In fact there is some doubt as to whether our body cells are individually controlled from the brain by electro-chemical impulses – it is considered a possibility that the cells receive “operating instructions” via this “primary perception” in a manner not yet understood. Which might explain why people who “know” that they don’t catch colds… don’t! And people who “know” that they are always sick… are!

In a well thought out scientific experiment, designed to quell the skeptics, Backster and his staff designed an automated device that dumped live, healthy Brine Shrimp into boiling water. At the instant the shrimp died in this boiling water, the three monitored plants reacted. The Brine were dumped automatically at random intervals so there was no human interference with the process. Light and temperature conditions were strictly controlled and a fourth polygraph (with a fixed value resistor in place of a plant leaf) was used as a control, to indicate possible fluctuations in power supplies or electromagnetic fields.

Backster’s 1968 report in the International Journal of Parapsychology drew more than 7000 queries from scientists around the world, wanting more information. Most of the news media ignored Backster’s work until the February 1969 edition of National Wildlife featured a story about this strange new effect.

This attracted worldwide attention and everywhere housewives started talking to their plants!

Another event led Backster onto a different path. One evening he was about to feed a raw egg to his dog. He cracked the egg in preparation and as he did this noticed that one of his plant/polygraph mechanisms reacted quite violently. He decided to attach a store-bought raw egg to his equipment and his chart recorder indicated that it was pulsing with the same rhythms as a chicken embryo, with a frequency between 160 and 170 beats per minute. However the egg was unfertilized and when it was broken open there was absolutely no sign of a circulatory system. Backster appeared to have discovered the same force which has been noticed in Kirlian Photography.

After some years of experimenting Backster’s work indicated that when connected to polygraph equipment plants register pleasure, fear and relief. They respond to the threatening intentions of other life forms that they are attuned to. This is where the term PRIMARY PERCEPTION evolved in relation to the apparent interconnectedness between organic and other living matter.

Furthermore it has now been firmly established that human cells respond in the same manner to various emotions displayed by their “host’ body, even when these cells are miles from their “host”. Human brain neurons (made up of cells) share a common consciousness with other human brain neurons via this “primary perception” which would explain why mind-to-mind contact in the form of Subjective Communication works so well. Rupert Sheldrake calls this a morphogenic field.

There appears to be a common life-force here which has yet to be identified and explained. We have discovered it, but we don’t know what it is or how to use it….yet! It is like the discovery of electricity and magnetic fields. We were able to manipulate and use them in the 19th century but didn’t even come close to understanding them until well into the 20th century. And 18th century people knew about them in the form of static electricity and lodestones. (Natural magnetic rock). So it has taken around 200 years to get magnetism and electricity up and running properly.

It is likely to take a lot less time than this to commercially utilize primary perception because of the scientific protocols and equipment available. The speed of progress will be restricted only by the same human restrictions evident in the 18th and 19th century ….. “closed minds”. It has been suggested that primary perception is a universal communication handshake in the same manner that gravity is a universal force field handshake.

The main problem with this primary perception business is that it only appears to work if the intent is genuine. It seems to be linked to survival and doesn’t respond to play acting. Genuine skeptics also have a lot of trouble getting a response. In fact this applies to virtually all mind-power forces – if you believe in it …. it works!

The big problem with the investigation of primary perception is that it seems to work only when genuine emotional intent is involved or when there is a question of survival in living organisms. Scientists are having a hard time with it because results are not uniform and sometimes not even capable of being replicated. All other forces known to science can be reliably measured in any laboratory anywhere, which has the right equipment. Not so with the Backster Effect. So mainstream science understandably finds it hard to deal with.

If a scientist sets up a Backster style experiment in his laboratory and gets it running perfectly …. and then demonstrates it to a group of his fellow scientists only to find it doesn’t work, he ends up with a certain amount of egg on his face.

This non-replicability is a serious problem for the scientific community. Science works on protocols – which can best be described as regulated pre-formatted procedures. When you approach a plant with this procedural protocol firmly fixed in your mind the plant perceives no serious emotional intent or genuine threat so it does not respond. And if the same test is applied repeatedly to the same plant its response quickly drops off. These are only some of the problems that will have to be overcome before plant life can be used for, say, interstellar communication.

There is one exception to this response-dropping factor …. and that is the death of human cells. The plants seem to respond consistently to the death of healthy human cells. At one point during Backsters experiments he was noticing that the polygraph would give irregular emotional responses which didn’t seem to tie in with any of the tests being done. It took some time to discover what is was. There was a men’s urinal next door to the lab. Every time it was flushed, the plant reacted. It was finally concluded that the disinfectant in the cistern was destroying cells in the body’s excretions. But the strangest thing was that when the person using the urinal was aware of this effect there was no reaction from the plant!

There have been a multitude of tests by different researchers in an attempt to ascertain the effects of love and hate on plant systems and almost without exception they report that feelings of love toward a plant enhance its growth and wellbeing, something that every “green thumb” already knows!

Experiments of this kind with plants started long before Backster made his amazing polygraph discovery but did not make any substantial public impact until America’s top lie detector expert announced his findings.

Meanwhile research goes quietly on – it will be most interesting to see just where it ends up!

James F. Coyle is the author of
Beyond Belief: The Ultimate Mindpower Instructional Manual

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