Cleve Backster’s Work with Plants and Lie Detectors
Author: Danielle Graham
Can plants somehow sense or understand our thoughts? Is that even possible? Would gaining a greater understanding of the underlying interconnectivity of all life expand our awareness of the “nature” of our physical world?
One of the first researchers to conduct plant sensitivity experiments during the late 1800s was an Indian polymath, Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose. He observed that all plants and every part of the plant responded to “shock” the same way an animal’s muscle would. By the 1960s, another researcher, Cleve Backster, systematically compiled evidence of plants’ complex awareness and response to a broad range of both direct and nonlocal stimuli. He was an interrogation specialist with the CIA in the early 1960s, and his primary investigative tool was the polygraph or lie detector.
The story goes that one day he decided to hook up a plant to the polygraph. He fiddled around for about fifteen minutes and got no reaction on the polygraph. He wasn’t quite ready to try questioning the plant so he had the thought to burn one of the plant’s leaves. His life-changing moment came when the polygraph spiked in reaction to his thought — only the thought of doing so — not the actual burning of one of its leaves.
You can imagine his shock. Did the plant just read his mind? Did the plant perceive some other subtle change in his behavior as he had the thought? How does this work? Thus began a long adventure exploring what he came to call primary perception in plants, eggs, bacteria, brine shrimp, and other forms of life. Backster eventually published his findings in the International Journal of Parapsychology in 1968, and by 1975 his results were duplicated by three scientists — Horowitz, Lewis, and Gasteiger — and published in the prestigious, albeit conservative, journal Science.
In 1979, a documentary on the subject was released titled, The Secret Life of Plants, featuring a soundtrack composed by Stevie Wonder. Although it was controversial when released, the film inspired the revolutionary concept that plants are conscious life-forms that interact not only with humans but perhaps even star systems. By 2007, the government of Switzerland passed a “bill of rights” for plants: Their Federal Ethics Committee on Non- Human Biotechnology determined that plants have rights and must be treated appropriately. The next year, Ecuador adapted their constitution stating, “Nature has a right to the maintenance and regeneration of its vital cycles, structure, functions and evolutionary processes.” Seventy percent of Ecuadorians voted in favor of protecting nature with this amendment, an action consistent with their shamanistic ancient traditions and culture.
Slowly, science and society at large are evolving to understand what spiritual peoples of many cultures have known all along: Everything is alive and everything is connected — every plant, the trees, rocks, animals, rivers, mountains — everything.