The Plants Respond: An Interview with Cleve Backster
published in "The Sun"
published in "Free Spirit"
translated into Czech and published in "Baraka"
Sometimes it happens that a person can name the exact moment when his
or her life changed irrevocably. For Cleve Backster, it was early
morning on February 2, 1966, at thirteen minutes, fifty-five seconds
of chart time for a polygraph he was administering. One of the world's
experts on polygraphs, and the creator of the Backster Zone Comparison
Test, the standard used by lie detection examiners worldwide, Backster
had threatened the subject's well-being in hopes of triggering a
response. The subject had responded electrochemically to this threat.
The subject was a plant.
Since that time Cleve Backster has conducted hundreds of experiments
showing that plants respond to our emotions and intents, as do severed
or crushed leaves, eggs (fertilized or not), yogurt, scrapings from
the roof of a person's mouth, sperm, and so on. He's found that if he
placed oral leukocytes, or white blood cells removed from a person's
mouth, into a test tube, the cells still responded electrochemically
to the donor's emotional states, even when the person is out of the
room, out of the building, or out of the state.
I've wanted to speak to Cleve Backster since I first read about his
work when I was a kid. He sparked my imagination, and it is not too
much to say that his observations on February 2, 1966 changed not only
his life but my own. He verified an understanding I had as a child, an
understanding not even a degree in physics could later eradicate--that
the world is alive and sentient.
Nonetheless, when I went to talk to him, I did not allow my enthusiasm
to overwhelm my skepticism. I was excited yet dubious as he placed
yogurt into a sterilized test tube. He clamped the tube in place,
inserted two sterilized gold electrodes, and turned on the recording
chart. We began to talk. The pen wriggled up and down, and seemed to
lurch just as I took in my breath to disagree with something he said.
But I couldn't be sure. When we see something, how do we know if it is
real, or if we see it only because we wish so much to believe?
Cleve left to take care of business elsewhere in the building. I tried
to fabricate anger, thinking of clearcuts and the politicians who
legislate them, thinking about abused children and their abusers. The
line manifesting the electrochemical response of the yogurt remained
perfectly flat. Either fabricated emotions don't count, or it's a
sham, or something else was terribly wrong. Perhaps the yogurt was not
interested in me. Losing interest myself, I began to wander around the
lab. My eyes fell on a calender, and on closer inspection I saw it was
actually an advertisement for UPS. I felt a sudden surge of anger at
the ubiquity of advertisements, and then realized--My god, what was
that? A spontaneous emotion! I dashed to the chart, and saw a sudden
spike corresponding to the moment I'd seen the calender. Then more
flat line. And more flat line. And more. Again I began to wander
through the lab, and again I saw something that triggered an emotion.
This was a poster showing a map of the human genome. I thought of the
Human Genome Diversity Project, a monumental study hated by many
traditional indigenous peoples and their allies for its genocidal
implications. Another surge of anger, another dash to the chart, and
another spike in the graph, from instants before I started to move.
Such are the moments of revolutionary insight.
I spoke with Cleve Backster thirty-one years and twenty-two days after
his original observation, a full continent away, in San Diego, from
the office on Times Square in New York City where he had once worked
DJ: I'm sure you've told this story a million times, but can you say
again how you first noticed the reaction in a plant?
CB: The initial observation that happened on February 2nd, 1966,
involved a dracena cane plant I had back in the lab in Manhattan. I
wasn't particularly into plant culture, it's just that there was a
going-out-of-business sale at a plant store on the ground floor of the
building I was in, and the secretary bought a couple of inexpensive
plants for the office. One was a rubber plant, and the other was this
dracena cane. I had done a saturation watering of these plants--
putting them under the faucet and watering them until water ran
through completely--and I was curious as to how long it would take the
moisture to get to the top. I was especially interested in the dracena
because the water had to climb a long trunk, and then to the end of
these long leaves. I thought if I put something that measures
resistance at the end of a leaf--the galvanic skin response section of
the polygraph, and I had those sitting all over the place because we
were running a school--a drop in resistance should be recorded on the
paper as the contaminating moisture arrived between the electrodes.
That, at least, is the cover story. I'm not sure if there was another,
more profound, reason. It could be that somebody at another level of
consciousness was nudging me into doing this. I don't know. But
curiosity about watering seems to have worked out as a reasonable
explanation of why I did it.
Next, I noticed something on the chart that resembled a human response
on a polygraph. In other words, the contour of the pen tracing was not
what I would expect from water entering a leaf, but instead what I
would expect from a person taking a lie-detector test. Lie detectors
work on the principle that when people perceive a threat to their well-
being, they physiologically respond in predictable ways. If you were
conducting a polygraph as part of a murder investigation, you might
ask a suspect, "Was it you who fired the shot that was fatal to so and
so?" If the true answer is yes, the suspect will fear getting caught
lying, and electrodes on their skin will pick up the response to that
fear. So I began to think about how I could threaten the well-being of
the plant. First I tried putting a neighboring leaf in a cup of warm
coffee. The plant, if anything, showed what I now recognize as
boredom--it just kept trending downward.
Then at thirteen minutes, fifty-five seconds chart time, the imagery
entered my mind of burning the leaf I was testing. I didn't verbalize,
I didn't touch the plant, I didn't touch the equipment. The only new
thing that could have been a stimulus for the plant was the mental
image. Yet the plant went wild. The pen jumped right off the top of
I went into the next office to get matches from my secretary's desk,
and lighting one, made a few feeble passes at a neighboring leaf. I
realized, though, that I was already seeing such a saturation of
reaction that more change wouldn't be noticeable anyway. So I tried a
different approach: I removed the threat by taking the matches back to
the secretary's desk. The plant calmed right back down.
Immediately I understood something important was going on. There were
no alternate explanations. There was no one else in the building,
nobody else in the lab suite, and I simply wasn't doing anything that
would provide a mechanistic explanation. From that split-second my
consciousness hasn't been the same. My whole thought process, my whole
priority system, has been devoted to looking into this.
After that first observation, I talked to scientists from different
fields, trying to get them to explain to me within their disciplines
what was happening. It was totally foreign to them. So I started to
design an experiment in greater depth to explore what I soon began to
call primary perception.
DJ: Primary perception?
CB: I couldn't call what I was witnessing extrasensory perception,
because plants don't have most of the first five senses to start with.
This perception on the part of the plant seemed to take place at a
much more basic, or primary, level. Thus the name.
Anyway, what emerged was an experiment in which I arranged for shrimp
to be dropped automatically at random intervals into simmering water,
while recording the reaction of plants at the other end of the lab.
DJ: How did you tell whether the plants were responding to the death
of the shrimp, or to your emotions?
CB: It is very very hard to eliminate the interconnection between the
experimenter and the plants being tested. Even the briefest
association with the plants--just a few hours--is enough to let them
become attuned to you. Then, even though you automate the experiment
and leave the laboratory, and even though you set a time delay switch
for random intervals, guaranteeing you are entirely unaware of when
the experiment starts, the plants will remain attuned to you, no
matter where you go. At first, my partner and I used to go to a bar a
block away, and after a time we began to grow suspicious that the
plants were not responding to the death of the brine shrimp at all,
but instead to the rising and falling levels of excitement in our
conversations. Finally, we came up with a way around this. We had
someone else buy the plants, and store them in another part of the
building we didn't frequent. On the day of the experiment we went to
the holding area, brought the plants in, hooked them up, and left.
This meant the plants were in a strange environment, they had the
pressure of the electrodes, they had a little trickle of electricity
going through their leaves, and they'd been deserted. Because they
were not attuned to us or to anyone else, they began "looking around"
for anything that would acquaint them with their environment. Then,
and only then, did something so subtle as the deaths of the brine
shrimp get picked up by the plants.
DJ: Do plants become attuned over time only to humans, or do they
become attuned to others in their environment as well?
CB: I'll answer that with an example. Often I hook up a plant and just
go about my business, then observe what makes it respond. One day back
in New York City I was making coffee. The coffee maker we had in the
lab was a dripolater, where you put a teakettle on, boil the water,
pour it in, and it drips down. We normally didn't empty the teakettle,
but just topped it off later. This particular day, however, I needed
the teakettle for something else, and so poured the scalding water
down the sink. The plant being monitored showed huge reactions. It
turns out that if you don't put chemicals or very hot water down the
sink for a long time, a little jungle begins to grow down there. Under
a microscope it's almost as scary as the bar scene in Star Wars. Well,
the plant was responding to the death of the microbes.
I've been amazed at the perception capability right down to the
bacterial level. One sample of yogurt, for example, will pick up when
another is being fed. Sort of like, "That one's getting food. Where's
mine?" That happens with a fair degree of repeatability. Or if you
take two samples of yogurt, hook one up to electrodes, and drop
antibiotics in the other, the electroded yogurt shows a huge response
at the other's death. And they needn't even be the same kind of
bacteria. The first siamese cat I ever had would only eat chicken. My
partner's wife would cook a bird and send it to the lab. I'd put the
carcass in the refrigerator and pull off a piece each day to feed the
cat. By the time I'd get to the end, the carcass would be pretty old,
and the bacteria would have started to build up. One day I had some
yogurt hooked up, and as I got the chicken out of the refrigerator to
begin pulling off strips of meat, the yogurt responded. Next, I put
the chicken under a heat lamp to bring it to room temperature . . .
DJ: You obviously pamper your cat. . .
CB: I wouldn't want the cat to have to eat cold chicken! Anyway, heat
hitting the bacteria created huge reactions in the yogurt.
DJ: How do you know you weren't influencing this?
CB: At the time, I was going through a phase where I used pip switches
constantly. I had them set up all over the lab. Whenever I performed
an action, I hit a switch, which placed a mark on the remotely-located
chart. That way I could later compare the reaction of the yogurt,
which I was unaware of at the time, to whatever was happening in the
lab. Once again, when I turned the chicken over, I got these huge
reactions from the yogurt.
DJ: And another when the cat starts to ingest the chicken?
CB: Interestingly enough, bacteria appear to have a defense mechanism
such that impending danger causes them to go into a state very similar
to shock. In effect, they pass out. Many plants will do this as well.
If you hassle them enough they'll go insensitive, almost like a flat
line. The bacteria apparently did this, because as soon as the
unfriendly bacteria hit the cat's digestive system, the signal went
out. There was a flat line from then on.
DJ: Dr. Livingston, of "Dr. Livingston, I presume" fame was mauled by
a lion. He later said that during the attack, he didn't feel pain, but
was instead blissed out. He said it would have been no problem to give
himself up to the lion.
CB: I was on an airplane once, and had with me a little battery-
powered galvanic response meter that I could hook to electrodes. I had
the aisle seat, and I can still remember the poor guy strapped in next
to the window. Just as the attendants started serving lunch, I pulled
out this meter and said to him, "You want to see something
interesting?" I put a piece of lettuce between the electrodes, and
when people started to eat their salads we got some reactivity, which
stopped as the leaves went into shock. Then I said, "Wait until they
pick up the trays, and see what happens." When attendants removed our
meals, the lettuce got back its reactivity. The point is that the
lettuce was going into a protective state so it would not suffer. When
the danger left the reactivity came back. This ceasing of electrical
energy at the cellular level ties in, I believe, to the state of shock
that people, too, enter in extreme trauma.
DJ: Plants, bacteria, lettuce leaves . . .
CB: Eggs. I had a Doberman Pinscher for a while back in New York, and
I used to feed him an egg a day. One day I had a plant hooked up to a
large meter ordinarily used to display galvanic skin response. This
means that instead of churning out miles of chart paper, which can get
pretty expensive, I could see on the meter any large change in
reactivity. This particular time I was feeding the dog, and as I
cracked the egg, the meter went crazy. I thought, what's the
connection between cracking an egg and the plant in the other room
getting all whippy. That started hundreds of hours of monitoring eggs.
Fertilized or unfertilized, it doesn't matter; it's still a living
cell, and plants perceive when that continuity is broken. Eggs, too,
have the same defense mechanism. If you threaten them, their tracing
will go flat on you. Then, if you wait about twenty minutes, they come
After working with plants, bacteria, and eggs, I started to wonder how
animals would react. Of course you can't hold your cat or dog still
long enough to do meaningfull monitoring. So I used scrapings from the
roof of a person's mouth. But I was only able to get short-term
readings, nothing long enough to draw conclusions. I thought then that
I'd try sperm, which would be the ideal single human cell, capable of
staying alive outside the body, and certainly easy enough to obtain.
In this observation the sample from the donor was put it in a test
tube with electrodes, and the donor was separated from the sperm by
several rooms. Then the donor inhaled amyl nitrate--you know, poppers,
that young people talk about--which when used conventionally is
supposed to dilate vessels and stop people from having strokes. Just
crushing the amyl nitrate caused a big reaction in the sperm, and when
the donor inhaled, the sperm went wild.
So here I am, seeing single-cell organisms on a human level--sperm--
that are responding to the donor's sensations, even when they are no
longer in the same room as the donor. There was no way, though, that I
could continue that research. It would have been scientifically
proper, but politically stupid. The dedicated skeptics would
undoubtedly have ridiculed me, asking where my masturbatorium is, and
Then at a meeting in Houston I met a dental researcher from the Texas
University School of Dentistry who had perfected a method of gathering
white cells from donors' mouths. This was great. It was politically
feasible, easy to do, and required no medical supervision, as would
have been necessary with white cell extraction directly from blood.
Once that hurdle was out of the way, I started doing split-screen
videotaping of experiments, with the chart readout superimposed at the
bottom of a screen showing the donor's activities. We found that a
person could be ten blocks away, or even twenty miles away, and we
still got reactions.
DJ: How did you monitor over distance?
CB: We took the white cell samples, then sent the people home to watch
television. I would have preselected a program that would elicit an
emotional response from them--for example, showing a veteran of Pearl
Harbor a documentary of West Pacific enemy aircraft attacks--and then
I taped both the program and the response of their cells. What we
found was that cells outside the body still react to the emotions you
feel, even though you may be miles away.
The greatest distance we've tested has been about three hundred miles.
Brian O'Leary, who wrote Exploring Inner and Outer Space, left his
white cells here in San Diego, then flew home to Pheonix. On the way
he kept careful track of different things that aggravated him,
carefully logging the time of each. The correlation remained over
DJ: The implications of all this . . .
CB: Yes, are staggering. We get two different kinds of bacteria very
much in synch with each other. We get plants responding to our intent.
We get plants responding to the death of other creatures. All my work,
which consists of file drawers full of this kind of very high quality
anecdotal data, has shown time and again that these creatures--
bacteria, plants, and so on--are all fantastically tuned in to each
Now, as you get to humans, this capability gets lost. In one
observation after my lecture at Yale University, graduate students
monitored a plant and simultaneously hassled a spider--put their hands
around it and stopped it from running away. When they moved their
hands away, they saw a reaction in the leaf being monitored, the
instant before it ran, apparently right as it was making the decision.
That's a type of high quality observation I have seen repeatedly. And
human cells, too, have this primary perception capability, but somehow
it gets lost, somehow with humans it doesn't surface at the conscious
level. It makes you wonder if we have lost that capability, or if we
ever had such a talent.
I've come to the conclusion that when a person has evolved spiritually
enough to handle these other perceptions, she or he will become
properly tuned in. Until then it may be best not to be tuned in,
because of the damage we cause by mishandling the information received.
Sometimes we have a tendency to see ourselves as the most highly
evolved lifeform on the planet. We're very successful at intellectual
endeavors. But these may not be the ultimate scales by which to judge.
It could be that there are others who are more advanced spiritually.
It also could be that we are approaching a place where we may be able
to safely enhance our perception. I think more and more people are
openly working in these so-far-marginalized areas of research.
For instance, have you heard of Rupert Sheldrake's work with dogs? He
puts a time-oriented camera on both the dog at home and the associated
human at work. He has discovered that even for people who come home
from work at a different time each day, at the moment the person
leaves work the dog at home heads for the door.
DJ: How has the scientific community received your work?
CB: With the exception of scientists at the margins, like Rupert
Sheldrake, it was met first with derision, then hostility, and mostly
now with silence.
At first they called primary perception The Backster Effect, perhaps
hoping they could ridicule the observations away by naming them after
this wild man who claims to see things that have been missed by
mainstream science. The name stuck, and because primary perception
can't be readily dismissed, it is no longer a term of contempt.
At the same time the scientists were ridiculing my work, the popular
press was paying very close attention to me, with dozens of articles
and portions of books, such as The Secret Life of Plants. I never
asked for any of the articles to be done, and I have never profited
from this work. People have always come to me, requesting additional
Anyway, the botanical community was getting pretty upset. They wanted
to get to the bottom of all this "plant nonsense," so at the 1975
American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in New
York City, they planned to resolve the issue. Arthur Galston, of Yale
University, a well-known botanist, got together a select group of
scientists to, in my opinion, try to neutralize the work. This is a
typical response by the scientific community, to "compare notes"
regarding controversial theories. The year before in Chicago they
focussed on Immanual Velikovsky, who wrote Worlds in Collision. I had
already learned that you don't go into these things to win; you go in
to survive. And I was able to do that.
They've now gotten to the point where they can't counter the research
I'm doing, and so their strategy has been to just ignore me, hoping
I'll go away. Of course that's not working either.
DJ: What is their main criticism?
CB: The big problem, and this is a big problem as far as consciousness
research in general is concerned, is repeatability. The events I've
seen must be spontaneous. If you've thought them out in advance,
you've already changed them. It all boils down to a very simple thing:
repeatability and spontaneity do not go together, and as long as
members of the scientific community overemphasize that aspect of
scientific methodology, they're not going to get very far in
consciousness research. I am sure of that. That is precisely what has
held it back for years.
As related to my initial observation in 1966, not only is spontaneity
important, but so is intent. You can't pretend; it just won't happen.
If you say you are going to burn a leaf on the plant, and don't mean
it, nothing will happen. So you can't pretend regarding a threat to
the plant's "well-being," nor can you plan when working for
Young people know that spontaneity and repeatability don't go
together. I hear constantly from people in different parts of the
country, wanting to know what to do to cause plant reactions. I tell
them, "Don't do anything. Go about your work, keep notes so later you
can tell what you were doing at specific times, and then transfer that
to your chart recording of tracing changes. But don't plan anything,
or the experiment won't work." The individuals who do this often
discover their own equivalent to my initial observation, and they
often get first prize in science fairs, etc. But then they get to
Science 101, where they're told that what they have already
experienced is not important.
There have been a few attempts by scientists to replicate my work with
the brine shrimp, but these have all been methodologically inadequate.
When they learned that they had to automate the experiment, they
merely went to the other side of a wall, then used closed-circuit
television to watch what's going on. Clearly, they weren't removing
their consciousness from the experiment. It is so very easy to fail at
that experiment, and let's be honest, some of the scientists who
attempted to reproduce it were relieved when they failed, because to
have succeeded would have been to go against the body of scientific
Finally I just gave up trying to fight scientists on this, because I
know that even if the experiment fails, the people attempting it will
still see things that will change their consciousness. That means they
will never be the same.
I get people coming up now that would not have said anything twenty
years ago. They often say, "I think I can safely tell you now how you
really changed my life with what you were doing back in the early
70s." These are scientists who didn't feel they had the luxury back
then to rock the boat, for fear that their credibility, and thus grant
requests, would have been affected.
DJ: The emphasis on repeatability seems anti-life, since life itself
is not repeatable. And that emphasis is incredibly important because,
as Francis Bacon made clear, repeatability is inextricably tied to
control. And control is fundamentally what western science is about.
Or forget western science. Control is what western culture is really
all about. For scientists to give up predictability means they must
give up control, which means they must give up western culture, which
means it's not going to happen until civilization collapses under the
weight of its own ecological excesses.
Okay. We are faced with several options. We can believe you are lying,
and so is everyone else who has ever experienced this. We can believe
that what you are saying is true, and that the whole notion of
repeatability--and in essence then the whole direction of the
scientific method--needs to be reworked, as well as the whole notions
of what are consciousness, communication, perception, and so on. Or we
can believe that you are mistaken. Is there a possibility that you've
overlooked some strictly Cartesian, Baconian, mechanistic answer for
your observations? I read somewhere that one scientist's response to
your work was that there must be a loose wire in your lie detector.
CB: In thirty-one years I've found all my loose wires. No, I can't see
any mechanistic solution. Some parapsychologists believe I've mastered
the art of psychokinesis, and that I move the pen with my mind--which
would be a pretty good trick unto itself--but that overlooks the fact
that I've automated and randomized many of the experiments to where
I'm not even aware of what's going on, until later I study the
resulting charts and videotapes. The conventional explanations have
worn pretty thin. Static electricity is one explanation proposed. That
one got printed in Harper's. If you scuffle across the room and touch
the plant, you get a response. But of course I seldom touch the plant
during periods of observation, and in any case that response would be
DJ: So what is the signal that is picked up by the plant?
CB: I don't know. I don't believe the signal, whatever it is,
dissipates over distance, which is what we'd get if we were dealing
with electromagnetic phenomenon. I used to hook up a plant, then take
a walk with a randomized timer in my pocket. When the timer went off,
I'd return home. The plant always responded the moment I turned
around, no matter the distance. And the signal from Phoenix was just
as strong as if Brian O'Leary were in the next room. I feel
comfortable in saying distance doesn't denigrate the signal.
Also, we've attempted to screen the signal using lead-lined
containers, and other materials, but we've found we can't screen it
out. This makes me think the signal doesn't actually go from here to
there, but instead is manifesting in different places, not having to
travel to be there.
This ties to my feelings about time of transmission. I suspect that it
takes no time for the signal to travel. There is no way using Earth
distances that we could test this, because if the signal were
electromagnetic it would travel at the speed of light; biological
delays would consume more than the fraction of a second it would take
for the signal to travel. The only way to test this would be in outer
I get support in this belief--that the signal is neither time nor
distance-dependent--from some quantum physicists. There is something
called the Bell Theorem, which states that when an atom at a remote
location changes its spin, an atom here will change instantly as well.
All this, of course, places us firmly in the territory of the
metaphysical, the spiritual. Think about prayer, or meditation. If you
were to pray to God, and God was hanging out on the far side of the
galaxy, and your prayer traveled at the speed of light, your bones
would long-since be dust before God responded. But if God, however you
define God, is everywhere, the prayer doesn't have to travel.
DJ: I'm sorry if I am being dense. Let's get real concrete. You have
the image of burning the plant . . .
CB: The image, yes. Not words.
DJ: And distance doesn't matter. So what precisely happens in that
instant. How does the plant react?
CB: I don't claim to know. In fact I have attributed a lot of my
success in being still active in this field--in having not been
neutralized--to the fact that I make no claim to that very thing. In
other words, if I give a faulty explanation, it doesn't matter how
much data I have, or how many quality observations I've made, the
mainstream scientific community will use the incorrect explanation to
throw out my data and observations. So I've always said that I don't
know how this happens. I'm an experimentalist. I'm not a theorist.
DJ: I'm still confused. What is consciousness, then? The capacity for
plants to perceive intent suggests to me a radical redefinition of
CB: You mean it would harm the notion of consciousness as something
humans have a corner on?
DJ: Or other of the so-called higher animals. Because plants don't
have brains, they cannot, according to western thought, have
CB: I have a whole book upstairs on the consciousness of the atom. I
think western science overexaggerates the role of the brain in
consciousness. Consciousness could exist on an entirely different
level, on the etheric level, for example. Some very good research has
been done on remote viewing, that is, describing conditions at a
distant location. More good research has been done on survival after
bodily death. All of it points toward the notion that consciousness
need not specifically be correlated with gray matter. That is another
straitjacket we need to rid ourselves of.
The brain may have some things to do with memory, but a strong case
can be made that much memory is not stored there.
DJ: The whole notion of cellular or at least bodily memory is familiar
to any athlete. When you practice, you are trying to build up memories
in your muscles.
CB: The brain might not even be part of that loop.
DJ: I was a high jumper in college, and I knew that if I were
conscious I would miss the jump. I had to get my mind out of the way.
The same is true in basketball. If the game is on the line, the last
thing you want to do is think about it. You want your muscles to do
what they do.
CB: When I got out of the navy, around 1945, I started what was at the
time the largest weightlifting gymnasium here on the West Coast. We
all understood that a part of our work was to focus on the muscle
cells, asking them to get bigger. Cellular communication with those
muscles, asking them what they want, and telling them what you want.
DJ: I'm also thinking about articles I've read on the physiological
aftereffects of emotional trauma--child abuse, rape, war. A lot of
research shows that trauma imprints itself on different parts of your
body. A rape victim might later feel a burning in her vagina. Someone
who was abused late at night might have trouble falling asleep. For
purely physiological reasons.
CB: If I bump myself, I explain to the body tissue in that very area
what happened. I don't know how effective that philosophy is, but it
DJ: Let's push this notion of consciousness further. Have you done
some work also with what would normally be called inanimate materials?
CB: I've shredded some things and suspended them in agaragar. I get
electric signals, but not necessarily relating to anything going on in
the environment. It's too crude an electroding pattern for me to
decipher. But I do suspect that consciousness goes much much further.
Also, in 1987 I participated in a University of Missouri program which
included a talk by Dr. Sidney Fox, then connected with the Institute
for Molecular and Cellular Evolution at the University of Miami. Dr.
Fox had recorded electric signals from proteinlike material that
showed properties strikingly similar to modern, living cells. The
simplicity of the material being observed and the self-organizing
capability being displayed suggests to me a biocommunication
capability present at the very earliest states in the evolution of
life on this planet. If true, who or what would be communicating with
Of course the Gaia hypothesis--the idea that the earth is a great big
working organism, with a lot of corrections built in--fits in nicely
with this. The planet is going to get the last word concerning the
damage humans are inflicting upon it. It's only going to take so much
of the abuse going on, and then it may well burp and snort a little,
and a good bit of the population may not be around any more. I
strongly suspect that nature has a way of handling abuse. I don't
think it would be a stretch to attribute its defense strategy to a
kind of planetary intelligence. The planet will handle it, perhaps a
bit more severely than we would like. It would be nicer if we took
care of the problems, but . . .
DJ: How has your work been received in other parts of the world?
CB: The Russians have always been very interested. I remember in 1973,
I was asked to be the chair of the man-plant-animal communication
section of the first International Psychotronic Association meeting,
in Prague, Czechoslovakia, and a number of mainstream Russian
scientists attended--some claiming that they came all the way down
from Moscow to hear my talk and to interview me for additional
details. I found them very open, and knowledgeable, not like here
where many people are afraid to touch these areas of research. In many
ways, they seemed much more attuned to spiritual concepts than most
scientists in the West. This may because of the corner that people in
the West have been put into by organized religion.
I don't believe that organized religion has done a very good job. It's
supposed to tell you in a meaningful way where you came from, what
you're doing here, and where you're going, and in my opinion it fails
on every one of these accounts. This leads, so far as I am concerned,
to our present sorry state, where, to take medical care as an example,
we are faced with an awful lot of people who are tired of living and
afraid of dying. And so billions of dollars are spent to keep them in
that state of limbo. They certainly aren't happy, yet they're so
unprepared for death--so unassured as to what will happen to them in
the dying process--that there seems nowhere for them to turn.
DJ: How are you treated in the Indian subcontinent and the Far East?
CB: Whenever I encounter Indian scientists--Buddhist or Hindu--and we
talk about what I do, instead of giving me a bunch of grief they say,
"What took you so long?" My work dovetails very well with many of the
concepts embraced by Hinduism and Buddhism.
DJ: What are we as westerners afraid of?
CB: Maybe the question is, why aren't western scientists working on
this more? I think the answer is that if what I am observing is
accurate, many of the theories we've built our lives on need complete
reworking. I've known biologists to say, "If Backster is right, we're
in trouble." It takes a certain kind of character and personality to
cope with that.
The big question I think we need to ask our Western scientific
community is the one the Hindu and Buddhist scientists ask me, "What
took you so long?" Scientists, and that whole community in general,
are caught in a difficult place, because in order to maintain our
current mode of scientific thought, they must ignore a tremendous
amount of information. And more of this information is being gathered
all the time. I think we'e going to see a shift in the near future.
People in scientific pursuits are stumbling all over this
biocommunication phenomenon--it seems impossible, especially given the
sophistication of modern instrumentation, for them to miss this
fundamental attunement that is happening all around us--and only for
so long are they going to be able to pretend it's the result of "loose
DJ: If your work were tomorrow to be commonly accepted and acted upon,
not only by people experientially, but by the scientific community,
what would that mean?
CB: It would mean a radical rethinking of our place in the world. I
think we're seeing it already. There are some places now where
insurance companies are paying for alternative medicines. And the
acceptance of Deepok Chopra, who lectures on the very things we're
talking about here, is a big step. Now that this acceptance has
started--even to a limited extent--it will continue to pick up
momentum. I'm 73 now, and even in my days I think I'll see a
revolution in perspective.
I went to a meeting in Sri Lanka last December, which had people from
India, Pakistan, a couple hundred from Taiwan, and about that many
from mainland China. Everyone got along beautifully, speaking the
common language of alternative medicine. There were very few U.S.
scientists there, which is both unfortunate and expected. We in the
United States are holdouts, but that will not last much longer. We
cannot forever deny that which is so clearly there.
Mon Dec 29 20:39:18 EST 2008
Sun Sep 25 06:06:01 EDT 2022
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Learning implies Learning with Certainty or Learning without Certainty.
Learning across a Distance implies Learning by Being an Effect.
Learning by Being an Effect implies Learning without Certainty.
Therefore, Learning with Certainty implies Learning, but
not by Being an Effect, and not across a Distance.