CLEVE BACKSTER - SEPTEMBER, 1971
In the way of small beginnings which turn into big things, the next circumstance-event along these lines now commenced when Zelda threw a Virgo Party on September 9, 1971.
She was, of course, a Virgo as was I, and we both knew many others. Virgos are the only sign of the zodiac which really like to be with each other. But they tend to sit quietly together without much fuss. This permits them to people-watch. Virgos are the great observers and voyeurs of the zodiac and will watch just about anything watchable.
Buell Mullen was a Virgo, too, and she came down to Zelda's for this party, even though it was hard for her to walk.
But a lot of people who weren't Virgos came to the Virgo Party, and among there were two who had recently become luminaries, Robert Monroe and Cleve Backster.
Monroe had been, as he was always to be, a successful businessman. A recent encyclopedia [THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PARAPSYCHOLOGY AND PSYCHICAL RESEARCH, Berger & Berger, 1991] indicates he was "Famous in parapsychology for his books on his out-of-body experiences."
In more accurate fact, though, throughout his life and work parapsychologists avoided him like the plague. Like myself, he resented stereotyping labels, and some hard-core parapsychologists told me that he did not deserve the label as a "parapsychologist." Bob was glad enough to return the snub with what amounted to quite elegant élan couched in four-letter words.
He and I later developed a friendship which lasted to his death in 1994. Throughout that friendship we often compared notes on our experiences and situation, both technical and political.
In 1971 he had just published his first book, entitled JOURNEYS OUT OF THE BODY. In it, among other more substantive OOB matters, he said that sexual desire was very strong in the out-of-body state. In that state he could invisibly reach back into the physical and pinch delicious female asses.
Sales of the book immediately went into the stratosphere -- bringing to him instant fame. But even so, Bob was definitely grounded into the here and now and a completely sensible and charming person.
Cleve Backster was also famous, notorious in fact, and had been since about 1968 when he first claimed that plants have primary perceptions which can sense human thoughts and respond to them.
This was the same as saying that PLANTS have sentient consciousness, are telepathic, and can process non-physical information. This, of course, absolutely shocked, angered and horrified scientists of all kinds, and Backster was pilloried in the media -- much to the enjoyment of hard-core parapsychologists who, back then, had nothing good to say about him.
To help correct this dismal rejection of Backster, it wasn't until the late 1980s that neurobiologists discovered and confirmed that plants do possess "primary perceptions" because they have "rudimentary neural nets."
The same recent encyclopedia mentioned above states that Backster's plant experiments "generated great interest among parapsychologists and the public alike."
Well the public was all agog because "green thumb" people were excited. But parapsychologists pinched their lips and were NOT "greatly interested." I know. I was around at the time, and deeply immersed in most of the relevant gossip networks.
I really find it disgusting when later writers and encyclopedia compilers can't get their facts straight and attempt to revise history.
I mention this here because much the same was to plague the topic of remote viewing.
Backster was (and still is) one of America's most noted polygraph experts who had refined and improved lie-detecting methods. But at some point he began experimenting by hooking plants up to polygraphs. He lit matched and burnt their leaves, and the polygraphs reacted.
At some point after that, he began noticing that when someone merely THOUGHT about lighting a match to burn the plant, the polygraph readout showed big spikes in it.
The plants were reacting to THOUGHTS -- or so the evidence implied. This was more or less like a human reaction under the stress of being caught in a lie. You see, the polygraph indicates stresses in human THINKING and emotional reactions.
Zelda's Virgo Party was quite mobbed and fully packed with everyone guzzling cheap wine. The infrared photos of psychic energies were again being passed around -- stimulating appropriate oohs and aahs, and so I found myself something of a luminary, albeit quite lesser than Monroe and Backster.
But what I wanted to do was see plants responding to human thoughts. A mob was congregated around Backster in Zelda's little kitchen, and he had been backed into a small space by the refrigerator and a corner.
I wedged myself into the Backster groupies, sipped wine and listened to the talk. Finally I had the courage to ask if I could come to his lab to see.
He said "Yes."
And with this, the direction of my life changed forevermore -- although I had not a clue at that innocent moment.
So, a few days later I made my way to Backster's lab and lie-detection school just off Broadway near Times Square.
The plant experiment room was a smallish, gray cubicle furnished with steel desks, galvanometers and polygraph equipment. And a stately DRACAENA MASSENGEANA, one of the plants which had officially ushered in the age of sentient plant reactions.
It was about five feet tall and already hooked into the polygraphs.
But there were only two people present: Backster and I.
So I asked: "Are you going to influence the plant?"
"No," he replied, "you are."
I protested that I had no idea how to influence plants. But he smiled and said that all I had to do was TO THINK of harming it. "Just think of lighting a match with the intent of burning one of its leaves."
So, I thought as much while staring at the plant. And Behold! The polygraph needle went haywire -- so much so that the tracing went off the paper graph sheet.
Backster, typically cool as a cucumber, now seemed to get a little excited. "Can you do that again?"
So I tried again, and bingo by Ingo! He asked me to keep on doing it. But after a few more attempts the polygraph needle started not to react as much and finally didn't at all.
"What does THAT mean," I asked.
"You tell me."
Then a very eerie thought occurred to me, so astonishing that it caused goosebumps.
"Do you mean," I asked, "that it has LEARNED that I'm not serious about really burning its leaf? So that it now knows it need not be alarmed."
Backster smiled. "YOU said it, I didn't. Try another kind of harmful thought."
So I thought of putting acid in the plant's pot. Bingo! But the same "learning curve" soon repeated itself.
Now I already understood in my own "reality" that plants are sentient and telepathic, as all plant lovers know who talk to their plants.
But that plants could LEARN to recognize between true and artificial human intent came as a thunderbolt!
Among all this astonishment I came across the concept of the "learning curve" which ultimately was to play THE feature role in the development of remote viewing.
But Backster was moving on. "Do you think you could influence some kind of metal or chemical?"
"I don't know how to influence anything. But I could try."
So for several weeks I went to the Times Square lab to try to zap metals and chemicals -- and the march of what I was unknowingly being sucked into moved into October, 1971.