- See also FT: Secret Live of Plants
Visitors from Space
One day late in October of 1971, a blue Volkswagen “bug” carrying some unusual scientific equipment drove into Oak Grove Park near Temecula, a tiny southern California village near the Pechenga Indian Reservation, not far from the famous Mount Palomar Observatory. Out of the driver’s seat stepped a forty-seven-year-old Silesian-born electronics engineer—L. George Lawrence. With a field assistant he had come to this remote desertlike spot to record signals from
wild-growing oak trees, cacti, and yuccas.
Lawrence chose the park because, in his words, it is “an electromagnetic ‘deep-fringe’ area, with no man-made interferences, and thus ideal for getting clean, uncontaminated plant reactions.” An important difference between Lawrence’s apparatus for capturing plant signals and that of Backster, Vogel and Sauvin is that it incorporates, in a temperature-controlled bath, living vegetal tissue shielded behind a Faraday tube that screens out even the slightest electromagnetic interference. Lawrence found that living vegetal tissue is able to perceive signals far more delicately than electronic sensors. It is his belief that biological radiations transmitted by living things are best received by a biological medium. Lawrence’s equipment also differs significantly from that of the other experimenters in that it dispenses with the need to use electrodes on plants if they are far enough away from their neighbors to rule out signal interference, as is usually the case in desert areas. Instead, Lawrence simply trains a lensless tube with a wide aperture—the optical axes of which parallel the design axis of the Faraday tube—at a target plant. At greater distances he substitutes a telescope for the lensless tube, and makes the plant more visible by hanging a white cloth on it.
Lawrence’s living tissue can pick up a directional signal from distances up to one mile away. To stimulate his plant subjects into distinct reactions he “dumps a premeasured quantity of electricity into them,” activating the stimulus by remote control with a timer which allows him to walk or drive back to the sensing station. His exploratory experiments are made during colder seasons when most vegetation is dormant, so as to be doubly sure that spurious signals from other plants are not garbling his measurements.
Perturbations in the living tissue of his recorder are detected, not visually through a penrecorder, but aurally by means of a continuous, low even whistle, similar to that produced by a sine-wave generator, which changes into a series of distinct pulses whenever it is disturbed by signals from a plant. On the day of their arrival at Oak Grove Park in 1971 Lawrence and his assistant took a break for a late-afternoon snack, seating themselves about ten yards from their instrument, which was left pointing randomly at the sky. As Lawrence bit into a Hebrew National knockwurst, the steady whistling sound from his equipment was interrupted by a series of distinct pulsations. Lawrence, who had not yet digested the knockwurst, but had well digested the Backster effect, thought the signals might have been caused by his killing some of the cells in the sausage. Second thoughts reminded him that kosher sausage is biologically dead. As Lawrence checked his instrumentation, the audio signal, to his amazement, continued to produce a distinct chain of pulses for over half an hour before the even whistle returned, indicating that nothing more was being received. The signals had to be coming from somewhere, and since his device had been continuously pointed upward toward the heavens, Lawrence was faced with the fantastic thought that something or someone was transmitting from outer space.
The implications of the phenomenon were such that on their way home Lawrence and his partner could not avoid discussing them though, for the moment, they decided not to make public their finding in the event that not true signals but “bugs” in their equipment could have produced what they had heard. The possibility of life beyond earth was both disturbing and exciting to them. Hints about life elsewhere have so far been vague, including the discovery of “organized elements” or organisms in meteorites, and infrared spectra on Mars, which imply organic molecules. There are also rare nonrandom radio interstellar signals whose reception was claimed by Tesla and Marconi, but they were so ridiculed that they were finally reduced to silence; and there are intergalactic radio emissions from pulsars.
Loath to jump to a premature conclusion that he had picked up an intelligent signal from trillions of miles away through a plant tissue, Lawrence spent several months improving his equipment into what he termed a “biodynamic field station designed for interstellar signal reception.”
By April of 1972, his equipment was sufficiently refined for him to attempt to point it once more in the same direction which had brought the reaction at the time of the sausage biting. As a laser expert and author of the first technical book on that subject to appear in Europe, Lawrence had carefully noted the direction in which his apparatus had been pointing and had determined that it was aligned on Ursa Major, a seven-star constellation in the region of the north celestial pole, popularly called the Big Dipper. To insure that the equipment would be located as far away from life forms as possible, Lawrence drove out to the Pisgah Crater, a volcanic butte at twenty-three-hundred-feet elevation in the middle of the arid Mojave Desert. The crater is surrounded by some thirty square miles of flat lava beds with not so much as a blade of grass. Aligning his telescope—coupled with the Faraday tube, a camera, an electromagnetic interference monitor, and the tissue chamber—to celestial coordinates 10 hours 40 minutes plus 56 degrees, which gave him the general direction for Ursa Major, Lawrence switched on his audio signal. After a ninety-minute interval, his equipment again picked up a recognizable, though briefer, pattern of signals. According to Lawrence, the periods between rapid series of pulses ranged from approximately three to ten minutes over a stretch of several hours as he monitored a single spot in the heavens.
Having thus successfully repeated his 1971 observations, Lawrence began to wonder whether he had not accidentally stumbled on a scientific discovery of major proportions. He had no idea from where the signals might be coming or what or who was sending them, but it seemed to him highly possible that galactic drift played some role in their origin. “The signals might be spilling over from the galactic equator, which has a dense star population,” said Lawrence. “We could be getting something from that area rather than from the Big Dipper.”
After the Mojave Desert confirmation of his first observations, Lawrence continued tests from his residence-laboratory, pointing his machine at the same coordinates, leaving it on round the clock. Lawrence says that he had to wait weeks and sometimes months for the signals to come through but, when they did, the reception of something was unmistakable. One signal produced a brr-r-r-r-r beep-beep-beep type of audio pulse which Lawrence maintains no earthly entity has achieved.
Pressed to speculate on the nature of the strange signals, Lawrence stated:
- “I don’t believe they are directed at earthlings. I think we are dealing with transmissions between peer groups, and because we don’t know anything about biological communications we are simply excluded from these ‘conversations.’ I also believe that the energy transmitted must be fantastically high since our instrumentation is not at all sophisticated and it would take a tremendous amount of power to create any response in it from such astronomical distances. The signals, therefore, may be of an emergency nature. Something may be happening up there and someone may be desperately calling for help.”
Deciding that his findings may be of crucial significance and could herald a new and as yet unimagined system of communication, Lawrence has sent a copy of his October, 1971, tape, together with a seven-page report, to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., where it is preserved as a potentially historical scientific document. The report concludes: An apparent train of interstellar communication signals of unknown origin and destination has been observed. Since interception was made by biological sensors, a biological-type signal transmission must be assumed. Test experiments were conducted in an electromagnetic deep-fringe area, the equipment itself being impervious to electromagnetic radiation. Follow-up tests revealed no equipment defects. Because interstellar listening experiments are not conducted on a routine basis, the suggestion is advanced that verification tests should be conducted elsewhere, possibly on a global scale. The phenomenon is too important to be ignored.
Lawrence says the instrumentation tape, as a mere audio presentation, is unpleasant to listen to, but reviewers of the tape have conceded that “a fascinating degree of enchantment” tends to emerge after the tape has been played back three or more times, typically over a period of weeks. The tape contains a short, incremental series of deep harmonious oscillations resembling nonsense chatter or background modulations. An intelligent character of the overall pulse train is implied by discrete spacing patterns, apparent repetitions of sequences, and highly attenuated electromagnetic noise.
Lawrence looks forward to the day when he can arrange for computer analysis of the taped signals, which might be able to provide additional clues to their ature. They are far too rapid to allow manual extraction of the data. Even so, he is not too optimistic that such analysis can produce concrete results. “If the signals are of a personal nature, no means known to modern computer technology will be able to decipher them,” he says. “We simply do not have today bionic-type computers which could collect seemingly random data and come up with a concise and rational readout.”
Lawrence’s most important conclusion, that biological-type sensors are needed in order to intercept biological signals, applies particularly to communications from outer space. As he puts it: “Standard electronics are next to worthless here, since ‘bio-signals’ apparently reside outside of the known electromagnetic spectrum.” Lawrence points out that in the 1950s scientists who had previously insisted that our small planet was unique in the universe began to admit, on the basis of careful celestial observations and other inferences, that we may not be alone in he cosmic immensity, and to concede the possible existence of extraterrestrials, whose development might be far superior to our own.
In the early nineteenth century Karl Friedrich Gauss—the German mathematician and physicist for whom an electromagnetic unit of magnetic flux density is named—proposed that man might make known his presence on earth to cosmic beings by cutting huge swaths hundreds of miles long in the Siberian taiga to form a right angle. This was followed by the suggestion of the Austrian astronomer J. J. von Littrow that geometric canals be dug in the Sahara, filled, with kerosene, and set aflame at night; and the recommendation of the French scientist Charles Gros that a vast mirror be built to reflect sunlight directly at Mars.
These farfetched ideas were updated when, in the summer of 1927, radio observations were made which in the framework of then existing knowledge seemed to imply that earth might be under the scrutiny of communications satellites of extraterrestrial origin. Jorgen Hals, a Norwegian radio engineer, while listening to a short-wave radio station transmitting from Eindhoven in the Netherlands, heard weird echoes for which he could not account. Nor could a number of Dutch and British professors and technicians who carried out a series of experiments to confirm Hals’s findings.
The puzzling anomaly was all but forgotten until the early 1950s, when various specialists began to put forward a theory of extraterrestrial interference to explain it. The theorists intrepidly assumed the intermittent existence of an interstellar communications probe designed, first, to monitor solar systems for intelligent life, then retransmit radio-frequency emanations from such life, including earthlings, back to a distant “home-world.” Though these far-out interpretations were discounted, even mocked, by the mainstream of scientific opinion, their critics became far less vocal when another series of observations was made, this time involving a television signal which appeared to have been received after a mysterious delay of over three years.
In September, 1953, C. W. Bradley of London picked up the call letters of the American station KLEE-TV in Houston, Texas, on his living-room television tube. Over the next several months the same letters were observed on TV screens in the offices of Atlantic Electronics Ltd. in the English city of Lancaster. What was eerie about these receptions was not that the TV signal had been sent from so far away, since this happens often enough to cause no surprise, but that the signal had been sent about three years prior to the time of its reception, the call letters KLEE having been changed to KPRC in 1950. Explanations that the signals could have been stored in a “plasma cloud” hovering above the earth which released the data in a broadcast for all to see gave no reasons as to how this could have been done or why, and suggestions that the whole thing was merely a meaningless—though extremely expensive—hoax seem farfetched. Spurred by the mysteries of these phenomena, American researchers began seriously to consider interstellar communications via radio. But radio was soon ruled out after it was realized that its wavelengths could be absorbed by interstellar gas clouds and nebulae, blocked by various shielding layers around hoped-for faraway target planets, or affected by cosmic radio noise. Only one possible wavelength remained to reach such targets, the much shorter and more penetrating one emitted by neutral galactic hydrogen.
But terrestrials still hoped to receive radio waves from space. In 1960 Dr.Frank Drake initiated Project Ozma—named for the princess who became ruler of the fictional kingdom of Oz—which used a huge circular radio telescope eighty-five feet in diameter at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory near Greenbank, West Virginia. Drake and his colleagues hoped to detect possible intelligent extraterrestrial transmissions from the regions of two nearby stars, Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani. Only recently was it discovered that orbiting Epsilon Eridani is a massive planet six times the weight of Jupiter, largest of the nine planets now known to revolve around the sun. Although Ozma failed to obtain results, scientists are still hotly pursuing the subject of communication with extraterrestrial intelligences, the phrase being now shortened into the acronym CETI.
In the summer of 1971, a group of American scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Ames Research Center completed studies for a new Project Cyclops, which proposed a network of ten thousand radio dish telescopes, forming a collective surface of several square kilometers, to be mounted on rails and spread across one hundred square miles of the New Mexican desert. Requiring a cybernetic “nervous system” of brand-new supercomputers, Cyclops was estimated by Charles Seeger of New Mexico State University to cost five billion dollars. In light of the stringent cutbacks in the U.S. space-research funding, it is unlikely that Cyclops will become a reality. This leaves the field to a huge radio telescope more than half a kilometer in diameter currently under construction at the Astrophysical Observatory in the Soviet Crimea.
All of these projects, Lawrence complains, assume that signals must come by radio since that is the most efficient means of communication known to the scientists of this planet. If they converted to his idea of receiving biological signals, Lawrence feels they would have a much better chance. The notion is echoed by Joseph F. Goodavage, author of Astrology: The Space Age Science, who, in an article for Saga magazine (January, 1973), stated:
- “Rigid enforcement of established Scientific Method, as a kind of quasi-religion—with its burdensome ritual and tradition—may be the most serious obstacle in the path of direct communication between Homo sapiens and other civilizations that may be thriving throughout interstellar, intergalactic space.”
Employed as an instrumentation engineer for a Los Angeles space-science corporation, Lawrence decided to design some more sophisticated transducers—or converters of one type of input energy into another type of output energy. Knowing that a mechanical device which could use heat, environmental pressure, electrostatic fields, and gravitational changes simultaneously was not up to the task, he theorized that a plant might be able to turn the trick because it had the necessary components built in by nature.
When he began to study the problem in 1963, Lawrence found he could get no help from plant specialists and biologists because none of them knew enough physics, and especially electronics, to visualize what he was driving at. In his search for a biological system for radiating and receiving signals, Lawrence began by going over the experiments made in the 1920s by the Russian histologist Alexander Gurwitsch and his wife, who proclaimed that all living cells produce an invisible radiation. Gurwitsch had noticed that the cells in the tips of onion roots seemed to be dividing at a definite rhythm. Believing this due to an extra unexplained source of physical energy, Gurwitsch wondered whether it might not come from nearby cells.
To test out his theory he mounted one root tip in a horizontally oriented thin glass tube to act as a ray gun. This he pointed at a similar onion root tip, also protected in a tube, but with a small area on one side exposed naked to serve as a target. After three hours of exposure, Gurwitsch examined sections from the target root under his microscope. When he compared the number of cell divisions, he found 25 percent more in the exposed, irradiated area. The receiver root had seemingly picked up a vital energy from its sender neighbor. To try to block the emission, Gurwitsch repeated the experiment with a thin shield of quartz between the roots, but obtained essentially the same results. However, when the quartz was coated with gelatin, or a simple sheet of glass was substituted, no enhanced cell division could be observed. Since glass and gelatin were known to block various ultraviolet frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum, Gurwitsch concluded that the rays emitted by the cells of an onion root tip must be as short as or shorter than ultraviolet. Because hey apparently increased cell division, or “mitosis,” he called them “mitogenetic rays.”
Gurwitsch’s findings had created a furor in the scientific world as laboratories hastened to check them. Since the wavelengths claimed for the new rays were more powerful than the ultraviolet frequencies which reach the earth from the sun, many biologists could not believe that living processes were capable of generating them. In Paris two researchers reported similar results; in Moscow one of Gurwitsch’s own countrymen showed that he could increase the budding of yeast more than 25 percent by exposing it to “mitogenetic” rays from onion roots.
A pair of scientists at the Siemens and Halske Electric Company near Berlin came to the verdict that the radiation was a fact; and in Frankfort, a researcher actually succeeded in measuring it, not through its effect on vegetal life, but with electrical instruments. On the other hand, equally reliable Anglo-Saxon investigators could detect no effects. In the United States, when the prestigious Academy of Sciences issued a report that Gurwitsch’s discovery was not replicable, and therefore strongly suggested it might be the product of his imagination, Gurwitsch was sped into limbo.
Though Lawrence lacked an ultraviolet spectrometer to detect “mitogenetic” radiation, he was fascinated by Gurwitsch’s system of directing the energy. His observations also nudged Lawrence almost involuntarily to the position that there was a psychological, or “mental,” factor involved in Gurwitsch’s maverick work. Continuing to probe further with a sensitive high-impedance device of his own design, Lawrence sought to discover whether individual cells in a quarter-inch slice of onion, attached to a Wheatstone bridge and an electrometer, would react to various stimuli. He found that they seemed to respond to irritations such as a puff of smoke, or even to his mental image of their destruction, in about one hundred milliseconds, or one tenth of a second.
What seemed most odd to Lawrence was that the reaction of the onion tissue seemed to change depending on whether he, or someone else, was directing thought at it. People with “psychic gifts” seemed to elicit much stronger responses than the practical-minded Lawrence. As he commented:
- “If one can cause, or get something to cause, harm to a cell—assuming that the cell has a cellular consciousness—the reaction pattern in it will change from experimenter to experimenter.”
About this time Lawrence came across Backster’s work and decided to build a sophisticated psycho-galvanic analyzer or plant response detector. With his new equipment, Lawrence got a series of “wild” tracings from his plants; but, because of what he retrospectively calls his “ignorance and classical Prussian orthodoxy,” he ascribed these effects to faults in his instrumentation. Nevertheless, his suspicion that plant tissues could pick up human thought and emotion slowly became more concrete in the light of Backster’s achievements.
Lawrence was reminded that years previously Sir James Jeans, the British astronomer, had written that “the stream of human knowledge is impartially heading toward a non-mechanical reality: the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter. We are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail it as the creator and governor of this realm.”
In October of 1969, Lawrence began to publish a series of popular articles based on his reading and research, the first of which appeared as “Electronics and the Living Plant” in Electronics World. Lawrence told his readers that, for the first time in the millennia since the first green leaves poked their heads out of Paleozoic swamps, plants were at last beginning to be studied for their “electrodynamic properties.”
Four main questions, said Lawrence, were starting to attract serious attention: Could plants be integrated with electronic readouts to form major data sensors and transducers? Could they be trained to respond to the presence of selected objects and images? Were their alleged supersensory perceptions verifiable? Of the 350,000 plant species known to science, which were the most promising from the electronic point of view?
Providing detailed instructions for investigating the behavior of living plant cells with microelectrodes, Lawrence also reported that in the “Moon Garden” developed by Republic Aviation at Farmingdale, New York, scientists had been able in the 1960s to induce what appeared to be “nervous breakdown” and “complete frustration” in plants being tested as possible space foods and that, even earlier, in his laboratory at East Grinstead, Sussex, England, L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology, had noted that plants dislike certain types of artificial light, such as the cold light emitted by sodium street lamps, which can cause them to come out in a cold sweat clearly visible on their foliage. Lawrence warned his readers that work with plants was not just a matter of electronic expertise and that working with the Backster Effect involved much more than the mere ability to construct top-quality electronic equipment.
- “There are certain qualities here,” he wrote, “which do not enter into normal experimental situations. According to those experimenting in this area, it is necessary to have a ‘green thumb’ and, most important, a genuine love for plants.”
Half a year later Lawrence followed up his revelations with an even more controversial article in the same magazine, entitled “Electronics and Parapsychology.” Lawrence’s article began by asking: “Does man possess latent sensitivities that have been stifled by modem communications systems?” He then pointed out that although the fledgling science of parapsychology, long suspect because of an occult background, was having to fight for acceptance, the application of electronic instruments was permitting dramatic new experiments and bringing forth stunning discoveries which might rival the orthodox communications arts and sciences currently in use.
Stressing that the need for machine systems capable of testing ESP in an unbiased, impartial manner had been recognized fifty years ago, when an Italian scientist, Federico Cazzamalli, developed an ultra-high-frequency apparatus for testing human telepathy, Lawrence reported that the Italian’s experiments had never been repeated because the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini had declared the work secret.
A fascinating offspring of Cazzamalli’s ideas and machine, continued Lawrence, is an apparatus called the “Integratron,” researched by George W. van Tassel, a self-taught inventor living in Yucca Valley, California, not far from the Giant Rock airport. Developed over twenty years, and still under construction, van Tassel’s contrivance is housed in a non-metallic domelike structure thirtyeight feet high and fifty-eight feet in diameter, which looks like an astronomical observatory. It is an electrostatic, magnetic generator with armatures over four times larger than any others in existence. The Proceedings of van Tassel’s College of Universal Wisdom state that the fields generated by his machine encompass its entire structure and this is why the dome contains no nails, bolts, or metal but is held together like a Chinese puzzle and is six times stronger than the commercial building code requires. When completed it promises, says van Tassel, not only to help solve the problem of extraterrestrial communication, but to afford such possibilities as rejuvenation of body cells, an antigravity force, and the ultimate of psychic experiences: time travel.
What puzzles orthodox scientists and makes skeptics of many of them is a lack of any working theory to cover this kind of phenomenon. One scientist, Dr. W. G. Roll, in his presidential address to the 7th Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association held in Oxford, England, in 1964, postulated “psi-fields,” which might be analogous to electromagnetic or gravitational fields, possibly possessed by all objects, living and nonliving, which could react with known physical fields and with one another. Another theory, put forward by Dr. G. D. Wasserman at the Ciba Foundation Symposium in 1956, leans on quantum mechanics. Wasserman suggests that “psi-fields,” which enable persons to have paranormal experiences, are due to the reception of inconceivably small “quanta of energy,” far more minute than those which can be absorbed by matter fields of classical physics.
The Backster Effect and other related considerations, says Lawrence,
- “lead to the idea that psi is but a part of a so-called ‘paranormal matrix’—a unique communications grid which binds all life together. Its phenomena apparently work on a multi-input basis which operates beyond currently known physical laws.”
Within this framework, says Lawrence, plants, after sensitization or conditioning by their owners, can reach a state of communication in which they are able to react to their owners’ emotions or states of mind even when they are far away.
In the June, 1971, issue of Popular Electronics, Lawrence provided any researcher wishing to investigate communication with plants with detailed diagrams and a parts list for a “response detector” allowing for extremely sensitive tests.
Warning that constant repetition was an important factor in such testing, Lawrence stated that if a plant specimen is stimulated continuously, badly injured, or infrequently watered, it would tire quickly, or even lapse into shock and die. Researchers were therefore cautioned to be gentle with their plants and allow them to recuperate after experimentation. The area in which plants live must be quiet, added Lawrence, “so that the stimuli can be effectively applied with a minimum of power-line noise or disturbances from radio-frequency transmission to cause faulty indications.”
Lawrence’s ideas about plants were corroborated and elaborated by the experience of a Czech publisher and student of physiological psychology, Jan Merta, now living in Canada, whose psychic gifts allow him to plunge an iron bar into a blacksmith’s forge, heat it to incandescence, then calmly brush sparks off its white-hot end with his bare hand as easily as he would rub dust from a shelf.
Freshly settled in Canada, Merta supported himself for two months by working as a troubleshooter for a large Montreal grower and importer of tropical plants. When clients in office and residential buildings complained that their plants were getting sick, Merta was sent to ascertain the trouble. Because he also took care of thousands of plants in the firm’s extensive greenhouses, Merta noticed that the effects of loneliness produced when a plant is taken away from hundreds of its friends often caused it such a shock that it would pine, even die; however, when returned to the greenhouse, it immediately perked up and regained its normal green health.
As the result of hundreds of “house calls,” Merta noticed that plants throve better when constantly communicated with by office workers and home owners than if left to themselves. Examples of the majestic Ficus benjamini, nearly thirty feet tall, transported from Florida, though in excellent condition upon arrival, when placed around a fountain in a shopping center’s indoor circular solarium started to wilt within two days in spite of careful watering and feeding. Yet those in heavily traveled passageways leading to the solarium retained their radiant vigor. To Merta this was a sure sign that the Ficus enjoyed being admired by the passers-by.
In 1970, when Lawrence read that in the Ukraine radio frequencies and ultrasonic vibrations had been used to stimulate cereal grain seeds to produce higher yields as far back as the early 1930s and that the United States Department of Agriculture had successfully experimented in the same way, he gave up his college position and set about independently developing advanced equipment with which he hopes that seed grains can be provoked, on a commercial scale, to grow better and faster. “If a plant seedling can be stimulated on a parapsychological basis, as the famous plant breeder Luther Burbank knew, then I don’t see why,” says Lawrence, “we can’t transmit specific signals to whole fields of crops to stimulate their growth without all these damned soil-killing fertilizers.”
In the February, 1971, issue of Popular Electronics Lawrence presented his own experimental arrangement to test his theories about stimulating plant growth in an extremely high-voltage electrostatic field. It is the invention and use of cheap chemical fertilizers, he asserted, which has suppressed the ideas of countless engineers about how to nourish plants electrically. With nitrate pollution from these fertilizers threatening the world’s ecological panorama and its water supply, he urges that these ideas be revived.
Acting on his own advice, Lawrence is working up patent applications on special sound-type plant stimulation techniques, which he is combining with Backster Effect methods in order to stimulate his plants in a wireless fashion. This effort has turned Lawrence the engineer into Lawrence the philosopher. “There was a time, when I was a child, when the whole world seemed alive and knowing,” he wrote in Organic Gardening and Farming.
- “Trees were friends and as George Eliot put it: ‘Flowers see us and know what we’re thinking about.’ Then came a time when plants just grew, silently and without emotion. But today, I’m entering a second childhood, as least as far as plants are concerned.”
Lawrence, torn between his interest in stimulating plant growth electrically and his projects to achieve interstellar communication, feels that the effort to contact extraterrestrial life is more important in the long run because “if routine results can be achieved in CETI, many questions attached to riddles in the plant kingdom will be answered as a consequence.
On June 5, 1973, the research division of Anchor College of Truth in San Bernardino announced that it was inaugurating the world’s first biological-type interstellar communications observatory under the direction of L. George Lawrence, now also a vice-president of Anchor. For the new research program Lawrence has designed what he calls a Stellartron, which combines in one threeton instrument the features of a radio telescope and the biological signal-receiving system of the biodynamic field station. Anchor president, Ed Johnson, told the press that since radio astronomy had failed to detect intelligent signals from space, the college was backing Lawrence’s idea that radio transmission was out of date and that biological communication should be given a trial.
Pointing out that in our own galaxy alone there are some 200 billion stars, Lawrence says that if one assumed each of them to have at least five companion planets, a total of one trillion might consequently be available for study. Even if only one planet in a thousand has intelligent life this would amount to one billion in our galaxy alone. Multiplied by the ten billion galaxies believed to comprise the observable universe, then there may be 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets capable of sending some kind of signal to Earth.
Anchor’s founder, Reverend Alvin M. Harrell, thinks that contact with another race in the universe will trigger a tremendous explosion of knowledge. As Harrell says: “Given the destructive brutality of humankind, we may expect any newly discovered civilization to be infinitely more loving and compassionate than we are.”
“Perhaps plants are the true extraterrestrials,” Lawrence observes,
- “for they converted an early mineral world into a habitat suitable for man by processes that border on near-perfect magic! What remains to be done now is to remove all traces of occultism and make plant response, including communications phenomena, a verifiable component of orthodox physics. Our instrumentation concepts reflect this effort.”
If Lawrence is on the right track, the ardently desired prospect of producing hardware to move man into the vastness of interstellar space on Columbian voyages of discovery will be rendered as obsolete as Columbus’s flagship, Santa Maria. Lawrence’s research, suggesting as it does that intelligences are communicating instantly across distances requiring millions of light-years to reach, indicates that what is needed is not spaceships but the proper “telephone numbers” to contact them.
Though the work is still in an exploratory stage, his biodynamic field station may be a step toward plugging into the universal switchboard, with plants as the pretty, cheerful and efficient co-operators.