“Where and when would you time-travel to?” I asked her. This wasn’t just a long drive hypothetical. Considering that we were twenty miles away from a human cell rejuvenation and potential time machine designed by aliens, it was a fair question.
It’s hard not to speed on the road to Landers, CA. Dust covered and desolate, the roads get smaller and emptier the farther out of Joshua Tree you drive. Littered with open space and abandoned homesteads with yard sale signs up, the highway winds around sun-scorched boulders and the namesake trees that reach towards the heavens.
Where we were headed, though, has much more to do with what’s underneath the miles of dust and yucca root. We were speeding towards an intersection of geomagnetic forces that amplifies the Earth’s magnetic field.
In 1954, George Van Tassel, retired aeronautical engineer for Lockheed and Hughes Aircraft, began building The Integratron after, as he claims, was visited one night by an extraterrestrial named Solganda from Venus.
Van Tassel was “downloaded” with the plans to build the 38 feet tall, 55 feet in diameter dome-shaped structure, designed to be an “electrostatic generator for the purpose of rejuvenation and time travel.” Van Tassel claimed that electromagnetism affects biological cells, and can reverse the aging process.
While there hasn’t been any more intergalactic “contact” reported since it was built, The Integratron has become a modern day engineering and architectural phenomenon. Constructed out of 100% Douglas fir wood (rumor has it Van Tassel’s old boss Howard Hughes donated the wood), the structure has no nails, screws, or any other material that might disrupt “sonic healing” or, of course, the channeling of telepathic space messages.
Van Tassel died in 1978, but The Integratron lives on. Because of its unique geometry, the structure has a predilection for reverberation, making it an “acoustically perfect sound chamber.” The new owners are keeping its mystery alive by offering sound healing baths to anyone interested in taking a dip in the pool of metaphysical enlightenment.
It’s no surprise that this geomagnetic anomaly is nested near Joshua Tree National Park. With annual U.F.O conventions, desert art museums, and spots like Salvation Mountain—the park and the city are hotbeds for mysticism and a magnet for artists, writers, and the bohemian occult.
Whether it’s the trippy trees or hyper-driven magnetic forces, people from all over seem to land in the High Desert in search of esoteric spirituality and overall weirdness.
“Just pick a spot that calls out to you,” Joanne said, motioning towards the ring of mats that curved around the room.
Our group had already entered through the double doors and toured the first floor. We scanned the U.F.O related newspaper clippings that hung from walls and then climbed the narrow staircase to the upper story where the sound bath would take place.
Joanne Karl, along with her two sisters, is the current owner of The Integratron. She sat in the middle of seven quartz crystal bowls, each tuned to one of the seven chakras, or energy centers, that travel from the tailbone to the crown of the head. When the bowls are played, the sounds resonate with each chakra. Joanne explained how the sound bath was the “antidote” to all the external noise we consume every day, and that “sonic healing” provided, “waves of peace, heightened awareness, and relaxation of the mind and body.”
I reclined onto my mat and examined the patterns on the Douglas fir above me. I looked around at the rest of the group—yogis, true believers, desert dwellers. Together, we gazed at the thick wooden beams arching over our heads to create this one-of-a-kind “resonate tabernacle.”
The first stroke of the crystal singing bowls came and sent a ripple around the room and a chill through my bones. Joanne said softly, “Just relax and ride the wave of sound.”
Smooth currents of sound poured over the group and revolved around the chamber, bouncing and absorbing. Deep notes that summoned darkness blended into delicate highs that triggered exhalation and relief from unforeseen paranoia.
The bowls sang through the chakras. Reverberation that overwhelmed in depth and thickness, not in decibel. I time-traveled through old memories that darted around the room, trying to keep up with the speed of sound.
From my mat, I looked out of a small, rectangular window at the blue desert sky. I thought about Van Tassel and Solganda drinking Venusian tea and looking over blueprints. I realized quickly that I was the alien here—I was inside an instrument from another planet.
At the end of the 60-minute session, I felt a strong sense of revitalized relaxation, mixed with a hint of jet lag. I couldn’t tell if my cells had been “rejuvenated,” but I felt as if I certainly had traveled somewhere.
Outside of The Integratron, the rest of the group wandered around the garden where wheelbarrows of succulents and a “hammock village” served as the reception area. They wandered wide-eyed, whispering about their experiences to each other.
The High Desert holds many mysteries, and The Integratron and Joshua Tree has the counterculture answering the call of the strange and beautiful. From homesteaders to hippies to extraterrestrials—this poetic wasteland calls out those on a quest, spiritual or otherwise.
The most magical part of the area, however, is that no matter what’s discovered—one always leaves with more questions than answers.