People come to the desert for many reasons. Some believe the never-ending sun and the warm, dry air are therapeutic. An hour north of Palm Springs, California, nestled in the lunar landscape of Joshua trees, amid the low desert scrub, lies a place some believe is magical, possibly even supernatural in its healing ability. Deep in the Mojave, where the lizards outnumber the people five to one and where snow-capped Mt. San Jacinto’s peak looms to the west, lies the Integratron; a place that is both a cultural and spiritual phenomenon.

The Sound Bath

Joshua Tree. Photo: Josh Fredman
Joshua Tree. Photo: Josh Fredman

On a warm afternoon in late April, I lay down on the padded mat as near to the center of the Integratron’s main room as I could. I didn’t know what to expect. I wanted to get as close to the action as I could. A man on one side of the dome, surrounded by twenty bowls of varying size, made from polished crystal, gave us some historical background. His skin was slightly weathered, leathery from years of desert sun. He spoke with a certainty that both charmed me and put me at ease. He did not tell us his name, only that he’d been working here for many years, first giving deep tissue massages, and now playing the quartz bowls. Approximately two-dozen of us were spread out in a semi-circle around him. I closed my eyes.

“You may hear water,” he said, “but we don’t play any kind of water soundtrack, and there is no water in the room.” He began performing. The low sound rang through me. I could feel it in my legs, in my abdomen, moving slowly into my chest. It was like a gentle, soothing vibration. As the notes changed and the vibration began to move into different places in my body, I could faintly hear something. It sounded like water in a drainpipe. Circling in a funnel and moving into the ground. A sound bath in a yoga studio can be a great experience, but in the Integratron, I felt like the sound consumed me. The shape of the room made the polyphonic experience multidimensional. Like aspects of an acid trip, minus the LSD.

The Origins of the Integratron

A view of the Integratron. Photo: Josh Fredman
A view of the Integratron. Photo: Josh Fredman

First conceptualized in 1953, the Integratron’s construction began in 1957 and took more than 20 years to complete. Creator George Van Tassel said the idea came to him through an alien contact experience. He claimed a spacecraft visited him in the desert near his home at Giant Rock, about two miles from where the Integratron now sits. There were no witnesses, but he claimed he communicated telepathically with a being from outer space, a Venusian he called Solgonda, who gave him a formula for a frequency that could repair living tissue. Van Tassel believed that aliens were making contact with him so that he could spread a message. A message that transcended language and could benefit humanity. A message that could heal us, save us from ourselves. He believed he had a method that would allow us to travel through time and space and make us more perfect versions of ourselves.

Upon entering the building, visitors are directed to climb to the top of a ladder to access the main chamber. When I stepped into the room, I knew this was like no other room I’d ever seen. A sort of vertically elongated dome, the diameter of the building is 55 feet. Acoustically perfect, it is designed so that a person standing on one side of the room can whisper and the person directly opposite, can hear him or her clearly from 50 feet away. Due to a phenomenon called geometric shadow, if someone steps three inches to either side, he or she can only see the other person whispering but can’t hear anything. Sound created at the center of the dome reverberates strongly and clearly throughout. Encouraged by the staff to test this, I found myself giggling like a child. Feeling suddenly sheepish, I quickly stepped away in self-conscious discomfort. I watched as others did the same.

A Marriage of Design and Geography

Top of the center of the dome. Photo: Josh Fredman

Primarily made of wood, the Integratron is comprised of sixteen curved, laminated beams that stretch from its base to a one-ton concrete porthole at the apex of the dome. There are no ferrous screws or hardware, as Van Tassel believed that ferromagnetic metals would dampen the frequency, thus dampening its therapeutic effect. He designed the dome based on something called a Multiple Wave Oscillator, which is a combination of a high voltage Tesla coil, and a split-spring resonator that generates wideband electromagnetic frequencies, designed for and used to treat cancer in the early 1900s.

Van Tassel, as well as the Integratron’s current stewards, also believed that the structure’s location was paramount to its efficacy. They say the exact location is a powerful geomagnetic anomaly that includes a convergence of as many as three underground rivers and other geologic ley lines. This is a place where physical aberrances can happen without explanation; like Sedona, Arizona or the Bermuda triangle.

Van Tassel’s Path to Building the Integratron

Van Tassel hosted weekly meditations at his home at Giant Rock for years before his 1953 contact with the being allegedly from Venus. Earlier that year, Van Tassel hosted the first Interplanetary Spacecraft Convention at his small airstrip near his home. This was the first of 25 annual UFO conventions he held there. These became the vehicles for funding the construction of the Integratron.

Van Tassel was among at least half a dozen other men who formed non-sectarian UFO religions; all based on alien contact experiences they’d allegedly had in the Mojave desert and across the southwestern U.S. in the 1950s.

Glass bowls. Photo: Josh Fredman
Glass bowls. Photo: Josh Fredman

Do the Integratron’s Claims of Healing Matter?

Does it matter if the claims are untrue? Can the Integratron actually heal anyone or allow them to travel through space and time? Modern science would say that it’s not possible.

Ultimately, the experience of the Integratron is individual. Reports of visitor’s experiences differ widely from banal to transcendental, and everything in between.

While Van Tassel may have passed from this earthly coil, his legacy lives on. The Integratron has changed ownership a few times resulting in its current more pristine, more tourist-friendly state. A visit includes both a short tour of the structure and its surroundings as well as an approximate 30-minute sound bath. The well-manicured oasis offers a friendly place to sit and read in a hammock. A collection of found hippie folk art dots the grounds and garden. Robots made from old washing machines and discarded metal scraps along with wheelbarrow fountains are among the more creative pieces scattered about the property.

Architecturally, the flying saucer-like shape of the building is a nod to the impetus of its inception. Even if the Integratron doesn’t sit atop a powerful vortex, the historical significance ties it to the beauty of its desert surroundings and the culture of many of the people who settled in the area making it worth a visit to see the structure and experience the sound bath.