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The Global Electric Circuit & Earth's Electric Envelope


Electromagnetic energy not only surrounds us but is constantly at work at the most minute levels of our physical selves. As a large and growing scientific literature attests, every one of our cells is electrically sensitive. [1] Yet most of us are unaware of this all-pervasive invisible energy that orchestrates life’s most fundamental rhythms. 


Some, on the order of 30 percent of us, are ‘weather sensitive’. We react “to the electrical changes preceding the arrival of a weather change” that travel “with the speed of electricity” hours or even days before the winds bearing the new weather arrive. [2] Another five to ten percent of us are sufficiently finely tuned, electromagnetically sensitive enough, to be aware, usually uncomfortably and even painfully aware, when artificial electromagnetic disturbances are suddenly introduced into the environment. 


To the warnings of these canaries in our midst we pay no heed.


“If you could see all the colors in the world, including the ultraviolets that honeybees can see, the infrareds that snakes can see, the low electrical frequencies that catfish and salamanders can see, the radio waves, the X-rays, the gamma rays, the slow galactic pulsations,” Arthur Firstenberg writes well along in his absorbing book, The Invisible Rainbow, “if you could see everything that is there in its myriad shapes and hues, in all its blinding glory, instead of blackness you’d see form and motion everywhere,” wherever you looked, night or day. [3]


The pity is, unaided we can only see a small fragment of this vast spectrum of energy waves and particles. We experience the narrow but magnificent spectrum of visible light in daylight (and moonlight).

Earth is a giant magnet whose immense force lines—its “field”—deflect the ionizing particles that arrive without cease from deep space and most especially from the sun. Some of these charged particles have enough energy to penetrate Earth’s magnetic field, where they are captured by the outer and inner Van Allen belts that trap the highly energized particles and send them spiraling back and forth between the north and south poles, shielding life below. As Earth rotates on its axis, its magnetosphere remains stationary, its compressed, or bow side facing the onslaught of the sun’s powerful ‘winds’, while the opposite, nocturnal side stretches for millions of miles away from earth and into space. The constantly changing amplitude of Earth’s magnetic field, its night-and-day rhythm, informs fundamental biological rhythms, including the human circadian rhythm.


FIGURE 1: Earth’s magnetosphere. The magnetosphere forms a vast cocoon that shields Earth from the ionizing radiation particles that constantly stream in from the sun and outer cosmos at a million or more miles an hour. Most of these particles are deflected first by the magnetosheath and next by the actual boundary of the magnetosphere itself, the magnetopause. The comparatively few high-energy particles that do make it through the magnetopause are trapped by the outer and inner Van Allen radiation belts, where they shuttle back and forth between Earth’s North and South poles, spiraling along magnetic lines. There is no real gap between the two belts, instead the high-energy particles are concentrated in two regions, as shown, called the Van Allen belts and named after the scientist who discovered them in 1958. Earth's magnetosphere is as essential to life as air (the atmosphere) and water (the hydrosphere). Life would cease if the magnetosphere collapsed. Very little is known about anthropogenic influences on the magnetosphere.

Some particles not captured by the two shielding Van Allen belts rain into an almost 600-mile-deep atmospheric reservoir called the ionosphere. The ionosphere begins 37 miles above Earth’s surface and terminates roughly at 620 miles altitude. It is not only a protective zone but a constantly replenished source of the electric energy that animates life in Earth’s atmosphere, lands, and seas. 

The multilayered layer formed between the bottom portion of the ionosphere and Earth’s surface forms what atmospheric physicists call the global electric circuit, or an “electric envelope,” a roughly 55-mile-deep aerial wilderness that wraps itself around our planet. It is the nest in which all life has evolved for billions of years. Relatively small amounts of cosmic, solar, and Earth radiation fill this reservoir with the polarized static electricity essential to life.


FIGURE 2: Earth’s layered atmosphere, including the ionosphere and the global electric circuit or “electric envelope.”

“The most spectacular reminder that electricity is always playing around and through us” Firstenberg writes, “is, of course, lightning. Electricity courses through the sky far above us, explodes downward in thunderstorms, rushes through the ground beneath us, and flows gently back up through the air in fair weather,” forming the “global electric circuit.” [4]


Some two thousand thunderstorms continuously play across Earth’s surface, and every second more than a hundred bolts of lightning, each delivering a trillion watts of energy, ceaselessly discharge the build-up of excess electric potential in the ionosphere somewhere or other on Earth, as the flow of ions from the solar wind and deep space keep pouring in, recharging the circuit. 


All organisms are part of this immense global circuit. “Each of us generates our own electric fields, which keep us vertically polarized like the atmosphere, with our feet and hands negative with respect to our spine and head. Our negative feet walk on the negative ground, as our positive heads point toward the positive sky. The complex electric circuits that course gently”—meaning in a very low frequency range—“through our bodies are completed by ground and sky,” in a continuous life-endowing flow. [5]


FIGURE 3: Hand-drawn by Arthur Firstenberg. Both Earth and its atmosphere are good conductors of electricity and together they form the global electric circuit. SOURCE: The Invisible Rainbow.

The electric envelope forms “a resonant cavity” where ceaseless “lightning sets the biosphere ringing at the particularly low frequency tones,” called the Schumann resonances. In the early 1950s the German physicist Winfried O. Schumann predicted and then developed the first measurements of the frequencies caused by Earth’s constant lightning discharges, occurring at 3 to 60 Hertz in a sequence of tonal peaks. Later, scientists speculated that these Schumann “resonance signals” may “act like a tuning fork not just for the biological oscillators of the brain but for all processes of life,” [6] including at the level of DNA processes. [7]


We all live attuned to these very low spectrum frequencies. In a state of “awake relaxation, our brains tune into these precise frequencies,” alpha and theta, that “pulsate, so far as is known, in all animals.” [8] Earth’s natural electromagnetic field—its “heartbeat” or “background” base frequency—surrounds all life with a very low protective frequency of, on average, 7.83 Hertz (Hz). 


Hertz measures the number of oscillations of a radio wave per second: Schumann resonances for the most part vary from 3 to 45 Hz, in the very low range. Cells respond to electromagnetic frequencies between 3 and 25 Hz. “Research has shown that the Schumann resonances can modulate human health indicators such as blood pressure, cardiac and neurological disease, reaction time, neuroendocrine sensitivities,” and can also be used to induce violence. [9]


In addition to these very low frequencies that “speak to our brains” and span the lower end of our auditory range, lightning also generates “a steady symphony of higher frequencies” in the 200 to 30,000 Hz (30 kHz) range that occur within our hearing range and also include “the frequencies of the impulses that our brains send to our muscles.” [10] All these high frequencies still belong to the very low frequency end of the radio spectrum.

Figure4-Spectrum-01 2.jpg

FIGURE 4: Non-ionizing portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.

The human brain and the atmosphere are thus tuned to each other, having evolved in electromagnetic synch for a very long time. And life generally, including human life, evolved tuned by these permanently ringing low (VLF) Schumann frequencies. 


By 1960 the first detailed map of an animal’s polarity or “charge distribution” had been made by the pioneering orthopedic surgeon, Robert O Becker. Four years earlier, in 1956 at the dawn of the Space Age, two zoologists experimenting on crayfish were astonished to discover that extremely small currents “could cause an already firing nerve to alter its firing rate.” In fact, an incredibly small current “of only 36 billionths of an ampere was enough to increase or decrease” the nerve’s firing rate by 5 to 10 percent. A miniscule “current of 150 billionths of an ampere would…double the rate of firing, or silence the nerve altogether,” depending on the direction in which the current was applied to the nerve. [11]


The two zoologists’ momentous discovery was ignored. 


It is still being ignored, over a half century later. According to Firstenberg, such a miniscule current is thousands of times less than what today’s developers of modern telecommunications safety codes believe is the minimum possible to have any biological effect. 


Since the birth of the telegraph in middle of the 19th century we have lived in an invisible, seemingly immaterial substance—an anthropogenic electromagnetic cloud—whose dimensions, complexity, and scope we keep expanding, all the while refusing to look at its possible environmental, medical, and mental effects. During those decades, spanning the lives of seven generations, from our great great grandparents to our grandchildren, the diseases of civilization have sprouted, culminating most recently in a pandemic whose origins and behavior seem to completely befuddle us.


We have lived so long under this invisible radiative cloud we no longer appreciate how it grew and grew and grew, spectacularly and without letup, to the point where it now comprehensively governs every moment of our lives. 


Looking back across those generations, Firstenberg makes the claim: “Not since the presidency of James Polk [1845-49] have our cells, like puppets on invisible strings, been given a second’s rest from the electric vibrations” of the global telecommunications revolutions that continue to roil our biology in ways we do not, as a civilization, acknowledge. [12]


How did this come to pass?



[1] Arthur Firstenberg, The Invisible Rainbow: A History of Electricity and Life (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2020). Firstenberg’s book has 157 pages of references, most of them scientific, at the back of the book. The book is indispensable to anyone looking into the environmental and health effects of electromagnetic pollution.


[2] Ibid., 40.


[3] Ibid., 113-114.

[4] Firstenberg, Op. Cit., 116.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Elizabeth Pastor Guzman, “Tuning in to the Earth’s Natural Rhythm,” Brain World Magazine, Summer 2014. Accessed July 07, 2020.

[7] Martin Blank & Reba Goodman, “DNA is a fractal antenna in electromagnetic fields,” International Journal of Radiation Biology, 87,4 (2011). Accessed July 21, 2020. 

[8] Firstenberg, Op. Cit., 118.

[9] Iona Miller, “Schumann Resonances, Psychophysical Regulation & Psi (Part 1),” Journal of Consciousness Exploration & Research, 4, 6 (July 2013). Accessed July 20, 2020.

[10] Firstenberg, Op. Cit., 120.

[11] Ibid., 153-154.

[12] Firstenberg, Op. Cit., 52.

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