2nd Article on Edgar Mitchell.
HUMAN BEHAVIOUR The Newsmagazine of the Social Sciences.
The Consciousness Of Edgar Mitchell
by DAVID VAN NUYS
From the surface of the moon, the view of the planet earth is mind-blowing. Looking back from that vast distance, astronaut Mitchell began to see clearly that if we are to survive on our little globe, we are going to have to change our ways of thinking. So he came back and began to do something about it. David Van Nuys, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Psychology at California State College, Sonoma.
Imagine the following science-fiction scenario: NASA is working feverishly to beat the Russians in the race to put a man on the moon. Everything is anticipated and worked out down to the last microminiature detail. Every detail except one. The impact of space on man’s consciousness. Astronauts begin to return from moon missions with a change in their consciousness so subtle that they pass their psychiatric debriefings without note. But the change is there. Once devoted citizens of the United States, they are now even more passionately citizens of the planet, of the universe.
Back in civilian life, they become internationalist visionaries, doomsday prophets, poets and mystics. Quietly, one of them forms a business corporation, a business with a difference. Its mission is to research, develop and promote anything that might help save the planet from the various disasters threatening it.
The corporation does basic research that leads to such a deepening of science that religion and science begin to fuse. The corporation develops processes and products by which the oceans may be cleansed, the air purified once again and new sources of energy made available. The corporation also promulgates this new planetary awareness so that more and more people begin to experience themselves as citizens of the planet. Other corporations and individuals spring up and begin to work synergistically toward the same goals. The planet is saved!
Such was my fantasy while driving down to Pale Alto to interview former astronaut Edgar Mitchell at the new Institute of Noetic Sciences. I knew enough about Mitchell and his work to know that the fantasy was not so farfetched.
Mitchell was, in fact, profoundly affected by his moon walk on the Apollo 14 flight. The impact of that experience has changed his thinking and his life. In the two years following his retirement from the navy, he has founded two corporations (Edgar D. Mitchell & Associates and The Institute of Noetic Sciences), authored approximately 40 articles and lectures, participated in two major experimental efforts in psychic research, edited a book on parapsychology, co-scripted and narrated two educational films on consciousness research and initiated a pilot series for television. In addition, he has spoken at colleges, universities, management groups and international clubs, as well as having appeared on most television talk shows. All of these activities are part of his effort to raise “planetary consciousness”.
Little wonder, then, that I found the 43-year-old ex-astronaut in his office at the Institute of Noetic Sciences looking a bit worn and tired from the pace of his activities. The institute, currently occupying a suite of offices in a low California-stucco apartment-style building, is a non-profit organization for research, education and philanthropy. Noetics comes from the Greek word for mind and is used by Mitchell to refer to the general study of consciousness.
The night before my interview with Mitchell, I had a dream about him. In my dream, he was a very small dwarf with wild red hair and beard. He explained to me in the dream that the reason for his diminutive stature was so that he could fit in the space capsule. That reasoning seemed valid enough but, in reality, I found Mitchell to be of average height and muscular in build. His thinning sandy hair is offset by a well- trimmed, reddish moustache and beard. Lingering freckles and green eyes hint of a boyish quality, but his voice and manner are well modulated and serious.
“The more Mitchell looked into it, the more he became convinced there was a long tradition of solid scientific work that had established the reality of psychic phenomena.”
I asked Mitchell, the sixth man on the moon, about his experience on that Apollo 14 flight. “Something happened to me during the flight which I didn’t recognize at the time – I could say it was an altered state of consciousness a peak experience if you will … virtually all of the philosophies, ideas, scientific, truths, etc., that were dear to me and were part of my scientific paradigm, got tossed right up into the air and fell into a big heap like a bundle of pickup sticks…. There was suddenly a very deep gut feeling that something was different. It occurred when looking at the earth and seeing this blue and white planet floating there, and knowing it was orbiting the sun; seeing that sun, seeing it set in the background of the very deep black and velvety cosmos; seeing, rather, knowing for sure, that there was a purposefulness of flow, of energy, of time and space in the cosmos.
“Upon viewing planet Earth from 240,000 miles away,” Mitchell continues, “I had to think deeply about what I saw. And the reflections went on for weeks and months afterward. It became obvious to me that the direction in which I was proceeding, however altruistic I might have thought it was, was not sufficient for what had to be done. When you see the planet Earth as a blue and white haven, a magnificent speck in the vastness of the empty space that is not really empty, you think of what the people are doing. You remember the wars that are going on at that very moment. You remember the needless and wasteful ravagings of the earth – not for productivity, not to help people, although the claims are there. They are going on primarily because of our egoistic drives. And when you realise that, you know the planet cannot survive such behaviour. Man must see the planet from this viewpoint and realise what his own destiny is and can be…. We must change the course of human evolution.”
Nor is Mitchell the only astronaut to be so affected. “No man that I know of,” he says, “has gone into space – at least, to the moon – and come back, who has not been affected in some very similar way. It is what I prefer to call ‘instant global consciousness.’ Each man comes bark with a feeling that he is no longer an American citizen; he is a planetary citizen. He doesn’t like the way things are and he wants to help improve them. It is a universal feeling among the astronauts. Some are in no position to do anything; they are still working at their trade. Others are moving out into society and, in their own way, are trying to make an impact on some of these problems….
“The solution to these problems,” Mitchell suggests, “lies in the direction of taking a systems view of things. When you have the view from space, you realise that the concept of fields within fields within fields, systems of functioning within systems of functioning, is the only approach that will work. All has to function harmoniously. If we are to move from this chaos to harmony, we must utiise the best in science, the best in technology, the best thinking from the highest states of consciousness, and form the results into a harmonious melding of systems within systems within systems.” Taking the long view of things requires altering the consciousness of individuals, corporations and govern ments – a change that moves in the direction of selflessness as expounded by the major religions.
Mitchell, who holds a doctor of science degree from MIT, sees the split between science and religion as a false dichotomy that is part of the problem. “Unfortunately, some scientists and some theologians have focused their attention so narrowly that they have created an illusion for themselves – the illusion of science versus religion, objectivity versus subjectivity, rationality versus intuition, physical versus spiritual.” Mitchell suggests instead that objective and subjective observations are complementary ways of experiencing the universe. Scientific quest springs from vaguely formed, subjective intuitions and usually leads ultimately to some imponderable enigma. Science and technology, according to Mitchell, need to be infused with the values that have traditionally been associated with religion.
Mitchell grew up in New Mexico where he was raised as a Baptist. “I wandered through all sorts of religious traditions,” he says, “before I finally decided that traditionalism in itself is the wrong approach and acknowledged the central truth of all religious precepts. I’ve totally rejected the dogma and most of the tradition that goes with it. So, as a result, I don’t consider myself a religionist nearly as much as I consider myself a philosopher, with great admiration and searching for the spiritual and higher consciousness forms that are available to us.”
These cards were used to try out some ESP tests with Mitchell on the moon.
Consciousness, then, stands as the key concept for Mitchell. Up until recently, science has steered clear of any deep study of consciousness. Yet, in the mysteries of consciousness the subjective-objective rift may be healed. Mitchell points out that man’s consciousness is compounded by his capacity for self-reflection, which creates our sense of ego, of separateness from everything else in nature. Presumably, plants and animals do not experience themselves as separate from their environment. Mitchell asks, “Why are we not a part of and have a sentience that includes the totality of nature just as the ‘lower’ forms of life? Well, I think, we do have a universal ‘knowingness,’ but we have blocked it and submerged it beneath our sophisticated rational thought processes.”
“Israeli Uri Geller is probably the most gifted psychic for scientific study to turn up in this century. He demonstrates so well and so consistently an unknown form of energy.”
Much of the research that Mitchell’s Institute of Noetic Sciences is sponsoring is in parapsychology and paraphysics. Mitchell has always been a questioner and a seeker. For years, he explored philosophical and theological answers to the questions “Who am I?” and “What is life all about?” Somehow, the answers offered by these traditional sources did not satisfy his scientific nature. In 1967, a close friend challenged Mitchell to look at the case for ESP. Although skeptical, he felt that as a scientist he had to objectively examine the evidence. The more he looked into it, the more he became convinced that there was a long tradition of solid scientific work extending over the last century that adequately establishes the reality of psychic phenomena.
During the Apollo 14 mission, he took the opportunity to attempt an ESP-card-guessing experiment from the moon. This experiment was moderately successful, obtaining results likely by chance against odds of 3,000 to one. A full report of the experiment was published in the June 1971 journal of Parapsychology. “To me, the paranormal event now has been sufficiently well established, using classical techniques, to prove to anyone who desires to study a little bit that these events are real,” Mitchell says. “I’m trying to get the world of science to awaken itself to the world of consciousness…. If you have a mule and you want him to do something, the first thing you have to do is get his attention – and that usually takes a two-by-f our between the ears. In my opinion, forcing the scientific community to look at the so-called paranormal or psychic event in its reality is a two- by-four between the ears. It does exist and it can be developed, and … its implications span the whole spectrum of scientific thought and inquiry.”
Continuing to speculate about the future of psychic research, Mitchell says, “It is the consensus that a ‘new physics’ is in the earliest stages of being discovered. These discoveries will, in the next few decades, alter our concept of nature more significantly than the great discoveries of the past few centuries…. I believe that the efforts of the handful of visionary scientists … who are pioneering this endeavor can now be unified into a single effort, their expertise be focused by a team approach and their creativity utilised by providing adequate funding and the best environment for research that modern technology can provide.”
As a case in point, Mitchell’s institute has been sponsoring an extensive research effort on the noted young Israeli psychic, Uri Geller. Geller is probably the most gifted psychic for scientific study to turn up in this century. There are other talented psychics, but Geller is more consistent than most and displays a wider range of abilities than can usually be found in one person. He seems equally adept at mental telepathy, clairvoyance and psychokinesis. With Mitchell’s backing, Geller is being studied by specialists in the “hard sciences” at the prestigious Stanford Research Institute.
Mitchell says the work is significant primarily for the hard sciences because Geller demonstrates so well and so consistently what appears to be an unknown form of energy. “Our task in the physical sciences is to try to find out what this energetic mechanism is that we’re dealing with. It could be what the Hindus call prana or the life-energy or whatever. We see enough of its manifestations. And everyone wants to call it an energy, everyone describes it as feeling an energy, for lack of better words. So, as hard scientists, we’re trying to find out what its characteristics are and how to relate it to the rest of the universal energies, force fields and other knowledge that we have codified in science.”
One popular news magazine has implied that Geller is a fraud, that a deft magician could duplicate the feats he has performed on stage (e.g., causing table forks to bend and break without apparent force). However, Mitchell, who has had an opportunity to observe Geller at close quarters in the laboratory, is convinced that he is genuine. Furthermore, some of the work used such sophisticated scientific hardware, it rules out sleight of hand or other such tricks. “When we’re working with him in the laboratory,” Mitchell says, “we have to devise our experimentation such that there is no possibility of that. And he still performs, We’ve watched him perform in virtually all of the areas-in the telepathic event, the clairvoyant event and psychokinetic event, and he’s quite good in all of them. We have performed clairvoyant tasks, for example, where he consistently, in experiments under our control, is able to obtain information from the experimental environment … by no explainable means.”
Mitchell examines film taken by the Apollo 14 crew during its trip to the moon.
“The psychic event is a bizarre and demonstrable and exciting scientific curiosity, but beyond that it is a natural facet of the human being if we merely learn to utiise the full potential.””
Getting down to specifics, Mitchell says, “We’ve done several die-in-the box experiments where he is consistently right. In other words, putting the die in a metal box, having one of the experimenters shake it and having him guess what face is up. We check and, sure enough. he’s right-consistently. . . . We’ve performed experimental runs in which he was right against odds of a trillion to one!”
Psychokinesis refers to the ability to move physical objects by sheer Mindpower. Mitchell goes on about the work with Geller, “In the psychokinetic area, we’ve watched him apparently generate magnetic fields around the gauss meter. . . . We’ve watched him change the readings on an electronic pan-balance . . . both increasing the weight and levitating a one-gram mass – getting very nice spikes on it, indicating that there is an impulse in both the downward direction and then, at a later time, in the upward direction. A very significant experiment. So what this tells us is that this ‘energy’ seems to interact with the other field forces that we understand in physics.”
Mitchell emphasizes, however, that the work in parapsychology and paraphysics must be viewed as only one step in a longer journey. “The psychic event should not be considered an end unto itself,” he warns. “It’s a means to an end. To me, it’s the means whereby I can show a science – oriented society that there is an expanded potential available to the human being that we’ve only barely tapped. The fact is, we haven’t even tapped it at all; we’ve only scratched the surface. The psychic phenomenon is a bizarre and demonstrable and exciting scientific curiosity, but beyond that it is a natural facet of the human being … if we merely learn to utiise the full potential. . . . That’s the important point, to get that expanded potential, to find the ways to develop ourselves, to get to the universal man. I feel that only by getting to the universal man do we have a chance of handling in perpetuity these massive problems that confront planet Earth right now.
“We haven’t done very well in the past,” he continues. “We’ve misused our technology. We’ve misused the potential that we had in many ways. We’ve become so ego centered and material oriented that we have really missed the essence of being. And, I think that only by recapturing that, getting back to it, by utilizing the total potential we have available to us do we have a chance to cope with this environment and these massive problems confronting us.”
Another project, soon to be under way, that the institute will offer is a nation-wide counselling service for individuals whose unrecognized and undirected psychic sensitivities may have led to psychological disturbances of various sorts.
Currently, Mitchell is giving the major share of his time and energy to the Institute of Noetic Sciences. However, his other corporation, Edgar D. Mitchell & Associates, located in Monterey, California, is a commercial enterprise through which Mitchell plans to tackle other planetary problems by promoting ecologically pure products and services.
I asked Mitchell if any projects were under way. “We have several sitting on the back burner,” he replied, “but I am devoting most of my energies right now to the institute. We have on the horizon an oil- spill containment device that looks very promising. Unfortunately, it’s going to take a lot of capital to develop it. We also have a device for recovery of mineral salts and metal salts from sea water that when worked in conjunction with desalinization plant, should be very economically feasible…. We’re obviously running out of resources in the Earth’s crust. We’re mining them much too rapidly. There’s a finite supply. Eventually, mining the sea is going to be the way we will have to go because there’s almost an inexhaustible supply there. So those are two futuristic products that we have some rights to, and we’re always looking for new ones that can help without incurring too high a capital cost.”
Mitchell’s vision is high, yet it costs money to save the world. “The money to carry out our programs is the biggest problem. It’s an unending struggle with the bank to keep staffed, to keep projects going, to get the wherewithal to support the people who are in tune with what we’re trying to do … We’re talking about massive sums of money … I’m not trying to head up a picayune, penny-pinching program,” he said. “I’m trying to head up a massive program that has clout and impact. And that takes lots of money. So we’re talking multimillion-dollar programs here.”
The big money will have to come through grants and major donations. In the meantime, Mitchell is hoping to defray the bread-and-butter administrative costs of his operation by offering $25 memberships in the Institute of Noetic Sciences. For this sum, contributors will receive such tangible benefits as a subscription to Psychic Magazine, plus a regular institute research bulletin and admission to special events, as well as the knowledge that they are contributing to a visionary effort to make the world whole again. Mitchell hopes to have the membership up to 50,000 persons within two years.
Edgar Mitchell is no utopian. He offers no magical formulas for salvation. He feels that the solutions are there, if we but have the will to look for them and actuaise them – if it’s not already too late. “It’s a long-term project,” he concluded. “You don’t get people to be better, more giving, more loving, more altruistic by telling them. You have to show them how. And that’s what our research is all about. To use the fact that there are expanded potentials available to us. Look at the psychic ability. It is an indicator of an expanded potential. Let’s get in and find out what really cosmic consciousness is and see if we can utiise these things to become better people. When we become better people, then collectively we’ll start to solve these problems. I just hope we’re in time.”
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