Friday, 12 February 2016

Ed Mitchell

"We Are One" - Edgar Mitchell 1930-2016 from Institute of Noetic Sciences on Vimeo.

I was very sad to hear of the passing of Ed Mitchell, the Apollo 14 astronaut who also founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS).

I was born a year or so after the Apollo missions ended, but they had a kind of mythic status in my childhood. In the late 1970s, between the end of Apollo and the first launch of the shuttle, space was something that had happened in the past and would happen again in the future, but was not in the present.

Still, I loved reading about human space exploration in Usborne and Ladybird books. But whilst these books effectively communicated the excitement and romance of space travel, they did not really convey that the astronauts had been human beings, with feelings and lives.

I first heard about Ed Mitchell in the context of the ESP experiments he'd done on Apollo 14.  The last page of the Usborne World of the Future (Robots) had a page on 'Mind Over Matter -- the Final Frontier,' which was basically about possible applications of psi phenomena in the future.

The section had a painting of the Apollo spacecraft on the way to the Moon, and a caption that said that Mitchell 'tried to communicate telepathically with  friends on Earth.' J.B Rhine, apparently, thought the results 'encouraging.' Naively, I thought that this was an official NASA experiment; actually, he sneaked it in between his other duties and didn't tell management about it at all.

What the book failed to add was that Mitchell had had a mystical experience on the way to Moon, and that this had changed the direction of his life. On his return, as he reported in his biography The Way of the Explorer, his consciousness shifted and...well, watch the video above, for his own description. This experience led to the founding of IONS, and a long, involved attempt to understand what had happened to him.

For me, Mitchell's life is a perfect illustration of the fact that the exploration of outer and inner space are two sides of the same coin. There is the Universe -- vast, mysterious and wonderful -- and there are the often hidden inner aspects of themselves that who knows, may also extend into the infinite.

So goodbye, Doctor Mitchell, and thank you for leading the way in humankind's exploration of the Universe.

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