Edgar Mitchell: The Courage We Need for Today

Let’s begin with poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) –

“This is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most singular and the most inexplicable that we may encounter. That mankind has in this sense been cowardly has done life endless harm: the experiences that are called ‘visions,’ the whole so-called ‘spirit world,’ death, all those things that are so closely akin to us, have by daily parrying been so crowded out of life that the senses with which we could have grasped them are atrophied.”

Edgar Mitchell, an Apollo 14 astronaut, did have the courage to explore the most strange, singular, and inexplicable.

The obituary for him in the Washington Post on February 7th began in a straightforward way:

“Edgar D. Mitchell, an astronaut who was spiritually transformed by his journey to the moon in 1971 and who devoted much of the rest of his life to exploring esoteric realms of science, psychic phenomena, and the existence of extraterrestrial beings, died Feb. 4 at a hospice in West Palm Beach, Fla. He was 85.”

The article went on to mention his long list of achievements, but then Matt Schudel, who wrote the Post article, descended into the biased skepticism that has long surrounded anything judged to be beyond the usual view of what is real. Disbelief led to disrespect. If you did not know about Edgar Mitchell’s work, did not know how careful, disciplined, and scientific his years of exploration were, this quote from his second wife would make you think he was just weird:

“It was the White House one day, some yoga guru the next. … Cary Grant would call one day, and then we’d have a bunch of Sufi dancers whirling in our living room. … I must have met all the nuts, flakes and fruits in the whole granola box.”

There are too many of us who think the whole topic of the subtle dimensions of existence is just for flakes and nuts. But we do ourselves a great disservice when we ridicule and dismiss the knowledge that humanity has gained through the centuries about what is real.
What is needed now is that our highly technological societies re-gather that collective wisdom and add it to the scientific knowledge that is the great achievement of our modern era.

Here, in BRIDGES Magazine (2010, # 2), Edgar Mitchell called for an approach quite different from the obituary writer’s and it’s one we could all use.

“The open-minded skeptic sets out for himself or herself to view (or better, to experience) such peculiar phenomena (at least peculiar to the Western mind), and conduct a careful investigation unbiased by traditional interpretation.”

Edgar Mitchell described the experience that set him on his decades-long search.

“In 1971, as I was returning to earth after Apollo 14’s successful mission to the moon, I had an experience of great euphoria and intense despair, an experience that has had a profound effect on my thinking and my life. … All of my life I had worked with hard facts in technical professions as an engineer, scientist, naval officer, and test pilot. I had lived the realities of war. But as I gazed out that small window, in an instant I knew that the beauty I was seeing was no accident.

It was as though my awareness reached out to touch the furthest star and I became an integral part of all creation. I was aware of being one with a perfect, loving, harmonious unity. … Then the joy I was experiencing changed into the darkest, blackest despair as I contemplated mankind’s actions on earth. … From that perspective I could see my people, the crew of spaceship earth, in disharmony and disarray, egocentrically, lustfully, greedily destroying our world and each other for a lack of understanding what mankind really is. We have lost sight of our potential: we are universal beings. … We must work cooperatively, not destructively, in order to sustain our planet and ourselves.
We must act rapidly to correct our belief that material abundance is the panacea for happiness. The greatest philosophic and religious teachings of all times have been ignored and perverted. We must reclaim the vision and wisdom that existed in simpler times before the scientific and technological genius of the modern age cracked open the proverbial Pandora’s box and loosed upon the world the very seeds of our destruction.”

(To learn more, read his book, THE WAY OF THE EXPLORER, which was originally published in 1996.)

Edgar Mitchell expressed ideas that are crucial for all of us – ideas that are also central to WINN. The challenges of our times must be met with a sweeping change in our view of what is real – and what is important. First world societies especially need to see ourselves and the world around us very differently. We are universal beings with crucial “to do” lists. We need to know that life is not centered on power and material success. While in space Edgar Mitchell entered a state of consciousness that allowed him to perceive reality in a new way and to make different choices about how to live his life after he returned to Earth.

WINN will explore knowledge about the range of states of consciousness and about other aspects of the dimensions of reality that include healing and anomalous, psychic, or paranormal phenomena.

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