In 1971 a U.S. Navy captain and aeronautical engineer named Edgar Mitchell was on a mission to the moon, called Apollo 14, with a team of fellow astronauts. America’s space program was a technological victory of historic significance and many new discoveries in space were anticipated. What Edgar Mitchell couldn’t foresee was that his return trip would trigger a life-changing epiphany that would alter the course of his career and his view of the universe.
As he witnessed the beautiful blue Earth floating freely in the vastness of deep space, he became immersed in a profound awareness of universal connectedness – what he later described as a “samadhi experience” (a state of intense concentration achieved through meditation). In his own words, “The presence of divinity became almost palpable, and I knew that life in the universe was not just an accident based on random processes. . . .The knowledge came to me directly.” He saw Earth in a new way – a place where there were no separate nations, no war, no hatred, no divisions of any kind—simply one incredibly beautiful world of which humanity was a part.
That awakening brought about a new life purpose; following his retirement from the Navy and the Apollo program in 1973, Mitchell dedicated his life’s work to “… broaden knowledge of the nature and potentials of mind and consciousness and to apply that knowledge to the enhancement of human well-being and the quality of life on the planet.” He created a nonprofit organization which he named the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) to conduct scientific and scholarly research on the nature of consciousness and its role in the physical world using tools from neurosciences, cognitive and personal psychology, computer science, engineering, and physics.
The word Noetic has its roots in the Greek word, noesis, which refers to inner wisdom, direct knowing or subjective understanding. (It is not a new subject; for centuries philosophers, from Plato on, used the term to refer to various insights, illuminations, and revelations that were somewhat elusive to describe yet carried an uncommon authority.) The word Sciences, of course, refers to systems of knowledge acquired through observation, experimentation, and replication, to describe and explain natural phenomena in the world. And the combined term Noetic Sciences defines a multidisciplinary practice that brings objective scientific tools, methods and techniques together with subjective inner knowing in order to explore, for example, the implications of mindfulness, intuition, psychic abilities, distant and energy healing to the expansion of human potential and universal connectedness.
When Mitchell, the sixth man to walk on the moon, died earlier this year, tributes poured into the Institute from across the world. He was remembered as a brilliant scientist, a compassionate mentor, an amazing bridge between science and art, and an evolutionary visionary whose Institute has contributed to the wisdom stream of human consciousness. Here are a few of the clinical studies and educational programs the world has received from IONS as described on their site:
1. Compassionate Intention, Prayer and Distant Healing- begun in 2006 and now completed, the study produced a unique DVD self-paced learning program featuring a blend of scientists, global healers and other healing professionals who are exploring the frontiers of consciousness and healing by addressing the widespread practice of distant healing.
2. Consciousness and Healing – started in 2006, the completed study identified barriers to the integration of mind-body medicine into modern healthcare, as well as an exploration of strategies used by leading healthcare professionals who have successfully integrated consciousness-based approaches into medical education settings. A book by the same title is available with a DVD from IONS.
3. End of Life Care – an e-learning course that responds to the question, ‘Where does our consciousness go when we die?’ The online program is directed toward both health and healing professionals and life-long learners; it delves into a fascinating, but often marginalized topic, with empirical rigor, drawing on ancient beliefs in reincarnation and after-life states as well as cross- disciplinary and cross-cultural research. During 2008-09 footage was compiled and the program is currently being finalized for release later this year.
4. Conscious Aging workshops – field-tested over four years across a broad range of practitioners and settings, the eight facilitated sessions of the program are specifically for seniors who are ready to embrace the final third of their life journey. The workshop is designed to shift participants’ consciousness from self-limitation, lack, isolation and fear toward expansiveness, wholeness, connection and compassion by listening to one’s inner wisdom, integrating inspirational ideas, sharing in intimate conversation circles and harvesting the collective wisdom of the group.
Edgar Mitchell’s founding of IONS established the goal of creating a shift in consciousness worldwide—to help people recognize that we are all part of an interconnected whole and to inspire them to take action to help humanity and the planet thrive. His loving legacy, and his spirit of diligent exploration of the noetic sciences, endures through the ongoing research and educational activities of the Institute. To learn more about the vast array of resources available, visit noetic.org.