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 Conversations Toward a New World View: Explorations in Consciousness 
 
Interview with Dr. Edgar Mitchell PhD
   as interviewed by Russell E. DiCarlo

Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell is the 6th man to walk on the moon. Personal insights experienced during his moon missions prompted Mitchell to found the Institute of Noetic Sciences in 1973 in order to study the further reaches of human potential.

DiCarlo: Transformation. Literally, the term means to change form, but how would you define it?

Mitchell: Perhaps the process that we are talking about here is more what the Greeks meant by the term "metonia", or change of mind. Might as well call it a change of heart. It is a change in our subconscious thinking-a change in perspective in modern terminology.

DiCarlo: You have stated the following as you and your Apollo crew were coming back from the moon: "I suddenly realized it's all one, that this magnificent universe is a harmonious, directed, purposeful whole. That we humans, both as individuals and as a species are an integral part of the ongoing process of creation." Would you say in your own growth process that moment of recognition in the deep of space was kind of a turning point for you, a trigger.

Mitchell: Well, the trigger was the space flight, and the opportunity to see the universe from the perspective of floating in outer space. I've been philosophic, searching for answers since my adolescent days, and I had long recognized that which I was learning from science and that which I had been taught, like religion, were in conflict. The conflict had been swept under the rug, but nevertheless there was a conflict. Resolving the conflict has been a deep avocational interest of mine for all those years.

Seeing things from the perspective of outer space, I more deeply recognized, that our science was incomplete and flawed, and our cultural cosmologies, based upon our religious cosmologies, were archaic and flawed. Seeing the planet against the backdrop of infinite space was the real trigger for this recognition.

DiCarlo: What would you see is the perspective you now have of yourself, our species, and the world in which we live as a result of your outer and inner experiences?

Mitchell: I'll quote Buckminster Fuller whom I just re-read not too long ago. "When you want to understand the human condition" someone asked Fuller, "where do you start?" He said, "You start with the universe." And that's exactly where you have to start. You start with the question, "What kind of a universe are we in that brought us to this point where we are now? What are the processes involved? And how have those processes spawned this little civilization on this planet, in this little solar system, in this rather average galaxy, which is only one of billions of galaxies. The universe is about 15 billion years old.

In the past our Newtonian physics has taught us that it is a mechanistic, energy/matter universe, created full blown and set in motion by diety and going on inexorably toward wherever diety had in mind. The view that seems to be emerging from frontier science is this: We live in an intelligent, self-organizing, self-learning, evolving, participatory, creative universe. And that humankind is not simply a species of creatures just along for the ride. All life (and matter) is connected in a creative, participatory fashion.

DiCarlo: So that would be the essence of the new paradigm as you see it?

Mitchell: Yes.

DiCarlo: Regarding IONS. Why did you found it and what is its mission and scope?

Mitchell: Well, I founded it to pursue these questions I just stated. It was rather obvious at that point-and it still is-that the central issue-is what is the nature of consciousness? What is this thing we call "self", "I AM," that thinks, feels, is self-reflecting? What is that, and how does it fit into the understanding of physical reality that we experience around us. That was the central question around which the Institute was formed. And of course, that is not a single investigation. It is a multiple, multi-disciplinary investigation. It always has been. It extends from fundamental physics on one hand, to theology, and philosophy on the other, and includes all the sciences in between.

The notion that we have been living with for 400 years -and even longer than that frankly-is the Descartian notion. Descarte enunciated it formally at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, that matter and spirit are two separate realms of reality. You cannot put them together. In other words, a dualistic system of thinking. But that system of thought is clearly wrong. We are now going through a revision of that system of thought. Science, in this century has undergone a radical paradigm shift that the rest of civilization is just catching up with by incorporating quantum mechanics and now the role of consciousness in quantum mechanics. That paradigm shift is coming to the fore and exerting itself as a unitary paradigm where spirit and matter are viewed as being of the same "stuff" (energy). What we are talking about here-the movement from a dualistic way of perceiving the world to a unitary perception-represents a very fundamental shift in the way humankind sees itself, and its place in the universe.

DiCarlo: Would you say it is accurate to make the statement that consciousness is equivalent to soul? If not, how do they differ?

Mitchell: This is a very subtle and tricky aspect. What we experience with our consciousness is a highly evolved evolutionary product. What you and I are using to think with, and to experience our awareness with at this moment, is a self-conscious state that has quite a few attributes. It allows us to reflect upon ourselves. It allows us to think and do all of those things humans at this state of evolution can do. That facet of our consciousness has only been around less than a couple hundred thousand years. It would seem to have evolved. While we can't pin it down precisely at this moment, between homohabilis and homo-erectus, there was an evolutionary development that allowed us to evolve this highly thinking, self-reflective, self-analytical process. It's interesting that humankind didn't really start to become self-critical about their mental processes until almost the 7th century BC. We didn't even have spoken language until about 50,000 years ago.

Now, one asks, "what is the nature of consciousness before you experience it in a highly organized, highly developed anthropomorphic form, like we humans experience it?" Well, we look around to other species. We look at our pets-is there any doubt that dogs are conscious, that cats are conscious? All forms of life are conscious. Now that notion has been around for quite some time, the so-called "Great Chain of Being", where everything possesses some more or less developed sense of consciousness, from the most simple organism to the most complex. The key idea here, is an organizing universe. And the level of that organization has become more and more complex as that universe evolved.

The issue of soul in its most strict definition is the issue of the essence of a living being. Is the religious belief that soul survives death valid? Does consciousness survive death? Nobody really knows the answer to that. But to the question, "Does the normal awaking state consciousness like we experience it right now, survive death?" Probably not. But, "does consciousness of some sort survive death?", probably yes. Our normal awake, daily consciousness and mental abilities are the result of the evolution of the physical brain. That state likely does not survive.

It is now becoming obvious that consciousness in some sense has been present since before the Big-Bang. Now metaphorically, you can think of consciousness with a capital "C", in an all-encompassing sort of notion, the equivalent of what we call Diety or God. But one must ask, "what is the difference between consciousness unevolved and consciousness in an evolving sense?" What is arising, is the idea that Consciousness is beyond time, and beyond space. It is a universal attribute of nature that allows us to be conscious in the body. That Consciousness is more closely aligned with what the mystics and religious teachings would call the soul, the essence of being that is immortal, eternal and survives physical death. So, there is not a direct one-to-one correspondence between what we talk today about as consciousness and the notion of soul, but as to function, yes, there are similarities in many ways. What people would like to believe is that their "ego" consciousness survives death and is the same as the soul. That is not likely the case.

DiCarlo: You have stated, "The utopian existence, if it is to be found, lies in knowing ourselves as individual human beings with an essence that transcends physicality.... Do you think it's important at this juncture in our collective history that we recognize this aspect of our being?

Mitchell: Absolutely! You know, in all of our religious traditions, in one form or another, it says, "Know thyself." The essence of existence is knowing. Even Descarte said that, "I think therefore I am." It's our ability to assimilate and utilize information that makes us what we are. But the conscious, thinking level of functioning that we have placed so much emphasis on in the last several millenia, is really only one aspect of the nature of managing information-our whole creative and subconscious function has been doing it for a long, long time. The divine within us has not vanished-we just explain it now with more timely and useful metaphors.

DiCarlo: If our consciousness is in a state of evolution as you stated, what might be the next step for us as a species?

Mitchell: If you look at the Michaelangelos, our Einsteins, our great sculptors, mathematicians, Olympic athletes, you see that they really don't have different mental machinery than anybody else. So it would appear to me that the next stage of human development involves learning how to better use the capabilities that we have within us, learning how to develop ourselves to much more accomplished states of performance in quite a number of areas: creatively, artistically, mathematically, scientifically. Even expanding our general knowledge. We have all of these capabilities, to store and utilize information at enormously greater potential than most humans ever use. It would appear also that evolution, at least our branch of evolution, could very likely be coming under control of our awakened state of consciousness.

We are evolving towards those attributes that the ancients have traditionally ascribed to Diety . But it's a matter of choice, choosing.

DiCarlo: So do you feel that when people such as Michael Murphy talk about our species evolving into multi-sensory human beings, that they are being accurate?

Mitchell: They are certainly on the right track. They have contributed enormously to this whole method of understanding human potential.

DiCarlo: Do you know Elmer Green?

Mitchell: I helped Elmer and Alyce 20 years ago when they were struggling to get biofeedback off the ground...Some of the first things we did at the Institute was to help Elmer and Alyce and Carl Simonton. We gave Carl his first research grant to study attitudes and cancer.

DiCarlo: Are you familiar with his Copper Wall experiment? Basically, he's measuring the role of intention in its ability to produce an electrostatic charge that can be measured..

Mitchell: I don't have any doubt that can be done. We are seeing a lot of work coming out which describes the electromagnetic modeling of the body, and the tying together of consciousness to intention. The basic functions of consciousness are to be aware and to intend. And so, when we create intention it does have an effect on the external world. I wasn't aware that Elmer was making experiments like that, but that would be a very natural experiment to do.Others are doing much the same thing to see what are the external effects of creative intention.

DiCarlo: Does any of this work support what the ancients tell us, and what Deepak Chopra talks about also in his work: that there are subtle energy bodies which interpenetrate and surround the human body?

Mitchell: Well, we tend to call those "fields" these days, so I will go along with the field concept. It's quite clear we have to use field notion to describe the body-fields upon fields, upon fields. And there is nothing really new about that. There have been people saying that for a long time, but it is becoming clear to everybody except the die-hard skeptic that field theory concept is the only way you can explain the many, many manifestations of energetic mechanisms in the body.

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