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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

So the question that goes to the heart of the issue is, "Which organizations of energy-call them fields or call them soul if you like-survive physical death?" (It could be labeled the soul, if it has the characteristics that metaphysicians have attached to soul, which means being autonomous, being able to think and to observe in a manner similar to the embodied state.) That is the crucial question, and nobody has a really good answer to it. If there are fields, upon fields, upon fields, and all of those together represent what we would call an evolved physical being, and if the outer layers do not survive physical death, the question is, "what field systems, if any, do survive physical death?" At this point, these are the central issues.

Well, this discussion raises another interesting question. Where in the electromagnetic spectrum can all of that function? Number two, if a non-physical being (soul) can function like that, why in the world did nature and Consciousness bother to create physical bodies and brains if you don't really need them? When we try to move from a dualistic concept of matter/mind and matter /spirit as being two separate things, as Descartian philosophy would say,to bringing it down to simply one thing-in other words a monist theory instead of a dualistic theory-you run into some pretty tricky questions.

DiCarlo: How would you respond to materialists such as Patricia Churchland in this interview with Bill Moyers:

MOYERS: Now the religious idea of the soul...Do you think that's just a metaphor?

CHURCHLAND: I don't think it can be accurate. Even talking about God breathing life into something, we now know that life isn't like that either, that life also is a function of organization of matter. See, there used to be vitalists, and they used to think that there is a life force to explain the difference between living things like us and dead things like rocks and concrete, you had to do it in terms of the life force. We now know that that's not on. Ever since Watson and Craig discovered DNA and since molecular biology has proceeded it is very clear that that's not the correct explanation of living things, that life has to do with the organization of very complex molecules, proteins and so on. I think a similar thing is likely to be the case with the mind and the brain. There isn't a special thing-the mind. The mind just is the brain.

MOYERS: What is different about your saying that the mind is the brain?

CHURCHLAND: Well, although many people have thought for a long time that that's got to be the case, what is new now is we're beginning to be able to see how particular aspects of mind are related to particular structures in the brain. How, the ability to remember a face, is a function that is carried out by a very small region of the brain on both sides. Or that color vision seems to be carried out by a very small part of visual cortex. So I think that we are getting more specific now. We used to say that the mind is the brain, and argue for that in a very general way. Now it is clear that we can say a whole lot more.

Mitchell:Well, I haven't read her work, but she seems to be speaking from the old basic scientific model, that really is a pre-quantum model, the classical Newtonian model, that says that mind is epiphenomenal, that it evolved out of the accidental evolution of energy/matter to form something very complex and organized which eventually formed a living organism. That model is fading very rapidly now, with the recognition that consciousness is not a by-product of matter-it's a fundamental phenomenon. That realization throws all of the earlier scientific work into question since it challenges its most basic assumptions.

What has happened in fundamental physics, in quantum physics, over 70 years, is only now working its way up into biology and into the more structured life sciences. When medical doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists, and neurophysiologists start to study quantum physics, they are going to have to re-think the whole underlying strategy that relates to their field of study. Even though the Newtonian mechanistic model works well for many every day investigations of mind/brain, it eventually fails on the deeper issues.

DiCarlo: Bucky Fuller, whom you mentioned previously, felt humanity was taking its final exam. In your view, are we going to pass the test?

Mitchell:Yes, I'm optimistic. I'm optimistic in that it's do-able. "Am I optimistic it will be without great trauma?" No. I think it's likely there's going to be quite a bit of great trauma because we have such overwhelming resistance to change. And we are in a period where evolutionary change is so rapid, it's very difficult to keep pace. We're biologically set-up to reinforce the lessons we learned in childhood, and keep repeating those same patterns and ignoring new patterns. So we are biologically biased to the status quo in a very rapidly changing environment. That makes it difficult to accommodate change.

But fortunately, there are always people that are recognizing, exhorting, changing, accommodating, and adapting. So I have great optimism that we as a species we'll move forward. But certainly not without crisis and trauma.

DiCarlo: Are there any beliefs that you hold that you feel are especially empowering in these turbulent times?

Mitchell:Yes, the belief that you have everything you need right within you. I use a model which assumes that everything consists of energy, information and consciousness. And all of life's issues are simply flows of information that needs to be managed and acted upon knowledgeably. That's the essence of my message of empowerment.

And that we need to move toward a sustainable society is clear viable. An ever-expanding society, which is the basis of the current socio-economic system, is not sustainable. An exponentially growing civilization on a finite planet is not going to work.

DiCarlo: Weston Agor has done some pioneering work in the area of intuition. Isn't intuition unreliable? And what practical value is it?

Mitchell:Intuition, unreliable? Absolutely not. Well-tuned intuition is more reliable than anything else. Let's call intuitive information as the visceral data which enters beyond the 5 normal senses. It has been very well demonstrated that the subconscious can solve complex problems that the conscious mind cannot solve. That's been demonstrated quite a few times in university tests.

So we can think of intuition as that sense of simply "tuning-in" to the subconscious capability which exists below the conscious level of awareness. Any unreliability of intuition results from the individual not distinguishing between the intuitive signal and bad patterns of conditioning. One must be aware and practice distinguishing between these two "feelings."

DiCarlo: In a TV interview with Oprah Winfrey she asked you where you thought this information comes from. Could you elaborate?

Mitchell:To do that we have to go back to the field theory and quantum mechanics. We can go at this in two different ways. Let's use this way first.....We know through quantum physics that all matter/stuff in the universe has a particle characteristic and it has a wave characteristic. I like to think of the brain as the particle characteristic, and the mind as the wave characteristic. So the brain has location. The mind is infinite. Are you familiar with the Aspect experiment in France? It's a 1982 quantum mechanical experiment that clearly demonstrated that all matter is connected throughout the universe in it's wave characteristics. The Aspect experiment satisfied Bell's inequality theorem. There have been several of them, but the Aspect experiment is considered the decisive experiment.

In other words, beyond space/time, everything is connected. Intuition then, is simply our visceral awareness of that connection. You can think of the visceral, "gut feeling" if you will, as another sensory mechanism. That is the way intuitive information presents itself. It is the connectedness we experience with all of life or the entire Universe. So the information from all the universe is always available to us at that level. But you have to be aware, and take notice when the impressions are received. AND-you have to practice and learn to discern inputs that are simply early behavioral conditioning.

Now, let me paint this little picture for you. We have certain beliefs about the nature of objective reality-which we are taught is something out there external to us. We don't know what it is but we can theorize there is an objective reality. If perceived reality is what we experience within ourselves, then between objective reality (outside) and our perceived reality (inside) are three filters: our sensory filter which allows us to gather information (and that includes our intuitive and sentient sensation); our awareness filter ; and finally the biggest filter of all is our belief system filter. Any information that comes in that doesn't conform to our belief system filter-if the meaning of it seems foriegn to our belief-we tend to reject.

So the only thing that separates our perceived reality inside from our objective reality outside are those three filters. Interestingly enough, all three of those filters are subject to conscious control and training. You can change your belief. You can change your level of awareness through meditation or biofeedback. And by the way, you can change the band-width of all the sensors to perceive additional information.

DiCarlo: Are there programs available to help a person to evolve these filters?

Mitchell:Well, the yogic trainings have been trying to do this for a few thousand years. The question is: "How do we speed it up?" So, biofeedback is a way of speeding things up. Recognizing, and having a better model of how brain/mind works is another. Knowledge helps speed it up. Practiced disciplines help speed it up. So all of the modern things that we are working on are moving in that direction, bringing those filters under conscious control.

DiCarlo: It has oftentimes occurred to me that pure information is out there, right now, and is available for people to 'plug into" if you will, but if it is to be used by the individual then it must be filtered through their belief system. I oftentimes listen to people from a wide spectrum of belief systems-take fundamentalist Christians for example. It's amazing to see how these deeper insights, filtered as they are through the individuals belief system, comes out in a variety of forms, some more profound, some less distorted than others.

Mitchell:The belief systems of many of these groups must fall apart-particularly fundamentalists. They really do represent dinosaur thinking. It's just very, very clear that the dominant and prevailing world view is not the way the universe is organized. It was nice and convenient to say that all the major decisions are made "out there", but that's part of a Newtonian World View, that we are just passive observers in a mechanistic universe, set in motion by Diety, and only Diety knows where it's going. We are just along for the ride. But that isn't the universe we live in! We live in a participatory universe where our thinking and our actions account for something. And if the objective reality is not the Newtonian Universe but it is a participatory universe, and we try to live in a Newtonian, mechanistic universe, then it isn't going to work for very long. That's exactly the crisis we are in right now.

DiCarlo: Are there any particular individuals who have most influenced you in your thinking?

Mitchell:Well, I think there have been a lot of people who have influenced me in my thinking over the years. I really can't say there has been any one individual. It has been my own experience combined with the experiences of others who have been pondering along the same lines. I have studied the shamanistic traditions in the past 30 years. If you looked 20 years ago, you know that I was looking at "psychic things"-primarily because science said they didn't exist, and cultural experience said they did. So I started out looking at shamans and primitive beliefs. I studied Uri Geller and other people who could do some really strange things, and I said, "Hell, they're doing all of this. Just because we can't explain it doesn't mean it' s not real." So, my effort over the last 25 years has been to create a model that allows all of that to take place and yet is still consistent with the information from quantum physics that has evolved since the mid-20s.

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