Needed, A New Perspective
Dr. Edgar Mitchell
Contemporary civilization is currently creating and sustaining the most rapid technological changes in human history. These changes are having a profound effect on our civilization, our planet and all living creatures residing on it. As a global civilization we have little or no historical precedence nor experience for dealing with this rapid change nor understanding for its implication for our future. To put this incredible rate of change into perspective, in public presentations I often tell the following short family story to illustrate this effect.
My great grandparents moved from Georgia to Texas in the 1870’s following the Civil War in the US in order to begin a new life in the West. They traveled in covered wagons pulled by horses and drove a small herd of cattle for breeding stock. The railroads were not yet complete in spanning the West and automobiles had not been invented. My father was born shortly after the Wright Brothers first flight in 1903, and I went to the Moon on January 31, 1971. From covered wagons to a spacecraft to the Moon in less than a century, hardly more than the span of a human lifetime! And the pace of innovation and invention has continued to increase. So, the big question is “Where is this taking us as a global civilization?”
I began to contemplate this issue years ago, when I embarked on Apollo 14 bound for a landing on the moon. As you know during that voyage I became the sixth man of twelve in history to walk on the lunar surface. As magnificent and moving as that historic event was to mankind, it was also extremely moving to me personally. During the return to Earth, I had a chance to reflect on my experience and our planet in a way that very few humans have ever been able to do. In my reflections, I was alternatively euphoric and despondent; euphoric because my journey into space epitomized the amazing accomplishments we have achieved as a species during the past century and euphoric from new insights gained from the magnificence of the heavens; despondent because of the often unwitting, irresponsible and foolish behaviors we humans have exhibited toward Earth, our only home in the dark vastness of space. It is now more than thirty-seven years later and the evidence is unmistakable that we are seriously endangering our very existence.
Our solar system, including earth and the sun, have been around for about 5 billion years or roughly one-third the age of the observable universe. Humankind as a species has roots that go back about three million years. Modern civilization is approximately 10,000 years old, which is a mere blinking of an eyelid in geological terms.
Some 2,500 years ago modern religious stories and traditions were spawned from the efforts of a few inspired individuals from various cultures who endeavored to make sense of reality. Our contemporary world view, in large part, has remained pretty much the same since the days of those early thinkers.
It has only been in the last 400 years (following Descartes) that humankind in the western world has made an organized attempt to understand our world, its processes and our relationship to it. This effort divided our quest to better understand reality into two separate realms, one related to matters of the physical world (science) and the other related to matters of spirit (religion). Clearly we are still a very young species as compared to the age of the Earth, barely out of the trees, and our understanding of reality is still embryonic and perhaps flawed, in spite of recent discoveries. Our current knowledge base is certainly incomplete and may even, in many respects, be totally incorrect. Certainly as a species we have a long way to go to gain a comprehensive understanding and knowledge of the true nature of ourselves and our universe.
We are now confronting some of the greatest challenges we have collectively had to face. Among them, to name only a few, are: accepted and widespread use of violence for conflict resolution, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, global population explosion, environmental degradation, wholesale species extinction which threatens the web of life on the planet, unparalleled rate of consumption of renewable and non-renewable resources, corporate and political malfeasance on a global scale, etc.
At the same time there is a wisdom manifesting that is seeking a different way of being and a more lofty perspective of our place in the Universe. Clearly our current predicament is seen, in large measure, to be a crisis in our collective thinking or, as some would say, a crisis in consciousness. Either way, it was Albert Einstein who said “you cannot solve a problem with the same level of thinking that created it”.
For these reasons plus my own personal experience, some thirty six years ago I came to the conclusion that civilization’s understanding of the nature of reality and hence our survival and future well-being is entirely dependent upon the emergence of a completely different worldview, a new paradigm, one that properly addresses, in verifiable scientific terms, our collective relationship to each other, to the environment, to nature, and to the Universe.
Achieving new views of reality and, by implication, a sustainable modern civilization requires enlightened efforts to establish a fundamental shift in common perceptions leading to changes in thinking, values, behavior and actions based on the concepts of inter-connectedness, cooperation, and interdependence in all human endeavors. This shift can come about if a significant portion of humankind develops this new awareness and understanding and incorporates them into individual and societal belief systems. Science can support this shift by providing reliable and credible empirical data in support of these premises.
Since the 17th century science has been based on the belief that all phenomena are the results of blind but predictable interactions of matter. This orientation has led to a reductionist view of reality and a materialistic focus – one of consumption, competition, conflict and domination. However, by the end of the 20th century, new scientific evidence has emerged from the field of quantum mechanics and the study of so-called supernatural phenomena that render the reductionist view of reality not only untenable but incorrect as well. Instead, a new paradigm is surfacing which places great emphasis on consciousness and its role in the creation of physical reality and on the point of view that reality is a holistic, interconnected matrix, and that information, once gained, is never lost and that these concepts are true at a deep and fundamental level of existence.
A little over 100 years ago, many scientists were encouraging promising students to pursue careers in areas besides physics. These scientists claimed that basic knowledge and understanding of nature had already been uncovered and that there was nothing further to discover but to refine nature’s constants to several more decimal places. There were only three problems that were left to be determined and they would likely be resolved in the near future. These issues were:
The processes that powered the sun. It had become clear that through the geologic record, the age of the earth (and by implication, the sun) had to be much older than previously thought. A sun made of coal would only burn for thousands of years, not the billions indicated by the geologic record.
The blackbody radiation problem, predicting the intensity of radiation at specific wavelengths. Predictions worked for longer wavelengths but did not at shorter wavelengths. This became known as the ultraviolet catastrophe.
The speed of light should be different depending upon where it was measured in Earth’s orbit as the planet moved through the ether of deep space.
Of course prevailing scientific explanations and speculations turned out to be completely incorrect and eventually new investigations and discoveries spawned whole new branches of scientific endeavors and technologies which have had a major impact on all facets of modern life. Today, it seems that history has a way of repeating itself, there are many signs on the horizon that indicate that once again we are about to undergo a major revolution in our understanding of nature. Evidence is again accumulating of many observations that do not fit accepted theories nor can be made to fit them by extension. Several of the more significant anomalies that can no longer be ignored are listed below:
Acceleration of the expansion of the universe & the missing mass of the universe
Dark matter and dark energy in deep space
The quantum effects of non-locality, entanglement, coherence and resonance
Matter and anti-matter; why the big bang did not create equal amounts of each
The energy of empty space (the so-called vacuum energy or energy of the zero point field)
Why the universe is friendly to carbon based life; and just what is life anyway?
Morphogenesis and the problems of random mutations as the driver of biological evolution
Role of consciousness in affecting physical reality
The “hard” problem of consciousness; what is it?
So-called Psi phenomena of all types, that occur regularly and with frequencies well beyond random chance
Despite advances in science and technology over the last three centuries, these important questions either did not exist or have been largely ignored and remain the most challenging issues of the modern era. There are several reasons for this: some resulted from incorrect interpretations, inaccuracies or inadequacies in instrumentation or measurements and, for some of them, subjective experience, including the existence of consciousness, have to a large extent been neglected by mainstream science. Until recently these subjective areas of inquiry have been considered to be outside the scope of scientific study. Indeed, many established scientists still think these issues are strictly philosophical, psychological or theological and are not subject to the accepted scientific methods of inquiry. However, new discoveries in quantum physics and other disciplines now offer clues that are suggesting that such issues can be tested and studied reliably using commonly accepted scientific protocols.
Another reason that many of the areas have been ignored is because those with a vested interest in the current paradigms and those who derive their livelihood from them have little incentive to question the very paradigms that support them or have made them successful. Consequently few scientists have expressed interest in studying these issues until very recent times. Even those willing to address these anomalies fear being ostracized by their peers or are so indoctrinated by the current scientific paradigms that they ignore mounting evidence, contradictions, and anomalies that cannot be explained by current mainstream thinking. .
Throughout the ages great spiritual teachers from all traditions have spoken of reality being a limitless, transcendent and holistic consciousness. Partly as a result of the legacy of the French philosopher Descartes and the separations of the domains of religious and scientific thought, the spiritual view of reality has all but been ignored by modern science. Yet, our spiritual teachers have taught us for millennia that we all have the ability to experience transcendent states of awareness and intentionality and that they are demonstrably resident in the human condition. These states are now beginning to be understood as fundamental properties of our consciousness.
Furthermore, we realize that these states have been visited and utilized for millennia by both our ancestors and contemporaries. These enlightened individuals have been called by many names including avatars, mystics, sages, saints, gurus and shamans. By whatever name they have been called, all held a similar world view and advocated oneness, unconditional love, living harmoniously with nature and one’s fellow humans and recognizing the interconnectedness and interdependence of all creation.
Many current world crises, including energy consumption, inadequate health care, rampant malnutrition, environmental degradation, and violent conflict between countries, regions and religions, are not isolated events. Growing evidence suggests that myriad misunderstood phenomena in nature be they physical, mental, or spiritual, may be best explainable by a new framework that treats events in the world as interdependent components of an inseparable whole.
This hypothesis of interconnectedness, proposed by ancient sages from many pre-scientific cultures has never been rigorously explored or tested by modern mainstream science. In order to create the fundamental shift in consciousness necessary to preserve our civilization, theoretical and experimental investigations are required to test these unifying approaches to nature. The goal should be to fully integrate the reductionist, and purely materialistic view, characterized by classical Newtonian science, with the holistic view emerging out of promising scientific disciplines such as quantum mechanics in a manner that also addresses consciousness and transcendent states of awareness. This holistic view can then be applied to the macroscopic world including living systems and social phenomena.
Just as modern Homo Sapiens displaced Neanderthal man, so too must modern man evolve to the next level of further knowledge, sophistication and refinement. Indicators abound that time is running out on what is now called “post modernism”. We must swiftly evolve to the next level by eradicating pervasive ignorance concerning who we really are and why we are here. We must recognize that the behaviors and practices of global civilization are not sustainable or face the extreme likelihood of mass death and destruction, if not extinction all together. Some writers have called this the need for a Conscious Evolution.
Sometimes evolution occurs voluntarily by choice prompted by invention, discovery or epiphany. Other times, evolution occurs involuntarily, forcibly and painfully where change is resisted and fought, but change comes nevertheless through chaotic upheaval, disaster and cataclysmic crises, often times involving a massive amount of death and destruction, such as the Dark Ages following the fall of the Roman Empire. Humankind’s next phase of evolution will be more an evolution in thought, knowledge, spirituality and consciousness than one involving our biology or physiology. It will likely be an evolution in consciousness triggered by research involving dramatic change in perceptions, values, beliefs and attitudes and a profound resultant shift in human behavior. As a consequence of this shift, the “every man for himself” paradigm fueled by greed will be supplanted by the “all for one and one for all” paradigm fueled by a new spirit of altruism and unity. Predicated on credible science, peoples of the world must come to understand that we really are only as strong as our weakest link; that what we do to others we do to ourselves; and that we are indeed our brother’s keeper quite literally. When this comes about, it will be the dawn of a new day, and solutions to every other major threat, problem or challenge we face will quickly find their remedy, but certainly not before. To be sure, we must act quickly to embark on our journey deeper into the quantum realm, for time is not on our side.
Quantrek intends to address questions fundamental to achieving a sustainable civilization because the research program is concerned with the essence of understanding our existence as a unified whole without any artificial separations or preconceived ideas related to old cultural stories and traditions. Specifically, the program is concerned with how consciousness works and its relation to the origin of life and its current condition, the codependency and interconnectedness of all life with itself and its environment, including the past, present and future evolution of our Universe and everything in it. Quantrek hopes to stimulate the thinking of the general population as well as enlisting support of some of the world’s leading academicians and researchers. Hopefully, the knowledge gained by the answers to these questions will provide insight, knowledge, technologies and hope for the survival of our civilization. Failure not to pursue these questions is not an option if our civilization is to survive our current predicaments.
Edgar Mitchell August, 2007