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Record Type: Review   ID: 89

The Way of the Explorer: An Apollo Astronaut’s Journey Through the Material and Mystical Worlds

Mitchell, Edgar, with Williams, Dwight

 The impetus for physicist astronaut Mitchell’s life, the core of his vocation, is what he experienced in the "velvety blackness" of outer space, surrounded by stars, not simply above but all around him. Increasingly people are reporting elements of this experience in dreams, visions, and while seemingly out of the body. But Mitchell is among the small class of humans who have known it in real time in the flesh. This book is an assessment of how he followed his calling, preparing himself even before he was clear what he was preparing himself for. It is an exciting book, especially the parts about training for becoming, and being, an astronaut, including the personal sacrifices involved. Equally exciting is his post-astronaut education, largely self-conducted, as he became an explorer of inner space. He describes his ESP experiment conducted from outer space, which was misrepresented by the media. He describes his founding of the Institute of Noetic Sciences and his relationship with that organization. He describes his personal investigation of psychics and healers such as Uri Geller and Norbu Chen. And in the last half he presents the results of his efforts of many years to theoretically illumine his personal experiences of inner and outer space in a theory that attempts to do justice to physics and cosmology as well as his life-changing experience of the livingness of the velvety blackness. He presents his "dyadic model" of reality based on parallels he saw between physics and religious/mystical experience. His study of parapsychological phenomena convinced him that "first-person experience ... was just as important to understand reality as the third-person observations of science" (p. 143). He discusses the problem of verifying what happens in the deeper/higher mystical states. He posits that through the field of vacuum energy qualities of mind may be glimpsed: "nature itself is in some sense aware and intentional" (p. 157), and connects this with the gaia hypothesis. In the dyadic model, which includes anomalous phenomena, "all physical structure and all mentality rose together, inextricably intertwined through the feedback process of learning" (p. 166). His journey has taken him to the place where all exceptional human experiences converge with the innate knowledge that "what we do to others we do to ourselves, as the transcendent Self of the samadhi is the shared experiences for all" (p. 188). Morality, "and I would add, the foundation for a resacralized world, rests on the supreme insight, in Mitchell’s words, that "only enlightened Self-interest seems to consistently produce morality" (p. 188), a morality whose precepts are inextricably bound with one’s Self-consciousness, not dictated from without. In the penultimate chapter he reinterprets a number of traditional ways of conceiving reality, such as the concept of karma, reincarnation, kundalini, psychical experience, heart knowledge, and various New Age adages, in terms of his dyadic model. He closes with a discussion of the future prospects of human life, and perhaps life itself, and proposes that "Earth is our cradle, not our final destiny. The universe itself is our larger home" (p. 212). That others share this vision is attended to by the amazingly varied descriptions, with which people are reporting their exceptional outer space experiences. Unlike Mitchell, they have not "been there." Nonetheless, in unique and special ways, they have "done that."
Publisher Information:New York: Putnam’s, 1996. 230p. Bibl: 217-225; Ind: 226-230
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