To the class of 2020, congratulations on graduating during the worst healthcare challenge our world has faced in over a century, one that has fully disrupted our lives and ordered the whole world to “stay home” for months on end.

“Congratulations?” You might ask.

No doubt the Covid-19 pandemic and associated economic shutdown have thrown a wrench into your expectations for how your years of hard work in school would come to a worthy conclusion.

Well, I agree that the challenge of graduating during the Covid-19 pandemic is a hardship, but, like all such hurdles, it might just prove to be a blessing in disguise. Graduation speeches are generally known as “commencement,” reflecting that they happen at the beginning of the rest of your life, not the ending of your education. Life can be challenging for any of us. The ability to find a silver lining as you commence the rest of your life under this apparent hardship of the viral lockdown is a worthy quest. In many ways, this Covid-19 pandemic might provide the most valuable experience of your entire education – a resilience to hardships, and an optimism that can counter whatever the world throws at you in the future.

By way of example, I would like to share the stories of four people who faced adversity and the unknown in their lives and consequently grew into much grander versions of themselves through the challenge. The adversity and uncertainty created the opportunity for each of them to magnificently fulfill their potential and make remarkable, lasting contributions.

In the 16th Century, humans looking up at the night sky knew that all of those sparkling points of light were in a fixed sphere high above the earth. A young Italian scientist, Giordano Bruno, who was a forward-thinking visionary, proposed that those points of light in the night sky might really be distant suns, possibly orbited by planets, even possibly inhabited by other intelligent beings. The church was intolerant of many philosophical and theological statements during the Inquisition, and Bruno was tortured and killed in 1600 by the forces that drove many to their imprisonment or death. He defended this cosmological vision to the end and refused to recant it. His demise did not destroy his vision. Only over the last three decades has science begun to fully catch up with his proposal, as the most powerful telescopic efforts to date, using mainly radial velocity measurements and transit monitoring, have identified over 4,200 planets orbiting distant stars, some even offering tantalizing spectroscopic clues that those planets might be favorable to life. Despite his ruthless execution, the courageous visionary legacy of Giordano Bruno lives on 420 years after his death!

In June, 1661, Isaac Newton began his studies at Trinity College, Cambridge, England working his way through by serving as a valet, until his studies were interrupted by a plague that swept through England. He had qualified for a scholarship that would cover not only his Bachelor of Arts degree, but also his post-graduate Master of Arts degree. In 1665, while still an undergraduate, he discovered the generalized binomial theorem, while pursuing the study of “mechanical philosophy.” Immediately after receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree in August, 1665, the university was forced to close as the Great Plague, the last wave of the bubonic (or Black) Plague, killed 100,000 people (fully one quarter of London’s population) over 18 months. Due to that pandemic, he had to study at home over the next two years waiting for the university to reopen. From his small home in Woolsthorpe, lacking the resources of a university library, he started developing his notions of optics, a universal law of gravitation, and he invented a whole new and vastly useful field of mathematics: the calculus! Not bad for a previously undistinguished college student. After two years of isolation due to the Plague, Newton returned to university and completed his Masters degree. Remarkably, Isaac Newton truly blossomed as a creative thinker during the isolation period, emerging as one of the greatest scientific minds in history after weathering the hardship of the academic shutdown.

Albert Einstein graduated from the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich in 1900, but he was unable to secure a teaching position for two years. A family friend finally helped him get a job as a patent clerk, 3rd class, in the patent office in Bern, Switzerland. Luckily, his mundane work in that office left plenty of spare time for him to pursue his profound interest in physics. In 1905, as a 26-year old patent clerk, he wrote four monumental scientific papers, in a year that has since come to be called his “annus mirabilis,” or “miracle year.” Those four papers, published in the Annalen der Physik, went on to revolutionize the scientific world, creating a seismic shift in understanding that continues to expand today. The first paper addressed the photoelectric effect, ultimately a cornerstone of the newly-born field of quantum physics, specifically addressing how light beams eject electrons from a metallic surface. The second paper addressed Brownian motion, or the first direct proof of the existence of atoms, after over two millennia of their proposed existence. The third paper concerned special relativity, Einstein’s effort to reconcile problems of Newtonian mechanics with James Clerk Maxwell’s notions of electromagnetic fields, which led to the surprising linkage of space and time. The fourth paper of that truly miraculous year dealt with nothing less than mass-energy equivalence, his famous equation E=mc2, which ultimately led to the end of World War II through the development of atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project, a welcome result for all of humanity in its rapid ending of that deadly conflict that ultimately saved millions of lives. It was his paper on the photoelectric effect that led to his receipt of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921, although that by no means makes it the most scientifically important of the four papers. It was simply less controversial than his work on special relativity or mass-energy equivalence.

The world has never been as enthralled by a brilliant scientist as its was by Einstein. As early as 1919, when his predictions of the sun’s displacement of the apparent positions of stars near the sun during a total solar eclipse validated his concept of General Relativity, the global public was mesmerized and became caught up in his scientific successes, though few truly understood his work. Our very common use of global positioning systems, or GPS, is one very practical result of Einstein’s discoveries that has changed our lives from the drudgery of reading and interpreting maps to instant electronic positioning and routing in our travels. None of that would exist without Einstein’s theory of general relativity. As recently as 2017, the world was involved yet again in Einstein’s prescient brilliance: his prediction of gravitational waves in the theory of general relativity was beautifully confirmed by one of the most astonishing pieces of technology ever constructed by humans – the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO. Comprised of two huge laser interferometers (each with two orthogonal arms 4 km long), LIGO consists of one unit in Hanford, Washington, and the other 3,000 km away in Livingston, Louisiana. The astonishing ability of this set of observatories to distinguish signal from noise in analysis of gravitational waves would be equivalent to being able to measure the distance to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, 25 trillion miles away, down to the accuracy of the width of a human hair!

Not bad for a patent clerk, 3rd class, with some extra time on his hands! Working in the Bern patent office in 1905, he did not have ready access to a scientific library (much less a resource like the internet!), but he had a wonderful colleague, Michele Besso, with whom to discuss his ideas. He first met Besso at the Polytechnic Institute and his family had helped Einstein obtain the position in the Bern patent office. Einstein gave specific credit to Besso in his paper on special relativity: he said he “could not have found a better sounding board for his ideas in all of Europe” than Michele Besso. Fortunately, today’s technology allows for Facetime and Zoom chats, and so that opportunity to chat with your friends should not be underestimated, pandemic or not!

Einstein remained lifelong friends with Besso, until he died in Geneva just over a month before Einstein’s own death on April 18, 1955. In a letter of condolence to Michele’s family, Einstein had written: “Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Einstein’s grand understanding of the deep mystery of time itself as an illusion gave him comfort, and implied that death did not ultimately separate him from his lifetime friend at all, which leads us to the fourth and final revolutionary thinker.

Raymond Moody became fascinated by the idea of an afterlife after he read Plato’s account of an Armenian soldier, Er, that concludes his book, The Republic, written almost 2,400 years ago. Er was killed in battle, but his body did not decompose over ten days on the battlefield. Two days after collecting his body, he was placed on a funeral pyre, where, just before the planned ignition, he unexpectedly regained consciousness and regaled his astonished fellow soldiers with stories of travel through astral planes. This story stuck with Moody as he went on to obtain a PhD in Greek Philosophy from the University of Virginia in 1969, teaching briefly at East Carolina University before deciding he would prefer going to medical school and becoming a physician, like his father. In the mid 1960s, Moody met Dr. George Ritchie, a Virginia psychiatrist who had had his own profound experience returning from near-death as a 19-year old Army recruit in Fort Barkley, Texas, in December 1943.

Having read the story of Er, Moody’s mind remained open to the possibility of this life not being the entirety of conscious existence and accepted Ritchie’s story. Later, as a medical student at the Medical College of Georgia, his patients began telling tales of unexpected experiences occurring in the setting of severe injury or illness, that many would have been tempted to dismiss as hallucinations. Raymond, however, became intrigued by their consistencies and similarities, despite the wide variety of medical situations that induced them. The story recounted by Plato’s soldier Er would have fit right into this modern collection of patients! He documented over a hundred such cases, and assembled them into a landmark book, Life after Life, first published in 1975. He popularized the term “near-death experiences,” and is globally considered the father of the field. Despite his medical training, Moody’s open mind and his inquisitive curiosity allowed him to make connections where others had not.

Academic study of similar cases by scientists around the world now supports a far richer and more profound interpretation of their meaning, and of the implications for the nature of consciousness, indeed in many ways proof of the existence of the human soul. The modern study of consciousness includes the tremendous evidence for the reality of non-local consciousness, such as telepathy (sensing others thoughts and emotions), precognition (knowing the future), remote viewing or extra-sensory perception, psychokinesis (the manipulation of physical matter by the mind), and even past-life memories in children indicative of reincarnation. But the tip of the spear in demonstrating mind and consciousness independent of the physical brain remains firmly in the realm of near-death experiences and related studies.

Moody realized there was too much there to simply dismiss the claims of his patients as hallucinations, and his intuitions of the importance of these stories has proven most valuable. In the midst of the Covid pandemic, when our way of interacting in the world has been so affected, I encourage you to develop an open mind. Pay attention to the anomalies in life — just as Raymond Moody did. The history of science is filled with tremendous progress when people embraced the anomalies and outliers — the cases that just didn’t fit the standard model. Those jagged edges in our explanations offer seeds to a much deeper understanding of reality, as long as we are not tempted down the simple path of blind acceptance. Don’t just accept the beliefs of others – find out for yourself!

Prior to November 2008, I had heard plenty of fantastical stories from my neurosurgical patients whom I often patted on the back and reassured that it was just a drug effect or hallucination. I had followed a fairly conventional path of scientific education in pursuing my medical training so my mind was not as open as Raymond Moody’s — that is, until I found out for myself when I came down with an absolutely should-have-killed-me case of gram-negative bacterial meningo-encephalitis. I spent a week in coma due to a disease that medical documentation later revealed had decimated my neocortex, that’s the part of the brain most directly related to human consciousness. While my brain was unable to produce a hallucination, I witnessed an extraordinary spiritual journey that was much more real than anything I’d ever experienced in my life. When I finally struggled my way back to this world, I had such complete amnesia for my life that I did not even recognize loved ones at the bedside, like my sisters, sons and even my mother. Although my physicians had predicted the dire destruction of my illness, they were unprepared for my rapid recovery of function and memories over hours and days, not to mention my complete return to normal over two months or so.

After reviewing my medical records, it was clear to me that our notions of the brain’s role in creating consciousness were false. In fact, it’s the other way around: consciousness is a fundamental property of the universe, and the brain merely serves as a filter for consciousness, our very awareness. Since this realization, I have discovered over a hundred scientists around the world pursuing research that fully supports this scientific concept. When this maturation of understanding becomes more prevalent in our mainstream world, the potential for unprecedented progress is inevitable. A horrific health challenge, so devastating to my family as they lived through it, has become one of the greatest blessings of my life! Talk about a silver lining!

Of course, mine is but one of many stories that validate a much grander model of understanding our reality, because we are each on a journey of personal growth and discovery, contributing to the evolution of consciousness itself.

Each of you will have your own story. Your education has always been about learning how to learn, and your final exam in this course of study involves the challenges of the pandemic and the economic distress that comes with it. Yes, the abrupt end of the school year left much of your course work completed online as opposed to physically present, making it seem less complete. Many aspiring athletes had their senior dreams of competition smashed by the pandemic and its forced social distancing.

However, the potential is there for you to grow stronger through direct experience – to become more resilient. If your “learning how to learn” was on track by the time the pandemic ended the normalcy of the school year, then the challenge taught you lessons about adapting to change, learning to navigate a new normal, and seeing yourself as a more mature and capable soul. Hardship naturally breeds resilience. As 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche so wisely observed, “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” Clearly true in the case of near-death experiences, this maxim applies to life for all of us.

Our greatest rewards come from contributing to the common good. As we grow and learn, we come to appreciate the simple gratification of being of service to others. The Covid-19 pandemic provides an opportunity to help others, especially those at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum who were marginal before the pandemic, but now are dangerously exposed as our thin safety net for the have-nots is challenged by the extremes of the pandemic.

The great gift of this unexpected ending to your academic studies is your learning that when the world gives you sour lemons, make lemonade!

Remember that many of the assumptions and beliefs hosted by our world are falsely limiting. You are more than just your thoughts, more than just your ego, much more than just your physical body and brain. The only limits are those propped up by those beliefs, but you have the power to prove them wrong. As Einstein so wisely observed, imagination is far more important than knowledge. Consider the possibilities limitless, especially when it comes to helping others and contributing to the higher good and your contributions will be everlasting.

Congratulations, indeed, on your hard work, your disciplined study, your attention to cultivating friendships and your personal network, and especially on coming to see yourself as a contributing citizen of the world – the steel of your soul tempered in the cauldron of the covid pandemic. Finding strength in the dark cloud of this lockdown will truly provide a gift that will last a lifetime.

Thank you.

In this age of the COVID-19 pandemic, all our systems of daily life are being violently uprooted, leaving many with an existential dread about where the future might lie. We would like to help dispel this malaise through the sharing of knowledge and techniques to help everyone gain a greater sense of control over their own fate, as well as the broader fate of the world-at-large. Such major challenges to our health and well-being offer unique opportunities to truly grow into the more mature and capable souls we came to this world to be.

Specifically, Karen Newell and I will host a series of completely free live webinars, United in Hope and Healing, beginning on March 26th (or March 27th depending on your time zone) and all 2nd and 4th Thursdays of each month thereafter through the duration of this crisis. These webinars will build a community united in collaboration and mutual support. Social distancing may trigger loneliness, when in truth, we’re all in this together and we are blessed to engage technology to gather.

At a pivotal time of disruption in daily life around the world, a revolution in healing therapies for emotional health challenges has emerged. The Spirituality & Mental Health practitioner training course is designed to enable health and wellness practitioners, and those invested in the science of healing, to integrate familiar conventional therapies with new methods. Accessing a deeper, transformational consciousness can result in a dramatic reduction in anxiety, stress, depression, addiction, insomnia, suicidal ideation and other mental health problems while elevating creativity, focus, mood stabilization, sound sleep, general emotional and mental wellness and overall fulfillment.

It is crucial to recognize that one of the grandest lessons of the emerging neuroscience of consciousness is that consciousness, or mind, is a primordial force in the universe, not something generated by the physical matter of the brain. From a practical viewpoint, this acknowledgement of the reality of “mind-over-matter” in the universe has been broadly supported by medical science for over seven decades through the placebo effect, the gold standard for comparison in the assessment of any new proposed medicine or treatment. The common use of the placebo-controlled trial is an admission by medical scientists that a patient’s beliefs are crucial in achieving any true health or healing. The more one reviews a deep analysis of the placebo effect, the more one wonders if there is any major component of healing that does NOT involve the free will and conscious mind of the subject.

To that end, for the duration of this crisis period, Sacred Acoustics is offering their Whole Mind Bundle (in MP3 format) at a discounted price of $19 (a $66 value) or, for those with economic uncertainty, at no cost whatsoever, no questions asked. This set of recordings and listening protocols reduced anxiety by 26% in a Manhattan psychiatric practice after two weeks of listening, as published in a pilot study in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease in February 2020. These recordings can also assist with sleep, relaxation and focus.

For those who wish to go deeper in their personal practice, Inner Sanctum Center offers a membership platform with further opportunities for guidance and interconnection.

As we move forward, perfect your mode of social distancing, wash and disinfect hands frequently, and remember to support those around you, especially those less fortunate, in any way possible. We are all in this together, and the most powerful way to energize your soul journey is to serve as a conduit for the loving, healing energy at the very core of our awareness. We can gain the information and energy in meditation and centering prayer, but, ultimately, we progress along our projected pathway through action – reaching out to take care of the least, the last, and the lost. The challenge of COVID-19 will ultimately make us much stronger – together!

Throughout my formative years, I avidly followed the space program starting in my first grade year in May 1961 when I watched Alan Shepard’s 15-minute suborbital Mercury flight. I became a huge fan of the space program and followed all of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions as if I were just another member of the crew, all the way through Apollo 17 when I was a senior in high school. Apollo 8 was a fantastic gift in 1968, when Jim Lovell, Frank Borman and Bill Anders orbited the moon on Christmas Eve and broadcast over their primitive black-and-white television camera a message of peace for all of humanity. But the holy grail clearly involved walking on the moon – and Apollo 11 owned that absolute distinction.

Fifty years ago, during the wee morning hours of the midsummer days of 1969, I read Arthur C. Clarke’s fantastic science fiction novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, usually reading in those early morning hours before going out around 4:30 am to deliver newspapers in the dawn twilight. Looking up at the starry heavens, my mind only half on the job of delivering newspapers, I mused over all of the advanced civilizations I imagined to be up in that velvety sky. My mind was completely captured by the implications of how going to the moon would change our collective human destiny.

In the days leading up to that historic moon landing, families would cluster around that first generation of television sets, watching intently as Walter Cronkite described the momentous occasion we were privileged to witness firsthand. The images were uncolored and fuzzy and the audio was filled with static, but the magic of bringing the moon’s surface to life intoxicated everyone. At 4:17pm EDT on Sunday July 20, 1969, the first humans expertly and precisely landed on the moon, announced by Armstrong: “Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed.” The last-minute dodging of the boulder field can only be attributed to the human skill of proper piloting by Neil Armstrong with only 20 seconds of fuel to spare. Armstrong’s first steps on the moon occurred at 10:56pm that evening as 500 million people followed from planet Earth, hearing him proclaim for the ages, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” What an understatement!

This moment is arguably the greatest historical achievement of humanity to date – mankind’s first exploration of another heavenly body. Copernicus bravely defied the accepted viewpoint of his time and challenged the idea that we were the center of the universe by demonstrating that planets revolve around the sun. It’s easy now to look back and see that event as the initiation of the Scientific Revolution that led to our current amazing technological achievements. I believe that historians of say, 5,000 years in the future, will come to regard our first tentative spacefaring voyages off of planet earth to be of singular importance.In fact, some have suggested that the only name from our current epoch that will merit inclusion in the history books of the future will be that of Neil Armstrong – the first human being to step on a celestial body other than earth.

Many in my generation grew up believing our entire lives would be spent actively pursuing the spacefaring activities of a modern civilization. Those alive at the time will remember that the United States and the Russians were locked in a “Cold War,” and President Kennedy had set the agenda back in 1961, when he dedicated the United States to a program of flying men to the moon, and returning them safely to earth, before the end of the decade. Even today, we probably would have trouble scaling up the technical abilities in rockets and equipment at such a quick pace.

The early program was decidedly competitive, even military, in its nature. For both the Mercury and Gemini programs, men would ride capsules atop ballistic missiles designed mainly for hurling nuclear warheads around the world (the Redstone, Atlas and Titan rockets). Only when we graduated to the actual moon-focused Apollo missions did the astronauts ride atop rockets designed for this more peaceful purpose – the Saturn V. A most effective rocket it was, 363 feet tall, weighing 6.5 million pounds, its first stage burning 15 tons of liquid oxygen and refined kerosene every second, hurling the 310,000 pound third stage/command-service module/Lunar Excursion Module into earth orbit from which they then accelerated into a trans-lunar trajectory. If so tasked, the Saturn V was mighty enough to boost a many-ton payload off to one of the nearest stars, but the journey would take hundreds of thousands of years.

Mission planners knew the importance of the operation, especially its symbolic power: they chose Neil Armstrong, a civilian test pilot, and formerly a naval aviator during the Korean conflict to lead the mission. He had proved his mettle by flying the X15 rocket plane almost 4,000 mph at a peak altitude of 207,000 feet, and was selected over his fellow military astronauts to lead the Apollo 11 mission. By the time of the actual Apollo landings, a more peaceful goal than the military race with the Russians, one shared with all of humanity, was reflected in the language of the commemorative plaque they would leave at Tranquility Base – “We came in peace for all mankind.”

Armstrong had already witnessed harrowing escapes from death during his career as an astronaut. During the Gemini 8 mission in 1966, after successfully docking in orbit with the target Agena vehicle, their spacecraft went into an uncontrolled roll that became so fast that Armstrong and fellow astronaut David Scott came within seconds of blacking out before Armstrong was able to correct it. In May, 1968, while test piloting the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle, he ejected with less than a second to spare before the experimental craft slammed to the ground, exploding into a fireball, as Armstrong drifted gently to earth under his parachute a few feet away.

When the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey came out in 1968 and depicted a spaceship landing at a city on the moon, we all assumed that that was a reasonable version of our future – that we would be the ones inhabiting those lunar cities by the early 21st century. Alas, the fickle nature of the American public, as predicted by the mastermind behind the Saturn V, Werner von Braun, judged the brief adventures of the Apollo program to be sufficient for their desires, and dropped the ball on further manned exploration of space. Thankfully, we now appear to be getting back on track, not only for a return to the moon, but, more importantly, towards the goal of building a sustainable colony on the planet Mars.

I’ve had the distinct honor and privilege of meeting and talking with four of the highly skilled Apollo astronauts, including Neil Armstrong himself, as well as Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, both of whom flew to the moon on the moon-orbital mission of Apollo 8. Lovell also commanded the Apollo 13 mission, a harrowing journey in which the astronauts demonstrated the utmost skill in returning safely home after an explosion crippled their craft en route to the moon.  I also met Edgar Mitchell, who served as the Lunar Excursion Module pilot accompanying Alan Shepard down to the Fra Mauro Highlands they hiked during the Apollo 14 mission in February, 1971.

One of the great joys of my life was having Edgar share his reflections on that monumental journey while I was a guest in his home in 2012 (more fully shared in my book Living in a Mindful Universe, co-written with Karen Newell, 2017). Edgar was so deeply affected by his experience during the Apollo 14 moon-landing mission, especially by a profound epiphany that occurred during the ride back to earth: He clearly saw the fundamental presence of consciousness throughout the universe while gazing out the window of Apollo 11’s command module returning from the moon. He came back to found the Institute of Noetic Sciences, which to this day carries out his bold mission to more fully explore the profound mystery of consciousness itself – a frontier beyond outer space.

Edgar realized how closely his life journey of elucidating the consciousness underlying the universe paralleled my own observations of the primacy of consciousness resulting from my near-death experience (NDE) due to severe bacterial meningitis in November 2008. Edgar shared my vision that the coming awakening of humanity to the true nature of consciousness would rival in importance the 16th century Copernican revolution that had moved man’s notion of the center of the universe from the earth to the sun. We are on the verge of another monumental scientific revolution – one that validates the notion that we are all in this together.

I recall how all of the astronauts shared similar observations about the fragility and undivided beauty of our earthly home. Their firsthand experiences make them kindred spirits with the NDE community I have come to know so well over the last decade — we all share the sense of oneness and connectedness with each other. Those Apollo astronauts all professed how seeing our lovely planet from space only heightened the sense that there are no boundaries of countries visible, that the entire beautiful planet is one we all share together. They also remarked on how fragile our atmosphere is, just the tiniest blue sliver, tenuously embraced by the lands and seas of our extraordinarily precious home planet.

One major impetus for pursuing space exploration is to serve as insurance against our own extinction. During the half century since the first moon landing, we have come to discover in increasingly alarming fashion that our addiction to burning fossil fuels might well render our planet uninhabitable in the next century or so due to the greenhouse gas effects of all of that carbon dioxide our modern civilization belches into the atmosphere. We must colonize other planets, if for no other reason than to survive if we are foolish enough to wreck our own home.

A grander overall vision for the importance of these spacefaring efforts is one of joining that much bigger club of sentient life throughout the cosmos, a vision that was quite clear to me during my coma journey. This grander vision of humanity as part of the interstellar community is one more consistent with the maturity of humanity suggested by the NDE community, where we bear responsibility for our choices and acknowledge at every step the importance of our choices for the higher good of all involved.

So, cherish the world’s reliving of the Apollo 11 moon landing a half century ago, and reflect on how such ventures tend to unify us, to fire our imaginations to engender the best future we can envision. We are truly all in this together, sharing this star-faring journey on the good earth, and we have the capacity as human beings to most fully enjoy this voyage through expressions of kindness, mercy and love towards our fellow travelers.

Those who want an in-depth, personal experience in reminiscing the Apollo 11 mission should go to https://apolloinrealtime.org/11/ to relive every second of the adventure.

In the decade since my near-death experience (NDE) during a week-long coma in November 2008, I have been through many ups and downs in sharing my experience with the world. The low point involved a published account of false and misleading statements. The details of my medical condition were called into question as perhaps not as severe as I’d maintained in my first book, Proof of Heaven. I was challenged personally with implications that I lied about such specifics for financial gain.

Counteracting such claims, this month represents a resounding “up” in that journey: Dr. Bruce Greyson, one of the top globally-acknowledged scientific researchers in the field of consciousness studies, has teamed up with physician colleagues Surbhi Khanna and Lauren E. Moore to provide a detailed and comprehensive review of my medical records. This independent physician case report has been published this month in the widely respected peer-reviewed Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease:

The publication of this case report marks tremendous progress in elucidating the unprecedented effect of my NDE (and numerous similar journeys) on our human understanding of the nature of reality. Many in the medical community were astounded I recovered at all due to the severity of my illness – “an extremely severe bacterial meningitis with little likelihood of a complete medical recovery,” as summarized in the case report (S. Khanna et alia, p. 744). They shared my disbelief that the events I described in Proof of Heaven could have happened at all, since there was overwhelming evidence of destruction to my brain, and yet they DID happen:

“Based on details of events that he accurately described having observed during his coma, his near-death experience can be placed between hospital days 1 and 5. On those 5 days, his GCS [Glasgow Coma Scale] scores, charted twice a day, ranged between 6 and 7, indicating severe brain impairment.” (S. Khanna et alia, p. 744)

A GCS score of 9 or less indicates deep coma, with 3 being the lowest possible score (a corpse), and 15 the GCS in a normal awake patient.

Based on these scores, I should have had no experience at all, other than the most rudimentary forms of conscious awareness. My neurologic examinations, the CT and MRI scans showing all eight lobes of my brain to have been involved, and lab values all indicated a very severe infection.

Both neurologists involved in my case were similarly surprised by the outcome, given the severity of my illness. One of my main infectious disease specialists, Dr. Scott Wade, in a private communication with my family written six weeks after I awakened, stated that my “recovery from a serious meningitis [was] the most incredible and gratifying experience” of his medical career, which had spanned more than two decades after fellowship training.

“Most reported cases [of Gram-negative bacterial meningitis] have residual neurological deficits; however, this patient attained full neurological recovery within 2 months, which is remarkable and rare.” (S. Khanna et alia, p. 745)

The current case report goes much deeper than the details provided in Proof of Heaven in exploring the extraordinary nature of my illness, and the equally surprising facets of my complete recovery over two months. The fact that I could have experienced anything while my brain was so besieged with infection, particularly targeting the neocortex, remains a profound challenge to our conventional materialistic worldview, and especially the assumption that the physical brain creates consciousness.

“It is noteworthy that the patient’s near-death experience can be placed between hospital days 1 and 5, when his GCS scores were lowest. This association of a mystical state of consciousness with diminished brain function is consistent with recent neuroimaging studies of psychedelic drug-induced states showing that brain connectivity in the default mode network is inhibited rather than excited by psilocybin (Carhart-Harris et al., 2012), ayahuasca (Palhano-Fontes et al., 2015), and LSD (Carhart-Harris et al., 2016).” (S. Khanna et alia, p. 746)

The implication, that consciousness can exist independently of the brain, so absolutely defies the principles of conventional (pre-quantum) science and its assumption that only the physical world exists, that some seem to be thrown into an existential crisis by my case and the profound implications it engenders. The discussion of the reality or meaning of NDEs in our society is one that greatly stirs people’s feelings about their most fundamental beliefs, and thus ignites extreme passions in their responses.

The case report actually goes beyond simply remarking on the astonishing nature of my course since coma, to suggest that the spiritual content of my NDE might have contributed to my inexplicable recovery.

“Of interest, other near-death experiences occurring under well-documented medical supervision have been associated with unexpected recovery from conditions thought to be irreversible (Alexander, 2017; Dossey, 2011), suggesting possible benefits from research into possible mechanisms by which near-death experiences might facilitate healing.” (S. Khanna et alia, pp. 745-746)

Dr. Larry Dossey and I have both written about miraculous healing associated with NDEs in the medical literature. All of us might gain useful lessons about the role of mind-over-matter in healing. This is the ultimate treasure trove resulting from the deeper understanding of NDEs and other spiritually-transformative experiences.

This case report destroys the false conclusion perpetrated by those who tried to discredit my story, my integrity and trustworthiness with false statements about my career as a neurosurgeon. My recent FAQ entitled “Have you been found guilty of malpractice?” summarizes how twisted facts completely obscured my true actions in that case.

I am proud of a neurosurgical career in which I operated on over 4,000 patients, and contributed to advancement of the field, especially in specific technologies such as stereotactic radiosurgery, intraoperative MRI, and focused ultrasound surgery (publications). I have nothing to hide about my medical career, which is one of the reasons I proceeded to share my story in Proof of Heaven. Malpractice data is freely available to the public. I never suspected that anyone would take the original allegations from a malpractice case, which can be wildly inaccurate, and present them as final facts in the matter. The offending article totally ignored the full investigations by state medical boards and the American Board of Neurological Surgeons and their conclusions that allowed me to return to medical practice with my licenses and board certification fully intact.

Living in a Mindful Universe, the book I co-authored with Karen Newell, argues further that the reductive materialism of conventional science is a dead end. The stunning reality of ontological idealism (the mental universe now coming into focus for quantum physicists), is presented most forcefully. Ultimately, we are all part of the greater consciousness, the primordial mind, that determines the emerging events of our lives.

In coming months, Karen and I will be appearing at several conferences and presentation venues in North America and Europe, including meditation playshops to help true seekers get deeply involved in exploring consciousness and manifesting the free will of their higher souls. We hope to see you at one of these events!

Eben Alexander and Karen Newell

The first book about my NDE, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife (2012), hit a resounding chord with readers around the world, and yet I felt that the title prevented some in the scientific community from reading the book. Those who have read it realize that it is a commentary on the nature of the mind-brain relationship, and especially of the fundamental nature of consciousness itself. While my story certainly supports the reality of an afterlife, the book is far from being just a discourse on “heaven.”

The revelations of my message address the very fundamental nature of reality and human experience, and cover territory well beyond the question of whether or not some aspect of consciousness survives the death of the brain and body. Such knowledge is directly relevant to how we approach life in myriad ways. It is a mistake to assume that Proof of Heaven is simply a clear-cut confirmation of the teachings of modern-day Christianity (an accusation from close-minded skeptics who I’m convinced have not read the book, but rather are simply recoiling at the title). Of course, my overall message greatly supports the original teachings of Christ, which places love as the central guiding force and stresses the connectedness we share through love, but it is not limited to Christians alone.

Gwyneth Paltrow, Eben Alexander III, Karen Newell

Many times each month, I am asked to give interviews and presentations.  In a recent interview conducted by Elise Loehnen in New York, while Karen Newell and I were guest presenters at Gwyneth Paltrow’s in Goop Health event, we were able to crystallize the main points of our message succinctly. The appropriately titled podcast (one that makes our message accessible to all), “Is there Proof of a Spiritual Universe?” was posted on May 24, 2018, and we felt it would be of particular value to our friends and followers to hear it. Also just posted is a Goop Q&A with Karen where she discusses her own path of spiritual awakening.

The spiritual realm is not exclusive to any one group of people – it is accessible to us all and this fact greatly affects how we live our lives here and now. My books and talks have resulted in a deluge of communications from practitioners of some of the deep mystical traditions of many faiths (Kabbalah, Christianity, Islam, Sufism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Bahá’í Faith, among others), confirming the resonance of my journey and message with their own understandings. I can’t stress enough that our message is for all humans. But, at its core, my mission and process are scientific, based on personal experience and on a modern rational approach to understanding how best to interpret such experiences in drawing conclusions about the nature of reality.

My second book, The Map of Heaven: How Science, Religion, and Ordinary People are Proving the Afterlife (2014), demonstrated the ubiquity of such spiritually-transformative experiences across all cultures, religions, belief systems, and millennia. From a scientific point of view, Proof of Heaven was a question-mark that challenged the status quo. But my newest book, Living in a Mindful Universe: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Heart of Consciousness is much more about the modern scientific study of the brain and mind, and certainly goes much further in trying to get to some answers about how to understand it all. Some of these deep scientific concepts, and their importance to us as spiritual beings living in a spiritual universe, are crucial in trying to heal our somewhat broken world.

This process of awakening will ultimately involve the synthesis of both our scientific and our spiritual nature as human beings. Some physicists are already comfortable with the notion of our universe being fundamentally mental, not physical, based on a maturing view of the metaphysics underlying the experimental results in quantum physics. The deepest lessons and refined experiments in quantum physics nudge us gently toward this realization.

And the wealth of human encounters that include near-death experiences and similar spiritually-transformative experiences richly opens our understanding of ourselves and our universe so that the most reasonable conclusion involves the fact that all of our existence is spiritual, in the sense that our lives matter. We are here for a reason, and we have great responsibility for our choices in how we deal with our fellow beings. Acknowledgement of the scientific underpinnings of our spiritual nature will help in this grand awakening of humanity. Replacing our erroneous materialist (or physicalist) world view with one based in our connectedness and purpose, i.e., our spiritual nature, will provide the most beneficial revolution in the history of human thought.

 

Today, Thursday November 16, 2017, marks the ninth anniversary of my return to the world after a seven-day coma due to bacterial meningitis – an illness that my doctors agreed most likely should have killed me. Their evidence that the human part of my brain, the neocortex, was too badly incapacitated for anything but the most primitive conscious awareness proved to be incompatible with the extraordinary experience I witnessed deep in coma, with features consistent with similar human experiences reported over millennia.

Of course, I have come to see my miraculous recovery and the extraordinary experience I witnessed deep in coma as a beautiful gift to be shared with the world. As my medical colleagues agreed, such a journey could not be simply dismissed as a hallucination, drug effect or dream because of the documented damage to my neocortex. My first book, Proof of Heaven (Simon & Schuster, 2012), marked the initial step in that reporting, but it represents a question mark in my journey, more than any kind of actual answer. Millions of people realized it represented a confirmation of an infinitely loving force at the creative source of our lives, but the deeper nature of that love remained elusive. But, as a scientist, I now had a far grander vision of the cosmos from my personal experience, one that demanded explanation. Such understanding did not result from the experience itself, but has necessitated a lifetime path of integrating my understanding of all such evidence from within the framework of science. Thus, I bask in my ongoing journey, which parallels the revelations coming to the scientific world in our ongoing voyage of discovery around the very nature of consciousness itself.

I have learned so much in the nine years since first awakening, in a journey of discovery, documented in my latest book, Living in a Mindful Universe: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Heart of Consciousness (Rodale Books, 2017), that has involved thousands of other people around this planet, including many of the brilliant and courageous scientists who are addressing the deep mystery of consciousness – of the relationship between mind and brain. This voyage of discovery is of crucial value to us all, because many of our conclusions about the nature of reality hinge on the direction in which the mind-body debate flows.

The answer emerging from the scientific study of the nature of consciousness is one that is contrary to the prevailing views of conventional materialist neuroscience (and thus of our culture at large), and in ways that are most exciting and bring cause for great hope and optimism for the human race. They suggest that we are all truly bound together experiencing life within the One Mind, a source of unbounded love, comfort and purpose. The greatest commonality between the world’s religious systems, that we should “do unto others as we would wish done unto ourselves,” seems to be written into the very fabric of this loving force that binds the universe together through consciousness itself. Our free will choices are crucial in defining the larger course of our lives, and especially in contributing to the universal evolution of consciousness itself. We will reap what we sow, and thus should adhere as best as possible to the golden rule stated above.

However, science and spirituality remain stuck in their current impasses, unless they are to be wed together, which is their true destiny. We live in an age when that marriage becomes a very real possibility. My effort to catalyze that hopeful vision comes in the form of my just-released book, Living in a Mindful Universe, co-authored with my life partner, Karen Newell. We are very optimistic that it represents “proof of heaven” for the rest of us – for open-minded skeptics, and for those who might not have read a book with the word “heaven” in the title. Of course, it also deeply confirms the beliefs that many have in an afterlife, of the connectedness of our souls that outlasts the death of the physical body, and especially in an infinitely loving God. But now, the support comes mainly from science (especially quantum physics, which essentially demands this spiritual truth) and from the analysis of extraordinary human experience and examination of the very fundament of consciousness itself.  As Werner Heisenberg (1901 – 1976), winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics 1932, so famously said: “The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.”

The companion online workbook to our new book is a completely free 33-day email course that includes a major topic of the book sent out each day, with an accompanying practice, and on many days additional resources (such as links to other books and articles, and also four Sacred Acoustics audio recordings to help people achieve deep states of transcendental conscious awareness, connecting with that primordial mind). The best part of the 33-day course is that individuals from all over the world (given the translate function available on the page to offer it to speakers of many languages) share comments and experiences on each page – a beautiful growing community of like-minded seekers from around the globe.

So, in reflecting on my return to this beautiful and loving world nine years ago today, I am comforted to be sharing the growing comprehension of my journey with the world, as humanity finally rises up to the beauty of our shared destiny – one that offers hope and promise of a better world just beginning to dawn, one of peace, harmony, and fellowship to every being in existence.

Peace and blessings to you all!

We seem to have had more than our fair share of natural disasters in these late summer months – more category 4 and 5 hurricanes hitting the Caribbean and East Coast of the United States than have ever been encountered, two powerful earthquakes stunning central and southwestern Mexico, record high temperatures with devastating forest fires in the Pacific Northwest and many other regions of the western US.

As dire as these events are, spawning widespread devastation, killing hundreds, and leaving 10,000s of people homeless and destitute, I have been impressed with the power these catastrophes have had in bringing people together. Heart-warming scenes of strangers risking life and limb to rescue strangers, groups of people uniting in common effort to save others, numerous examples of people rescuing thousands of frightened animals caught up in the mayhem – these disasters have shown how mother nature’s worst destructive chaos often has the effect of demonstrating how we really are all in this together, that our most redeeming qualities as human beings are illuminated by such extreme challenges.

Those involved in treating alcoholism and addiction often refer to the power of the “gift of desperation” – that the illness often drives someone so low that they are forced to deal with it, the alternative being death. In many ways, these natural disasters offer a collective gift of desperation. As my journey since coma in 2008 has revealed to me, the challenges and hurdles in life should be viewed as allies – they often provide the power to provide for our growth and maturation as spiritual, interconnected beings.

My interpretation of so much of the good I have seen in people through these disasters is that such challenges bring us closer together, in ways that support the notion of the Collective Mind, that we are all expressions of a vast intelligence, bound together through love and compassion, and acts of simple kindness.

The most profound of human experiences cannot be put neatly into words – they are so extraordinary as to completely defy encapsulation within our very limited language. A total eclipse of the sun is the epitome of such ineffable natural events. To paraphrase Annie Dillard, “Comparing a partial with a complete solar eclipse is like comparing kissing a man, to marrying him.”

Similar to the wave of up-reaching hands that passes around a large stadium for a sporting event, the spirits of those souls witnessing this rare and seemingly miraculous event all along the 70-mile diameter centerline of the moon’s shadow passing from Oregon to South Carolina joined together in astonishment as the peak of totality crossed the entire continental United States in just 90 minutes.

With distant surrounding thunderstorms providing an exciting and dramatic backdrop, we were among the blessed souls at the Buck Hall Recreation Area just north of Awendaw, South Carolina, to bid final adieu to the moon’s shadow after its spectacular 3,000 mile crossing from Depoe Bay, Oregon, across 13 states, until its departure over the alligator-infested salt marshes just north of Charleston. The last time the moon’s shadow traversed the continental United States was in 1918, at the close of The Great War (later renamed World War I).

For billions of years, the moon orbited much closer to earth, and eclipses were more frequent, with longer duration. In contrast, a few hundred million years from now, the moon will have receded from the earth (at 1.5 inches per year, or 23.7 miles per million years) to such a distance that it will never again be able to cover the sun’s surface from earth’s perspective. So we are living at the perfect time to view such incredible phenomena that reveal the vibrant dance of our sun’s atmosphere, normally hidden from view.

Although clouds interspersed with blue skies during most of the 90-minute buildup as the moon progressively obscured the face of the sun, we remained positive that we would see the total eclipse, along with our surrounding compatriots who had set up elaborate camera and telescope systems to observe this most unique of natural phenomena. Joined in purpose to witness this rare event, we were rewarded with clear sky for the 2 minutes and 30 seconds of totality. The brilliant multicolored (predominantly bluish-violet) solar corona danced in glorious splendor – the electrified streaming atmosphere of our home star extended out millions of miles, glowing at temperatures over a million degrees hotter than the 11,000 degree Fahrenheit visible surface of the sun.

Those moments spent during totality will forever be time completely suspended – so truly extraordinary as to represent a glorious oneness with this fantastically beautiful universe. Sublime perfection!

Jupiter glowed brilliantly to the left of the coronal apparition, whose shimmering undulations revealed an extraordinary level of reality – always there, yet forever obscured behind the intense light of the sun’s surface (a million times brighter than the corona). And, as the sun was completely blocked just after the “diamond ring” appearance of Bailey’s beads (sunlight streaming through the valleys between the mountains of the moon), the entire landscape of the South Carolina coastal marsh was lit only by the vibrant corona (as bright as the full moon). The horizon became suffused by the soft reddish-yellowish glow normally associated with a beautiful sunrise or sunset, but surrounded us completely.

To punctuate the delicate perfection of the event, lightning burst through thunderheads just inland from us, as if to remind us how fortunate we were in that suspended dimension beyond time and our consensus reality – indeed, a reminder that our small band of amazed human beings were united as one by this unique natural spectacle and the wonder of our shared experience.

While observing the moon’s eclipse of the sun, we listened to the sounds of Eclipse, a special Sacred Acoustics recording that taps into the energies of the earth, sun and moon. The magical soundscape of Eclipse provided a perfect accompaniment to the visual event. It is a recording that acknowledges our connection to the mindful universe we inhabit and that we will listen to again whenever we want to harvest such creative energies.

The several hundred people gathered with us at Buck Hall were all transformed through sharing this magnificent event together. We could also feel the wave of millions of other souls along the 3,000-mile path across the country and with many more around the world who tapped into the spirit of the eclipse through television, internet and meditation.

Advances in quantum mechanics and studies of consciousness reveal we are all truly connected as one. Having experienced the eclipse with so many others, we bring that extraordinary oneness of existence into this world for all fellow sentient beings. We see this signal event as a sign of unity. Even when the world appears divided, it is events such as the eclipse that help us recognize the oneness we all share.

Such profound oneness is an integral message of our upcoming book, Living in a Mindful Universe: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Heart of Consciousness. The timing of the eclipse thus seems a fitting portent to this unification we foresee and describe. Together, we can make the world a better place, where ALL lives matter. As consciousness continues to evolve, we are each an integral part of the whole.

 

 

 

One of the most fundamental, and damaging, falsehoods in modern science is that all that exists is the physical world, and the closely related concept that the physical brain creates consciousness. Modern neuroscience is contributing to the rejection of this misconception through a set of interesting experiments assessing the action of various psychedelic drugs on the brain (specifically those that influence serotinergic receptors).

Scientific investigations that utilize psychedelic drugs offer measurable and functional outcomes that inform our evolving notions of consciousness and our understanding of the full nature of reality. However, let me be clear from the outset of this article that I do not recommend the casual use of such substances in a non-sacred, recreational setting. In research studies, the quality and quantity of drug administered can be strictly controlled and monitored, which is not the case in most recreational settings where such psychedelics can be dangerous to one’s health.

For purposes of scientific research, they offer compelling findings which mirror the effects of non-drug induced spiritually transformative experiences such as near-death experiences.

First is a report from Imperial College in London in 2012 in which functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) was used to evaluate various brain regions in subjects under the influence of psilocybin, the active principle in psychedelic mushrooms (the genus Psilocybe consists of over 100 species).1 The most remarkable finding of that study was that the activity of major connection regions of the brain was greatly diminished in those who were having the most profound psychedelic experiences, as opposed to the increase in activity anticipated by physicalist scientists who believe the brain creates consciousness and all of experience.

These results were confirmed by a Brazilian study published in February 2015 assessing brain activity through fMRI, this time in subjects under the influence of ayahuasca (which contains the active psychedelic compound N,N-dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, normally present in our brains but in only minuscule amounts).2 Ayahuasca caused a significant decrease in activity throughout the main junctional network in the brain, known as the default-mode network (DMN).

Just this month, the Imperial College group in London refined these observations with another confirmatory study, this one examining the effects of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide-25), the most potent psychedelic, active in doses of 10s to 100s of micrograms.3 In brief, they report decreased integrity of the DMN and decreased alpha and delta power in another main junctional network, the exact opposite of what one would expect if the physical brain were creating the extraordinary conscious experiences.

The reason these studies are so crucial (and confounding to the materialists who believe the physical brain creates conscious experience) is that they powerfully refute the simplistic and false physicalist notion that the brain creates consciousness. The most extraordinary experiences were reported by those subjects who had the greatest inactivation of their brain’s junctional center network activity, as measured through fMRI and MEG. As the brain becomes less active, internal experience actually becomes more active.

This is completely consistent with my own experience in deep coma due to severe bacterial meningitis (as recounted in my 2012 book Proof of Heaven). As my neocortex was destroyed by the invading bacteria, my conscious awareness greatly expanded to levels unprecedented in my normal waking experiences of my entire life. That shocking reality nagged at me especially in the early months after my coma, at a time I was trying to explain the whole experience as a vast hallucinatory trick of the dying brain (defaulting to my pre-coma reductive materialist scientific beliefs, honed by several decades working as a neurosurgeon).

My doctors knew from the medical evidence in my case that my neocortex was far too damaged to be supporting any mode of robust conscious experience, including any elaborate hallucinations, drug effects or dream states. After extensive review with some of the doctors who cared for me, and with several interested colleagues in neurosurgery, it became apparent that that ultra-reality occurred because the experience was real, although it did not occur anywhere in our 4-dimensional space-time of the observable physical universe.

As is often the case with global media completely steeped in the conventional materialistic paradigm, the press reports about the most recent study falsely trumpeted the opposite of the actual findings. Both the Guardian and CNN focused on some of the fMRI images, but completely missed the astonishing conclusions of the actual study, instead misinterpreting them as showing increased brain activity as opposed to the remarkable decreases in activity the paper actually reports.

Although such scientific investigations into psychedelic drugs are crucial in our evolving notions of consciousness and understanding the full nature of reality, I do not recommend the casual use of such substances in a non-sacred, recreational setting. However, very powerful tools exist for those seekers seriously interested in pursuing the deep mystery of consciousness within us all.

Meditation is a time-proven technique for those seeking to understand the universe by going within. For those who do not yet have a reliable means of meditation I suggest the tools of differential sound frequency brain entrainment I have helped to develop with Sacred Acoustics. Co-founder Karen Newell and I travel the world sharing these tools in our presentations – a list of upcoming presentations is listed here.

We are spiritual beings living in a spiritual universe – we can come to know this fact by going within. Given there is but one Truth we all seek, it should come as no surprise that open-minded science that acknowledges all of the relevant empirical observations (including not only psychedelic drug experiences and epiphanies during meditation, but near-death experiences, shared-death experiences, precognition, after-death communication, death bed visions, out of body experiences, remote viewing, past life memories in children indicative of reincarnation, etc.) should help lead us towards that Truth. This will lead to a necessary synthesis of science and spirituality that is crucial to our evolution as a species and to the well-being of all life on our planet.

[1] Carhart-Harris, RL, Erritzoe D, Williams T, et alia. “Neural correlates of the psychedelic state determined by fMRI studies with psilocybin,” Proc. Nat. Acad. Of Sciences 109, no. 6 (Feb 2012): 2138-2143.

[2] Palhano-Fontes F, Andrade KC, Tofoli LF, et alia. “The Psychedelic State Induced by Ayahuasca Modulates the Activity and Connectivity of the Default Mode Network,” PLoS One (2015).

[3] Carhart-Harris, RL, Muthukumaraswamy S, Roseman L, et alia. “Neural correlates of the LSD experience revealed by multimodal neuroimaging.” Proc. Nat. Acad. of Sciences (Mar 2016).

Dr Edgar D. Mitchell, Apollo 14, 1971

Dr Edgar D. Mitchell, Apollo 14, 1971

Forty-five years ago today, Edgar Mitchell, one of the great explorers of our era, was piloting Antares, the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) for the Apollo 14 Mission, down to land in the hills of the Fra Mauro highlands on the Moon (February 5-6, 1971). His partner in the LEM was Alan Shepard, who, almost ten years earlier, had become the first American to visit outer space.

Today, this heroic explorer is venturing into an even more “undiscovered country,” as he has left the physical plane. Edgar Mitchell, who will go down in history as one of the truly great explorers of the ages, passed over on February 4, 2016. During the third successful moon landing mission, he had become the sixth man (of twelve total, to date) to walk on the moon.

I was fortunate to stay with Edgar during a trip to Florida July 10, 2012, as we connected our efforts to advance humankind (along with John Audette and Bob Staretz, both very crucial in this collaboration, and long-term friends of Ed’s) through the joining of Edgar’s Quantrek and Eternea (the brainchild of John Audette, which I also helped to found).

I enjoyed hearing about his childhood, growing up on a ranch in New Mexico next to one owned by Robert Goddard, the “father of American rocketry” (a fascinating synchronicity!), and how he, like me, had first soloed an aircraft at the young age of 14. To have such an extraordinary experience at that tender age of discovery weds one’s soul forever to the realms beyond earth.

Although I had followed his original journey in February 1971 as a teen-ager fascinated with space travel, hearing him tell of his grand epiphany, or savikalpa samadhi experience, an “ecstasy of unity,” while returning from his “sacred journey” to the moon, remains a true highlight of my life. Here is how I recall our conversation:

“I was basically unemployed,” he explained over breakfast in his home. “I had piloted Antares down to the Fra Mauro highlands, taken the longest walks ever taken on the moon, through those dusty lunar hills with Alan, then piloted the ascent module back up to rejoin Stu in Kitty Hawk. As we left lunar orbit to head home, my work was done. So I had three days to relax and enjoy the view.

“We were in barbecue mode, with the spacecraft rotating every couple of minutes to avoid any area overheating in the intense sunlight. I could see ten times as many stars as you can ever see from earth, so the view was spectacular. With the rotation, I would see the earth, moon, and sun pass by the window every few minutes. The immensity and serenity of the universe struck me in an entirely new way, out there suspended between the great blue jewel of earth and the dusky moon we were leaving behind. The setting was perfect – I suddenly sensed the profound consciousness of the universe – how it is completely interconnected and aware – an absolutely indescribable awareness. My life was changed forever.”

Thanks to his courage, vision, and keen intellect, the world was changed forever, too. His grand achievements as a scientist and moon-walking astronaut were only Phase 1 of his fascinating life journey. In many ways, it was the second phase of his remarkable life, in which he pursued with tireless enthusiasm a passionate interest in deepening our understanding of consciousness, the nature of reality, and of humanity’s place in it, that I believe history will truly revere.

In my opinion, his greatest quality was his love for others, and for all of humanity. His epiphany led him to courageously pursue the deep study of scientific aspects of consciousness, to found the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), and to help lead humanity towards metanoia, a far grander awareness of our spiritual nature and of the unity of conscious awareness and the universe. His intuition that science and religion greatly strengthen each other, that their natural synthesis is an inevitable aspect of human history, is one that I share deeply.

He wrote several wonderful books about his trip to the moon and resultant life journey, which I have personally found to be most inspiring. In particular: The Way of the Explorer (1996) is a beautifully written saga of his life building up to and including the Apollo 14 mission, and of the powerful consequences of his epiphany, and Psychic Exploration (1974) is an extraordinary compilation in which Dr Mitchell assembled some of the best scientific minds on earth in addressing the deep mystery of consciousness.

Godspeed, Edgar Mitchell! The world is a far better place for your having lived in it. Prayers and blessings of gratitude for your courageous achievements in this lifetime, to help awaken humanity to the true spirit of our destiny.

I offer my heartfelt condolences to Karlyn, Elizabeth, Kim, Mary Beth, Paul, and the rest of his family.

Eben Alexander III, MD

Charlottesville, Virginia
February 5, 2016