Several astronauts who have seen Earth from space have had profoundly awakening spiritual experiences. Here’s four of them.
Seeing Earth from space will cause you to lose your shit. Just ask any of the astronauts who have.
In Plato’s Phaedo, Socrates said that if you could see the Earth from space, you would recognize “that is the real heaven and the real light and the real earth.”
Your eyes, no longer bound to the horizon, see the Earth both from space and in space. Your whole perspective shifts. What was once the endless expanse of blue sky now appears to be just a thin halo surrounding the planet. You can now see above the clouds to the changing atmosphere, raging thunderstorms, and auroras of the Northern and Southern hemispheres. One half of the planet turns dark and the continents light up with networks of cities. Everything appears interconnected.
This view of Earth has only been in popular awareness since 1968, when the first color photographs were taken on the Apollo missions. It represents a major shift in consciousness. Twenty years earlier, the British Astronomer Fred Hoyle said that a photograph of Earth would be “a new idea as powerful as any in history.”
Only around 500 astronauts have ever witnessed this view first hand. For some of these astronauts, seeing the Earth was a profound, life-changing, and outright mystical experience.
Below, four astronauts recount their experiences of seeing Earth from space, and the profound effect it had on their perception.
1. Edgar Mitchell
The late Edgar Mitchell seems to have been the most vocal about his experience of seeing Earth from above. His experience left a profound spiritual impact on him. It was so impactful that he founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences in the Sonoma Valley, an institute that conducts research into meditation, consciousness and human potential.
On his experience of seeing Earth from space, Mitchell said:
“That’s a powerful experience, to see Earth rise over the surface [of the Moon]. And I suddenly realized that the molecules in my body, and the molecules in the spacecraft and my partners had been prototyped, maybe even manufactured, in some ancient generation of stars. But instead of being an intellectual experience, it was a personal feeling… And that was accompanied by a sense of joy and ecstasy, which caused me to say ‘What is this?’ It was only after I came back that I did the research and found that the term in ancient Sanskrit was Samadhi.”
2. Russell L. Schweickart
Schweickart flew on the Apollo 9 mission. Recounting his experience of looking down at Earth, he said:
“You identify with Houston and you identify with New Orleans… And that whole process of what it is you identify with begins to shift. When you go around the Earth in an hour and a half, you begin to recognize that your identity is with that whole thing. That makes a change. You look down there and you can’t imagine how many border and boundaries you cross… and you don’t even see them. There you are—hundreds of people in the Mideast killing each other over some imaginary line that you’re not even aware of and you can’t see.”
(Via The Overview Effect)
3. Wubbo Ockels
Ockel was the first Dutch citizen in space. He passed away last month. Before dying, he composed an open letter calling for sustainable energy solutions. The letter testifies to the spiritual impact his experience as an astronaut left on him:
“We are not bees who unconsciously build a bee colony… We are not neurons that are not aware that they altogether think. No, we are intelligent beings that indeed can see and observe the behavior of our community. We are well aware of where our Humanity is heading. We can lead Humanity into a better direction if we act together. With a new believe in Humanity we can create a new religion that brings us all together.
“There are many Religions who get people together, but never all people. The different gods in whom people believe separate Humanity… This separation has led to many conflicts… These religions do not unify humanity with the earth. They [are] not sustainable. But if we believe in the holistic Humanity we will have no conflicts because we will be inseparable… The God of humanity is in each of us. This God is not outside of us. We cannot hide behind this God because it is us.” (Via)
4. Col. Chris Hadfield
Check out Colonel Chris Hadfield discuss his incredible experience seeing the Earth from space, and how he suddenly understood the entire world as a single system. Having a vision of the interconnectedness of all life—even to the point of having a spiritual experience—seems to be a regular part of taking a trip to space and taking a look back. Here, Hadfield explains his shock at seeing the effects of climate change… and his fervent message that we must find an immediate way to deal with it.
Of course, if you’re interested in catalyzing profound spiritual experiences, you don’t need to go all the way to space and back—all you have to do is practice the tried-and-true techniques of mysticism that have been developed down here on Earth. Even Edgar Mitchell knew this, and devoted much of his life after his trip to the moon to studying mysticism, yoga and psychic and paranormal phenomena.
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(Image via Wikimedia Commons.)