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Sunday, September 25, 2011
Outer Space ... Spirituality ...

It turns out that many of the US astronauts who have been up in the Freedom space station for several months have had vision problems. About one third have reported some level of vision impairment after coming home. Most have gotten better over time, but NASA is worried that more permanent damage would be done on a very long space mission, such as a trip to explore Mars.

Likewise, it turns out that 36 astronauts who were on “high radiation missions”, including the Apollo moon astronauts, experienced cataract problems. This was due to their heightened exposure to cosmic rays and other particles from the Sun and from space, given that they spent time beyond the earth’s magnetic shielding. (The space station astronaut problems stem more from brain fluid shifts caused by prolonged weightlessness — they are in low orbit and aren’t as severely exposed to radiation).

But interestingly enough, the deep space missions had another type of “vision” effect — vision in a spiritual sense. It turns out that a majority of the Apollo astronauts who visited the moon reported having powerful holistic experiences during the flight to and from Earth. Many of them reportedly feel that their lives were changed due to the experience of seeing the earth from afar.

The guy who really went off the deep end was Edgar Mitchell, with his “noetics” and his ESP and UFO speculations. But several of the other “right stuff” fellows have spoken publicly (if more soberly) about their spiritual and religious interpretations of being in the heavens, of achieving ‘heightened states of awareness’.

It’s too bad that these space pioneers had to risk their earthly vision in order to gain what the Zen people call “enlightened vision”. Personally, I’m content to sit quietly in the local zendo, right on the Earth’s surface, with my eyes closed. It’s not thrilling like space flight, and I can’t say that I have had all that many “powerful holistic experiences”. But at least my eyes have gotten some rest.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:19 pm      

  1. Jim, I think of what my father told me more than once. When it came to UFOs, and “such stuff”, he said: Well, some of it is just kooks or people making stuff up one way or the other–or the military and their secret experiments. (During WWII my father’s very close brother worked on the “top secret” radar project, which at the time was about as “far out” as people could get then in the 1940s. He had told my father about some things that nobody would have believed then, and which nowadays is old hat to us.) He told me that when an experienced pilot (this was back in the 1960s as my father died in 1971) tells you he’s “seen stuff that’s unexplainable”, then one should believe him (at that time all pilots were “hims”).

    I’ve often tho’t how right he was. So now that the astronauts have experienced “powerful holistic experiences”, it would seem to me that more attention should be paid to those experiences and what we might learn from them.

    As to Mitchell “going off the deep end”: Maybe he did; maybe he did not, is how I see it. He’s been there/done that; we (those of us who have been earthbound) haven’t. Maybe the other astronauts haven’t gone off the “deep end” just because they’d be so labeled. Perhaps more attention should be paid to Mitchell and what he’s got to say through his “noetics”. I tend to see something of de Chardin in even the term “noetics.” So, maybe he’s not so far off the “deep end” as one would think. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — September 26, 2011 @ 9:44 am

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