On his return trip from the moon, Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell experienced what he describes as a state of "transcended consciousness," which resulted in feelings of "bliss and ecstasy." As he gazed at the Earth, the planets, and stars, he felt as though all things in the universe were somehow connected. In an attempt to understand why he had such an experience, he founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), a nontraditional research organization that studies the powers of consciousness.
Mitchell, the sixth man on the moon, will be discussing the latest IONS discoveries in a lecture titled "Secrets of the Universe Revealed" at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre on Sunday, January 23rd.
His fellow astronuats on the mission reported similar experiences, but only Mitchell has dedicated his life to trying to find out why -- and what that experience meant.
"One of my colleagues described it as looking on the face of God in terms of traditional religion, but I didn't," says Mitchell. "I'm a scientist, and I wanted to try and understand this better."
Looking into states of consciousness led Mitchell to explore related natural phenomena that remain unexplained by mainstream science. Since its inception in 1972, IONS has researched shifts in consciousness and has delved into the study of dreams, intuition, and clairvoyance.
"The study of the nature of consciousness was really a philosophic idea before," says Mitchell. "As I researched, I found that some aspect of that type of transcended experience was prevalent in every culture in the world in their mystical and ancient lore, but it had not come into the realm of science."
Using scientific methods, IONS investigates creativity, meditation, psychic phenomena, healing over distances and the survival of consciousness after death.
One popular research project looks at the psychic abilities of ordinary people. On its Web site, ions.org, visitors can play a psychic game where their intuitive abilities are tested. Visitors who register with the site before playing can submit their results to be studied as a part of ongoing research.
A project researching the power of prayer is under way at Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. Researchers pray for some patients but not for others to see if prayer makes a difference in how fast patients recover. According to Memphian Linda Hassler, who sits on the IONS board of directors, the results have been positive for patients who are prayed for.
Most of IONS' reasearch is conducted at its retreat center located on 200 acres of rolling hills in Petaluma, California. Since the closing of the Rhine Institute, a similar research organization at Duke University, IONS is the only major facility performing this type of research. But Mitchell says that there are many smaller groups still doing similar work, and they're discovering many of the same things independent of one another.
"One reason these things have not been studied before is because mainstream scientists don't believe in some of this stuff. You can't touch it, see it, or smell it," says Hassler, who's a member of the Noetic Explorers, the local noetic science group.
IONS president James O'Dea will speak on Saturday, January 22nd, on "Consciousness: A Tool for Transformation," at First Unity Church in Cordova. Hassler says this talk will serve as a sort of introduction to noetic sciences. He will discuss the human need to create tools -- from the prehistoric use of fire to the Internet -- and how consciousness can also be used as a tool.
According to Mitchell, the Noetic Explorers organization has groups in 400 cities and 20 countries. The Memphis group has about 160 member and meets monthly to discuss the latest IONS research.
"This talk is for people who are looking for answers but haven't been able to find them anywhere else," says Mitchell. "We're hoping we can point people in the direction to look. Do we have all the answers? Heavens, no. But do we have a way of looking at things that seems to be productive? We think we do." n
James O'Dea on "Consciousness: A Tool for Transformation" on Saturday, January 22nd, at First Unity Church (9228 Walnut Grove). Edgar Mitchell on "Secrets of the Universe Revealed" on Sunday, January 23rd, at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre (1801 Exeter Rd.). For more information, call Linda Hassler at 277-3203.