The Resonating Universe
He had been on his way home, which at
the moment was approximately 250,000 miles away, somewhere on the
surface of the clouded azure and white crescent appearing
intermittently through the triangular window of the command module
of the Apollo 14.1
Although he and his commander, Alan
Shepard, hadn’t reached the summit of the 750-foot-high ancient
Cone Crater, the rest of the items on the meticulous schedule taped
to their wrists, detailing virtually every minute of their two-day
journey, had been methodically ticked off.
Without signposts such as trees or telephone wires, or indeed anything other than the Antares, the gold insect-like lunar module, on the full sweep of the dust-grey landscape, all perceptions of space, scale, distance or depth were horribly distorted; Ed had been shocked to discover that any points of navigation which had been carefully noted on high-resolution photographs were at least double the distance expected.
It was as though he and Alan had shrunk
during space travel and what from home had appeared to be tiny humps
and ridges on the moon’s surface had suddenly swollen to heights of
six feet or more. And yet if they felt diminished in size, they were
also lighter than ever. He’d experienced an odd lightness of being,
from the weak gravitational pull, and despite the weight and bulk of
his ungainly spacesuit, felt buoyed at every step.
For a mind accustomed to the soft filter of atmosphere, the sharp shadows, the changeable colors of the slate-grey soil all conspired to play tricks on the eye.
Unknowingly he and Alan had been only 61 feet from Cone Crater’s edge, about 10 seconds away, when they turned back, convinced that they wouldn’t reach it in time - a failure that would bitterly disappoint Ed, who’d longed to stare into that 1100-foot diameter hole in the midst of the lunar uplands. Their eyes didn’t know how to interpret this hyperstate of vision.
Nothing lived, but also nothing was
hidden from view, and everything lacked subtlety. Every sight
overwhelmed the eye with brilliant contrasts and shadows. He was
seeing, in a sense, more clearly and less clearly than he ever had.
Only after the lunar module had
reconnected with the command module and begun the two-day journey
back to earth could Ed pull off his spacesuit, now filthy with lunar
soil, sit back in his long johns and try to put his frustration and
his jumble of thoughts into some sort of order.
From this perspective, as the earth
traded places in and out of view with the rest of the solar system,
sky didn’t exist only above the astronauts, as we ordinarily view
it, but as an all-encompassing entity that cradled the earth from
Everything he’d been taught about the
universe and the separateness of people and things felt wrong. There
were no accidents or individual intentions. The natural intelligence
that had gone on for billions of years, that had forged the very
molecules of his being, was also responsible for his own present
journey. This wasn’t something he was simply comprehending in his
mind, but an overwhelmingly visceral feeling, as though he were
physically extending out of the window to the very furthest reaches
of the Cosmos.
It was as though in a single instant
Ed Mitchell had discovered and felt The Force.
But now Alan and Stu appeared to be
automatically going about their business, and so he was afraid to
say anything about what was beginning to feel like his own ultimate
moment of truth.
But to the others, he was a bit of an intellectual: the only one among them with both a PhD and test-pilot credentials. The way he’d entered the space program had been decidedly left field. Getting his doctorate in astrophysics from MIT was the way he thought he’d be indispensable - that’s how deliberately he’d plotted his path toward NASA - and only afterward did it occur to him to boost the flying time he’d gained overseas to qualify.
Nevertheless, Ed was no slouch when it came to flying.
Like all the other fellows, he’d put in his time at Chuck Yeager’s flying circus in the Mojave Desert, getting airplanes to do things they’d never been designed to do. At one point, he’d even been their instructor. But he liked to think of himself as not so much a test pilot as an explorer: a kind of modern-day seeker after truths.
His own attraction toward science constantly wrestled with the fierce Baptist fundamentalism of his youth. It seemed no accident that he’d grown up in Roswell, New Mexico, where the first alien sightings supposedly had occurred - just a mile down the road from the home of Robert Goddard, the father of American rocket science, and just a few miles across the mountains from the first testings of the atomic bomb.
Science and spirituality coexisted in
him, jockeying for position, but he yearned for them to somehow
shake hands and make peace.
Two of his newest friends were doctors who’d been conducting credible experiments on the nature of consciousness. Together they’d realized that Ed’s journey to the moon presented them with a unique opportunity to test whether human telepathy could be achieved at greater distances than it had in Dr Rhine’s laboratory.
Here was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to
see if these sorts of communications could stretch well beyond any
distances possible on earth.
He’d then concentrated intensely on them, methodically, one by one, attempting to ‘transmit’ his choices to his colleagues back home.
As excited as he was about it, he kept the experiment to himself. Once he’d tried to have a discussion with Alan about the nature of consciousness, but he wasn’t really close to his boss and it wasn’t the sort of issue that burned in the others like it did in him.
Some of the astronauts had thought about God while they were out in space, and everybody in the entire space program knew they were looking for something new about the way the universe worked.
But if Alan and Stu had known that he
was trying to transmit his thoughts to people on earth, they would
have thought him more of an oddball than they did already.
For the next 25 years he’d be looking to
science to explain to him what on earth it was that had happened to
him out there.
Ed hadn’t been able to do all six experiments as planned and it took some time to match the four he’d managed with the six sessions of guessing which had been conducted on earth. But when the four sets of data Ed had amassed during the nine-day journey were finally matched with those of his six colleagues on earth, the correspondence between them was shown to be significant, with a one in 3000 probability that this was due to chance.2
These results were in line with
thousands of similar experiments conducted on earth by Rhine and his
colleagues over the years.
Despite what he’d learned in quantum physics about the nature of the universe, during his years at MIT, it seemed that biology remained mired in a 400-year-old view of the world. The current biological model still seemed to be based on a classical Newtonian view of matter and energy, of solid, separate bodies moving predictably in empty space, and a Cartesian view of the body as separate from the soul, or mind.
Nothing in this model could accurately
reflect the true complexity of a human being, its relation to its
world or, most particularly, its consciousness; human beings and
their parts were still treated, for all intents and purposes, as
Bodies supposedly take the shape they do because of genetic imprinting, protein synthesis and blind mutation. Consciousness resided, according to the neuroscientists of the day, in the cerebral cortex - the result of a simple mix between chemicals and brain cells. Chemicals were responsible for the television set playing out in our brain, and chemicals were responsible for the ‘it’ that is doing the viewing.3
We know the world because of the
intricacies of our own machinery. Modern biology does not believe in
a world that is ultimately indivisible.
Instead, they were schizophrenic, sometimes behaving as particles - a set thing confined to a small space - and sometimes like a wave - a vibrating and more diffuse thing spread out over a large region of space and time - and sometimes like both a wave and a particle at the same time.
Quantum particles were also omnipresent. For instance, when transiting from one energy state to another, electrons seemed to be testing out all possible new orbits at once, like a property buyer attempting to live in every house on the block at the same instant before choosing which one to finally settle in. And nothing was certain.
There were no definite locations, but only a likelihood that an electron, say, might be at a certain place, no set occurrence but only a probability that it might happen.
At this level of reality, nothing was guaranteed; scientists had to be content with only being able to bet on the odds. The best that ever could be calculated was probability - the likelihood, when you take a certain measurement, that you will get a certain result a certain percentage of the time. Cause-and-effect relationships no longer held at the subatomic level.
Stable-looking atoms might suddenly, without apparent cause, experience some internal disruption; electrons, for no reason, elect to transit from one energy state to another. Once you peered closer and closer at matter, it wasn’t even matter, not a single solid thing you could touch or describe, but a host of tentative selves, all being paraded around at the same time.
Rather than a universe of static
certainty, at the most fundamental level of matter, the world and
its relationships were uncertain and unpredictable, a state of pure
potential, of infinite possibility.
This refers to the ability of a quantum entity such as an individual electron to influence another quantum particle instantaneously over any distance despite there being no exchange of force or energy. It suggested that quantum particles once in contact retain a connection even when separated, so that the actions of one will always influence the other, no matter how far they get separated.
Albert Einstein disparaged this ‘spooky
action at a distance’, and it was one of the major reasons he so
distrusted quantum mechanics, but it has been decisively verified by
a number of physicists since 1982.4
The world, at its most basic, existed as
a complex web of interdependent relationships, forever indivisible.
To explain these strange events, quantum physicists had postulated that a participatory relationship existed between observer and observed - these particles could only be considered as ‘probably’ existing in space and time until they were ‘perturbed’, and the act of observing and measuring them forced them into a set state - an act akin to solidifying Jell-O.
This astounding observation also had shattering implications about the nature of reality. It suggested that the consciousness of the observer brought the observed object into being. Nothing in the universe existed as an actual ‘thing’ independently of our perception of it.
Every minute of every day we were
creating our world.
Classical laws were undoubtedly useful
for fundamental properties of motion, in describing how skeletons
hold us up or how our lungs breathe, our hearts pump, our muscles
carry heavy weights. And many of the body’s basic processes -
eating, digestion, sleeping, sexual function - are indeed governed
by physical laws.
Scientists might understand in minute
detail the screws, bolts, joints and various wheels, but nothing
about the force that powers the engine. They might treat the
smallest mechanics of the body but still they appeared ignorant of
the most fundamental mysteries of life.
If quantum theory were applied to
biology on a larger scale, we would be viewed more as a complex
network of energy fields in some sort of dynamic interplay with our
chemical cellular systems. The world would exist as a matrix of
indivisible interrelation, just as Ed had experienced it in outer
space. What was so evidently missing from standard biology was an
explanation for the organizing principle - for human consciousness.
Before long, it was all he could think
of and talk about, and what had turned into an obsession tore his
During his search, Ed began making
contact with scientists with impressive credentials at many of the
big reputable universities - Yale, Stanford, Berkeley, Princeton,
the University of Edinburgh - who were coming up with discoveries
that just didn’t fit.
Most of the scientists had arrived at their conclusions accidentally, and, as if they’d landed at the wrong railway station, once they’d got there, they figured that there was no other possibility but to get out and explore the new terrain.
To be a true explorer is to carry on
your exploration even if it takes you to a place you didn’t
particularly plan to go to.
Much as the field purports to encourage experimental freedom, the entire structure of science, with its highly competitive grant system, coupled with the publishing and peer review system, largely depends upon individuals conforming to the accepted scientific world view.
The system tends to encourage
professionals to carry out experimentation whose purpose is
primarily to confirm the existing view of things, or to further
develop technology for industry, rather than to serve up true
There was no common language because
what they were discovering appeared to defy language.
Ed’s major role was making
introductions, funding some of the research and, through his
willingness to use his celebrity status as a national hero to make
this work public, convincing them that they were not alone.
There was one other point of common agreement: all the experiments being carried out drove a stake into the very heart of existing scientific theory.