Part 1

The Resonating Universe


Now I know we’re not in Kansas.


The Wizard of Oz


Light in the Darkness

Perhaps what happened to Ed Mitchell was due to the lack of gravity, or maybe to the fact that all his senses had been disoriented.


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

Two days before, he had become the sixth man to land on the moon. The trip had been a triumph: the first lunar landing to carry out scientific investigations. The 94 pounds of rock and soil samples in the hold attested to that.


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.

What they hadn’t fully accounted for was the effect of this uninhabited world, low in gravity, devoid of the diluting effect of atmosphere, on the senses.


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.

There had also been the distorting effect of the sun, pure and unadulterated in this airless world. In the blinding sunlight, even in the relatively cool morning, before the highs that might reach 270°F, craters, landmarks, soil and the earth - even the sky itself - all stood out in absolute the field clarity.


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.

During the relentless activity of their schedule, there had been little time for reflection or wonder, or for any thoughts of a larger purpose to the trip. They had gone farther in the universe than any man before them, and yet, weighed down by the knowledge that they were costing the American taxpayers $200,000 a minute, they felt compelled to keep their eyes on the clock, ticking off the details of what Houston had planned in their packed schedule.


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.

The Kittyhawk was slowly rotating, like a chicken on a spit, in order to balance the thermal effect on each side of the spacecraft; and in its slow revolution, earth was intermittently framed through the window as a tiny crescent in an all-engulfing night of stars.


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 all sides.

It was then, while staring out of the window, that Ed experienced the strangest feeling he would ever have: a feeling of connectedness, as if all the planets and all the people of all time were attached by some invisible web. He could hardly breathe from the majesty of the moment. Although he continued to turn knobs and press buttons, he felt distanced from his body, as though someone else were doing the navigating.

There seemed to be an enormous force field here, connecting all people, their intentions and thoughts, and every animate and inanimate form of matter for all time. Anything he did or thought would influence the rest of the cosmos, and every occurrence in the cosmos would have a similar effect on him. Time was just an artificial construct.


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.

He hadn’t seen the face of God. It didn’t feel like a standard religious experience so much as a blinding epiphany of meaning - what the Eastern religions often term an ‘ecstasy of unity’.


It was as though in a single instant Ed Mitchell had discovered and felt The Force.

He stole a glance at Alan and Stu Roosa, the other astronaut on the Apollo 14-mission, to see if they were experiencing anything remotely similar. There had been a moment when they’d first stepped off the Antares and into the plains of Fra Mauro, a highland region of the moon, when Alan, a veteran of the first American space launch, ordinarily so hardboiled, with little time for this kind of mystical mumbo-jumbo, strained in his bulky spacesuit to look up above him and wept at the sight of the earth, so impossibly beautiful in the airless sky.


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.

He’d always been a bit of the odd man out in the space program and certainly, at 41, although younger than Shepard, he was one of the senior members of Apollo. Oh, he looked and acted the part all right, with his sandy-haired, broad-faced, Midwestern looks and the languid drawl of a commercial airline pilot.


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.

There was something else he’d kept from them. Later that evening, as Alan and Stu slept in their hammocks, Ed silently pulled out what had been an ongoing experiment during the whole of his journey to and from the moon. Lately, he’d been dabbling in experiments in consciousness and extrasensory perception, spending time studying the work of Dr Joseph B. Rhine, a biologist who’d conducted many experiments on the extrasensory nature of human consciousness.


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.

Forty-five minutes past the start of the sleep period, as he had done in the two days traveling to the moon, Ed pulled out a small flashlight and, on the paper on his clipboard, randomly copied numbers, each of which stood for one of Dr Rhine’s famous Zener symbols - square, circle, cross, star, and pair of wavy lines.


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.

Ed finished the night’s experiment and would do another one the following evening. But after what had happened to him earlier, it hardly seemed necessary any more; he now had his own inner conviction that it was true. Human minds were connected to each other, just as they were connected to everything else in this world and every other world. The intuitive in him accepted that, but for the scientist in him it wasn’t enough.


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.

Edgar Mitchell got home safely. No other physical exploration on earth could possibly compare with going to the moon. Within the next two years he left NASA when the last three lunar flights were canceled for lack of funds, and that was when the real journey began. Exploring inner space would prove infinitely longer and more difficult than landing on the moon or searching out Cone Crater.

His little experiment with ESP was successful, suggesting that some form of communication defying all logic had taken place.


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.

Edgar Mitchell’s lightning-bolt experience while in space had left hairline cracks in a great number of his belief systems. But what bothered Ed most about the experience he had in outer space was the current scientific explanation for biology and particularly consciousness, which now seemed impossibly reductive.


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 machinery.

Most biological explanations of the great mysteries of living things attempt to understand the whole by breaking it down into ever more microscopic parts.


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.

In his own work on quantum physics at MIT, Ed Mitchell had learned that at the subatomic level, the Newtonian, or classical, view - that everything works in a comfortably predictable manner - had long been replaced by messier and indeterminate quantum theories, which suggest that the universe and the way it works are not quite as tidy as scientists used to think.

Matter at its most fundamental level could not be divided into independently existing units or even be fully described. Subatomic particles weren’t solid little objects like billiard balls, but vibrating and indeterminate packets of energy that could not be precisely quantified or understood in themselves.


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.

Scientists did allow for a universal connectedness in the universe, but only in the quantum world: which was to say, the realm of the inanimate and not the living. Quantum physicists had discovered a strange property in the subatomic world called ‘non-locality’.


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

Nonlocality shattered the very foundations of physics. Matter could no longer be considered separate. Actions did not have to have an observable cause over an observable space. Einstein’s most fundamental axiom wasn’t correct: at a certain level of matter, things could travel faster than the speed of light. Subatomic particles had no meaning in isolation but could only be understood in their relationships.


The world, at its most basic, existed as a complex web of interdependent relationships, forever indivisible.

Perhaps the most essential ingredient of this interconnected universe was the living consciousness that observed it. In classical physics, the experimenter was considered a separate entity, a silent observer behind glass, attempting to understand a universe that carried on, whether he or she was observing it or not. In quantum physics, however, it was discovered, the state of all possibilities of any quantum particle collapsed into a set entity as soon as it was observed or a measurement taken.


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.

It seemed a central paradox to Ed that physicists would have you believe that sticks and stones have a different set of physical rules from the atomic particles within them, that there should be one rule for the tiny and one for the large, one rule for the living, another for the inert.


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.

But classical physics or biology could not account for such fundamental issues as how we can think in the first place; why cells organize as they do; how many molecular processes proceed virtually instantaneously; why arms develop as arms and legs as legs, even though they have the same genes and proteins; why we get cancer; how this machine of ours can miraculously heal itself; and even what knowing is - how it is that we know what we know.


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 it were true that the laws of quantum mechanics also apply to the world at large, and not just the subatomic world, and to biology and not just the world of matter, then the entire paradigm for biological science was flawed or incomplete. Just as Newton’s theories had eventually been improved upon by the quantum theorists, perhaps Heisenberg and Einstein themselves had been wrong, or at least only partially right.


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.

Ed began devouring books about religious experiences, Eastern thought, and the little scientific evidence that existed on the nature of consciousness. He launched early studies with a number of scientists in Stanford; he set up the Institute of Noetic Sciences, a non-profit organization whose role was to fund this type of research; he began amassing scientific studies of consciousness into a book.


Before long, it was all he could think of and talk about, and what had turned into an obsession tore his marriage apart.

Edgar’s work may not have lit a revolutionary fire, but he certainly stoked it. In prestigious universities around the world tiny pockets of quiet rebellion were sprouting up against the world view of Newton and Darwin, the dualism in physics and the current view of human perception.


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.

Unlike Edgar, these scientists hadn’t undergone an epiphany to arrive at a new world view. It was simply that in the course of their work they’d come across scientific results which were square pegs to the round hole of established scientific theory, and much as they might try to jam them into place - and in many cases, the scientists wished, indeed willed, them to fit - they would stubbornly resist.


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.

The most important quality common to all these researchers was a simple willingness to suspend disbelief and remain open to true discovery, even if it meant challenging the existing order of things, alienating colleagues or opening themselves up to censure and professional ruin. To be a revolutionary in science today is to flirt with professional suicide.


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 innovation.5

Everyone working on these experiments had the sense that they were on the verge of something that was going to transform everything we understood about reality and human beings, but at the time they were simply frontier scientists operating without a compass. A number of scientists working independently had come up with a single bit of the puzzle and were frightened to compare notes.


There was no common language because what they were discovering appeared to defy language.

Nevertheless, as Mitchell made contact with them, their separate work began to coalesce into an alternative theory of evolution, human consciousness and the dynamics of all living things. It offered the best prospect for a unified view of the world based on actual experimentation and mathematical equations, and not simply theory.


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.

All the work converged on a single point - that the self had a field of influence on the world and vice versa.


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.


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