24 min

Into the Mystic This Present Moment

    • Philosophy

Last month, the actor William Shatner was launched beyond the Texas skies via Blue Origin, the nascent rocket company helping pave the way for a new era of civilian space travel. At 90 years old, Shatner—aptly famous for playing Captain Kirk on Star Trek—became the oldest person to ever exit Earth's atmosphere. After piercing through the stratosphere, floating above it weightlessly, and looking down at our planet, the TV icon emotionally recounted what was a transformative experience:
"To see the blue color go whoop! by—and now you're staring into blackness!" he exclaimed. "That's the thing!" He goes on:
This covering of blue ... this blanket, this comforter of blue that we have around us ... Suddenly you shoot through it—as if you whip off a sheet while you are asleep—and you're looking into blackness. You look down and there's the blue down there, and the black up there ... [Down] there is Mother Earth and comfort, and [up] there is ...
He pauses, puzzled. "Is there death?" he wonders, pondering what the black beyond our sky holds.
"Is that the way death is? Whoop and it's gone? Jesus! It was so moving to me."
Captain Kirk's whole monologue is worthy viewing, for it's a message which beams upwards towards a most inspired future: the ever nearer possibility that we and the universe become one. 
In 1902 William James released the immensely influential book Varieties of Religious Experience. It was and remains a landmark synthesis of psychology and spirituality. The book investigates the various  interior phenomena which accompany what is known as "the mystical experience." 
The "mystical experience" is, by James' account, almost impossible to define. It is in the truest sense ineffable.
... But words are all we got right now! So, James said that the first marker of a mystical state of consciousness is that we can't articulate it. It evades language. Poetry can gesture at it, but basically ya-had-to-be-there.
As we will find, this was a mystical experience being had by Mr. Shatner. "I can't even begin to express ... " he says, struggling to lay words on the indescribable. "This experience is something unbelievable." 
In fact, astronauts have their own term for this: The Overview Effect is a well-documented shift in awareness often realized by travelers who exit the reality tunnel of Earth. To witness our world from a wider perspective stirs man into "an explosion of awareness," as put by Apollo 14 pilot Edgar Mitchell. He describes:
There was suddenly a very deep gut feeling that something was different. It occurred when looking at Earth and seeing this blue-and-white planet floating there, and knowing it was orbiting the Sun, seeing that Sun ... set in the background of the very deep black and velvety cosmos, seeing—rather, knowing for sure—that there was a purposefulness of flow, of energy, of time ... in the cosmos … I suddenly [saw] the universe as intelligent, loving, harmonious.
This Overview Effect bears the indelible markers of the mystical, a tilting of the mind which reveals some magnificent meaning beyond the veil. 
In fact, Edgar Mitchell was so changed by his experience that he ended up devoting the rest of his life to studying the science of human transcendence. He explains:
When I got back to Earth I started digging into various literatures to try to understand what had happened. I ... eventually discovered it in the Sanskrit of ancient India. The descriptions of samadhi ... were exactly what I had felt ... An overwhelming sense of oneness and connectedness … accompanied by an ecstasy … an epiphany.
Such experiences of unity consciousness—whether we call them samadhi (via Eastern philosophy) or mystical (from Western)—are the common seed out of which all religion bursts. They entail a noetic insight, as William James called it, which brings about an intense realization of meaning which reaches, it would seem, well beyond the boundaries of the brain. The function of life death an

Last month, the actor William Shatner was launched beyond the Texas skies via Blue Origin, the nascent rocket company helping pave the way for a new era of civilian space travel. At 90 years old, Shatner—aptly famous for playing Captain Kirk on Star Trek—became the oldest person to ever exit Earth's atmosphere. After piercing through the stratosphere, floating above it weightlessly, and looking down at our planet, the TV icon emotionally recounted what was a transformative experience:
"To see the blue color go whoop! by—and now you're staring into blackness!" he exclaimed. "That's the thing!" He goes on:
This covering of blue ... this blanket, this comforter of blue that we have around us ... Suddenly you shoot through it—as if you whip off a sheet while you are asleep—and you're looking into blackness. You look down and there's the blue down there, and the black up there ... [Down] there is Mother Earth and comfort, and [up] there is ...
He pauses, puzzled. "Is there death?" he wonders, pondering what the black beyond our sky holds.
"Is that the way death is? Whoop and it's gone? Jesus! It was so moving to me."
Captain Kirk's whole monologue is worthy viewing, for it's a message which beams upwards towards a most inspired future: the ever nearer possibility that we and the universe become one. 
In 1902 William James released the immensely influential book Varieties of Religious Experience. It was and remains a landmark synthesis of psychology and spirituality. The book investigates the various  interior phenomena which accompany what is known as "the mystical experience." 
The "mystical experience" is, by James' account, almost impossible to define. It is in the truest sense ineffable.
... But words are all we got right now! So, James said that the first marker of a mystical state of consciousness is that we can't articulate it. It evades language. Poetry can gesture at it, but basically ya-had-to-be-there.
As we will find, this was a mystical experience being had by Mr. Shatner. "I can't even begin to express ... " he says, struggling to lay words on the indescribable. "This experience is something unbelievable." 
In fact, astronauts have their own term for this: The Overview Effect is a well-documented shift in awareness often realized by travelers who exit the reality tunnel of Earth. To witness our world from a wider perspective stirs man into "an explosion of awareness," as put by Apollo 14 pilot Edgar Mitchell. He describes:
There was suddenly a very deep gut feeling that something was different. It occurred when looking at Earth and seeing this blue-and-white planet floating there, and knowing it was orbiting the Sun, seeing that Sun ... set in the background of the very deep black and velvety cosmos, seeing—rather, knowing for sure—that there was a purposefulness of flow, of energy, of time ... in the cosmos … I suddenly [saw] the universe as intelligent, loving, harmonious.
This Overview Effect bears the indelible markers of the mystical, a tilting of the mind which reveals some magnificent meaning beyond the veil. 
In fact, Edgar Mitchell was so changed by his experience that he ended up devoting the rest of his life to studying the science of human transcendence. He explains:
When I got back to Earth I started digging into various literatures to try to understand what had happened. I ... eventually discovered it in the Sanskrit of ancient India. The descriptions of samadhi ... were exactly what I had felt ... An overwhelming sense of oneness and connectedness … accompanied by an ecstasy … an epiphany.
Such experiences of unity consciousness—whether we call them samadhi (via Eastern philosophy) or mystical (from Western)—are the common seed out of which all religion bursts. They entail a noetic insight, as William James called it, which brings about an intense realization of meaning which reaches, it would seem, well beyond the boundaries of the brain. The function of life death an

24 min