The 6th man on the moon and the philosophical Apollo astronaut, Edgar Mitchell, passed away on February 4th, ironically, on the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 14 mission –his only flight into space. Many folks will recall Mitchell joking with Alan Shepard when he attempted to hit a golf ball on the lunar surface—although I don’t know how many would be able to tell you his name.
I remember reading somewhere, or perhaps it was “back in the day” in my Psychology 101 class, that the human mind tends to have easier recall of the first and last item in lists. The facts, or names, in the middle are often lost. For obvious reasons, we will never forget the name of the first human on the Moon, Neil Armstrong, and many people will be able to recall the last – Eugene Cernan. I’m not into numerology but I couldn’t help but notice that 12 men have walked on the Moon and as number 6, Edgar fell right in the middle. Edgar might have noticed that as he was well known for his interest in connections and human consciousness. You see, Edgar was a pioneer in more than just space exploration. His famous ( or some might say infamous ) epiphany during his 3 days in space led him to a life long interest in metaphysics, spirituality , human consciousness and unexplained phenomenon. In a quote offered in an Associated Press article today, Edgar talks openly about the sense of overwhelming universal connectedness he felt and goes on to say these moving words.. “It occurred to me that the molecules of my body and the spacecraft were manufactured long ago in the furnace of one of the ancient stars that burned in the heavens about me.” It must have been a beautiful and powerful moment. The famous astronomer, Carl Sagan, made the same observation in his now famous words- ” We are all made of star stuff.’
Edgar Mitchell retired from NASA shortly after Apollo 14 and founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences , a foundation dedicated to the study of the mysteries of human consciousness and to which I was a member for many years. The AP article answered a question that I have wondered about for many years. Given the rigour and seriousness of the hard sciences, I wondered how his interest in metaphysics would be viewed by his colleagues at the time. Sadly, I learned that, despite his “impeccable skills and vast intelligence”, he was dismissed by some colleagues and even shunned by others. Oh–that eternal divide between science and spirituality and “never the twain shall meet”. But Edgar was a true pioneer in this area and the article tells us that, through his Institute, “he searched for ways to link the spirituality of religion with the hard facts of science. ” If Edgar was still with us, perhaps he would join us on this blog—his insights would no doubt be inspiring and thought provoking.
I know that the traditional tribute is “Rest in Peace” but somehow I don’t think that Edgar would be too interested in resting. Hope you are out there somewhere, Edgar, burning in the heavens and being star stuff!