Captain Edgar Mitchell was a hero, stepping up to challenges throughout his life with courage and tenacity. Born in Texas on September 17, 1930, Mitchell embraced a changing world in every moment. He often remarked that his grandparents had traveled across the country in a covered wagon and he went to the moon. Anything is possible.
During his illustrious career, Mitchell was an American naval officer and aviator, test pilot, aeronautical engineer, noetic scientist, and NASA astronaut. He was a test pilot during the Korean War, taking off and landing on the aircraft carriers. It was, according to Mitchell, like finding a needle in a haystack. He served as the Lunar Module Pilot of Apollo 14. This made him the sixth man to walk on the moon. Mitchell explained to me with dry humor that compared to landing on aircraft carriers in the midst of raging seas and a dramatic war, landing on the moon was a piece of cake.
For Mitchell, it was the journey home from the moon that opened him to a great epiphany that changed his life. As an engineer, Mitchell trusted the Newtonian paradigm and its emphasis on the physical world. But as he was hurtling through space, watching the sun, the moon, and the earth rising and setting in the vastness of space, he realized that the greatest frontier wasn’t outer space, but the inner space of consciousness. As he explained during an interview for my book (with Vieten and Amorok), Living Deeply: The Art and Science of Transformation in Everyday Life:
I realized that the molecules of my body had been created or prototyped in an ancient generation of stars—along with the molecules of the spacecraft and my partners and everything else we could see including the Earth in front of us. Suddenly, it was all very personal. Those were my molecules.”
Mitchell described it as an experience of connectedness, bliss and ecstasy. He felt overwhelmed with joy. He realized that our scientific worldview was “incomplete and likely flawed.” Life was suddenly different for the visionary, who found himself in search of harmony and love. He founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences in 1973, in order to bring the rigor of science to the mystery of consciousness and our fundamental interconnectedness.
Years later, I again interviewed Mitchell for my book and documentary film, Death Makes Life Possible. He explained that questions of death and a possible afterlife are fundamental to our understandings of reality. And yet, he maintained an open mind. With new data coming from sources like the Hubble telescope, Mitchell shared that we are coming to a whole new understanding of the universe and what life is all about in the broadest sense. As a post materialist scientist, he looked to quantum physics and holography to help explain concepts as enigmatic as reincarnation. Equating quantum holography with the ancient idea of Akashic Records, Mitchell argued, “nature doesn’t lose its experience.”
Pondering his own immortality, Mitchell shared with me his worldview about death. Rather than focusing on an afterlife, he saw the need to address our lived experiences. In his words:
I think the more important thing for we humans is to learn to feel pleasurable, happy, successful in what we do in this life, and feel that we’re being productive, caring and helpful to each other and to our families. That’s really more important than whether we have all the answers to what happens after this life. Living this life to the fullest and properly and happily, to me, is far more fundamental.”
I am grateful to have known Edgar Mitchell. He was a mentor, a colleague and a beloved friend. He never failed to ask after my son, referring to him as his “little buddy.” I recall walking with him, my son, and my parents under the unused Apollo capsule at the Apollo Space Museum. Seeing this gigantic rocket brought home to me the man’s enormous courage as well as his qualities of caring for others. I will miss our extraordinary conversations about topics that fall far outside the mainstream. But I can say with certainty that he lived his life to the fullest — properly and happily. He died on February 4, 2016 in West Palm Beach, Florida at the age of 85. May Mitchell’s spirit live on through the quantum realms of entanglement and that deep interconnectedness that defined his worldview and imbued his personal philosophy.