Looking Forward, Looking Back—A Celebration of IONS' Leaders


Looking Forward, Looking Back—A Celebration of IONS' Leaders

As the Institute of Noetic Sciences moves into our 40th anniversary year, the Board of Directors has named a new organizational leader. Cassandra Vieten, formerly IONS Executive Director of Research, was named President & CEO on March 25, 2013. While we look to the future with great anticipation, we also look back in gratitude at the lineage of inspiring leaders at IONS who have made such a difference in the world and brought us to where we are now.

From the beginning, IONS leaders have understood the importance of worldview, and taught that it is possible to shift our perspective and deepen our understanding in ways that increase our ability to make positive changes in ourselves and our world. We often refer to this process as “transforming consciousness,” and it means a move to a more integrated, holistic way of understanding who we are and how we can live, both as individuals and as a global community.

IONS was founded in 1973 by Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell to explore the nature of the universe and ourselves through the study of consciousness. His goal was to combine the techniques and technology of science with the insights of mind from both East and West to provide a new method for scholarly inquiry, a method that honored both objective and subjective ways of knowing. This commitment has been and will continue to be a core mission of IONS.

Following are excerpts from the writings of each of our organization’s past leaders. They offer a glimpse into the passion, insight, and vision that has guided IONS from the day of its founding, a legacy that will be enriched by new leaders as they bring their own special wisdom to the ongoing mission of the Institute of Noetic Sciences.

IONS founder, Edgar Mitchell, ScD, PhD, experienced the transformative power of a shift in perspective when he viewed his home planet, Earth, from a great distance.

From the introduction to Psychic Exploration: A Challenge for Science (1974):

"Only when man sees his fundamental unity with the processes of nature and the functioning of the universe—as I so vividly saw it from the Apollo spacecraft—will the old ways of thinking and behaving disappear. Only when man moves from his ego-centered self-image to a new image of universal human will the perennial problems that plague us be susceptible of resolution. Humanity must rise from man to mankind, from the personal to the transpersonal, from self-consciousness to cosmic consciousness. Humanity’s multiple problems resolve themselves into one fundamental problem: how to change consciousness. How can we raise our awareness to a higher level—a level that will restore the unity of human, the planet, and the universe?

"For me, seeing our planet from space was an event with some of the qualities traditionally ascribed to religious experience. It triggered a deep insight into the nature of existence—the sort of insight that radically changes the inner person. My thinking—indeed, my consciousness—was altered profoundly. I came to feel a moral responsibility to pass on the transformative experience of seeing Earth from the larger perspective.

"Obviously we cannot send everyone to the moon in the near future. But we can provide information and experiences of another sort that will serve the same purpose and provide the same perspective. Moreover, we can do it in a way that brings objective reason closer to subjective intuition and thereby help to lessen the unfortunate gulf between these two modes of knowing. We can do this because inner and outer space research are converging.

"Now is the time for us to begin building a single whole of humanity. Now is the time to develop our nonrational abilities into a “subjective technology” which will begin the wedding of science and religion, reason and intuition, the physical and the spiritual. This union of head and heart, insight and instinct, will ensure that as science comes to comprehend the nonmaterial aspect of reality as well as it knows the material—that is, as science approaches omniscience—our knowledge will become wisdom, our love of power will become the power of love, and the universal human of cosmic consciousness can then emerge." (read more »)

Willis Harman, PhD, IONS' President from 1975 - 1996, understood the transformative power of a shift in perception and understanding. In his visionary book, Global Mind Change, he argued eloquently that "No economic, political, or military power can compare with the power of a change of mind. By deliberately changing their images of reality, people are changing the world."

From Global Mind Change: The Promise of the Last Years of the Twentieth Century (1988):

"...This change in consciousness is partly toward perceiving how the whole pattern, the underlying paradigm, of Western industrial society leads inexorably to the kinds of problems and global dilemmas we now face, and toward realizing that the dilemmas have their satisfactory resolution only through change in the dominant paradigm.

"It is partly toward recognizing that we unwittingly ’buy into’ belief systems (e.g., in which the Earth exists to be exploited, ’premodern’ cultures are to be superseded, people with non-white skins are inferior, women have a subordinate role, nuclear weapons bring ’security,’ profligate consumption is ’good for the economy,’ and so on); and that a major step is taken when realization comes that the things our society takes for granted are not necessarily true—that it is not necessary to buy into the beliefs. It is partly toward the empowering realization that all institutions in society, no matter how powerful, obtain their legitimacy from the perceptions of people—and hence that people have the power to change institutions by challenging the legitimacy of prevailing institutional behaviors.

"Thus, aided by awareness that the world is steadily working less well, a contagion of re-perception has been spreading around the world for at least the past twenty years, infecting first the educated middle class but then moving on to exclude no age, race, or socioeconomic class. Evidences abound in the forms of survey data, social movements, Green political parties, book sales, workshops and seminars, and numerous other social indicators. Similar changes are evident in northern Europe, Canada, Australia, and to a lesser extent elsewhere in the industrialized world, including the Eastern European countries. A complementary re-perception can be found among a smaller 'alternative development' group in the Third World.

"To characterize this re-perception we may identify five aspects: the search for wholeness, the search for community and relationship, the search for identity, the search for meaning, and a sense of empowerment." (download PDF to read more »)

Wink Franklin, IONS Executive Vice President & CEO beginning in 1984 and President from 1996 to 2003, led IONS skillfully with his inspiring vision guided by a deep awareness of the opportunities and potential that are inherent in times of cultural shift and change.

From "A Farewell" (2003):

"In times of cultural shift, our established worldviews begin to fall apart. Gaps or anomalies that illustrate inconsistencies between our underlying beliefs and assumptions and the reality we are experiencing, begin to appear. In time, we experience breakdowns in our institutions, the economy, and our ways of life. Eventually, breakdown gives way to breakthroughs in understanding and science, leading to new worldviews and ways of being. This, I believe, is what occurred in the transitional time when we moved from being a rural, agricultural society to an urban, industrial/technological society. I believe a shift of that magnitude is occurring again today. Note that during such transitional times, our collective worldviews lead the changes in the economy, society, and ways of life rather than the other way around.

"In our personal lives, many of us recognize the power of our self-images and beliefs. We experience it daily in our health, our participation in sports and business, and in our personal interactions. Though not so easily recognized, our collective images and beliefs are equally important at the societal level. Today, the Western worldview that has led to the technological nation-state is faltering. New guiding images are taking shape, though certainly not yet fully formed. IONS has been using the term 'global wisdom society' to call attention to the central characteristics of a particular cluster of twenty-first century emerging worldviews—recognizing we are all interconnected in multitudes of ways into layers of global systems, and that this global diversity can serve us magnificently in the future if only we learn to harness it. We have an opportunity to combine diverse ways of knowing from science, spiritual practice, and personal experience into a wisdom that can result in much better use of both our natural resources and powerful technologies." (download PDF to read more »)

James O'Dea, IONS President and CEO from 2003 to 2008, used the discoveries of science and an understanding of our global interconnectedness and interdependence to promote dialogue and help people find ways to work together to create a better future.

From "Peace: A New Center of Human Becoming" (2007):

"...growing evidence from sustained scientific research suggests that our fundamental nature, the underlying structure of mind and matter, may be more loving, forgiving, relational, and collaborative than the dominant notion, which sees war, aggression, and survival of the fittest as inescapable realities. As compelling as this research is in providing the basis for a worldview that brings science and spirituality closer together, it, too, is drowned out by the status quo needs of governing systems conditioned by fear, threat, and the relentless pursuit of competitive advantage. The gods of vengeance and punishment may sound as though they are from a bygone era, but they hold sway over the more reconciling, rehabilitating, and restorative ones, even if good science favors the latter.

"The transformation of our world requires a new story, one that deals with the deepest underlying causes of war and violence and that offers us the inescapable lure and promise of peace. It must be a story in which our desire to settle differences is more exciting than the willingness to die for the rightness of our cause. It must surpass war in catalyzing our quest for heroism, courage, and camaraderie. It must offer such a compelling vista into the universe that our sense of awe and wonder gives us a new perspective on the beauty of human diversity and the need to heal the great wound in nature.

"It is here that science has a great role to play, for if it is key in helping us make rational choices based on the best evidence available, it is also a great ally in helping us peer into the great mysteries of existence. For science ultimately explores the unknown, where the new story, pregnant in the Mystery, awaits its birth into history. And you who have waited for, longed for, and dreamt of the great day of peace are its eager midwives." (read more »)

Marilyn Mandala Schlitz, PhD, IONS President and CEO from 2009 - 2012, brought her years of expertise as Vice-President of Research and her passion for improving people’s lives through the insights of noetic science to her leadership of IONS.

From "A Path Forward: Embracing Our Creative Imagination" (2011):

"Now well into a new era of information, globalization, and quantum interconnections, the dominator image has lost its focus. Events like the recent tsunami shake our certainty. We are being forced to examine our deepest assumptions about what is real and true. In this process, new images are emerging to guide us. Research shows that crisis is a great catalyst for positive transformations. Even when painful, we have the capacity to make shifts in our worldview and re-calibrate our belief systems. We may begin to see ourselves as part of a living system, moving with the flow of evolution rather than thinking we can dominate over it.

"Futurists today tell us we are at a kind of tipping point. It’s just not clear which way things are tipping. On the one hand, we may be on the verge of a full systems collapse. On the other, we may be heading for the rebirth of a sustainable society. To find our way to this second option, we are well served to follow the advice of former writer and aikido master, George Leonard, to ’take the hit as a gift.’ Which future manifests is based on how credible people find the cause to take action and in their trust of their own self-efficacy. The threat of disaster, without an image of better possible outcomes, can lead people to shut down and deny the problem or its positive resolution. The barriers to positive transformation are real and problematic. But history is a good indicator that we are a resilient species, filled with creative insight and the potential for life enhancing breakthroughs.

"In the face of our current global crises, an expanded sense of perspective, grounded in pragmatic hope, is what is called for. We need to create images that mark a new beginning, expressed in shared intention and collective action. We can do this by finding the hero within each of us. By harnessing our inner capacities, though meditation, contemplation, prayer and time in nature, we can cultivate the resilience to navigate the challenges of our outer world. Moving away from reactivity, fear and panic and toward emotional balance and positive collective actions allows us to apply the time-tested tools for sustaining our well-being. In this process, we can promote deep healing — both individually and for our shared humanity. Out of catastrophe can come the renewal of civilization."
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