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What the Noetic Sciences Mean to You

by IONS Staff

Recently, IONS invited our eNews subscribers to share a few words on what the Noetic Sciences mean to them. We received over 200 responses and have generated a "word cloud" based on these submissions. Thank you to all who participated in helping us gather this collective intelligence!

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  • Anonymous Icon

    jwhite8011 Jun 07, 2013

    Excerpted from THE MEETING OF SCIENCE AND SPIRIT (1990) by John White, former Director of Education for IONS (1972-74).

    A science of consciousness is emerging. It has been termed "noetics" by Dr. Charles Musès, editor of the no-longer-published Journal for the Study of Consciousness and a mathematical investigator who enunciated a theory of consciousness in terms of new mathematical parameters which he calls hypernumbers. Musès, who first used the term in 1967, defined it in his 1972 book Consciousness and Reality as "the science of the study of consciousness and its alterations." Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell has popularized the term by establishing a research organization called the Institute of Noetic Sciences 5 to investigate the nature of consciousness, mind-body interaction and human potential.

    Noetic as an adjective, from the Greek root nous meaning "mind," has a history of usage in English going back to the 17th century, although Plato apparently coined the term. As he used it in his Republic, noetic meant "discriminating" or "thinking"–a stage on the way to pure knowledge, gnosis. When the word passed into the English language, it first meant purely intellectual or rational knowledge. In the last century, Harvard psychologist William James gave it the additional meaning of directly knowing eternal truths (see his Varieties of Religious Experience), an apprehension of knowledge surpassing the usual processes of logical reasoning by the intellect. Today it means the nonrational or transrational (but not irrational) direct cognition or "knowingness" which comes through creative intuition, psychic perception, spiritual apprehension and religious transcendental experience. [Added note: This includes the "epiphany" or "spiritual insight" which IONS founder Dr. Edgar Mitchell experiences while in space, returning to Earth. JWW]

    Knowledge of this sort seems to bypass most of the filters and screens which nature and nurture impose on us. It is less-mediated cognition and hence "purer." Nevertheless, those filters and screens–Henri Bergson called the brain a "reducing valve"–often serve useful biological purposes. Some unmediated perceptions may distract an organism from survival tasks. In such a situation, the filter or screen helps to focus attention on what is necessary to maintain physical well-being or survival. Also, some perceptions are delusional (based on false belief) or hallucinatory (based on false sense data), as in the case of paranoid schizophrenia. So it seems that intuition alone is not entirely trustworthy because there can be an admixture of fantasy and irrational material along with the rational. However, with practice, intuition can be cultivated, just as reason and logical thinking can be enhanced. Balance and integration are necessary for the clear perception of reality.

  • Anonymous Icon

    jwhite8011 Jun 07, 2013

    [continued from previous post]

    Noetics recognizes this. It doesn't take an anti-intellectual or anti-science stance in favor of mysticism or transcendental knowledge. On the contrary, it makes full use of the scientific method. But it is aware that technological science has its inherent limitations. Noetics also makes a valid distinction between the scientific method and scientism, which is the attempt by some dogmatic scientists to turn their personal philosophy–a reductionistic, atheistic materialism–into a binding world view for all scientists and, beyond them, the public.

    Noetics takes the position of Albert Einstein when he said, "Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind." Noetics seeks to understand the operations of consciousness and mind-body interaction through informed intuition. To paraphrase Einstein, "Knowledge without experience is lame; experience without knowledge is blind." By bringing the rational and nonrational/transrational together in a multidisciplinary, holistic fashion, one achieves, in science historian Theodore Roszack's term, gnosis. As with Plato, this is "a kind of knowledge older than scientific knowledge that is augmentive rather than reductive, that honors and invites the aesthetic, sensuous, compassionate and visionary possibilities of experience as well as the rational and technical. The term is not meant to exclude scientific knowledge, but to embrace it within the program Abraham Maslow called 'hierarchical integration'." Thus, our complete faculties are brought to bear for an increased understanding of the human being and the universe.

    The phrase "complete faculties" includes those being demonstrated by parapsychology. Evidence shows that people have abilities which are outside our sensory and motor systems as described by mainstream science. The implications of this are clear. If human consciousness can operate external to the body at remote distances, then perhaps it can operate without a fleshly body at all. Evidence supports that conclusion. As a result of all this, a host of profound questions about human nature and cosmology arise. It also shows that our knowledge of ultimate reality is not limited by an inability to "step outside ourselves." The problem, rather, is why we first conceived ourselves in a fragmented way as private egos. Again, the question of self-knowledge arises, and the mystics' perennial answer (from the topmost band on the spectrum of consciousness) to the question "Who am I?" now seems understandable when they reply "I am the universe." They have no bifurcation of consciousness into "self" and "other" with which they identify. They have broken through the illusion of ego and freed themselves from maya. Their "center" of existence is not the body or even the mind. It is pure, undifferentiated, nondual, nontemporal consciousness.

  • bestearth Aug 18, 2013

    I would think also that what athletes describe as 'The Zone' could be noetic in nature because it seems a highly intuitive state where normal functioning is taken over by the right brain's ability to process non linearly and therefore faster. The state is described as trance-like, highly exhilarating, even magical. where you have the feeling you can do no wrong. Basketball players may say the ball has a handle on it and tennis players may say they are seeing the ball larger and more clearly on occasions. Their situational awareness expands to all parts of the court. It feels like your body is working seamlessly and effortlessly with a mental state free of thought. maybe they glimpse this state of unconditioned awareness that you describe. For however briefly it is an unforgettable experience. If the gateway for the left brain is rationality, the world where classical physics tries to confirm it's theories with experiments, then the gateway to the right brain must operate very differently with different but probably discoverable laws of physics. I think this is what noetic science tries to do.

  • Metaphysicist2 Sep 25, 2013

    Very good, jwhite, because, as you quote Einstein: “science without religion is lame,” however, without metaphysics and knowledge of the esoteric side of religion, science is still floundering due to its lack of study of the “psychological key of man,” which can be found in A Treatise on Cosmic Fire* by Alice Bailey, and the honorable Dr. Edgar Mitchill has an idea of what I’m talking about.
    It’s experientially knownº & observed that our consciousness originates from the “jewel in the lotus” within the “crown chakra”¹ right above our heads, which is the generator of each human being’s spiritual (etheric causal) body and our consciousness (personality-its lower self) that’s focalised in the 3rd ventricle of the brain via the pituitary body & the pineal gland.
    Fragmentation results from the individual “egoic lotus”² that’s created by the Logos in His/Her “image”: It’s individual, immortal, and “at one with all”; it is literally & energetically a “spark of light within a greater light” (the Logos), or the “One in whom we live, and move, and have our being.” Having experienced conscious awareness of being immersed within the consciousness of the Logos³, I was, and still am, aware of “self” and “other” selves in the universe.
    My book, Creation & Metempsychosis†, is a metaphysical/scientific compilation and provides an introduction to the “psychological key of man,” that is, the science/energy/metaphysics & psychological construct of the ethers that compose the human soul in it’s entirety.‡

    Best regards from the “Land of Oz.”
    Q. Dean Sloan – theosophical metaphysicist

    See also diagram on page 16 of re: “Nature’s Mind: The Quantum Hologram” by Q. Dean Sloan

  • Anonymous Icon

    gastdena Jan 30, 2014


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