BOOK REVIEW — Edgar D. Mitchell: The Man with the Cosmic Mind by William V. Rauscher
The cover of this fascinating and important book declares it is “The story of a friendship between an Episcopal cleric and the sixth man to walk on the moon.” Yes, it is that, but it is much more. I say that as an “insider” who knows the author and knew his subject.
As IONS Members know, Edgar Mitchell was part of the Apollo 14 lunar team. In February 1972, he became the sixth man (of a total of 12 so far—all American astronauts) to walk the lunar surface. It was a tremendous accomplishment for the NASA team, but for Mitchell it was only the beginning of a lifelong voyage from outer space to inner space and back again.
As he was looking at the Earth during a rest period on the return voyage, Mitchell experienced an astonishing change of consciousness which was characterized by religio-spiritual qualities of knowing that the cosmos has a deeper aspect to it than we humans see with our eyes. There is purpose and intelligent design behind it. He “saw” that through inner knowing beyond the rational intellect. It has been called, in Christian terms, an epiphany; in an eastern context, it has been called a samadhi. Both refer to the experience of knowing and perceiving beyond the senses. The ancient Greek word which Mitchell chose to use for explaining his experience is “noetic,” from nous, meaning “higher mind.”
When he returned to Earth, Mitchell retired from the navy and devoted himself to the study of the human mind so that he might help raise awareness of the divinity within us and show that the age-long record of man’s inhumanity could be overcome through a change of consciousness in people. He set up The Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS). I was his first employee; my title was Director of Education. In that capacity, as we were planning the organization, I suggested using the word “noetic” in the title, first, to avoid the baggage which the word “psychic” often carries with it in the scientific world and, second, to allow and include consciousness itself in the studies performed and intended.
Noetics means the study of consciousness. I had adopted use of it from Dr. Charles Musés, editor of Journal for the Study of Consciousness (funded by Arthur M. Young, author of The Reflexive Universe), who in turn adopted it from Plato and William James. Musés (1919-2000) had been using the word since 1967 to denote scientific investigation of a wide range of phenomena and issues involving human awareness. In his 1972 book Consciousness and Reality, Musés defined noetics as “the science of the study of consciousness and its alterations.” In 1978, Dr. Willis Harman, then president of IONS, elaborated: “the noetic sciences are…the esoteric core of all the world’s religions, East and West, ancient and modern, becoming exoteric” — i.e., “going public.” He added, “A noetic science — a science of consciousness and the world of inner experience—is the most promising contemporary framework within which to carry on that fundamental moral inquiry which stable human societies have always had to place at the center of their concerns.”
One of the first people to encourage Mitchell into exploring the world of consciousness was an Episcopal priest, the Rev. William Rauscher of New Jersey. Rauscher had helped organize Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship (SFF) to bring greater understanding to churches about the traditional subjects of life after death, mediumship, spiritual healing and related topics such as psychokinesis or mind over matter (which applied to the Bible in instances such as Jesus changing water into wine and multiplying the loaves and fishes).
I, too, was a member of SFF. (It no longer exists, having morphed into the Association for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies.) So I knew Rauscher also, then and now. He began a friendship with Mitchell which lasted until Mitchell died at 85 in 2016. Their friendship was based on shared interests which went beyond the moon — and the sun and the galaxies — to the very genesis of the cosmos and to the nature of the Grand Organizing Designer (GOD).
IONS was the first of Mitchell’s endeavors to solve “the mystery of life,” but it was not his only one. Mitchell was a many-faceted adventurer in bringing outer space and inner space together. His interest in UFOs, for example, was very strong because, having been a teenager living in Roswell, New Mexico, he heard stories from neighbors about the strange things recovered from a flying saucer crash site there. He stated publicly that he was convinced that UFOs are real and that there is a multinational government coverup about it.
His final major noetic endeavor was a private scientific team he organized to develop mathematical descriptions of how quantum physics, the cosmos, and the human mind with its psychic potentials were linked.
Mitchell’s thinking, writing, and experience as a space explorer are presented here by someone who knew him intimately for more than four decades. Reading this book will bring that to you, along with glances at the man as a human being who was married (three times, in fact), fathered children, earned a living, all while journeying through consciousness in its scientific and spiritual aspects, and then communicating his findings to his fellow humans.
The publisher’s description of the book states: “The reader will hopefully experience a larger view of life on Earth and a feeling of awe for a universe almost beyond comprehension and worlds yet to be explored.” I think that is quite likely.
About the Author
John White is an internationally known author who writes about the human mind and spirituality and their relationship to social and political affairs. After college, Mr. White served four years in the U.S. military as a naval officer, primarily in antisubmarine warfare and nuclear weaponry. From 1965 to 1969, he taught English in his hometown high school. He then joined the public relations department of a Connecticut utility company. In 1972, Mr. White worked with Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell to begin the Institute of Noetic Sciences, a research organization founded by Dr. Mitchell to study the human potential for personal and planetary transformation. He remained with the Institute for two years as Director of Education and then began a career as a freelance writer. In 1981, he joined another Connecticut utility company as a communications specialist. He is now retired and devotes his time to communicating “information for transformation,” both personal and planetary, including America’s leading role in that process.