Stardust memories. Inner space and the science of illumination.Guest blog from Tai Carmen at Parallax. Parallax: Exploring the Architecture of Human Perception
The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.” Ferdinand Foch
From the Greek, noetikos, meaning “mental,” (from noein, “to perceive with the mind,” and nous, “mind, understanding, intellect,”) the noetic sciences apply a scientific lens to the study of human consciousness.
From a purely materialistic standpoint, consciousness arises from physical matter (i.e. brain and body processes,) but from a noetic perspective, the relationship between the physical and nonphysical (or inner) worlds is far more complex. Rather than dismissing moments of profound personal insight as ineffable and subjective, the noetic sciences seek to probe deeper into their implications.
For centuries, philosophers from Plato onward have been using the term noetic to describe experiences beyond human reason. The Institute of Noetic Sciences was co-founded in 1973 by astronaut Edgar Mitchell. The studies focus on typically metaphysical concepts, such as the survival of human consciousness after bodily death, the measurable benefits of meditation, influence of the observer on the observed, alternate healing, extrasensory perception, wisdom capabilities, and so forth.
Before founding the Institute, Edgar Mitchell had an epiphany while looking down on the earth from space, during his three-day journey back from the moon on Apollo 14:
“The presence of divinity became almost palpable, and I knew that life in the universe was not just an accident based on random processes . . . the knowledge came to me directly.”
Mitchell’s exploration of outer space lead him to a profound awareness of the mysteries and potential of inner space. Reality, he felt, was infinimore complex, nuanced and mysterious than conventional science had lead him to believe.
Such an experience is of prime interest to noetics. The qualities of a personal revelation have an interesting universality, notes philosopher-psychologist William James. They are all “states of insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance, all inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule they carry with them a curious sense of authority.”
A 1995 study showed that individuals who meditate show higher levels of melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone produced by the pineal gland. Interestingly, the pineal gland has long been associated with the spiritual “third eye,” considered a key to accessing higher consciousness.
A quick glance at the list of benefits produced by Melatonin is enough to warrant attention: studies have shown melatonin to have both cancer and Alzheimer’s fighting properties, as well as anti-aging and stress-relieving effects. It has been shown to help with weight loss, autism, fertility and mood disorders. A veritable miracle hormone, studies suggest melatonin has radioprotective properties, acting as a defense against nuclear fall-out.
Though the common administration is through synthesized supplements, connections between meditation and enhanced melatonin production suggest more effective and efficient means: why not simply foster activities which increase the production of melatonin in our own bodies? These are the kinds of fascinating questions currently being pursued by the noetic sciences.
“There can be a tendency to label something in order to negate its impact,” says William James. “It is easier to brush off or control what is perceived as solid instead of fluid. As Becker stated man cuts out for himself a manageable world because the real world is too overwhelming [...] Freud implied that a healthy mind often suppresses reality to some degree.
“How often do we sacrifice fluid reality in order to balance ourselves with a manageable world? Dualism is a false dichotomy. Beauty is the beast. Labels and language are tools humans use to simplify a complex reality. There are no borders or boundaries it is a singularity not a compartmentalization.
“Knowledge and imagination … must work together to break the frozen sea within us. It is beyond the labeled box of scientific materialism it is embracing life with open eyes. Greater awareness. Raising consciousness. The human imagination and consciousness is not out of nature it is nature!