Outer space and spiritual explorations

 

Since childhood, one of my main interests has been space, space exploration, and science fiction. And I have had an intuitive sense of the connection between space exploration and spiritual exploration. Why is there this connection?

Here are some of the parallels I find:

Both involve exploration of (for us) unknown territory. Space exploration and spiritual exploration are both an adventure and an ongoing and endless discovery.

Space appears infinite and what we are the same. To us, outer space seems infinite. And when we discover what we are – what this experience happens within and as – this “space” too appears without end.

From space we see Earth as a single whole and a single living system. There are no border visible. We are in the same boat. Our destiny – of all Earth life – is interconnected. We are inspired to take care of all life and future generations to the best of our abilities. This recognition of the oneness of all life can also come through spiritual explorations.

Through the Universe Story – as told by modern science – we see that the universe and all of existence is one whole. It’s one seamless system evolving in all the ways we see around us, and as us and our experiences and life. As Carl Sagan said in Cosmos (paraphrased), we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe exploring itself.

Through spiritual explorations, we can find something very similar. We find ourselves as the One locally expressing itself as this human self and the experiences of this human self. We find ourselves as that which our experience – of this human self, the wider world, and the universe as it appears to us – happens within and as. We find ourselves as that “no-thing” that’s capacity for all of this.

So there is no surprise if I experience an intuitive connection between space exploration and spiritual explorations. Both involves ongoing and endless adventure and exploration. Both involves the appearance of something without end. Both gives us a realization of Earth and all life as a seamless whole. Both involves a recognition of Oneness and our human self as a local expression of this Oneness – beautiful and amazing in all its richness.

Note: As a child, I was deeply fascinated – and somewhat transformed – by Cosmos by Carl Sagan, and also read anything I could find about astronomy and science fiction. In terms of science fiction, I loved the classics like Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and others.

Janeway: In my time, no human being would dream of endangering the future

 

In my time, Mister Starling, no human being would dream of endangering the future to gain advantage in the present.

– Captain Kathryn Janeway to Henry Starling in Star Trek Voyager, Future’s End II

Star Trek is loved by many exactly because it’s optimistic about the future. It shows a future where we have solved many of the “childhood diseases” of humanity and where society is more life-centered. As Janeway says, they wouldn’t dream of (knowingly) endangering the lives of future generations to gain advantage in the present. To many, this is inspiring and shows us the direction we want to move in. We can make small steps in the present to live more like this in our own lives and in creating this type of society. It’s out of fashion to talk about steady or continued social progress, and for good reasons. (What is progress? Who decides? Who says it continues indefinitely?) And yet, we have seen a gradual progress in terms of who we include in the circle of us. Outright slavery is no longer acceptable. And in the future, animals, ecosystems, and future generations of all species may very well be included in who we see as “us”. It may well have to happen for us to create a more ecologically sustainable civilization. Most likely, it will happen through a combination of changing norms and expectations, a realization that it’s in our own enlightened self-interest, and structural changes at all levels so that what’s easy and attractive in the short term is also what supports life in the big picture. And, of course, we may never get to that place. Or it may continue to happen within subgroups of people, as it already does. I think what’s most likely is that eventually we will collectively do the minimum to have a more ecologically sustainable civilization, and it will include some of these norms. We will, by necessity, include more of life in who we see as us. As they say, it likely won’t be as bad as we fear, nor as good as we hope. A footnote: It seems obvious that a society where we take all life into consideration, including the welfare of future generations, is what’s best for us and everyone. Even a child knows it. And yet, it seems it’s not so obvious when we see what policies we support and implement. This is where some forms of ecopsychology comes in. How do we present the case so people see it’s in their own interest? How do we get to the structural changes needed so that what’s easy and attractive in the short term, for individuals and groups, is also what’s life-supporting in the bigger picture and longer term? What are the practical steps we can take? One pretty obvious step is to focus on attractive solutions, make it personal, speak to their existing values (shows how it fits into their existing values and identities), and offer concrete and practical steps we – individually and collectively – can make. Some already do take these steps. Elon Musk comes to mind. He, almost single-handedly, made electric cars cool and attractive. People want those cars even if they have no interest in sustainability. He is developing batteries so buildings more easily can be off grid and create and store their own energy. And he is also thinking further ahead, working towards us becoming a multi-planetary species. (Which may be needed for our long-term survival, and is a way for Earth to reproduce and bring all kinds of Earth life and ecosystems to several planets. As I have written about before, with terraforming we function as the reproductive organ for the Earth.) Read More

Interstellar: Earth vs Space

 

I finally got around to watch Interstellar, and liked it very much. I thought it was very moving at times, the story was tight, and I like well made science fiction movies in general.

It also brought up the topic of sustainability vs space colonization. To me, those go hand in hand. They both have to do with big picture questions. And knowledge from each may well inform the other. For instance, what we learn from sustainability will be of help if (when?) we create space colonies or terraform other planets, and what we learn from those will give us valuable information about how to live in a more sustainable way back on Earth. (Although we probably should have figured that our before we get around to space colonizes and/or terraforming.)

In the short and medium term, we need to learn to live in a more genuinely sustainable way. (Which will require significant reorganization of how we do just about everything, including our institutions.)

In the medium and long term, we need to explore space further, and learn to move beyond this planet. We need, as so many points out, to become an multi-planet species. We need to branch out. It’s what life does. It’s part of our built-in draw to adventure and exploration. It’s how Earth will propagate. It’s what’s necessary if Earth life is to continue beyond the lifespan of this one planet and solar system. It’s what’s prudent, considering that having just one location for Earth life is far more precarious than two, or more.

All life propagates, and Earth is a living system, so why wouldn’t Earth propagate? In that sense, we are in service of Earth life. We are the part of Earth that may be able to make it happen.

And although Interstellar contrasts sustainability with space colonization, it’s the type of movie that makes these ideas more mainstream. It’s part of spreading these ideas, making them familiar, and even attractive.

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O’Brien’s turnaround

 

I still enjoy finding lessons in science fiction movies, and the simpler the stories are, the clearer the lessons, which makes Star Trek great material.

For instance, the episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine called whispers is a great example of reversals. O’Brien returns from a mission, notices that everyone treats him with a great deal of suspicion, and is eventually cornered by his former friends. The story is told from O’Brien’s perspective until we in the last minute of the episode realize, along with him, that the O’Brien we have followed is a replica so perfect that he himself thinks he is the real O’Brien.

For him, and us, everything is turned around. The one we took as O’Brien is not O’Brien. The one we took as our hero is really an assassin. His former friends, who turned against him and became the bad guys, were the good guys all along.

So where do we find this in our own lives?

Well, it happens all the time when our stories encounter reality and we realize our stories were way off. Sometimes, our new stories may even be reversals of our old ones.

It happens when we do The Work and find the validity in the turnarounds of our initial story. We explore the reversals of our habitual perspective, and find the genuine truths in it, which may make everything look very different.

From being identified with one particular story, denying the truth in its reversals, we find ourselves as that which holds the validity of stories and each of their turnarounds, releasing identification with any one of them.

It happens when there are glimpses of soul level or nondual awakenings.

We took ourselves to be an object in the world with solid boundaries, and now we find that we are one with God, Spirit, the Universe, Life. It is all made up of God.

We took ourselves to be an I with an Other, and now we realize that what we are is already free from both of those.

Discovering what we really are is the most radical turnaround possible, and one that has many different aspects to it.

From being a thing to finding ourselves as a no-thing. From being an object in awareness, we are awakeness with objects in it. From having a beginning and end, a birth and death, a boundary and lifespan, an inside and outside, a life in the world, we are that which all of those happen within. From it all appearing as a life-and-death matter, we realize we were never harmed by any of it.