nasa earth

The overview effect & Big Mind

There is an interesting parallel between the overview effect as it’s described by astronauts, and what’s described by those among us exploring our more fundamental nature.

THE OVERVIEW EFFECT I: SEEING EARTH FROM SPACE

Astronauts describe a shift that happens when they see the Earth from space. They see Earth as one seamless whole, without any visible borders. They are struck by the fragility and immense beauty of this living planet. And they experience a sense of awe and a wish to protect life.

This effect seems to be stronger the further out the astronauts were, it seems to bring lasting changes, and happens for many although not all astronauts.

THE OVERVIEW EFFECT II: SEEING THE CONTENT OF EXPERIENCE FROM BIG MIND

Something similar seems to happen among those who explore their more fundamental nature.

To ourselves, we are consciousness. We are this field of consciousness that any and all experiences happen within and as. And when we find ourselves as that, we view any content of experience more from the “outside”. Identification is released out of any particular content of experience.

Here too, we notice the world as a seamless whole, without any inherent boundaries. We are struck by the immense beauty of it all. And we experience a sense of awe and a wish to protect life.

And as with astronauts, there are some individual differences in how we experience and respond to it.

A DISTINCTION

There is also an important difference between the two.

Astronauts literally leave Earth and see it from a point in space.

When we find our more fundamental nature, we find ourselves as the field that any and all experience happens within and as. It’s more as if space itself notices itself as all and as forming itself into whatever content of experience is here.

MY EXPERIENCE

When the shift happened for me, in my mid-teens, it was much as I describe it here.

It happened suddenly and “out of the blue”. I found myself as the consciousness everything, to me, happened within and as. (This human self, the wider world, my human responses to this shift, and so on.)

I was struck by the immense beauty of it all. All was a seamless whole without any boundaries. And it brought up deep awe.

In my childhood and teens, I loved space, astronomy, and space exploration, and one reason was for the perspective it gives us on Earth and our life here. I also got into systems theories since they show the seamless whole we are all part of. And I loved Frank White‘s book The Overview Effect when I found it in my early twenties.


OUTLINE

  • Overview effect
    • View of Earth from space
      • Effect on astronauts + civilization
      • Systems view – earth sees itself from the outside
    • View of content of experience from BM
      • Release any sense of I out of content of experience
      • Seeing human self + world as content of experience, as part of the field
      • Opens for awe, no boundaries, love
  • The two are very similar
    • The effect is very similar in both cases
      • Seeing Earth from space
      • Seeing the human self and the world from BM, from and as space (the content of the field of experience from and as what it all happens within and as)
    • In both cases, awe, wonder, beauty, care, no boundaries
      • Strong at first bc new to us, then still there but more used to it and more infused in our life, transforms our life

INITIAL DRAFT

I have been fascinated by space exploration since I was little, and especially the transformation some astronauts experience when they see Earth in the distance and as a whole.

THE OVERVIEW EFFECT – SPACE EXPLORATION & SEEING THE PLANET FROM OUTSIDE

They experience Earth as immensely beautiful. Awe that it exists at all. The seamless whole it is. Its fragility. The absence of borders. A wish to protect this amazing living planet. And so on.

Frank White called this the overview effect by, and I loved his book by the same name.

For me, this is one of the most significant outcomes of space exploration. It has impacted a few individuals profoundly. And it has impacted humanity and our civilization to a much smaller degree but equally profoundly. We all experience the overview effect to some degree from hearing these reports and from seeing the Earth as a whole in images and videos, and it transforms us.

EARTH SEES ITSELF FROM THE OUTSIDE

The Earth is a single system, it’s a living evolving whole. And we and our civilization are the Earth temporarily evolving through and as us.

We are, quite literally, Earth seeing itself from the outside for the first time. And that transforms how the Earth experiences itself – through and as us and our civilization.

FINDING IT HERE

I can find the overview effect in the way described above. Vicariously through the reports of astronauts, and more directly through seeing images and videos of the Earth as a living whole in space, I experience the overview effect.

THE OTHER OVERVIEW EFFECT – BIG MIND & SEEING OUR HUMAN SELF FROM THE OUTSIDE

The overview effect also has an analog.

In one sense, I am this human self in the world and a part of Earth.

When I look more closely, I find that in my own first-person experience, I am more fundamentally something else. I am capacity for this whole field of experience, including this human self and the wider world as it appears to me. I am what it all happens within and as.

I can also say I am consciousness, and to me, the world and anything happens within and as this consciousness. (There is nothing outside, and there are no inherent boundaries anywhere, which is similar to the universe.)

Here, there is a sense of seeing this human self and any and all experience “from the outside”. Any sense of “I” is released from any content of experience, and the center of gravity shifts into the field of consciousness as a whole.

This is very similar to the overview effect.

When this shift first happened, there was an immense sense of awe, the beauty of this human self and the world, the seamless whole of it all, and so on.

I imagine astronauts get used to it over time, and it’s still there and transforms who and how they are. And that’s the same here too. The initial big response of awe and so on fades a bit, although it’s still all here, and it’s transforming who and how I am.

Note: This is the kind of thing I would write about in my late teens and twenties, and I thought I would revisit it briefly since my writings from that time are mostly gone.

…..

Something similar seems to happen among those who explore their more fundamental nature.

To ourselves, we are consciousness. We are this field of consciousness that any and all experiences happen within and as. And when we find ourselves as that, we view any content of experience more from the “outside”. Identification is released out of any particular content of experience.

And here too, we notice the world as a seamless whole, without any inherent boundaries. We are struck by the immense beauty of it all. And we experience a sense of awe and a wish to protect life.

…..

I first heard about the overview effect in a documentary about astronauts and how they described their experience, and I first heard the term in Frank White’s book by that name.

That’s one reason I loved the overview effect when I first heard it described in a documentary about astronauts and how they were impacted by their experience, and later found the book written by Frank White by the same name.

…..

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