Spaceship Earth: Welcome Aboard

by Robert Engelbach on June 24, 2014

Spaceship Earth and overview effectBesides being a popular ride at Disneyland, “Spaceship Earth” describes the beautiful little planet we share with every other living thing aboard it. From ants to elephants, from in-laws to out-laws, we are all on the same ride. Thousands of years ago the author of the Book of Job was aware that the earth was suspended in space, for he writes:

He stretches out the north over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing.” (Job 26:7)  

But not until man’s more recent ventures into outer space has he begun to understand how wonderfully fragile our tiny cosmic habitat appears floating mystically against the darkness and vastness of space. Even the best of cameras fail to capture what is seen by the naked eye, a billion living stars of every size and color surrounding this mystical “blue marble”. And just to think, on this marble are seven billion human passengers and a cargo of countless species.

Spaceship Earth has been traveling for four billion years ever since its creation, and it is good for another four billion years down the road until our yellow sun burns out and transforms into a red giant, engulfing all the inner planets. Hey, don’t cry, that’s really good mileage for a spaceship; it should serve us well if we can avoid wrecking it during our carefree, reckless teenage millennia.

In any case, Spaceship Earth is the only ride we have. We only get one chance at this, so we better buckle up and get along with one another. We do not have the time and energy to bicker amongst ourselves like children in a school yard spat. We need to be alert, because chances are before this ride is over, at least one giant asteroid will come barreling down on us, and we will become toast unless we pool together to deflect it in time.

And oh yes, if at all possible we should avoid nuking ourselves into extinction along the way. Poisoning all our air and water wouldn’t be any fun either? We would just hate it if things like that happened, wouldn’t we? And it’s always for no good reason.

When we see just how vulnerable spaceship earth is, it does not make a lot less sense to start a war over who owns which pile of dirt or what to name God.

The famous philosopher Buckminster Fuller once remarked:

“We are the crew of ‘space ship earth’. But we’re a crew of mutiny and how can you run a space ship with a mutinous crew?”

Sooner or later we are going to have to sit down together, work out all our differences, and develop a long-term flight plan. If we play our cards right, we can even catch another ride when this one runs out of gas. But if we play them wrong, we could join the ranks of spaceships that may have crashed and burned, never making contact with us or anyone else out there, unlike the scene depicted by actors Jodie Foster and David contactMorse in the movie “Contact”.

The Overview Effect

Spaceship Earth recently got off course when the Americans got pissed off at Putin and kicked the Russians out of the International Space Station program. Not only are the Americans going to miss the free vodka, but also the space taxis Russia provides. Luckily America can fall back on its newly developed commercial space rockets like Space X, and along with these are commercial shuttles built by Virgin Galactic. These shuttles will be launched inexpensively from a high altitude mother plane, taking tourists and projects into weightless space, but at lower “suborbital” levels, and at a fraction of the cost. What is also unique about Virgin Galactic is that it will be working in coordination with neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Newberg on the “Overview Effect” project.

The Overview Effect was first observed by Astronaut Edgar Mitchel on the Apollo 14 mission to the moon in 1971. He looked out the window at earth and felt completely engulfed by a profound sense of universal connectedness. Without warning, he says, a feeling of bliss, timelessness, and connectedness began to overwhelm him. He describes becoming instantly and profoundly aware that each of his constituent atoms were connected to the fragile planet he saw in the window and to every other atom in the Universe. He described experiencing an intense awareness that Earth, with its humans, other animal species, and systems were all one synergistic whole. He says the feeling that rushed over him was a sense of interconnected euphoria. If you have not seen this in a previous post, check out this short, very impressive video depicting Edgar’s experience*.

*http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UVuzDDTdgs

The rest of the 500 astronauts that have flown missions to date have had similar experiences of varying intensities. Several theories were immediately proposed by scientists explaining this as simple physical euphoria brought on by the excitement of being in outer space and weightlessness. However, there seems to be a more profound and lasting effect, even life changing, that such simple physical explanations would not account for. Edgar Mitchel and others have described these effects as similar to states of heightened consciousness referred to as Samadhi, and believe it has something to do with being in the actual environment in outer space surrounded directly by stars, and what other reality might be out there. Photographs of the “blue marble” are unable to reproduce this experience. Some progress is being made using virtual reality simulators, but still far from the real outer space experience.

Dr. Newberg is developing brain scanners to go into the Virgin Galactic shuttles to test brain functions during Overview Effect experiences of pilots and passengers. Dr. Newberg has been very successful in tracking changes in brain function of Buddhist monks during meditation, people praying in tongues, and other mystical experiences. The Overview Effect is believed to be therapeutic and so there is a desire to make the experience available to as many people as possible through affordable space tours and, back down on earth, through simulators. The Overview Effect might also be useful in aiding the solution of current world challenges through its unique ability to create or reinforce a global vision.

Flights are anticipated to start in 2016, six people and two pilots per flight. Close to one thousand tickets have been sold at $200,000 each and include such notables as Stephen Hawking, Tom Hanks, Ashton Kutcher, Katy Perry, Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie.

Performing biological measurements when people are having spiritual experiences should not be considered an attempt to diminish the mystical aspect of the experience. Dr. Newberg is interested in determining biological markers that are used to tell if a particular type of mystical experience is occurring; for instance, Moses’s face was known to glow when he experienced talking to God. Seeing Moses’s face glow was also a positive life experience. So is finding biological markers. They tell us something is happening, but the causing of it does not have to be merely biological.

Although this post is not as focused on written scripture per se, it is focused on “The Sacred Manuscript of Nature” as explained by Universal Sufism, a topic of a previous post “The One Holy Book”.   Instead of discussing how word passages or the hidden meanings of them promote enlightenment, we have been discussing how the direct experience of nature accomplishes this by impressing changes, perhaps in our perspective on life, perhaps on our level of fulfillment, perhaps on our goals, etc. “The medium is the messenger” might be another way to put it, where, in this case, the medium is nature rather than words.

Next time you are out on a clear night and look up at the starry, starry skies, remember you are one of seven billion crew members standing on the observation deck of spaceship earth, and that there is more wonder out there than we have yet to imagine.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Justin June 24, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Robert,

This was a refreshing article, not heavy but thought provoking. I like that you say that the human species is in its reckless teenage millennia. Its so hopeful and yet expresses that we are not acting in our or our planet’s best interest, much like a teenage rebelling against loving parents because they know no better.

Be blessed;
Justin

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Robert June 24, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Justin,

Thanks for the comments. I am glad you understood that about our planet. That we are still growing up as a globally conscious planet. We could be a lot worse. We are kids, but we are good kids and I know we will make it.

On Star Trek they kept saying that they had found a solution for material lack, so that they could now focus on more important things, like exploring and redeeming the universe. I believe that Sci Fi is the prophet of our destiny. It hasn’t missed yet. Did you know that when properly harnessed there is enough freely available energy from alternative non-fossil fuels to power up the entire earth four times over? No one on our planet would ever be in lack of anything material, from cradle to the grave, even when the population is maxed out. People would work for fun and fulfillment, not a pay check. There is now an economical special super hard glass that can be used to pave roads, which can have solar cells and other devices imbedded in it. The “no material lack point” would be reached for a maxed out earth population if only 25% of the roads were paved with this stuff. It is currently a startup venture on Kickstarter, but it will change the world as we know it.

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Justin June 25, 2014 at 8:25 am

I have actually seen the solar roads, they are pretty cool. Exploring alternative energy is one of this things that I find interesting, it makes no sense to me why we keep pumping money into petroleum. It is terribly inefficient when compared to wind, solar, or nuclear sources, pollutes our air, water, and soil, and causes the green house effect; its an all around loser in this age. You may already know this but when Henry Ford created the Model T he expected it to run on Bio-diesel; specifically hemp bio-diesel. What we are currently seeing is the side effects of greed and fear, and what’s worse is that the main opposition to petroleum is trying to use fear to drive people to alternative forms of energy. I often times wonder if selling the pros of going petroleum-less would work better than selling the fear of being on petroleum.

To be honest, I find though I often find that I was born in the wrong century. I have little liking of the cooperate society that we humans have come to rely on. I find it to be predatory in nature, and merely an extension of the law of the wild. I have faith that one day we will rise above it all. We will realize that we are more than beast who must prey upon those weaker than ourselves, and instead will come to find that we can have all we want and need without having to take from another; as you stated, science fiction has shown us human societies that live this way. I used to fear that man’s nature was to destroy, that we were (as the matrix puts it) bacteria. I still think that that is the truth of lower selves, but I maintain hope that humanity as a whole will come to understand its higher self. When that occurs, and I think it has started, we will be able to create heavens everywhere we go. We will understand what it means to be angels, absolute followers of God (love).

Justin

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Robert June 26, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Justin,

Our next century consciousness is probably bound to make those of us who are growing into it a little homesick for the future. Maybe we are not ready yet. Maybe we have to learn to enjoy the ride through this century first, and everything it has to teach us. We know from the direction of technology is taking now that from a materialistic perspective our species we will one day in the not too distant future be free of a tremendous burden from shortage of resources. That is exciting and uplifting.

But now hear this… an even greater miracle…. this very second and every second thereafter we can be free of fear and limitation by learning to transcend the material. If the material were not limited right now, we might never be motivated to try this new trick.

And you know, according to my experience, as things tend to happen, that just at the moment you start to believe all this, that chances are you will get hit on the head with a big bill, a bad health report, disappointed by another politician, a notice that the IRS is auditing your taxes, your car will get wrecked, or you will get temporarily overwhelmed by an angry relative you went at great lengths to help and who is now pissed that you invaded their privacy to rescue them. That last one always catches me unprepared.

But the greater depth and beauty of it all is that when you know how illusionary the bad news is, that it is like a an otherwise obsessive thought during meditation that you have learned to not resist and just allow to come and go, and then mystically it flutters away and you enter in to bliss. You don’t need a medal from yourself or anyone else for doing the right thing. Blessings always come from the bliss and slowly and most certainly manifest their way into our every day lives. I think Jesus pointed to this in his own way in the Sermon on the Mount, but I never really grasped it until now.

Blessings,
Robert

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Sparks June 24, 2014 at 6:29 pm

Robert,
and these are a few of my favorite things!!

Thanks for this awesome article on our most precious gift, Spaceship Earth, may we learn to love her and her inhabitants more & more, even if it hurts.

If you want to your final your ride into the heaven’s, rocket man will take you there!
and your canine friends too…
http://www.heavenlyjourneys.com/

ALL ABOARD ; )
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GAKOLOnfV4
Love, Sparks

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Robert June 24, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Thanks Sparks,

Keep shining bright.

Robert

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Tommy June 25, 2014 at 9:13 am

Robert,

I always look forward to your articles and this one did not disappoint. It struck and chord, so I beg indulgence for this lengthy reply. I haven’t experienced the euphoria of being carried into outer space by NASA, but I have a similar experience on this down-to-earth spaceship every time I’m surrounded by nature and not large buildings and parking lots. I do believe there is a spiritual element to being in nature.

I had a taste of the euphoria experienced by Edgar Mitchell while on a snowshoe hiking trip in the French Alps near the Switzerland border. When we reached camp it was dark, pitch black dark. I’ve never seen so many stars. I was awestruck. The sky was so filled with them they seemed to be streaming through space.

I had the feeling I was from there and belonged there. I fantasized that I was floating skyward to go there. Maybe I wanted to escape. Maybe it was the customary warmed wine drink, eh? There was no moon, and the mountain peaks surrounding us were visible only by their silhouets against such a sky. It’s an experience like no other and a vision I will always cherish. My ride that night on this spaceship didn’t cost $200, ooo.

By stark contrast, news of the U.S. led Iraqi invasion had reached us earlier that morning, yet once we began our ascent up the snow covered trail it never entered my mind. There could not have been more polar opposites. When we returned to Paris, French soldiers carrying machine guns were patroling the area around the Eifel Tower to discourage terrorists from blowing it up. The U.S. Embassy had issued a warning for U.S. citizens to keep a low profile. Yeah, right. Come on. How often would I get to Paris?

I digress, but speaking a mangled mess of poor French, broken Spanish, some Italian I had picked up watching “The Godfather I and II”, and mostly just plain gibberish, my friend and I took the warning seriously and pretended to be anything but American in the bars and restaurants we visited that evening. At the time it was scary. In hindsight it was hilarious. In a matter of days I had experienced the most good and beautiful thing our planet has to offer and the worst bad and ugly thing its habitants have to offer. What a crazy mixed up planet – spaceship – we’re on.

May there be beauty and peace on this big blue ball,

Tommy

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Robert June 26, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Tommy,

Thanks for sharing. I think many of us have that experience of simultaneous contrast between the lower and upper worlds, which to me I think is the consciousness becoming aware of, and beginning to be directed to embrace and prepare for, the next level. When I saw my first galaxy blinking back at me through a pair of binoculars at age twelve, it would have been enough awesome for a lifetime. But it seemed to wink back, not just blink back. And that’s the ultimate mystery that inspires us even in our darkness, to expect and do good.

Blessings

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Greg Stamper June 25, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Just beautiful brother! Reminds me of a message I preached last year referencing The Book of Revelation, Joseph Campbell, and Carl Sagan “A New Heaven and A New Earth”.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4swCl9rq-Fg&feature=share&list=PLIc8h8hFTsMUjiQFhB7MB80PmoT3dKC6S&index=3

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Robert June 26, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Greg,

I am very honored to be complemented by a gifted brother. I and some of my friends have been wondering if Afro Americans were also awakening as we have been. Its so good to know we are all together and aware. I really like listening to your you tube messages. Very articulate. I have had a lot of questions about the topics you cover, and you really cleared up a lot of loose strings for me.

I was born in Brooklyn. My step son lives there now. Go Brooklyn.

Blessings,
Robert

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Greg Stamper June 27, 2014 at 11:18 am

Thank you brother! I appreciate your words. People from all cultures are coming to a new understanding and it is a beautiful thing!

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Robert June 26, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Greg,

I see you started out last year as the Celebration Spiritual Center (Brooklyn) (https://www.facebook.com/celebrationsc). Will be in my thoughts and prayers from now on. You have so much talent and wisdom there, and in the flow. Just curious if you have any connections to the San Diego group with the same name. My step daughter lives in San Diego.

Blessings,
Robert

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Greg Stamper June 27, 2014 at 11:20 am

Thank you again brother!

We’re not related to the community in San Diego. If you’re ever in Brooklyn, I hope you have the time to visit us. I look forward to meeting you.

Be well.

Greg

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Joshua Tilghman June 27, 2014 at 9:21 am

Greg,

Love the video and the teaching! I learned quite a bit. Keep it up!

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Greg Stamper June 27, 2014 at 11:21 am

Thank you bro! I have equally learned much from you. Your blog is an inspiration and SO needed!

Be well.

Greg

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Sparks July 2, 2014 at 10:28 am

Greg,
I too loved your video and you are so there with your presentation, unifying all that information with such ease and clarity.
I especially enjoyed the baby in the background, when you stated something that was extremely important, the baby backed you up big time!
Thank you!
Love,
Sparks

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Raymond Phelan June 26, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Hi Robert,

Really enjoyed your article. For sure it re-focuses the mind on how dependent this planet is on mankind’s ecological navigational mindset skills. How some take this perpetual miracle for granted boggles the mind. Ecological ignorance must never again be left to greed mongrels to manipulate. Profit at the expanse of planetary destruction must never be left unchallenged by those of enlightened/scientific understanding. In this regard, each person’s daily meditation and inner silence contributes gratefully to Mother earth’s healing.

Thankfully the critical mass of planetary responsibility or guardianship has been reached. But, as greed knows no conscions, let us never wane in ecological awareness and purpose. Always remembering that man/woman is cosmic, made for divinity or, “humanity to divinity”. That Mother earth is our umbilical (cord) base to such divinity, our soul-fledging fields to spiritual salvation. In devotion to the Almighty’s plan of Unity, let our fields of love harvest nourish the orbits of our planet’s spiritual purpose.

Robert, can I add some further background to the awe-inspiring “earth-rise” picture at the top of your article, for it has always fascinated me. It was taken during the American Apollo 8 mission to the moon Dec 25 1968 by US Astronaut William Anders.

When Frank Borman, flight commander, first time saw this “blue marble” outside the spacecraft’s window he inquired of Anders if he had taken that pic. Disagreement I believe ensued, leaving Borman with no option but to “command” Anders to take the pic. It was the first time “rank” had been used in space (friendly, I’m sure). The pic became renown as the “earth-rise” photo winning many global awards.

The world owes much to NASA and their amazing team of Gemini and Apollo Astronauts for their spectacular achievements in space exploration and human mind frontier crossing. NASA, I believe, inspired many to becoming biblical “Trekkie” Astronauts – journeying to inner space! Wouldn’t surprise me, Robert, if like myself, Josh, Paul and yourself were influenced gratefully by the star-ship Enterprise, Captain Kirk, Scotty, Data, Mr Zulu, Spock — wow who could forget Spock — and many other sci fi galactic heroes. Gosh, I so loved Star Trek while growing up.

While on the subject of Apollo; we’re familiar with the first words spoken on the moon’s surface by heroic Neil Armstrong : “that’s one small step for a man….one giant leap for mankind” but what were the words of the second person down the ladder on that historic lunar voyage in July 1969? “Buzz” Aldrin’s words were in fact a reply to Armstrong’s beautiful rhetorical question : “..isn’t that something, isn’t that some view? Buzz’s reply words were of course : “magnificent desolation”. From a spiritual perspective I just love this expression. It so reminds me of the “swaddling clothes” mayhem we each inherit at birth, merging to give meaning to that other wonderful expression “chaos to cosmos”.

And of course the plaque left on the moon by the tree-man Apollo crew (the third member being Micheal Collins orbiting above) reads : “Here men from the planet earth first set foot upon the moon July 1969 AD. We came in peace for all mankind”.

Aldrin, after leaving the space program, I believe, retired to the spiritual hills both within and without.

Isn’t nature the true teacher when words are not enough?

“Beam us up” Mr Robert,

Raymond

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Robert June 26, 2014 at 7:47 pm

Aye Aye, Captain. Guinan requests that the crew meet her in the Wisdom Room, comment 9 this post https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRUlhYUtnx8DASbJKD6_JpYN_q3zNBNhSqnr0MxyQrWmJX3vnWA.

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Pedro June 26, 2014 at 9:47 pm
Sparks June 27, 2014 at 11:38 am

Pedro,

5 Star contribution…thanks!

let us dance…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEVow6kr5nI

Love,
Sparks

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Robert June 27, 2014 at 6:40 am

Awesome

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Joshua Tilghman June 27, 2014 at 9:24 am

Robert,

Thanks for educating us all a little more on the overview effect. I am really excited about more studies being completed. Also enjoyed your style of writing, as always.

Reply

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