The Overview Effect – A Tribute to Earth Day

The Earth seen from Apollo 17.

The Earth seen from Apollo 17. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People have been experiencing mystical states, and a deep sense of unity with the divine, as long as we’ve been around. But as Al Gore explains in his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” it wasn’t until we began to venture into outer space that we could actually see the world we all live on in its totality. Gore claims that when we saw planet Earth for the first time, floating like a marble in the darkness of outer space, the feeling of awe inspired the environmental movement of the 1970’s.

Astronauts frequently report that viewing the Earth from space causes a consciousness shift within them; they are changed. They call this experience “The Overview Effect.”

Something about the unexpectedness of this sight, its incompatibility with anything we have ever experienced on earth elicits a deep emotional response… Suddenly, you get a feeling you’ve never had before… That you’re an inhabitant… of the Earth.

– Cosmonaut Oleg Makarov

View the mini-documentary on this phenomenon here:

And check out the Overview Institute’s webpage here:

When they came back to me a few weeks later, they said, “Well, in the ancient literature we found a description called ‘savikalpa samadhi’. That means that you see things as you see them with your eyes, but you experience them emotionally and viscerally, as with ecstasy, and a sense of total unity and oneness.

– Astronaut Edgar Mitchell

In the mystery cults of the ancient world, such consciousness shifts were the goal of the rites. To truly know oneself and one’s place in the cosmos, the mysteries subjected the initiate to a long, strange journey, at the end of which the initiate was presented with a profound symbol that broke down the barriers between the ego and the environment, and between life and death, and merged all into One.

The most famous of all the mystery cults was The Eleusinian Mysteries, sacred to Demeter, the Goddess of the Earth. After several days of hiking, pilgrims were led deep into a cave and given a special drink. They were then shown several sacred objects, which had such a profound effect upon the pilgrims  that the Mysteries remained popular for over 2,000 years; unfortunately, a vow of secrecy punishable by death ensured that we will never know exactly what happened during these ceremonies, or why they had such a strong hold on generations of  people. It is said, however, that one of the symbols shown to the initiates was a sheaf of wheat, a clear reference to Demeter and the Earth.


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