The integration of spirituality and science have been taught by scholars of many faiths for years (mi2g.com)

The Human Brain in Space: Euphoria and the “Overview Effect” Experienced by Astronauts

22 May , 2008 by

Could be the best example yet of being “spaced out”? When in space, astronauts have repeatedly reported inexplicable euphoria, a “cosmic connection” or an increased sensitivity to their place in the Universe. The experience sounds like the ultimate high, or the ultimate enlightening; it would appear that without trying, astronauts are able to attain a similar mental state as meditating Buddhist monks. So what is happening when the human body is in space? Does zero-gravity create new connections in the brain? Or is it a natural human response to the vastness of space and realizing just how small we are in comparison? What ever the reason, it looks like even when astronauts are back on solid ground, they have changed profoundly…

On March 6th, 1969, Rusty Schweikart experienced a feeling that the whole universe was profoundly connected. At the time, he was on a postponed space walk outside his Apollo 9 Lunar Module, carrying out tests for the forthcoming Moon landings. Already having suffered from space sickness (hence delaying the EVA) he felt a euphoric sensation:

“When you go around the Earth in an hour and a half, you begin to recognize that your identity is with that whole thing. That makes a change… it comes through to you so powerfully that you’re the sensing element for Man.” – Russell “Rusty” Schweikart.

Two years later, Apollo 14 astronaut, Edgar Mitchell (joint record holder with Alan Shepard for longest ever Moon walk of 9 hours and 17 minutes) reported experiencing an “Overview Effect”. He described the sensation gave him a profound sense of connectedness, with a feeling of bliss and timelessness. He was overwhelmed by the experience. He became profoundly aware that each and every atom in the Universe was connected in some way, and on seeing Earth from space he had an understanding that all the humans, animals and systems were a part of the same thing, a synergistic whole. It was an interconnected euphoria.

Schweikart and Mitchell’s experiences are not isolated anomalies, many other astronauts since the 1970’s have reported this Overview Effect. Andy Newberg, a neuroscientist/physician with experience in space medicine, hopes to find out whether this is an actual psychological phenomenon. Perhaps there is a medical reason for an actual change in an astronaut’s brain function when in space. What’s more, he’s noticed a psychological change in the men and women that have come back from space:

You can often tell when you’re with someone who has flown in space, its palpable.” – Andy Newberg

Newberg has scanned many brains to try to understand how humans reach this euphoric state on Earth. The religious communities, transcendental mediators and others around the world are able to experience similar states and have been the focus of interest to neuroscientists. In some cases, the meditation leads some people to view the whole cosmos as an interconnected quantum web, where consciousness is not separate, but a part of the Universe. Now Newberg hopes to monitor the brain of one of the first space tourists so a better grasp of the brain function of a human in zero-G can be understood.

Edgar Mitchell has said that his personal event has changed his life, revealing a Universe that had remained hidden until he experienced the Overview Effect on that Apollo 14 mission in 1971. Whether this effect is a physical change in the brain, or a deeper, yet to be discovered event, Newberg hopes to find some answers.

Source: The Daily Galaxy


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Nat
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Nat
May 22, 2008 12:14 PM

I would be extremely surprised if this physiologically had anything to do with being in a microgravity environment. Seeing the Earth from outside of itself seems like a humbling enough experience to trigger something like this, to me at least. It (quite literally) puts all of the collective human effort into perspective.

David R.
Member
David R.
May 22, 2008 12:38 PM

Is it possible that there could be something transcendental, spiritual, or otherwise beyond the scope of our measurements here? Is this something to be merely relegated to physiological study? One gift of science is to humble us of our own abilities to measure and provoke us into thinking about the possibilities that lie beyond our limitations…

Emission Nebula
Member
May 22, 2008 1:12 PM

I bet its a combination of both being in zero gravity for so long, and even bigger being able to see, and feel the universe around you from a much better perspective.

No matter what though, I want to experience this for myself. Has to be awesome.

Astrofiend
Member
Astrofiend
May 22, 2008 4:03 PM
I would say that it has a lot to do with the sheer intensity of the situation that the astronauts find themselves in. Not intensity as in stress, but just a profoundly moving and altogether different experience, combined with the spiritual/quasi-religious aspects that such an experience must entail. Buddhist texts often say that to become ‘enlightened’, the brain needs to be ‘shocked’ out of its current state of operation and numbness, to in-a-sense wake up out of pre-conceived notions and though patterns. Hence, they often use koans (tripped out questions or statements such as the famous ‘does a tree falling in the woods make a sound if nobody is there to hear it?’) designed to shock the mind… Read more »
Kevin White
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Kevin White
May 22, 2008 6:27 PM
Very interesting! Go to Erowid.org and read some of the experience reports listed for Salvia and DXM (among others). There’s talk of a feeling of unfathomable vastness, of floating in an endless deep blackness, of feeling simultaneously ecstatically alone and integrated with everything. I mention Salvia and DXM, specifically, for two reasons — 1. I’ve used them, so I tend to concentrate on them, and 2. they’re both DISSOCIATIVE drugs. I can’t think of a more dissociative feeling/environment than being above, literally EVERYTHING. Seeing an altered reality for the first time. Space travel, even this far into the game, even orbital travel, is BIZARRE and still nearly unprecedented in the history of both organic life and intelligent and… Read more »
sharuk
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May 22, 2008 11:26 PM

Posted this link in http://www.surfurls.com

David
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David
May 22, 2008 11:41 PM

“In some cases, the meditation leads some people to view the whole cosmos as an interconnected quantum web, where consciousness is not separate, but a part of the Universe.”

Well it obviously is. Read up on the research by Rupert Sheldrake for some interesting ideas.

Joeru
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Joeru
May 23, 2008 1:10 AM

To study such an effect seems truly daunting. Understanding the “interconnectedness of everything” by definition would have to include all possible fields of study from the physical to the psychological and then somehow ascertain their combined effects.

When we start using physics to explain our mental states, we will be on the right track. Until then, “may the Force be with you”.

Molecular
Member
Molecular
May 23, 2008 2:00 AM

This feeling MUST be very similar to what one might experience if they were suddenly drawn into another dimension, like fish being lifted out of water.

I mean, to be confined to Earth all of your life, then suddenly, you’re drifting around space, looking at the very place from which life was given to you, has got to be a mind altering experience.

I wouldn’t doubt that while one is in space, they are not somehow merging with unseen forces, still yet to be detected by any of our scientific instruments. smile

alphonso richardson
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alphonso richardson
May 23, 2008 4:10 AM

Could it be that, in space, without the distractions of ordinary life, isolated and only the crew to directly interact with, as opposed to friends/neighbours etc, the lack of any ‘normal’ everyday cues (day/night cycle, bird/animal /traffic noise/ horizon, etc), you’re either more relaxed or the brain is forced to stimulate itself?
There could also be a physiological component, as well as the personal/social side (being aware of the physical relationship between Earth & spaceship/self)?

Just a thought.

sail4evr
Member
sail4evr
May 23, 2008 4:59 AM

meditation is definitely the way to go

Mags
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Mags
May 23, 2008 5:58 AM

hmmmmm …It’s gravity that holds us to the earth physically, maybe gravity has the same effect on the mind and confines our synapses in the brain.

Steven
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Steven
May 23, 2008 6:31 AM

I think getting high changes one’s perception. I remember one time looking at a plate of slightly burnt cookies and thinking they weren’t worth eating. Some friends and I got high, came back, and we ate them all. Getting high really changes things.

KC Wong
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KC Wong
May 23, 2008 8:20 AM

Meditation is mind control over your brain reaction, whereas drugs control your brain and disturb your reaction. Try this, just sit quetly inside a room, without moving any parts of body for a while. Then go to a beach where you can look far beyond, or a big empty space, do the same meditation. You will feel the different.
Thank you

Arden
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Arden
May 24, 2008 1:29 AM

The Bible says God loves a broken and contrite spirit. For many of these over acheivers in space; this is the first time they realize that compared to the vastness around them they are very small. However the very fact that they are there where few have ever been awakens their spirit and they now see their connection on a spiritual plain rather than only on an intellectual or physical. Save your selfs time guys… the answers are all ready in the Bible.

Jason Leary
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Jason Leary
May 24, 2008 9:42 AM
The euphoria/sense of the numinous that the astronauts experience …could well indeed be a combination of the possible new syaptic connections in the brain set into motion by entering a rather weightless enviroment as in outer space AND also seeing such enormous vistas of unclutterred space . It could be a combination of both —as well as perhaps other factors . It is indeed good that many of the astronauts have had that experience . Though Augustine of Hippo was a very overrated theologian and on many points of doctrine he was quite murky, he did ,nevertheless, have a fascinating insight when (apparently in one of his writings…at least the quote has been attributed to him) he wrote… Read more »
vidyardhi nanduri
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May 24, 2008 10:33 AM

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Beep
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Beep
May 25, 2008 11:08 AM

Consciousness IS a part of the universe and not separated. Everything is.

bugzzz
Member
bugzzz
May 25, 2008 2:54 PM
I definitely believe in the value of meditation. And as a means of transcending our usual thoughts. Its obviously less intense than a spacewalk but I had a profound experience while parasailing. As they were slowly winding me out and up you literally hear the world below slip away. All the ordinary sounds fade out and you’re left with a beautiful stillness that completely alters your perspective. You experience the curve of the horizon and the beauty of the world belie from an almost omniscient view. I believe that intelligence is inherent in the universe. In some sense we are all information – long streams of zeroes and ones can account for all matter. I imagine the universe… Read more »
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