The Overview Effect: we live in a Pale Blue Dot

A Cognitive shift as a driver to break away from anthropocentrism in order to embrace a Planet Earth Mindset (I)

Jhon Munoz
Jan 22, 2020 · 7 min read
Photo from the book “EARTHRISE, my adventures as an Apollo 14 Astronaut”, by Edgar Mitchell

One of my believe for a planet Earth Mindset is based on the impact on our minds by the Earthrise in 1968, the Blue Marble in 1972, and the Pale Blue Dot in 1990, named “Overview Effect”, which is considered a cognitive shift in awareness from philosophers and scientist.

This insight started with the the Apollo 8 mission. In 1968, three NASA astronauts became the first humans to orbit the Moon, they also captured a photograph of Earth from space that forever changed the way we saw ourselves. It is documented in this beautiful film: Earthrise: The story of the photo that changed the world

In recent years, the journal of Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, launched a publication about the impact of the “Overview effect: Awe and Self-Transcendent Experience in Space Flight”. In terms of perspective and identity, it states:

And as part of the research’s conclusion:

Astronaut Ron Garan said looking back at Earth was a favorite task during Expedition 27 and 28 in the International Space Station. He also mentioned: “We can look down from the orbital perspective and realize that each one of us is riding through the universe together on this spaceship we call Earth.” Photo from NASA.

Based on the positive impact on human consciousness, people around the world have studied the overview effect in order to have a more kind approach to planet earth.

Worldwide Institutions like the Overview Institute are also working on bringing this kind of space experiences to the world. David Beaver, the co-founder of the Overview Institute has beautifully stated:

The overview Institute of Australia is also another organization which is an educational organization affiliated with and authorized by the Overview Institute and is dedicated to helping people of all ages to deepen their experience of the planetary perspective — revealed and enhanced through visions of the Earth from space.

“The programs and presentations of the Overview Institute of Australia
will expand your mind, lift your spirit, engage your heart, and help you
to have the deeper vision and motivation to become part of the solution”.

Small organisations like Living Alive are also sharing the benefits of the awe philosophy of the overview effect on people to local audience. I was immersed in one of their “Awe” workshops in recent years. Their work is fundamental to the contribution of awareness:

The cognitive shift in awareness produced by the Overview effect give us a level of consciousness that help humans to break away from the anthropocentrism realm we are living in current times. According to Jonathan Padwe :

We have also the privilege to embrace the famous words of Carl Sagan and its Pale Blue Dot insights, which is a powerful influence to break away from antropocentrism.

This cognitive shift gives as a powerful insight that avoid us to internalise the feeling that we are the centre of things, to avoid thinking that human beings are the most important entity in the universe.

And that takes us to the term Cognitive shifting:

This cognitive shift takes us to see humans as part of nature, as part of a whole entity. Humans are just one small part of the web of life, as Frijof Capra explained in his popular book.

The human consciousness has evolved through thousands of years to the point of having the opportunity to see themselves as just a small part of an entity we have named universe.

That vision to see the planet earth in its entire magnitude, give us the thoughts to question every aspect of our life, our life’s philosophy, our relationship with others beings and with nature. Who am I? Why am I here? These can be the more profound questions we can asked ourselves in the realm of a Planet Earth Mindset.

It is in this realm that we can also assimilate the knowledge of indigenous cultures that has cultivated the connectedness to nature, to the web of life, for thousands of years.

The Milky Way Llama. This painting is on one of the walls in Koricancha (the most important temple in the Inca Empire), representing a local myth that you can see a llama in the Milky Way. This is a classic example of the awareness of Indigenous cultures about their thoughts about the Cosmos. Photo by Brian Ritchie

And it is in above statement, that I think about those indigenous groups that have already had a mindset of interconnectedness with life on Earth. How is that possible they have kept that mindset for thousands of years ?

We can have a long discussion about the reasons, but I will focus on the culture of those indigenous groups and the scientific paradigm that see nature as a collection of parts. That paradigm has given us our current separation between mind and matter and our increasingly specialised, detached sciences of today. Those sciences that have brought reductionism to the planet.

It is no wonder that indigenous groups, that have been isolated from that world that represents the Scientific reductionism paradigm, have a more holistic view of their interaction with nature.

It is the holism that indigenous groups have internalised as part of their culture that has kept them living in harmony with nature for millennia.

Daniel Christian Whal has beautiful written:

So, as the majority of humanity live in a world of reductionism, it is necessary to see the cognitive shift of the overview effect as not only an opportunity to embrace a more humble approach to life and nature, but also to acknowledge that there are already other humans like those indigenous groups whose life’s philosophy is in harmony with the rhythms of the planet earth.

So again, we need also to learn from those indigenous insights. We, as humans who live in a reductionism world, need also a shift over and learn to understand the indigenous cultures in their own setting, as it is states in the definition of indigenous psychology:

For me, contemplating Planet Earth as a whole entity, means to come back to our roots as human beings, embracing the indigenous philosophy of life as a critical part to our relationship with that whole entity. A cognitive shift that humans can assimilate after meditating during this insightful external force, that can influence us to change as a global community to live in harmony with nature.

And talking about change, I finish with the words of Arkan Lushwala, a rare indigenous bridge of the global north and south, carrying spiritual traditions from the Andes in his native Peru as well as being adopted and initiated by the Lakota people of North America:

“It is time to change, and if we do not change, something stronger than us is going to do it for us.”

The Overview Effect is one of the cognitive shifts I am presenting as part of a Planet Earth Mindset.

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Jhon Munoz

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I am passionate about mindset change and its impact on the Planet. A new Mindset to live in harmony with Planet Earth. www.planetearthmindset.com.

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the ways we learn | Tune in at aoapodcast.com | Connecting 500k+ monthly readers with 1,200+ authors