Star Trek fans know these words well. The full opening quote is: "Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before."
But every time I watch Star Trek now, I have the same reaction: 'space is not the final frontier. Going within is.' Indeed, I have heard it said that there are more neurons in the brain then there are stars in the known universe.
I still enjoy Star Trek, but I experience it differently now. Humanity is pretty advanced in the future world of Star Trek. They have cured most diseases, established lasting peace, integrated different peoples and species... But they have still not gone within. The Federation is still working on the outer levels, relatively unaware of the inner.
The imbalance between our inner and outer awareness is particularly important at this moment in time. To advance beyond the current confluence of crises, we must advance beyond our current level of consciousness. The wisest people through the ages and across cultures have known this, and expressed it in their own ways, through the lenses in which they saw and understood the world.
One example is Blaise Pascal, a contemporary of Descartes and a brilliant mathematician and physicist. He states in The Pensées, a collection of notes and essays in which he explores the contradictions of human nature from psychological, social, metaphysical and theological perspectives: “All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” The challenge of course is fear. Fear of what will arise in them. Fear of what they may find within themselves. Fear of the silence that is so rare in our modern world with the never ending noise, the incessant things to do, and all the stresses and strains that we have created for ourselves. And yet it is precisely there, in that silence, in that inner space, that everything in the outer world is first conceived and then created.
Eckhart Tolle, who is one of the most internally and externally consistent people I have encountered, has journeyed into that silence. He speaks from deep within that inner space, from a place of pure presence. In this passage from A New Earth he illustrates the connection between inner and outer space. "Physicists have discovered that the apparent solidity of matter is an illusion created by our senses. This includes the physical body, which we perceive and think of as form, but 99.99 % of which is actually empty space. This is how vast the space is between the atoms compared to their size, and there is as much space again within each atom. The physical body is no more than a misperception of who you are. In many ways, it is a microcosmic version of outer space. To give you an idea of how vast the space is between celestial bodies, consider this: Light traveling at a constant speed of 186,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) per second takes just over one second to travel between the earth and the moon; light from the sun takes about eight minutes to reach the earth. Light from our nearest neighbor in space, a star called Proxima Centauri, which is the sun that is closest to our own sun, travels for 4.5 years before it reaches the earth. This is how vast the space is that surrounds us. And then there is the intergalactic space, whose vastness defies all comprehension. Light from the galaxy closest to our own, the Andromeda Galaxy, takes 2.4 million years to reach us. Isn't it amazing that your body is just as spacious as the universe? So your physical body, which is form, reveals itself as essentially formless when you go deeper into it. It becomes a doorway into inner space. Although inner space has no form, it is intensely alive. That “empty space” is life in its fullness, the unmanifested Source out of which all manifestation flows."
There are more parallels still. Astrophysicists say that we are literally made from stardust. Astrophysicists, neurologists and social scientists concur that there are striking similarities between the growth and structures of galaxies, social systems and neural networks in the brain.
Given these parallels, perhaps it is no surprise that going within is as powerful and adventurous as going out into space. And that perhaps is the power of Star Trek. As one of the writers of the latest series said, Star Trek helps us understand ourselves better. Perhaps this is a first step to understanding the larger whole.
Those who have gone into outer space changed, and changed us by bringing us a new perspective on ourselves. Astronauts who saw the Earth from space commented on its beauty and the larger perspective they gained on seeing it. Edgar Mitchell summarised many such perspectives when he said: "We went to the Moon as technicians; we returned as humanitarians." James Lovelock, in Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, said: "The apologists for space science always seem over-impressed by engineering trivia and make far too much of non-stick frying pans and perfect ball-bearings. To my mind, the outstanding spin-off from space research is not new technology. The real bonus has been that for the first time in human history we have had a chance to look at the Earth from space, and the information gained from seeing from the outside our azure-green planet in all its global beauty has given rise to a whole new set of questions and answers."
Similarly those who have gone within have brought insights and wisdom to our planet, each time perhaps a little less clouded by the dominant beliefs and world views of their time. Going within raises a whole new set of questions and answers. Powerful ones. Ones with the power to transform us within and without.
Do you dare to go within? Can you now consciously conceive and create from that inner space?