Billionaires in Space: Progress or Flight From the “Real Discovery”?

We have been meditating on the cosmos and Earth and touching the spirit behind both, the ground of being.  Sunday, a British billionaire, one of three, set out for a flight into space.  I have mixed feelings about it. 

Birth of a star: ALMA observations
of the Orion Nebula complex

First, it is always thrilling to hear the soul stories that have resulted from people going into space.  Astronauts and cosmonauts often returned with their mysticism triggered by the profound experience of seeing earth lit from afar and undergoing the deep darkness and deep silence of space. 

Edgar Mitchel, who founded IONS Institute on returning, is one such person whose life was transformed by the experience.  There are many others.  I once figured out what it cost to convert a jet fighter pilot (often the first ones into space) into a mystic (by going into space): $42 million per person.  “Surely, there must be a cheaper way,” I lamented. 

To Richard Branson and Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, a tip of the hat for demonstrating a somewhat cheaper way.

Matthew Fox explores the ancient archetype of Father Sky, often used by First Nations as a way of naming the Sacred Masculine or Divine Masculine. Originally posted to YouTube by Matthew Fox

Secondly, entering Father Sky with the myriad wonders going on there provides another nail in the coffin of the theory of the mechanical universe that ruled us for far too long and damaged authentic masculinity (thanks to bad science let us recall—scientists, even geniuses like Newton, do not always get it right; we’re all only humans after all).  As I have written about in my book on recovering healthy masculinity and the sacred masculine, The Hidden Spirituality of Men, the modern era effectively killed the archetype of Father Sky and rendered men crazy.

Today’s astronomy offers a totally different version of Father Sky bringing it all alive again.  This holds untold promise for men to get real. When Father Sky was killed, men had to hide their deepest feelings and hunker down in work and in waging war.

So that too is a plus when we hear citizens are making it to space.

Embarking on an adventure. Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash. Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash.

BUT–and this is a big BUT–that Branson, Musk, Bezos and all of us should meditate on.  Catholic monk Thomas Merton shouted out some wisdom shortly before the first landing on the moon.  It applies to all  persons or nations aiming to fly to other planets.

Even if he [humans] can fly, so what?  There are flying ants.  Even if man flies all over the universe, he is still nothing but a flying ant until he recovers a human center and a human spirit in the depth of his own being.

Referring to the efforts to land the first person on the moon, Merton asked: What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves.  This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it all the rest are not on useless but disastrous. 

This “most important of all voyages” is an inner journey into our deepest selves to see what is holding us back from our best self. 


See https://www.thedailybeast.com/richard-branson-takes-off-in-virgin-galactic-space-flight

Adapted from Matthew Fox, A Way to God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey, pp. 121f.

Banner Image: The Helix Nebula, a/k/a the “Eye of God,” in the constellation of Aquarius, lies about 650 light-years away and about 2.5 light years in width. It is the closest object of its type (planetary nebula) to the earth. Photo by John Myers on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

How are we doing making the “most important of all voyages of discovery”?  Have we made any progress since 1968?

Recommended Reading

A Way to God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey

In A Way to God, Fox explores Merton’s pioneering work in interfaith, his essential teachings on mixing contemplation and action, and how the vision of Meister Eckhart profoundly influenced Merton in what Fox calls his Creation Spirituality journey.
“This wise and marvelous book will profoundly inspire all those who love Merton and want to know him more deeply.” — Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism

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14 thoughts on “Billionaires in Space: Progress or Flight From the “Real Discovery”?”

  1. Avatar

    I am less impressed by voyages to “outer space” and more interested in the journey to “inner space”. All are invited to partake in this kind of Voyage. No fancy equipment is necessary; rather human powers of openness, curiosity, patience, and perseverance. Once we begin to see how we all share in the individual journey of becoming fully human, it turns into the Universal Journey that we all share, building a sense of inclusivity and inter-connection, leading us on the path to “inter-space”. Now that is exciting.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Christine, you are so right in emphasizing the inner journey, but sometimes we need to at least look at, or be informed by, the outer journey, and that, of others. “To everything, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    Personally I find the concept of not only space travel but more so humanities desire to inhabit another planet rather disturbing due to the utter destruction and the many ways we have polluted not only the planet we already inhabit, but also the space around it with space junk. We don’t deserve to inhabit another planet as we have not learnt to become good stewards of the one we’ve already been gifted with. If more people entered into the inner journey and discovered the best version of themselves, this planet Earth, which we already inhabit could be rediscovered as the gift that it is, in need of being tended to and cared for as she should be.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, you make the perfectly understandable point: “We don’t deserve to inhabit another planet as we have not learnt to become good stewards of the one we’ve already been gifted with.” But can’t it be both and???

      1. Avatar
        Jeanette Metler

        Sometimes a both/and attitude is really a mask for sitting on the fence, not making a decision one way or the other. Some see this both/and attitude as an expression of balance, others as stagnation of just standing still in indecision, and still others as a freedom where anything goes. Does everything have to be looked at as both/and to be considered nondualism? Does both/and not lead to never-ending paradoxes and contradictions? Just asking?

  3. Avatar

    I would say that taking the flight to outer space is for the most part wonderful and thrilling and relatively easy compared to doing one’s inner work of finding and acting from our own true selves. So it seems that many of us have “missed the mark” and continue on the road that leads to the destruction of our beautiful planet and of each other and never find the peace, joy and love which, as Julian said so often, is our birthright coming directly from Father-Mother-God! How very sad that we bring upon ourselves and Mother Earth so much unnecessary suffering, and prefer staying on our downward path rather than taking on the difficult but most important path of “true discovery!” Namaste!

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Thank you for your comments Vivian! You write, “I would say that taking the flight to outer space is for the most part wonderful and thrilling and relatively easy compared to doing one’s inner work of finding and acting from our own true selves. I certainly see ones inner work to be of upmost importance, but can we not celebrate the creativity that went into making this dream of flight a reality???

  4. Avatar

    Branson, Musk and Bezos are on a ego trip, figuratively and literally. The amount of money the three are spending to create and operate their ‘spaceships’ would be better spent fighting hunger in the world.

  5. Avatar

    I agree that the flights are flights away from real inner discovery and are ego based. I am also very skeptical about the motives behind these flights. They seem like rats deserting a sinking ship, and I wonder how far they or any one have progressed in setting up shop on Mars, for instance. It will result in more of the same destructiveness and greed perhaps. On the other hand, as Matthew points out, there can be a profound effect from seeing the immensity and glory of space. The Spirit moves in mysterious ways. But time flies, and I fear that we may continue down our self destructive path,

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Sue, it is good that you pointed out both the good and the bad of this story. The good is: “as Matthew points out, there can be a profound effect from seeing the immensity and glory of space.” The bad is: “They seem like rats deserting a sinking ship, and I wonder how far they or any one have progressed in setting up shop on Mars, for instance. It will result in more of the same destructiveness and greed perhaps.” Thank you for making this contrast for us.

    2. Avatar

      More than 150,00 people have signed a petition saying that Jeff Bezoz should not be allowed to return to Earth: https://www.change.org/p/the-proletariat-do-not-allow-jeff-bezos-to-return-to-earth

      Elon Musk says he wants to go to Mars (he has a Tesla waiting for him there). That would be a one way trip. Branson to leave Earth? Maybe when there are no more ‘Virgins’ on our planet.

      MacKenzie Scott, Bezo’s ex wife, has already donated more than $5 billion to 400 organizations. She has her priorities straight.

  6. Avatar

    Oh, to wonder and ponder as the ancients are reported to have done! The sky is a view of the Universe, a sacred art that artists and poets have honored for thousands of years. Let us reimagine our Self in the moments revealed to us and be grateful.

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