Passing the Space-Travel Torch
By J. Douglas Kenyon, Publisher
In the 1960s and 70s, I lived on the east coast of Florida and thus became a lifelong fan of the space program. I watched many launches from Cape Kennedy, including the Apollo 11 and 13 manned missions to the moon. Later, when the space shuttle became the vehicle of choice for the U.S. Government’s manned space program, I returned to Florida frequently enough to witness several of those spectacular launches as well.
For me, inclined as I was even then toward a fascination with ancient mysteries and wisdom, such launches took on a heightened spiritual significance. I began to think of the space program as the modern equivalent of pyramid building. The shuttles, in fact, with their massive three-fold thrusters, brought to mind the ancient concept of kundalini energy, that subtle pranic force said to rise up the human spinal stalk eventually culminating in spiritual freedom and enlightenment. Here also were three rising—potentially explosive—forces dubbed the ida, pengala, and the sushumna. The shuttle, it seemed to me, was an excellent metaphor for such rising energies, leading to the conquest of gravity or transcendence over earthbound consciousness. That idea had more than a little to do with the ultimate naming of this magazine.
Not surprisingly, I watched the April handover of retired shuttles to various museums around the country with some sadness, and even dismay, as it seemed to me to signal the end of an era. The prospect that we may—at least as far as the government is concerned—be well on our way to abandoning space exploration altogether, seems tragic. There is little consolation in talk of Mars rockets to be developed in the future, at a time when the public may have even less appetite for space travel than it does now, and well beyond the time when the technological advances of the past half-century could expect to be adequately preserved.
The continuation of civilization over the long haul has always depended, to a great extent, on the ability of successive generations to pass along their acquired knowledge to the next. To fail to pass the torch of an advanced science is to invite the loss of such knowledge and to descend slowly but surely into darkness.
Some argue that not too many generations after the pyramids of Giza were built, the secrets of their construction were lost, and hence the achievements were never duplicated. The gothic cathedrals of Europe were certainly built by artisans who, despite the barbarism around them, still knew, for a time at least, how to pass their secrets along. In the hidden initiatory rites of the cathedral builders, as well as with other highly skilled—if not necessarily enlightened—guildsmen, specialized knowledge was passed from master, to journeyman, to apprentice in a harmonious cycle of continuous instruction. In such an order, the ignorant could be slowly transformed into the knowledgeable. That order, some believe, has now virtually disappeared.
In today’s politically correct society, such methods enjoy little popular support. Few, indeed, seem to respect the value of hard-won knowledge, preferring instead, it appears, the sad equality of a common ignorance. The mere suggestion of benefit from some ancient hierarchical order where the advanced wisdom of the few could be successfully transmitted to the many is dismissed as, at best, archaic, or out-of-touch, old-school.
Nevertheless, on the long and winding road toward planetary liberation, such attitudes could themselves become relics of a forgotten era—yesterday’s fashions in attic trunks. In the quest to explore space, for example, already we see independent and enterprising individuals striving to fashion a new vision beyond the reach of an exhausted paternalistic government. Witness the quickly evolving efforts of private companies like Space-X, Orbital Sciences Corporation, and others to replace the space shuttle in servicing the International Space Station. In the meantime, Larry Page and Eric Page, founders of Google, have announced plans to mine the asteroids for platinum and other resources. Hopefully these new pioneers will not fail to pass their torch to the free explorers of the future. (For more, see page 12 in this issue, and “Private Space” in AR #93.)