I’ve so often thought of this moment in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (yes, the one with the whales):
Dr. Gillian Taylor: Don’t tell me, you’re from outer space.
Admiral Kirk: No, I’m from Iowa. I only work in outer space.
I’m not sure how to clearly describe the space in which I do so much of my own work. It isn’t exactly the “normal” Earth plane, but I don’t think it’s so very far removed, either. Likely it’s a place we all visit at least some of the time.
Staying grounded while working in some of the farther reaches of what one might call inner space can be a challenge. I’ve seen some healer colleagues leave the known galaxy and never return, going so far out that they couldn’t communicate anymore and became of little use to their patients or themselves.
And where do I live when I’m not working? It often feels like I don’t quite inhabit the material world the way I once did. Yet, I make every effort to keep solidly attached to my body and to bring my experience back to consensus reality in a way that’s comprehensible to everyone here. I think of myself as a journalist who goes to exotic lands and brings back the stories.
So from time to time I am criticized for being too intellectual, not letting go of thinking long enough to really fly. I decided some years ago that this is my natural place, to translate, to be a bridge between worlds and worldviews. So far that’s the best I can do. It may limit me as a mystic and psychic, but I won’t get too severely lost this way, and I may have a better chance of telling others where I’ve been.
I only work in inner space. I don’t want to become a space case.
Back in the Star Trek universe, there have been some striking new developments. At the time of the first episode of Star Trek: Discovery, last fall, I was most displeased, and didn’t see much hope for the new series. There are still a number of aspects of it that don’t work, if you ask me (Spock has an adopted sister we never knew about? Seriously?), plus a few moments that have been just plain idiotic (everyone has panned Landry’s suicide-by-tardigrade), and I still cannot approve of this latest iteration of the Klingons! But they’ve worked their brow-ridges off on this story, and now I’m behind them all the way. OK, most of the way. All the way when it concerns their willingness to take on Big Questions in the way that Star Trek always has. What are we? Who are we, and how do we know? How do we deal with those who are different from us, and are they really so different at all? And what happens if we fall in love with our worst enemy?
It feels like after all these years that I’ve followed Star Trek, it has now caught up to me. In this case, I was there first. The Discovery story arc, thus far, depends on a concept that I think is a lovely metaphor for the way things really are: all life throughout the universe is connected by a web of mycelia generated by a spacefaring species of fungi, and one can access this network and use it to travel anywhere and anywhen instantly. Space fungi? Sounds like something Stanisław Lem would come up with (not so different from his killer space potatoes!). And the animal they imagined as having a natural ability to traverse the network was something utterly ridiculous— a gigantic version of an actual Earth creature, the microscopic tardigrade or water bear (which to be fair has some science-fiction-like properties in real life). But the image of the network is beautiful, compelling, and evocative of the way everything in the universe really is entangled and in communication with everything else.
Although for a while I was still suspicious of the new series, I soon found myself intensely pulled into this “magic mushroom” paradigm of space travel, and I began to identify with its inventor, Paul Stamets (named for the quirky present-day mycologist). It all seemed so familiar. Why was that happening? It took me a little while to remember this:
“So I held the intention of looking at Orion, and I began to have quite a vivid vision. First, against an image of space with stars, there was a huge burst of white light coming through what looked like a wormhole in a science-fiction movie. I could see a round tunnel behind it, and on the other side, an equally huge, bright mass of light. This seemed to describe where Orion was coming from.”
Oh. Kind of like:
“Then I felt myself flying or being pulled through the hole, and found myself on the other side, in the other universe. I had only had the intention of looking at all this, but suddenly it was like actually being there, though I was still quite aware of the usual room around me. I could feel tingling, like little sparks, and warmth all over my body. As I more or less adjusted to my surroundings, I began to see the sparks as small, twinkling points of light all around me. Somehow the points of light seemed excited and happy, as if they were glad I was there. It felt like the entire space was filled with love and joy—and fun, a sense of lightness, as if I had walked into some wonderful celebration. Mendy was observing all this, and she could see the same little lights and feel the sensation of love. There was absolutely no seriousness or gravity about any of this.”
(Discovery and her crew do in fact end up in another universe in the middle of the season, but their experience is far darker than mine.)
The spores are depicted as, guess what, little points of light that sometimes act as if they are conscious beings. At the end of one sequence of using the drive, one of the sparks flies with apparent intention onto the shoulder of Cadet Tilly and disappears into her body, leaving us with a mystery to look forward to in the next season. Perhaps we are meant to understand that, rather than being made of physical protoplasm like fungi on Earth, the magic mycelia exist as purely energetic beings in the mold of some other space-native creatures that have cropped up on Star Trek from time to time. That would be a bit easier to swallow, since otherwise one must explain how physical fungi could get sustenance out in the void.
Whatever sort of biology it is supposed to have, the mycelial network contains fascinating possibilities. Within it, one can communicate with others who have entered, even those who exist in alternate universes, and reconnect with the dead. Linear time seems irrelevant. For a while Stamets becomes understandably confused and unstuck in time, unmoored from the usual limited consensus reality and not yet able to find his way through the infinitely complex patterns beyond it. I found myself identifying with that too.
It’s music that allows Stamets to get oriented again, and later to bring the ship home. “Follow the music,” his deceased partner tells him, from within the mycelia. Discovery and her crew are saved by a gay man’s love of opera. Perfectly plausible, right?
As with the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Sub Rosa,” which I wrote about a few months ago, I began to wonder whether someone had seen what I had seen, and had packaged it as science fiction to make it more acceptable. Or maybe these ideas have shown up because there are truths that we all know about subconsciously, and they find their way to the surface when we let ourselves wander freely in search of stories.
Star Trek: Discovery wrapped up its first season tonight, and afterward one of the showrunners, Aaron Harberts, said that something they are really interested in for the next year is “the collision between science and spirituality.” We’ll have a long wait to see what they do with that, but even the fact that they have it in mind feels like light-years of progress to me.
The idea that everything is conscious, or “panpsychism”:
Human hearts are connected to geomagnetic and solar activity: