Key 9 - Living in Awe

How Awe can radically transform your experience of being alive

"Under the running sea of our theories and scientific explanations

lies the aboriginal abyss of radical amazement."

Abraham Heschel

Planetary Humans are awe-based and oriented toward sustaining within their awareness the outrageous mystery and wonder of their astounding circumstances: of living on a planet that is permeated by millions of species, that he or she is part of that matrix of life, that each human being has a physical structure comprised of trillions of cells, that he or she abides within or as a mysterious presence of subjectivity, within a cosmic situation that has seemingly been running for billions of years - a cosmos possessing a mind-numbing array
of trillions of galaxies, each with billions and sometimes trillions of stars, and that orbiting those stars are
even greater numbers of planets - an endless array of variegated worlds.
From the extremely tiny domain of the quantum particle, to the immensity of galactic and cosmic scales;
the deeper characteristics of what is referred to as 'REALITY' must in the awe-fullness of it all
wondrously shock any individual who allows awareness to rest in and be overwhelmed by all 'THAT IS'.
Planetary humans consistently make a concerted effort to think and feel and imagine and extrapolate.
"Wonder is the first of all passions."
— Aristotle

"Conceptualized as a sense of wonder, amazement, or fascination, AWE is a complex emotion associated with deep and personal change. The experience of this multifaceted sensation is atypical, powerful, and memorable. People who experience awe are intensely moved and often propelled toward a feeling of self-transcendence—becoming aware they are one minor part of a larger whole."               - Jessica Koehler PhD

"So numerous are the objects which meet our view in the heavens, that we cannot imagine a part of space where some light would not strike the eye; innumerable stars, thousands of double and multiple systems, clusters in one blaze with their tens of thousands of stars, and the nebulæ amazing us by the strangeness of their forms and the incomprehensibility of their nature, till at last, from the limit of our senses, even these thin and airy phantoms vanish in the distance. If such remote bodies shone by reflected light, we should be unconscious of their existence. Each star must then be a sun, and may be presumed to have its system of planets, satellites, and comets, like our own; and, for aught we know, myriads of bodies may be wandering in space unseen by us, of whose nature we can form no idea, and still less of the part they perform in the economy of the universe."

Mary Somerville: On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences (1834)

Specific conditions - ‘lenses’ - that can enhance awe-based awakening:

from the excellent book by PLANETARY HUMAN Advisory Board Member

Kirk Schnieder PhDAwakening to Awe  (Jason Aronson Publishing 2009)


  • The lens of transienceattunement to the passing nature and therefore preciousness of living.

  • The lens of unknowingrecognition of life’s mystery and potential for change – adventure.

  • The lens of surpriseopenness to life’s spontaneity and many sidedness.

  • The lens of vastnessrecognition of life’s grandeur and possibilities.

  • The lens of intricacyattunement to the subtleties of the mental and physical world.

  • The lens of sentimentappreciation of life’s poignant emotions; deepening the capacity to be moved.

  • The lens of solitudeacknowledgement of the restorative nature of aloneness; befriending ones capacity to be.

“The real beginning of education must be

the experimental realization of absolute mystery.”


— Buckminster Fuller

“The most beautiful and profound emotion is the sensation of the mystical.

It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger,

who can no longer wonder and stand wrapt in awe, is as good as dead” 


"Our radical amazement responds to the mystery, but
does not produce it. You and I have not invented the
grandeur of the sky nor endowed man with the
mystery of birth and death. We do not create the
ineffable, we encounter it."


Abraham Heschel

(on their way)

© 2017 Richard Henry Whitehurst

All photos of Earth from space are courtesy of NASA.

All quotes by astronauts courtesy of the books: (1) The Overview Effect by Frank White - and - (2) The Home Planet by Kevin W. Kelly.