“But even more heavenly than the flashing
stars are those infinite eyes which the night opens within us, and which see further even than the palest of those
― Novalis, Hymns to the Night
Is it possible to make a few intelligent statements about extraterrestial life, without objective scientific knowledge of their actual reality? I think so. Let us try to meditate a little bit about this highly important topic („highly“ because it is possible that we discover in the next years a second earth and get a proof for extraterrestial life, it is only a question of time, because „NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered the first Earth-size planet orbiting a star in the “habitable zone” — the range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet. The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that planets the size of Earth exist in the habitable zone of stars other than our sun.“ Source).
Since my childhood I looked to the stars and contemplated and dreamed about the mysterys of the cosmos, the vastness of space and the greatness and unspeakable beauty of creation touched my little heart. It gave me the feeling, that I am really nothing, but at the same time connected to something greater, something beyond the limitations of language and the concepts of the rational mind, a presence that I couldn’t describe, but experience as pure aliveness. Nisargadatta Maharaj, one of the greates indian sages of the 20th-century, described this experience in a wonderful way:
“Wisdom is knowing I am nothing, Love is knowing I am everything, and between the two moves my life”
This experience brought me to the strong belief that there must be life (maybe a lot of life) in the universe and maybe other sentient (spiritual) beings like us, other “childs of god” that inhabit the heavens and ask the same questions and look to the stars in this moment together with me.
But what tell us the spiritual traditions about extraterrestial life?
The answer is: a lot, if we examine them carefully, like a butterfly, with a open, gentle and questioning mind. For example, many people in different cultures share a common belief in angels, “heavenly beings”, from a different plane of existence. In other words: they are not terrestial, but rather cosmic (extra-terrestial) spirits, and sometimes they came down to earth to deliver a important divine message from god to a choosen prophet. In other words, there is a material realm (known to us, scientific understandable and objectifiable) and a mysterious spiritual realm (more ore less unknown to us), but sometimes we get a glimpse of it, like a fresh breeze of insight and inspiration that connect us to the higher realms and planes of consciouesness, that the human soul can access (for example through dreams, visions, music, art and poetry, the reading and contemplating about holy scripture, the “word of god” or “chanting”), if we get the permission “from above”, but we can’t create a mystical experience, because it is a outpouring of grace.
In a nutshell: the rational mind and our physical senses are bound to the lower level of existence, but our soul can soar to the higher realms beyond these limitations, like the mythical phoenix, the Arabian Anka عنقاء or Simurgh, the Tibetan Me byi karmo or the Japanese hō-ō (more informations here) They are all archetypical imaginations of the human soul and the transcendental spirit. The wisdom of this is, that there is indeed a higher, unknown realm and this realm is not death, it is full of bursting aliveness and intelligence; and sometimes happens a exchange of information from the higher to the lower, from heaven to earth, from the nonphysical to the physical, a precious moment of revelation and inspiration.
We can pray and ask for guidance and inspiration, but we can’t control and make it artificially. It happens only as a natural and spontaneous occurence, it is a unearned gift. There is certainly a great openness for the possibility of extraterrestial life in the spiritual traditions. This is in the time of space-travelling, modern physics and cosmology, a very important topic:
“Any faith that admires truth, that strives to know God, must be brave enough to accommodate the universe.” ~ Carl Sagan, Contact
What would it mean for our theology and spirituality if we have a proof for extra-terrestial life?
Maybe it would be the greatest shock in human history and the beginning of a great shift in consciousness. Some Atheists believe that it would destroy our traditional faith, but I believe it would be the other way around, because on the one hand modern science is in itself a profound source of spirituality and on the other hand it would be a new renaissance and revolution of creation-theology and therefore a deepening and refreshment of our faith. What could be a better proof for the greatness and glory of the One Infinite Creator, as a possible encounter with extra-terrestial life? We would see the whole cosmos, and our place and destiny in it, in a radical new way, inspired with wonder and suprise. Psalm 19:1, a Psalm of David, celebrates the glory of creation:
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
And Saint Paul used in a very similar way the beauty and greatness of creation as a visible sign of god (Romans 1:20) in his argumentation for the existance of a Creator, as the mysterious, eternal and timeless Ground of Being:
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they (the Nonbelievers) are without excuse
In all Holy Scriptures of the different spiritual traditions can we find seeds of something like a “Exotheology” or “universal spirituality” already. The words of Jesus himself can we interpret in this way:
Jesus Comforts the Disciples
1Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe in Me as well. 2In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? John 14:2
I believe it would be much easier for us to react to such an encounter with extraterrestial life, if we have faith and trust in the Creator and the underlying universal goodness, interconnectedness and oneness of life in this universe. And the leap that we need to realize interstellar travel between stars or planetary systems, the upcoming future of humanity, is without doubt a great leap of faith.
Let us end this meditation with these words from the great german philosopher Immanuel Kant:
I have … the strong belief … that there are inhabitants in other worlds – Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Critique of Pure Reason
© mark david vinzens