St. Theophan the Recluse: Possible Assumptions Concerning Life on Other Planets

From the Unpublished Collection of Letters
by St. Theophan the Recluse

With great pleasure, I am ready to tell you a word or two to dispel your misunderstandings.

You are sure that all the celestial bodies are inhabited with sentient beings and that these beings tend to do evil just like us (we can even say they are fallen).Thus, they have a need in certain means for their salvation, and that this entails a wonderful arrangement of death and the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. It follows that you have an intractable problem: how could Jesus Christ be the Savior for them? Could it be so that He was Incarnate, suffered and died in every of those worlds? You cannot solve this problem and this situation bothers you and shakes your faith in the Divine Economy of our salvation.

The fact that such thoughts bother you is your own fault, for it happens not because of the character of these thoughts. They are just a chain of dreams, which cannot be true at all, while the Divine Economy is true. There is no way we can let these thoughts shatter your faith.

Although you keep the idea about the beings from the other worlds in mind for a long time, and there are many arguments for it, it is still just a probable assumption. It is very unlikely that there are inhabitants – yet still somewhat likely. You have no right to state firmly “yes, there are” until you personally make sure that there are certain beings. To be more accurate I should say it is possible that they exist, but it is also possible that they do not. Think about navigators. A navigator comes to an island, and everything points to the fact that there must be some inhabitants. However, when he gets ashore, he sees nothing. Alternatively, just think about the ancient times when people have not multiplied yet. At every turn, you could meet the signs of undeniable habitability, while there were no inhabitants at all. The same is with the celestial bodies – there are plenty of hints that they are inhabited. What is more interesting is that whether they are still waiting for their inhabitants or there will be none at all: who knows what is the Lord’s will concerning them! We need to visit these worlds and make sure before to say firmly “there are”. Otherwise, we cannot say more than “probably”.

To protect the truth from assumptions is like fighting with ghosts. This is why you will not find a denial of your theory in any respectable theological book. Theologians do not think that denial of dreams is reasonable. Imagine that a Polish rebellion is taking place. You are in a command of a squad. You are approaching a forest, hear a noise and see people with axes in smoke. It seems these are the rebels. However, should you command to fire, you could make an unforgivable mistake. These people can be the civilians who are cutting wood. You should make sure in advance whether they are rebels, how many of them there are and what is their position – only then can you retaliate against them. Why to engage if there is no obvious danger?

The same is with your thoughts: make it obvious that there are inhabitants on celestial bodies, and then we will begin to deny any oppositions to our holy faith.

Since the existence of the inhabitants on other planets is just a probability, the field of probabilities is limitless; dreamers have a broad scope to work with. Perhaps, the same happened to you; as soon as you began to assume something, your dreams enslaved you. Assuming that there are certain beings on other worlds you begin to imagine their life although you have no data for this. You had to limit your thinking to assumptions of their existence on which there are certain hints and tell yourself that you should dig deeper because of the lack of information. But you did. An enquiring spirit haunted you and enslaved you. But let it be so.

There is nothing wrong with dreaming. However, it is rather dangerous to fall under the influence of dreams. You should dream carefully at the very least. For example, you could say so: it is possible that there are certain beings on other planets, but what can they be and how can their life be organized? Trying to solve this question, you should have thought about different options, but not focused on one particular variant because there is no reason to focus on one idea. Instead, you have picked up one assumption, borrowed from our world and focused on it. We had the falling (in regards to sin), and so did they. We tend to sin, and so do they. The Son of God became incarnate in our world, and consequently only this way of salvation can be possible on other worlds.

You should have argued in the following way: let us say there are sentient beings in other worlds. What did they do? Did they follow the commandments and the will of God, or did they violate the commandment and were disobedient? You can say neither. At the same time, I think that they could either sin or not, because in case of our ancestors sin was not a necessity but depended on their freedom. They fell, but they may not have fallen. The same concerns the inhabitants of other planets: they might either preserve the commandment, or not. If they did preserve the Lord’s commandment, then any further dreams regarding the ways of their salvation are senseless.

In this case, the beings are in the state of the primal communion with God and Holy Angels. They enjoy living in a condition in which we all will be after the universal Resurrection. However, you recognized their falling as doubtless and continued to develop that idea. Well, let us say that they also fell. However, can we say anything about the way of their salvation without knowing the extent of their sin? Maybe, their sin was so small that it was possible to limit their salvation to the measure of correcting one’s self. Otherwise, the sin could be so serious that it excluded such possibility. The dark spirits are the example in this case. You should have kept in mind all such conditions and not focused on one of them because all of them are probable.

Finally, you have only one way of restoring yourself – the incarnation of God, His death on the Cross and Resurrection. We believe that the Divine Economy was the free act of God, but not the act of necessity. The exceptional character of restoration in our world is adapted to our circumstances. However, we still cannot say that it was necessary. The Church sings, “From a Virgin didst Thou come, not as an Ambassador, nor as an Angel, but the very Lord Himself incarnate”. Thus, it was possible for a mediator or an angel to become a savior. In case of our world, the Lord Himself wanted to incarnate, while on other worlds a mediator or an angel or someone else could be the one who performed the act of salvation.

If you trace the entire chain of these dreams, you will certainly face the next question: how could there be a possibility of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ? Is it possible that He became incarnate there too? If it is difficult to answer this question, then why not to recognize another way of salvation for the fallen there? There is no reason to stand on your own. You are free to decide which idea to choose. At the same time, you should keep in mind that all these assumptions are nothing but dreams in which nothing can be entirely true. Therefore, any objections against the Holy Faith, which come from such dreams, are unsustainable. At first, you should learn about the life and condition of beings from other worlds and tell us all about it. Then we will solve the question of their salvation, and if you manage to form your objections against our teachings, it will be sustainable and worth denial. Until then – why should we bother about this?

You have accepted one point of view, while there can be plenty of them. Assuming that other worlds are inhabited by sentient beings, you state that they were also created. But what if they were not created, but came there from Earth? What if Earth is aimed to become the spot of life for other planets? People could spread and settle on other worlds, just like they have spread all over the Earth from one place. The Lord said, “In my Father's house are many mansions” (John 14:2). Why can we not recognize other planets as these “mansions”? Why can we not assume that people after their death live on this or that planet, on this or that sun, and will settle there with their bodies after the universal Resurrection? Tell me, why our small Earth is honored so much? God does not divide His creatures into big and small ones. He loves them all and cares about all of them equally. If He decided to make one planet the hotbed of people, then it did not matter which one exactly to choose for this purpose. No matter which planet to take, there is still the question: why is it chosen? Any of them will mean nothing in comparison with the whole universe. There is nothing to say against such an assumption.

Furthermore, if we assume there are inhabitants on other planets, nothing prevents us from saying that they live according to God’s will: they preserved their holiness and purity, did not violate God’s commandments and did not rebel against God, just as it happened on our planet. Only Earth rebelled, while other planets remained quiet. However, God, Who cares about any creature, did not abandon us. He organized the way for our restoration, which we accept with faith and through which we find salvation. If the parable, a shepherd leaves ninety-nine sheep and goes to look for the one, which is lost… We should not think that while the Lord cares a lot about the Earth, other worlds are forgotten, and that after what was done on our planet, there is nothing He can do for other planets. The main goal of creation is God’s glory and to show God’s infinite perfection. In our world, they are expressed through the Divine Economy, while in other worlds they can be expressed in a different way. If we assume that these sentient beings have a different way of life and blessing, it would be wiser to assume that they continuously live in a bright state of the blessed.

Now, let us assume they are fallen. There is no reason to think that they needed the incarnation, and that it had to occur on every planet. The power of incarnation and the sacrificial victim to save us through accepting them with faith. Why can we not say that the sacrifice made on earth affected other worlds as well? Why not to assume that the inhabitants of other planets find salvation in the same way? When it comes to faith the Lord is infallible. There are even Angels sent to those who want to inherit salvation. All the planets have a connection and affect each other, and we know nothing about this bond. We cannot assume that one of them can be excluded from this union. And if there is a physical connection, then why can we not say that there can be a moral one? If a celestial body affects other bodies physically, why can we not assume they affect each other morally too?

This is all that came to mind and I could say to comfort you. However, do not forget that all of these ideas are just probable assumptions, which we can live without, and should continue to live without such assumptions:

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

“Seek not out things that are too hard for thee, neither search the things that are above thy strength. But what is commanded thee, think thereupon with reverence, for it is not needful for thee to see with thine eyes the things that are in secret. For many are deceived by their own vain opinion; and an evil suspicion hath overthrown their judgment” (Sirach 3:21, 22, 24).

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