Hard Sayings: Earths in the Universe
by W. Cairns Henderson (editor 1964)
Yet another hard saying for some New Church men-and with it we close this series-is that the moon, the planets in our solar system and countless other earths are inhabited. Their difficulty may be stated thus. If science succeeds in placing men from our earth on the moon, or one of the planets, and no human life is found there, how will it be possible to sustain faith in the Writings? Faced with this theoretical problem, some are already seeking escape hatches or preparing positions to which they may retreat if necessary. Others have simply remained concerned, and others again have found consolation in the thought that the Lord will not allow interplanetary travel because confirmation of the teaching that other earths are inhabited would be a miracle and would compel faith in the Writings.
The issue must be faced squarely. We are taught that if the human race were to cease on some earth, the heavens from that earth would then be given a basis in another earth, which indicates the possibility of there being earths from which mankind has vanished; and we must surely concede that in the vast extense of the Lord's creation there may be planets which are being prepared to support human life. However, the Writings nowhere state that any of the spirits with whom Swedenborg spoke were from planets on which human life had since failed, and in certain instances there seems to be no doubt that the planets spoken of were inhabited as recently as two hundred years ago.
Certainly the theological argument for there being many inhabited earths is unassailable, and anyone who is unfamiliar with it is invited to read Earths in the Universe, nos. 24, 112 and 126. If the Divine end in creation is an angelic heaven from the human race, how can it be held rationally that this end was present only in the creation of our small earth? How can it be believed that the planets and the earths in the starry heavens were created without purpose because without that end-to swing through space as empty worlds? How could the inhabitants of one small earth reflect, let alone satisfy, the infinity of God the Creator, for whom myriads of inhabited worlds and heavens from them would not be sufficient? These questions cannot be dismissed lightly.
The teaching that there are other inhabited earths is not in itself, it is true, a theological doctrine. To say this, however, answers nothing. The reasons for their being inhabited are theological, and the two cannot be separated. Indeed the inescapable logic of those reasons is that wherever there is an earth there are men upon it and those men are in the human form. If we accept the theological argument, and enlightened reason can scarcely do otherwise, why should we be concerned? Science has not yet proved that any planet is devoid of human life, it has only reached theoretical conclusions based on the interpretation of available data; and in any case, surely our fear of what men may discover is not greater than our faith in what the Lord has revealed?
Angels and spirits know, we are told, that other earths are inhabited, and even those who have not seen and spoken with spirits from them believe this, because they know that where there is an earth there are men upon it: this because they know what the essence of the Divine is. Should we not try to make this our faith, a truly rational one, rather than be troubled by "but what if?"