Aliens: the next spiritual mentors ?
April 21, 2010 | 7 comments
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox
[!gad]While the premise of aliens — intelligent non-human life — is one of the driving themes of speculative fiction and movies, most works in these genres eschew any direct talk of spirituality, religion, or faith, alien or human. There are some exceptions, however.
Enemy Mine, a 1985 science fiction film derived from an award-winning 1979 novella, depicts an intergalactic war between human beings and an alien race called the Drac. Marooned by their battle-damaged space fighters on an isolated, inhospitable planet, a Drac and a man start off as enemies. Out of survival necessity, however, they make a wary peace.
Eventually, the two become the dearest of friends. The Drac shows a sense of his own spirituality and the divine. The Drac reads frequently from a small book of religious/philosophical text, and often ponders the larger questions of life, speaking about them with his newfound human companion.
Ultimately, the alien’s faith and friendship motivate the human being to consider something other than his prestige as a top-scoring fighter pilot focused solely on advancing his military career. The alien reminds the man that life is so much more than just a scramble for conquest and material success. The human being is much better off for having learned to respect and even love an alien as a being of great faith and courage.
Another example of speculative fiction that directly addresses spirituality is the Green Stone of Healing series. It features an intelligent non-human being, known as a Mist-Weaver, who exhibits capabilities that human beings more readily ascribe to angels or the supernatural. The Mist-Weaver is able to appear and dissolve at will, transitioning from material to non-material realities in much the same manner as the divine heralds of earthly religious traditions.
As would an angel, the Mist-Weaver takes a physical form to converse easier with the human characters. The Mist-Weaver clearly has a profound sense of the divine and his connection to it and to all life, and tries to encourage that spiritual connection in his human counterparts. But his spiritual teachings often leave them baffled because they are very different from human understanding. The Mist-Weaver’s presence spurs his human students to examine the limitations of their faith and their spiritual understanding, just as the burning bush, signaling God’s presence, presented Moses with challenges of faith and self-growth.
Although the Mist-Weaver is more spiritually advanced than the human beings he interacts with, he does not try to dictate human behavior or beliefs, solve human problems, or protect his human students from the consequences of their actions. He is no deus ex machina waving a magic wand and righting all wrongs. In taking a hands-off approach, he might seem indifferent to some, but just the opposite is true. He heals one character of a broken finger and further injuries and often tries to comfort others in their most desperate hours.
The Mist-Weaver simply refuses to intervene out of his abiding respect for and more advanced understand of the true meaning of free will. Well-intentioned human beings often disregard others’ free will and rush in, foolishly, where wiser angels fear to tread. Perhaps that’s what makes this alien truly strange. The Mist-Weaver doesn’t suffer from that all-too-human inclination to run other people’s lives or to believe that God is a similar micro-manager.
A third example of speculative fiction portraying intelligent non-human beings with a highly developed spirituality is Alien Nation. Most of these on-screen “Newcomers” are just regular folks, although there are villains in their midst, too. But the average alien Joes and Jills have jobs, houses, children, and most try to live peacefully among their human counterparts. They also have extensive religious rituals and traditions that are depicted throughout the TV series.
Like Enemy Mine and the Green Stone of Healing series, Alien Nation asserts that non-human beings can teach the human variety a thing or two about life and spirituality. The Newcomer police officer is paired with a human detective who is initially very unhappy about the arrangement. But the former earns the latter’s respect and affection through his courage, smarts, initiative, and loyalty. The Newcomer demonstrates that these enduring and spiritual character qualities are not the sole province of human beings. Again, the human being is better off for having known the alien.
On planet earth, isolated by the only too human fear that spirituality is just a mirage, many find the former a far more alien concept than the supposition of non-human intelligent beings. Yet all of us, although we may not use spiritual terms to describe our longings, hunger for a sense of community and belonging, a sense of self and of our unique place in this vast universe.
In other words, we long to live our spirituality and its implied relationship with God, however we conceive God to be and by whatever name we call the divine. Yet we struggle with our greatest human fear: that we will never be worthy enough for that ultimate spiritual relationship.
Aliens may give God far more credit than we do. If/when the day comes that we openly encounter intelligent non-human beings, we may find that the experience brings us much closer to reclaiming and living our own spirituality than we ever believed possible.
We can always choose to embrace the unknown — the alien — instead of fearing it.
Candace Talmadge writes about the intersection of unexplained mysteries and spirituality. Her blog is StoneScribe (www.healingstonebooks.com/stonescribe
) and her speculative fiction is the Green Stone of Healing(r) series (www.greenstoneofhealing.com