A Theology of Space Travel 1.5

A comment by that old blogging personage Daniel Silliman on one of the articles in my previous post says:

The early American Puritan theologian Cotton Mather, for example, believed there could well be intelligent life forms elsewhere in the universe, and dealt with the jurisdictional question by supposing it possible that God’s dealing with humans and revelation in human history might be, ultimately, for the purpose of benifiting or educating the aliens. He imagines in the Triparadisus that the apocalyptic, world-wide conflagration might teach “moon men” about the sovereignty of God, for example.

This peaked my interest and so I found Mather’s work in question, the Triparadisus. In it, Mather writes about a conflagration of the Earth:

If the Satellit of this Earth walking in her Brightness, have any Reasonable Inhabitants, we know not what Refelections they will have, at the Beholding of what is done to this Globe, when they see GOD hath enkindled a Fire, & it hath devoured the Foundations thereof. Nor know we, how dire, how dismal, how doleful a Spectacle This may be to any other Planetts, if there be in them any Rational Spectators, of what Appearances may now be discovered here. [The Third Paradise VII]

A footnote from the editor says:

The belief in lunar inhabitants was not entirely new in Mather’s time; it had been popularized in Francis Godwin’s Man in the Moone. William Whitson even thought it presumptuous for man to conceive of himself as the whole focus of God’s creation and contended that there are millions of nobler intellectual beings out there in the solar system (New Theory, pt. I, pp. 71, 93).

Once again, this shows theologians of an earlier age having no problem with the idea of intelligent life existing outside of humanity on Earth. In this case, it is one of the uber-Puritans, Cotton Mather showing that these beliefs bridged the Protestant/Catholic divide.
The Threefold Paradise of Cotton Mather, An Edition of “Triparadisus”, edited by Reiner Smolinski, University of Georgia Press, Athens and London, 1999.

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