Ninety-seven years ago this December, Orville Wright took off into the cosmos. True, he was aloft only 12 seconds, his flight path a wavering arc that spanned only 120 feet; nonetheless, it was a presaging astronomical feat. Today I have a friend on the operations team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Until a few years ago he piloted — by radio signals — the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecrafts that are still in flight out near the edge of our solar system. As of December, Voyager 1 has been aloft over one billion seconds and has traveled over 3.6 trillion feet! Wright's "wavering arc" has evolved into a highly calculated set of trajectories.
Man's spirit soars outwardly and inwardly, and recent findings in astrophysics give us much to consider — aptly, since the root of the word consider (Latin con-siderare) originally meant "to contemplate the stars." A July 20th NASA news bulletin, Unveiling the Infrared Sky, reported that
Astronomers have released 1.9 million new [infrared] images of stars and galaxies gathered by the Two-Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS), the most thorough census of stars ever made. . . . Already, 2MASS data have uncovered numerous stars with characteristics so unique that astronomers had to revise a century-old classification system of known types of stars. — http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2000/ast20jul_1.htm
The lead investigator, Dr. Michael Skrutskie, commented: "The current release is based on a volume of data several hundred times larger than that contained in the human genome. Astronomers will become cosmic geneticists, searching out patterns in these sky maps to decode the structure and origin of the Milky Way."
Moreover, in the last six years our astro-analysis techniques — both telescopic and "come-hither" sensing technologies — have tallied up the unprecedented discoveries of fifty extrasolar planets, one confirmed as close as 15.3 light-years from our solar system; and just a few weeks ago astronomers announced finding eight planet-like objects in the sword of the constellation Orion. Surprise of surprises, they are "free-floating," that is, they do not orbit a central sun. These "planets" are disconcerting too, because they upset well-established theories of planetary formation and evolution.
Could it be that in these efforts astronomers, astrophysicists, and cosmologists are actually analyzing and decoding divinity? In The Four Sacred Seasons, G. de Purucker makes this heartfelt statement:
Think, and pause a moment over the thought. When you consider the glittering orbs above us and our own glorious daystar whom we call Father Sun, has it never occurred to you that these very stars are manifestations of the Hierarchy of Compassion, bringing light and life and love and wisdom into the dark realms of nature's material spheres? Verily it is so! — p. 50
I think that it's beginning to sprinkle "come-hither" ideas — maybe Chicken Little was really saying, "The sky is filling, the sky is filling!"
Sombrero Galaxy (M104), High Mass Star Formation in K3-50 region, Flame Nebula (NGC 2024); 2MASS Atlas Image mosaic, University of Massachusetts and IPAC/California Institute of Technology, funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation
Of course so much depends on our point of view. In his painting The Perspective Lesson, David Hockney teaches us that "In the theory of one-point perspective the vanishing point is infinity and the viewer is an immobile point outside the picture. . . . but if perspective is reversed then infinity is everywhere, infinity is everywhere, infinity is everywhere, infinity is everywhere and the viewer is now mobile." In other words, the viewer is now able to calculate and take flight at will, inwardly or outwardly.
We can take Hockney's "Perspective Lesson" at face value, right here and now. Like the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria that contacted a New World, we can look out from the interior vanishing point of our own three-vessel Selves (Body, Soul, and Spirit) and imagine and anticipate a new worldview — a bubble bath of concentric crystalline spheres — from new physics' primordial "strings" to astronomy's new electromagnetic eyes that see worlds visible and invisible.
At a recent public meeting of the Planetary Society, held under the banner of "Human Space Exploration," the commentator put a final question to his mixed panel of space scientists and science fiction writers: "What is it that you would most like to discover?" The last to answer, a NASA scientist, in turn asked, "Is there another or second form of life in the universe?" To an open mind, it feels very natural that other entities live and learn throughout the seen and unseen spaces of space. I believe that contact is inevitable, but contact with whom or what is the question. The wisdom of common and uncommon thinking people throughout history has addressed this in innumerable ways. One answer I especially like is offered by C. S. Lewis in his 1943 book Mere Christianity:
Already the new men are dotted here and there all over the earth. Some, as I have admitted, are still hardly recognisable: but others can be recognised. Every now and then one meets them. Their very voices and faces are different from ours; stronger, quieter, happier, more radiant. They begin where most of us leave off. They are, I say, recognisable; but you must know what to look for. They will not be very like the idea of "religious people" which you have formed from your general reading. They do not draw attention to themselves. You tend to think that you are being kind to them when they are really being kind to you. They love you more than other men do, but they need you less. . . . When you have recognised one of them, you will recognise the next one much more easily. And I strongly suspect (but how should I know?) that they recognise one another immediately and infallibly, across every barrier of colour, sex, class, age, and even of creeds. — pp. 187-8
We are spiritual beings, created out of star stuff, soaring and living in concert with the high chaparral and endless entities of cosmic space. Are the answers, then, here with us already, held in divine "genes" yet to be discovered, the capacious transmitters of divine ideas? Sir Thomas Browne suggested that "We carry within us the wonders we seek without us." Transcending the electromagnetic spectrum, the supra-biology of a future physics may allow cosmic geneticists to probe, amplify, and finally to illuminate long-held intuitions and inferences. But we need not await such tantalizing scientific confirmations: by shifting our view to probe and analyze the infinite universe within us by "living the life" (G. de Purucker, Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, pp. 583-4.), we can decode our own structure and origin in the cosmic hierarchy of compassion, and in the process bring light, life, love, and wisdom into the dark realms of nature's material spheres.
(From Sunrise magazine, December 2000/ January 2001; copyright 2000 Theosophical University Press)
At the end of December, when nature is sunk deepest in her sleep-death repose, silence and peace enveloped the village of my boyhood. The copper-colored shimmer of a few gas street lights invited reflection. The old Zuiderzee brushed or battered the coast with its eternally approaching waves, while the guardian eye of the lighthouse warned off ships in a night where stars spangled the infinite.
In the late 1920s there were very few Christmas trees, all of them indoors. Electric tree lights still lay in the future; nevertheless, there was a quiet and enchantment difficult to put into words. I recall walking through the village on an evening of light snow. On one side dim light gleamed furtively through the curtains of a simple house; on the other, illumination from the church's high windows glowed softly, merging with the sounds of organ music and the rustling of bare branches. At such moments it is as if one were in a different world, clothed somehow in perfect stillness. And the essence of that stillness remains.
Walking home, I heard only loose ropes ticking in the wind against the few ships at the dock. Quietly I went inside and shut the door behind me. Time, with so many other doors, where have you gone . . . — Wim Rinsma