Thursday, July 5, 2012

Out of the Silent Planet

I recently finished reading Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis. It was published in 1938 as the first part of Lewis' Space Trilogy. (We're talking pre-Narnia here people.) It is presented as a fictionalized account of real events. The whole "names have been changed to protect the innocent (and guilty)" line. I am sure at the time, the more open-minded of readers may have found this to be an entirely plausible, if somewhat fantastic, story. Given the technological advances in the last 75 years and mankind's more "hands-on" exploration of the celestial bodies within our solar system, the believability of the events in the book are greatly diminished. However, when it comes to space, I don't rule anything out. And I strongly believe that our knowledge of "outer space" and our relationship with it is exponentially larger than what we are "allowed" to know. Chew on that.
In the book, our protagonist whom Lewis has called Ransom, stumbles upon two less-than-noble scientists on a walk in the countryside. The scientists subsequently drug and kidnap Ransom and whisk him away on a space ship to the planet Malacandra (Mars) as an offering to some equally ignoble members of one of that planet's many sentient species. Ransom escapes his would be sellers before the transaction is completed and is taken in by a member of a different Malacandran species. Here he learns the common Malacandran language, the basic history of the different regions, and the nature and specializations of the planet's intelligent races.
As in any Lewis work I have read, religion or at least the idea of a "God" plays a key role in the storyline. Ransom eventually gains an audience with the planet's "deity" called Oyarsa. Not so much a person as an etheric entity, the Oyarsa is but that planet's aspect of a greater, universal presence, Maledil. Oyarsa goes on to explain that every planet has it's own Oyarsa. In addition, there exist the formless eldil. The eldil are able to communicate with physical beings in a more or less telepathic way and reside in the cold wastes of space, or "the heavens" but can "be" anywhere. The closest approximation to something an Earthling might understand would be an angel. During the course of Ransom's education we learn that Earth is called Thulcandra. (So THAT'S where the band got their name!) Thulcandra means "the Silent Planet". The story of Thulcandra parallels that of Lucifer. Thulcandra's Oyarsa became power hungry and struck out at the surrounding celestial bodies. With one hand he laid waste to the moon and with the other struck out at Malacandra, destroying its upper plateaus and relegating its life to deep, thin valleys. As punishment, Maledil imprisoned the Thulcandran Oyarsa in its own planet and cut it off from the collective universal consciousness. Hence, the Silent Planet.
The Malacandrans don't have a word for evil. They refer to Thulcandra's Oyarsa (and the aforementioned ignoble Malacandrans) as "bent". I think this is a brilliant way to describe human nature and more or less humanity in general. I believe that at our core, individuals and humanity as a whole are by nature "good". But we have become bent. More specifically our minds are bent. Since actions occur as the result of a thought, if our minds are bent, our actions will be bent as well. We see this in the amount of anger, selfishness, greed, hatred, etc. that dominates our society.
What if Earth really is The Silent Planet? What if we have been cast aside as the proverbial black sheep of the family by the innumerable societies of the universe? We have been conditioned - intentionally? - to believe that extra-terrestrial intelligences are inherently malicious. That if they come it will be to exploit and destroy our people and planet. But perhaps the opposite is the reality. Perhaps the qualities of peace and co-operation are predominant in the universe and we have been isolated to protect the rest of creation from our demonstrated potential for malevolence. Ours is an ugly world. War and death surround us. We demonstrate little to no reverence for the planet that sustains us. Day by day we inch closer to rendering our planet uninhabitable. Maledil forbid such a cruel, destructive and blind "civilization" be allowed to perpetuate itself beyond its own borders.
If this is the sort of statement Lewis was trying to make with Out of the Silent Planet I shudder to think what his perception of humanity would be today. In the last 75 years the destruction of our planet has accelerated, our hatred and destruction of our fellow man continues unabated. Technological advances intended to make our lives easier and thus happier and more fulfilling has only driven us further into ourselves. They've only continued to feed our desire for bigger, better, more. A desire that can never be fully satiated. Materialism will never be the means to ultimate happiness. Until we realize that (and realize the true nature of existence) we will always be a black mark on the face of creation.
But just as the potential for salvation lies within even the darkest of souls, there will always be hope for humanity. The past, present and future are lit by the shining jewels of potential for humanity to break free of the chains we've imprisoned ourselves in. Those people who serve as examples of all that is good and right and virtuous. The Mayan calendar ends this December. It is said that it marks "the end of the world as we know it". One can only hope that the change it marks is a change in the positive direction. That finally the resonant frequency of our planet will be elevated beyond the negativity that shackles both our individual and collective consciousnesses up to that of love, compassion and acceptance. (Yes, I've been reading Icke.) And that by freeing ourselves from our prison we are able to fully realize all there is to know about ourselves, our neighbours and the whole of existence.
If book one of the trilogy has been this inspirational and thought-provoking, I'm very intrigued to see how revelatory books two and three are!

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