What sort of spirituality would be practiced by an extra-terrestrial being? I find this an interesting question, one which points to a more practical question: “What sort of spirituality should be practiced by us right here on earth?”
Many people have pondered how the world’s religions would be affected by the discovery of extra-terrestrial life—particularly life from a civilization much more advanced than ours. Physicist Paul Davies, in his article “E.T. and God,” observes that Christianity would have the biggest problem with the discovery of alien superbeings because “of all the world’s major religions, Christianity is the most species-specific.” Jesus died for humanity’s sins, not those of extra-terrestrials.
Buddhists and Hindus, says Davies, “would seem to be the least threatened by the prospect of advanced aliens, owing to their pluralistic concept of God and their traditionally much grander vision of the cosmos.” Agreed. But this still begs the question of what sort of spirituality aliens would practice. How would Buddhists and Hindus have to expand their religions to accommodate an extra-terrestrial spirituality?
Or, would any expansion be needed at all? In other words, is there a common ground in Buddhism, Hinduism, or other capacious religions which could comfortably accommodate an alien religious expression?
Consider physics. Almost certainly the basics of human knowledge about atoms, molecules, elements, and so on wouldn’t be affected by contact with an advanced extra-terrestrial civilization. For these aliens wouldn’t be so alien as to live in a different universe.
They likely would perceive physical reality with different sense organs than ours, and “think” (if that is the right word) about what they perceive with different cognitive faculties. But earthly and E.T. physicists would be able to bridge these gaps by using the Rosetta Stone of material existence. However a hydrogen atom is described, with whatever words or symbols, that atom undeniably exists apart from the descriptions.
However, what would be the Rosetta Stone, or common ground, of earthly and alien spirituality? Obviously it couldn’t be any historical event that happened on only one planet (such as Jesus’ incarnation), since this wouldn’t be part of a shared reality. And it also couldn’t be a theology or metaphysics dependent on culture-specific concepts, for vast differences would almost certainly exist between earthly and extra-terrestrial cultures.
I think bare naked consciousness has to be the common ground. Not thoughts, emotions, and what-not that clothe consciousness, for these would be unique to humans and unique to aliens. And also not conscious perceptions of physical reality, for these are, by definition, of material origin. Thus I keep coming back to consciousness plain and simple when I try to imagine how earthlings could share a sense of spirituality with alien beings.
If a spiritual reality exists apart from the physical it can only be known by consciousness. Otherwise it would remain unknown. The nature of consciousness is a mystery. Yet it is clear and evident to both you and me right now. This is why it is such a mystery: obvious, yet hidden; right in front of our eyes (and also behind our eyes), yet unseen.
I meditate every day. I like to try to form my consciousness into an alien consciousness. I don’t know how well I’m succeeding. I haven’t met an alien with whom I can attempt to share meditation experiences.
Still, I suspect that any technologically advanced extra-terrestrial civilization would have explored the consciousness that produced those advances to as great a degree, and likely much more so, as has our own civilization. They would have stripped consciousness down to its core, to its essential irreducible reality—just as earthly scientists seek to discover the root of physical matter, energy, time, and space.
I like to imagine that the essence of my consciousness is the same as an alien consciousness. Maybe this can be called “soul.” Maybe it can’t. Whatever it is, whatever it can or can’t be called, I strongly suspect that the more empty it is, the more alike it is to extra-terrestrial consciousness.
I probably will never meet E.T. on the outside.
But I might be able to meet E.T. on the inside.