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Historical origin of Extraterrestrial Life Meme

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posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 08:06 PM
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I've been reading lately about memes, and their origins. That got me to thinking about when exactly mankind began thinking seriously about extraterrestrial life. The idea of aliens makes sense as a possibility to us now, but my research indicates that it wasn't until the 16th century that the concept was accepted intellectually. I guess TPTB at the time discouraged those things, because of the earth-centric view of the Universe. I have read about sightings that have been recorded from antiquity in the Bible, Bhagavad Gita, etc.

My questions specifically are: when can we as intellectual humans say was the genesis of the meme of extraterrestrial life?

What is the first known myth or recorded history of a being or spirit being from the "heavens?"

What is the timeline of the evolution of the meme from antiquity to today's elaborate Alien Mythology?

Here is a quote from The Great Chain of Being by Arthur Lovejoy pegging the acceptance of the concept in the 16th/17th century:

"The truly revolutionary theses in cosmography which gained ground in the sixteenth and came to be pretty generally accepted before the end of the seventeenth century were five in number, none of them entailed by the purely astronomical systems of Copernicus or Kepler. ... The five more significant innovations were: (1) the assumption that other planets of our solar system are inhabited by living, sentient, and rational creatures; (2) the shattering of the outer walls of the medieval universe, whether these were identified with the outermost crystalline sphere or with a definite "region" of the fixed stars, and the dispersal of these stars through vast, irregular distances; (3) the conception of the fixed stars as suns similar to ours, all or most of them surrounded by planetary systems of their own; (4) the supposition that the planets in these other worlds also have conscious inhabitants; (5) the assertion of the actual infinity of the physical universe in space and of the number of solar systems contained in it. (The Great Chain of Being, p.108).




posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 08:15 PM
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The only mention of ET in the Bhagvad Gita is the mention there are many planets with life. It is not very definitive. I think you mean the Mahabharata which is full of references of space travel, inter-dimensional travel and what we call ET life is considered common in much of the Sanskrit yore.

Anyway I think the oldest mention of the ET concept comes from an Indonesian tribe, I can't remember what the name of the people is anymore, but their legend says that they are the descedents of an interstellar people.

I think there are similar legends in Australia and Native America. I am sure someone here could help flesh out the details for you.

[edit on 29-3-2009 by Indigo_Child]



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 08:55 PM
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reply to post by greenorbs
 


I think natural philosophy and what became science played a huge part. Prior to naturalistic explanations for life on earth there were creation stories/supernatural beings, and post science people have made science-like explanations fulfilling similar criteria.

I don't know if "heavens" or "the universe" is equivalent with beyond the sky, because it's possible ancient religions had different understandings of those concepts. But one that's always struck me is Zoroastrianism:


Zoroastrianism is uniquely important in the history of religion because of its possible formative links to both Western and Eastern religious traditions. In the opinion of Mary Boyce, as "the oldest of the revealed credal religions", Zoroastrianism "probably had more influence on mankind directly or indirectly than any other faith".


en.wikipedia.org...

Seems to be a memeingful (sorry couldn't resist) religion, in the western sphere at least.



posted on Mar, 31 2009 @ 10:44 PM
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Here's a good link highlighting historical possibilities for extraterrestrial life.

I'm trying to put together a timeline of the idea or meme for extraterrestrial life, though, in recorded history. These artist representations of possible UFOs or extraterrestrials would not suffice for that.



posted on Mar, 31 2009 @ 11:12 PM
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This Wikipedia page on extraterrestrial life offers a summary of sources of the idea of cosmic pluralism.


In Greek times, the debate was largely philosophical and did not conform to present notions of cosmology. Cosmic pluralism was a corollary to notions of infinity and the purported multitude of life-bearing worlds were more akin to parallel universes (either contemporaneously in space or infinitely recurring in time) than to different solar systems. After Thales and his student Anaximander opened the door to an infinite universe, a strong pluralist stance was adopted by the atomists, notably Leucippus, Democritus, and Epicurus. While these were prominent thinkers, their opponents—Plato and Aristotle—had greater effect. They argued that the Earth is unique and that there can be no other systems of worlds. This stance neatly dovetailed with later Christian ideas and pluralism was effectively suppressed for a millennium


Wikipedia page on extraterrestrial life

Thus, there seems to be a few subdivisions to the meme for extraterrestrial life:

(1) philosphical thoughts, involving cosmis pluralism
(2) religious thoughts, involving angels and the heavens
(3) empirical thoughts, involving actual evidence of ET

Using this framework, I'll keep digging and try to get a timeline going with the meme.

[edit on 31-3-2009 by greenorbs]



posted on Mar, 31 2009 @ 11:27 PM
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Origin myths of Native American and First Nation peoples are filled with what might be construed as ET, inter dimensional, metaphysical beings.

ex....

www.firstpeople.us...

Who knows the age of these myths as they are not written and only passed down by oral tradition.



posted on Mar, 31 2009 @ 11:36 PM
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Originally posted by Indigo_Child
The only mention of ET in the Bhagvad Gita is the mention there are many planets with life. It is not very definitive. I think you mean the Mahabharata which is full of references of space travel, inter-dimensional travel and what we call ET life is considered common in much of the Sanskrit yore.

Anyway I think the oldest mention of the ET concept comes from an Indonesian tribe, I can't remember what the name of the people is anymore, but their legend says that they are the descedents of an interstellar people.

I think there are similar legends in Australia and Native America. I am sure someone here could help flesh out the details for you.

[edit on 29-3-2009 by Indigo_Child]


Thanks for the reference, I'm going to have to read that epic sometime.

The dating for the Mahabharata ranges from 10,000 BC to 400 AD, with the earliest known references dating to the 4th century BC. I'm not sure if these early references involve the cosmology, but i will research further.

The Bali Indonesia myth involves gods in the multiple skies. The people Austronesian people of Bali migrated there around 2000 BC, and presumably the myth developed then. This is pre-Balinese Hinduism.

I have to compare this timing to the philosophical notion of cosmis pluralism in the Greek tradition for the timeline.



posted on Mar, 31 2009 @ 11:44 PM
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Originally posted by whaaa
Origin myths of Native American and First Nation peoples are filled with what might be construed as ET, inter dimensional, metaphysical beings.

ex....

www.firstpeople.us...

Who knows the age of these myths as they are not written and only passed down by oral tradition.


I agree, the Hopi/American Indian origins of myth are hard to estimate. According to the New World migration model, the Eurasian migration over the Beringia land bridge occurred around 12,000 BC. The Hopi are an offshoot of this migration, and who knows when they developed the myth. So, this meme variant is open-ended, as you say.



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