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Ancient and early modern ideas
See also: Cosmic pluralism
Belief in extraterrestrial life may have been present in ancient Assyria, Egypt, Arabia, China, Babylon, India and Sumer, although in these societies, cosmology was fundamentally supernatural and the notion of alien life is difficult to distinguish from that of gods, demons, and such. The first important Western thinkers to argue systematically for a universe full of other planets and, therefore, possible extraterrestrial life were the ancient Greek writer Thales and his student Anaximander in the 7th and 6th centuries B.C. The atomists of Greece took up the idea, arguing that an infinite universe ought to have an infinity of populated worlds. Ancient Greek cosmology worked against the idea of extraterrestrial life in one critical respect, however: the geocentric universe. Championed by Aristotle and codified by Ptolemy, it favored the Earth and Earth-life (Aristotle denied there could be a plurality of worlds) and seemingly rendered extraterrestrial life philosophically untenable. Lucian in his novels described inhabitants of the Moon and other celestial bodies as humanoids, but with significant differences from humans.
Giordano Bruno, De l'Infinito, Universo e Mondi, 1584 Photo courtesy of P.C.Authors of ancient Jewish sources also considered extraterrestrial life. The Talmud states that there are at least 18,000 other worlds, but provides little elaboration on the nature of the worlds and on whether they are physical or spiritual. Based on this, however, the medieval exposition "Sefer HaB'rit" posits that extraterrestrial creatures exist but that they have no free will (and are thus equivalent to animal life). It adds that human beings should not expect creatures from another world to resemble earthly life, any more than sea creatures resemble land animals.
Hindu beliefs of endlessly repeated cycles of life have led to descriptions of multiple worlds in existence and their mutual contacts ( Sanskrit word Sampark (समपर्क) means 'contact' as in Mahasamparka (महसमपर्क) = the great contact). According to Hindu scriptures there are innumerable universes created by the Supreme Personality of Godhead to facilitate the fulfillment of the separated desires of innumerable living entities. However, the purpose of such creations is to bring back the deluded souls to correct understanding about the purpose of life. Apart from the innumerable universes which are material, there is also the existence of unlimited spiritual world, where the purified living entities live with perfect conception about life and ultimate reality. The life of these purified beings is centered around loving devotional services to Supreme Personality of Godhead. The spiritually aspiring saints and devotees as well as thoughtful men of material world have been getting guidance and help from these purified living entities of spiritual world from time immemorial. However, the relevance of such descriptions have to be evaluated in the context of a correct understanding of geography and science at those times.
Within Islam, the statement of the Qur'an "All praise belongs to God, Lord of all the worlds" indicates multiple universal bodies and maybe even multiple universes that may indicate extraterrestrial and even extradimensional life. Surat Al-Jinn also mentioned a statement from a Jinn regarding the current status and ability of his group in the heavens. A more direct reference from Quran is presented by Mirza Tahir Ahmad as a proof that life on other planets may exist according to Quran. In his book, Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge & Truth, he quotes verse 42:30 "And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and of whatever living creatures (da'bbah) He has spread forth in both..."; according to this verse there is life in heavens. According to the same verse "And He has the power to gather them together (jam-'i-him) when He will so please"; indicates the bringing together the life on Earth and the life elsewhere in the universe. The verse does not specify the time or the place of this meeting but rather states that this event will most certainly come to pass whenever God so desires. It should be pointed out that the Arabic term Jam-i-him used to express the gathering event can imply either a physical encounter or a contact through communication.
When Christianity spread throughout the West, the Ptolemaic system became very widely accepted, and although the Church never issued any formal pronouncement on the question of alien life at least tacitly the idea was aberrant. In 1277 the Bishop of Paris, Étienne Tempier, did overturn Aristotle on one point: God could have created more than one world (given His omnipotence) yet we know by revelation He only made one. Taking a further step and arguing that aliens actually existed remained rare. Notably, Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa speculated about aliens on the moon and sun.
Originally posted by malakiem
Solarsky, are those sites credible and reliable? I've heard of the dropa story in the netscentia website were they speak of the beings from other planets (the story before the dropa)? I've never heard of it.