Lewis, Space Travel, & the Existence of God

C. S. Lewis died on November 22, 1963, one week before his 65th birthday. Most people didn’t notice his death since that was also the day of the JFK assassination. Lewis probably would have liked the anonymity of his passing.

In those 65 years, which spanned from just before the beginning of the 20th century to the dawn of the space age, he saw society transformed. One of his final essays, written in the year of his death, showed he was keeping up with the times—in particular, the fascination with space travel.

The Seeing EyeHe’d always liked the subject. Back in the late 1930s-early 1940s, he had authored a space trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. I love those books, and they still sell well, as do all of Lewis’s writings. As he pondered the new age of actual space exploration, he noted that some people were wondering if man would find God out there somewhere. That led to these comments in the aforementioned article, “The Seeing Eye”:

Looking for God—or Heaven—by exploring space is like reading or seeing all Shakespeare’s plays in the hope that you will find Shakespeare as one of the characters or Stratford as one of the places. Shakespeare is in one sense present at every moment in the same way as Falstaff or Lady Macbeth. . . .

If there were an idiot who thought plays existed on their own, without an author . . . our belief in Shakespeare would not be much affected by his saying, quite truly, that he had studied all the plays and never found Shakespeare in them. . . .

My point is that, if God does exist, He is related to the universe more as an author is related to a play than as one object in the universe is related to another.

If God created the universe, He created space-time, which is to the universe as the metre is to a poem, or the key is to music. To look for Him as one item within the framework which He Himself invented is nonsensical.

If God—such a God as any adult religion believes in—exists, mere movement in space will never bring you any nearer to Him or any farther from Him than you are at this very moment. You can neither reach Him nor avoid Him by travelling to Alpha Centauri or even to other galaxies. A fish is no more, and no less, in the sea after it has swum a thousand miles than it was when it set out.

One of the early Soviet cosmonauts, returning from orbiting the earth, said he didn’t see any God out there. Taken in the context of Lewis’s comments, it might be hard to find a more stupid statement. Man always wants to believe his rationale powers are the height of all understanding. Yet who gave man the ability to think? It would be nice if more of us used that ability as it was intended.