7.23.2012

What Was the First Alien?


By on 8:00 AM


The titular question is a bit difficult to answer, in more ways than one. For example, we have yet to really, absolutely, concretely prove the existence of even one alien, let alone the multiple ones necessary to create a position of ‘first.’ Also, as planets are destroyed by stars and black holes, we might never know if there were aliens that existed long before terrestrial life that we’ll just never find evidence of.

But a slightly more answerable question – what was the first conceptualization of an alien on Earth? – is similarly mired in difficulties. There are the usual pitfalls that surround questions of ancient human history, like a dearth of written languages, the regular destruction (environmentally or purposefully) of civilizations, and our general lack of information about how people before the Agricultural Revolution and the birth of cities actually thought. But there’s also the fuzzy zone between extraterrestrials and gods that is hard to separate into clear categories. It’s like alien invasions not really being alien invasions: beings from other worlds that are clearly non-humans are said to exist, so they’re extra-terrestrials, but they’re not really aliens the way we think of aliens now.

For instance, are any gods aliens? They’re not human, and since the creation of Earth is often attributed to some of them, they’re not terrestrial, either.

Ancient and medieval religions regularly talked about the creation of other worlds, and this was occasionally followed by statements about the inhabitants of those other worlds. According to the Old Norse religion, the ash tree Yggdrasill is at the center of the universe, and it has planets with gods, giants, and Norns, to say nothing of the unspecific animals that eat bits of Yggdrasill. There are separate planets, and there are clearly different biological (at least) origins for all the different beings. But are the gods, Norns (female executive gods, of a sort), and giants really aliens to us or to each other?

The answer is yes, they’re certainly extra-terrestrial. But alien might seem like the wrong word until you put it in the context of Avengers. (And there’s certainly a problem with how aliens are represented in that movie.)

But the majority of records for Old Norse religious information came from the 11th through the 18th centuries, a period preceded by two hundred years of oral religious information. That puts this conceptualization of ‘aliens’ at around 800 A.D.

And then you have Hindu cosmology through the Puranas (texts that, among other things, discuss the history and creation of the universe for Hinduism and Buddhism). Here, the universe is created, expands, and is destroyed over the course of one Brahma day, which is 4,320,000,000 years. This process of creation and destruction will continue for over 311 trillion years, which is how Brahma will live. We might infer that each new universe, if each one does have life (which the mediocrity principle would certainly point to), has some sort of aliens running around in each new Universe. Also, if Brahmin created Brahma and then different organisms of a specific terrestrial origin (like us) started appearing, someone is definitely an alien in comparison to the others.

But, for all that the Puranas were written during the Gupta Empire, putting their creation at somewhere between 200-400 A.D. (and 400 years before Yggdrasill), I don’t know that these were really our first aliens. There’s always extra fuzziness when an argument relies on the mediocrity principle, and I don’t know if alien-ness is really occurring. Maybe each new universe recreates our Earth, so even if humans aren’t humans every time, we’re all still Terrestrial. Maybe Brahmin and Brahma fall outside of the extra-terrestrial categorization, since they aren’t clearly assigned a planet the way that the Old Norse gods and Norns are.

In other religions, notably the Greek and Roman religions, gods use the moon and sun as various vehicles and tools. But Mount Olympus is on our Earth, and the top three brothers – Zeus Poseidon, and Hades – all rule different portions of our planet (even the Underworld, for various plot-driven and cultural necessities, is placed under the surface).

The Quran and Talmud – so as to not leave out the Abrahamic religions – reference the heavy possibility of extraterrestrials; the Talmud discusses 18,000 other worlds, which, in the 1700s, was interpreted to mean probably inhabited planets. The Quran says living creatures were put in both the earth and heavens, which Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, thinks points toward aliens.

Christians, up until when Copernicus started getting busy, accepted Ptolemy’s decision that the Earth was the center of the universe and that the planet was encased in layers for the moon, each of the visible planets and the sun, and then lastly a layer of fixed stars. There simply was no room for aliens in early Christian astronomy, despite the Church not really definitely arguing against it. It wasn’t really until Etienne Tempier theorized that God could have made more than one planet in 1277 and Cardinal Nicholas of Kues later thought about aliens on the sun and moon that the topic was really even broached.

Even the etymology of the word extraterrestrial doesn’t really help much. It’s based in Latin, but the adjective didn’t pop up until 1812 – the noun also took its time, since the Online Etymology Dictionary puts it at 1956.

We can hardly use the word ‘alien,’ either, since the adjective is estimated to be about 600 years old. But then it meant foreign, strange, or belonging to another. Think Alien and Sedition Acts not ‘get away from her, you bitch!’ and you have the right idea.

I’m tempted to just say Voltaire’s short story Micromegas features the first real aliens, for all that it was just written in 1752. All of the alien-related references and stories before that, like when John Milton theorizes about lie on the moon in Paradise Lost and when the poet Henry More talks about extrasolar planets in the 1647 poem ‘Democritus Platonissans,’ is more general cosmology than the idea that aliens are out there.

So, when was the first alien? It becomes increasingly unclear, especially if gods inhabit some nebulous aliens/not aliens category.

I’m sure Ancient Aliens has an answer, but it’s probably the wrong one.

If you’d like to theorize about the extra-terrestrial status of religious figures or propose your own date for the first conceptualization of an alien, please leave a comment and get the debate rolling!

Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.

About Syed Faizan Ali

Faizan is a 17 year old young guy who is blessed with the art of Blogging,He love to Blog day in and day out,He is a Website Designer and a Certified Graphics Designer.

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