What does the Torah say about the existence of life on other planets?
Life On Other Planets According to The Bible
Human beings have always asked the question: Do plants, animal life, or even sophisticated cultures exist on other planets? What does the Torah say on this issue?
This question was in full public eye during the 1950’s and 1960’s, when the first manned spacecraft were about to be launched.
In 1960, the astronomer Dr. Frank Drake took the first practical steps to finding an answer by scanning the skies in search of radio signals from alien cultures. In 1961, he published the “Drake Equation” – a statistical formula that sought to estimate the number of advanced civilizations in the universe. The calculations took into account a number of factors, such the estimated rate of stars’ development, the number of planets that might have suitable conditions for life, the estimated period of existence of advanced civilizations. Dr. Drake postulated that in our galaxy alone, there are some 10,000 civilizations in addition to our own. It is interesting to note that since Drake’s first estimate, subsequent astronomers have raised this estimate significantly.
What does the Torah say on this issue?
During the preparations for the first manned flights into space, modern-day Torah Sages were asked the question: What does the Torah tell us about the possibility of sentient life existing elsewhere in the universe? Their answer was usually along these lines: We do not know of any specifically negative answer in the Torah, so that essentially, there is no contradiction between the opinions of those who claim that such civilizations exist and any basic tenet of Jewish belief. Still, the overall spirit of the Torah implies that there is no life elsewhere in the universe, other than that which exists here on Earth.
Before man landed on the moon and investigated it, astronomers argued vehemently about the possibility of life existing there. In his book, “Heavenly Hosts”,(1) the astronomer, Dr. N. Vidal notes with amazement that the great Sage and Kabbalist, Rabbi Mordechai Sharabi, was asked about the possibility of finding life on the Moon. The elderly Rabbi replied with a quotation from the preface to the Tikkunei Zohar,(2) in the section entitled Patach Eliyahu:
“And You [God] created heaven and earth… and on earth there are trees and grasses… and birds, fish, domestic animals, wild beasts and human beings.”
“In view of this statement,” continued the Rabbi, “it is highly unlikely that there is life on the moon, for it states explicitly that: ‘on the earth, there are trees and grasses, birds and fish, domestic animals, wild beasts and human beings.’ This implies that only here on Earth were these creatures created.”(3)
Are Alien Life-forms mentioned in the Zohar?
The first step in weighing the large amount of evidence that suggests that we have been visited by alien life-forms, is to sift out all the lies and fantasies, such as cases in which a supposed UFO was actually a secret American military plane. Many past and future sightings may also be dismissed in similar ways. Still, even after all the sifting, we are left with an impressive body of evidence. Are there any sources in the Torah that can explain these manifestations, without resource to flying saucers?
In a number of places in the Zohar and Talmud, the Sages tell us about the existence of strange creatures, usually invisible, which are similar to human beings in several ways and similar to angels in other. They are called “shedim” (often translated as “demons”), and are made from a turbid spirituality, somewhat insubstantial.(4) They can change their shape and appearance, and can appear to human beings in a variety of forms.
Is it possible that these shedim are the “aliens” of modern times? This is a particularly apt question since some people swear that they have seen aliens looking like those portrayed in science fiction films. Could these films be a reflection of real life? Or, perhaps, real life reflects what is seen in the movies. Perhaps those people saw shedim, who resembled, in their eyes, creatures from outer space.
The Zohar provides us with other explanations on this subject; it speaks about alien life forms that exist beneath our world. While the Zohar may not intend its comments to be taken literally, at face value, they are a clear statement of the existence of creatures beneath our world, of which we are unaware.
The Zohar(5) explains that there are seven lands in the lower world: Eretz, Adama, Arka, Gia, Neshia, Tzia and Tevel, which envelop each other like the skins of an onion. The highest and largest of these, Tevel, is the land upon which we live. The Zohar adds that there are very small creatures in all these places, humanoid in form, which also have an awareness of God; though one far inferior to our own. Some of these creatures wear clothing while others are covered by layers (or perhaps armor), that may be red, black, white or a mixture of colors. Many live no longer than ten years.
The Zohar(6) tells the story about Rabbi Chiya and Rabbi Yossi, who were on a journey together and stopped to rest alongside a cracked rock. Suddenly, one of the inhabitants of Arka appeared before them and told them that in his land, there are inhabitants who look different than him. Commenting on Genesis 8:14, the Zohar(7) explains that when Cain was banished, “from the face of the earth,” he was accepted by the inhabitants of Arka, a lower land.
This information, which is surely distant from the world of research, deals with alien creatures which may exist in the inner layers of our world, in places not yet investigated by modern science. Are the aliens from outer space in fact the creatures already known to Torah Sages 2,000 years ago? The Sages knew of many mysterious things that exist on our tiny planet, which is still so unknown.
Dr. Vidal further suggests that according to this quotation, not only does life not exist on the moon, it may not exist anywhere else in the universe.
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