For one of earth’s clearest looks at the 200 billion stars in our neighbor galaxy, astronomers climb 14,000 feet to the twin-domed W.M. Keck Observatory atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii’s tallest volcano. It’s about a day’s bus ride. Observatory stargazers won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on the expansion rate of the universe.
They had plenty to look at. Astronomy counts the visible universe at one septillion – about one billion trillion stars – or in biblical terms, “more in number than the sand” (Psalm 139:18).
To cross such immensity, even at the speed of light, would take 12 billion years. With so many stars and planets, there may be many supporting life as we know it. But there’s little chance such beings would ever visit us. They live too far away to know we exist, so it’s quite unlikely we would ever know any of our neighbors on planets billions of years from us. Thus, astronomy holds we are essentially alone in the universe. Christian Science begs to differ.
A trip my wife and I took to the Big Island of Hawaii showed us what we missed growing up near New York City under mostly bleak, starless skies. We booked a room at a chalet 4,200 feet atop Kilauea Volcano in sight of Hawaii’s lone lava flow. That first night, we pulled into our parking space, turned off the car lights, and were instantly plunged into total darkness.
We were struck breathless when we got out and looked at the sky. We had never seen such a dazzling display of stars. The millions of stars in the Milky Way galaxy looked like a huge bright cloud. We stood in mute wonder, feeling so small against such utter vastness and beauty.
My first thought went to the book of Psalms, where the Psalmist, identified as David, asks God: “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou has ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him?... For thou has made him a little lower than the angels” (8:3-5).
Christian Science holds that God is both cause and creator and that everything in the universe reflects Him. So there is no selfhood apart from God, whether near or far. As God’s expression, we and any other beings in the universe are not belittled by the vastness of the universe, but magnified by it. The book of Job says, “Remember that thou magnify his work, which men behold” (36:24).
Man and woman born of God are older – and dare we consider more in number – than the stars. The discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, addresses our astral preexistence. She wrote, “Man is as perfect now, and henceforth, and forever, as when the stars first sang together, and creation joined in the grand chorus of harmonious being” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 188). And that goes for the entire creation, even those neighbors we have yet to meet.
We, as God’s sons and daughters, are neither lost, forgotten, nor diminished against the majestic backdrop of creation, but are as important to our Maker as rays of light are to the sun.
Suns and planets teach grand lessons. The stars make night beautiful, and the leaflet turns naturally towards the light.
Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 240