I've been reading science fiction since I was eleven. I bought the first Meulenhofjes, Prisma's and Bruna black bears at the Blokker bookshop on the Bronsteeweg in Heemstede. I don't know of any genre that stimulates the imagination more and gives rise to such a 'sense of wonder' as SF...
And 'Star Maker' is possibly the most inspiring and profound science fiction book I have ever read. The author is an Englishman named Olaf Stapledon and it was written in 1937. So you can find this book in the store or library on the shelf labeled 'science fiction', but you might as well find it among books on cosmology or transpersonal psychology or even religion ...
It's not just a common story, rather a description. A description that spans billions of years. Star Maker tells the story of a single human narrator who is inexplicably transported out of his body and given the opportunity to survey the vast expanse of the universe. This unnamed narrator then explores other planets and civilizations, stars and galaxies and eventually comes into contact with the creator of the universe - the "Star Maker".
Star Maker deals with philosophical themes such as the essence of life, of birth, decay and death, and the relationship between creation and creator. A recurring theme is that of progressive unity within and between different civilizations. Sir Arthur C. Clarke considered Star Maker "probably the most powerful work of the imagination ever written", and Brian W. Aldiss called it "the only great gray sacred book of science fiction."
"Awesome" is the word that comes to mind when reading this book. Awe for the universe we are in, awe for the unimaginable distances in space and time.
For example, our galactic home, the Milky Way, is a spiral star island composed of at least 200 billion stars (more recent estimates even say around 400 billion stars), one of which is the sun. And the Milky Way, in turn, is just one galaxy of billions of other star islands in the observable universe. 'Observable' means that electromagnetic radiation (including visible light) can travel the distance to us in the time that the universe exists and expands. At least if there has been a real beginning, something that most astronomers assume (the famous 'Big Bang'), but which is doubted by others. Our universe may well be just one in an infinite 'ocean' of perhaps an infinite number of other universes: a 'multiverse'.
You will also find this idea in the book. The Star Maker creates multiple universes, culminating in an "ultimate cosmos", fulfilling the star maker's own eternal destiny as "the ground and crown of all things."
Since this is clearly fiction, it is not possible to draw factual conclusions, but it can give us a sense of what has been given to us in this amazing life:
"You have been given a body with a longer lifespan than even the most perfectly engineered machines we humans have invented.
You have been given a brain with a more complex intelligence than the most advanced A.I. we have been able to design.
You have been given self-awareness that allows you the richness and depth of an entire subjective ocean of experience.
You have been given a universe of billions of lightyears of space and time at your personal disposal to play with, explore and ponder."
Anyone who does not become silent at the sight and setting of the night sky on a moonless night without much light pollution has, in my opinion, not been alive.
And perhaps there are worlds in which other beings live who look at the same sky with the same astonishment. And perhaps all conscious life, through all times and in all worlds, is connected in the same awe for the life that we are.
© 2020 Ton Haarmans | Video: Midday Autumn Cloudlapse. By Sam Blight