The Seeing Eye

In 1961, the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to leave Earth’s atmosphere and travel into space.  When he returned, he reportedly declared, "I looked and looked and looked, but I didn't see God." This seems ridiculous to those of us who have great faith, not only in God’s existence, but His power and authority.  Of course you didn’t see him, Mr. Gagarin.  You weren’t really looking.  Keep in mind that the official “religion” of the USSR at the time was atheism.  Yuri’s statement was deliberate and in line with what a good Soviet soldier was expected to say.  As you would imagine, this rankled some folks.  One such person was the writer C.S. Lewis. 

Mr. Lewis was moved enough that, in an essay written in 1963, he retorted, "Those who do not find Him on earth are unlikely to find Him in space."  In his essay, he said:


“The Russians, I am told, report that they have not found God in outer space… 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 every play. But he is never present in the same way as Falstaff or Lady Macbeth. Nor is he diffused through the play like a gas…

Now of course this is only an analogy. I am not suggesting at all that the existence of God is as easily established as the existence of Shakespeare. 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…

How, then, it may be asked, can we either reach or avoid Him?…in our own time and place, [avoiding God] is extremely easy. Avoid silence, avoid solitude, avoid any train of thought that leads off the beaten track. Concentrate on money, sex, status, health and (above all) on your own grievances. Keep the radio on. Live in a crowd. Use plenty of sedation. If you must read books, select them very carefully. But you’d be safer to stick to the papers. You’ll find the advertisements helpful; especially those with a sexy or a snobbish appeal.

About the reaching, I am a far less reliable guide. This is because I never had the experience of looking for God. It was the other way round; He was the hunter (or so it seemed to me) and I was the deer…

Space-travel really has nothing to do with the matter. To some, God is discoverable everywhere; to others, nowhere. Those who do not find Him on earth are unlikely to find Him in space. (Hang it all, we’re in space already; every year we go a huge circular tour in space.) But send a saint up in a spaceship and he’ll find God in space as he found God on earth. Much depends on the seeing eye.”


This is such a wonderful essay.  Mr. Lewis describes the proper point of view so well.  The only way that a created being knows about their creator is if the creator inserts themselves into the story.  Hamlet would have no idea that Shakespeare exists unless he wrote himself into the play.  Hamlet would be completely ignorant of Shakespeare’s existence, but it would not negate the fact that he wrote it.  If I choose to dispute the existence of my Creator, it makes Him no less real. 

God did write Himself into our story.  He could have created us and then just let us wander about, oblivious to His existence.  He could have just treated us like an experiment and dispassionately observe us as some suggest.  But the reason He allows us to know Him & the reason that He is part of our story is love.  He doesn’t view us as a toy to play with.  We are not His victims to abuse.  We are His beloved creation who He cares deeply for.  His earnest desire is for us to choose Him and to love Him of our own free will. 

When John Glenn, the first American to go into space, came back from his second trip out of our atmosphere at age 77, he said, “To look out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible…It just strengthens my faith.”.  Mr. Lewis got it right. “Much depends on the seeing eye.”