Author: David Penn
From a human perspective, the dominant inhabitants of Isvara 9 are some of the most physically repulsive creatures known. With their metallic carapaces, they resemble enormous blue bottle flies, though instead of the compound optical organs of Earth insects they possess large, remarkably human-looking eyes, positioned either side of a whip-like prehensile nose. Also, oddly enough, as with most humans, their heads are capped by hair which, again like us, they take great pride in, adapting into various shapes pleasing to their tastes.
Though not technologically advanced overall by galactic mean standards, Isvarians have a sophisticated philosophical and religious culture, informed by their highly developed astronomy. The majority believe, for instance, that everything in the universe, in fact the universe as a whole, is alive and conscious.
The Isvarian concept of “alive” seems to correspond to what in Earth or Earth-colonial languages would be called “changing”, “developing” or “unfolding”. Since they observe that all things are in process, or are processes, for them the term “alive” also applies universally. Consciousness for them is a matter of complexity: the more processes taking part in the compound of processes that is a “thing”, the more conscious it is bound to be. Thus even in a grain of sand it cannot be said that there is absolutely no consciousness. In a mountain, especially seen over time, there is more. In a microbe, a little more and in the Isvaran equivalent of higher animals, more still.
It therefore makes perfect sense for them to believe, as they do, that a planet is itself alive, with a consciousness related to its complexity. Therefore, a world flourishing with geological activity, weather patterns and biological organisms such as theirs takes part in consciousness to a greater degree than a barren moon. Star-systems potentially possess even more awareness and galaxies and clusters of galaxies are the largest conscious bodies in the universe. It follows from this that the universe itself, taken as one entity, is the ultimate consciousness.
Their reasoning leads them to an intriguing practice. Since all things are aware and sentient to some degree, all can feel pain. They therefore say prayers and direct thoughts to all things in the universe to help allay that pain. They may meet together in groups to increase the power of such benign wishes or take time in the ordinary run of their lives to reflect with compassion. But almost all Isvarians spend a great deal of time, in one way or another, engaged in these affirmations. The long group rituals typically proceed by first wishing well to a particular sand grain or pebble, expanding their scope from that to include all sand grains, all pebbles, on through all orders of being up to animals and entities of higher consciousness. They will include their own species, though it is considered improper to single themselves out for disproportionate treatment. In the grandest rituals, they will send warm and encouraging thoughts to a particular planet, one perhaps that their astronomers have recently been studying, then to all planets, to the whole galaxy, and so on to the universe as a whole.
Despite the withdrawal of cloaked field teams from Isvara 9 some years ago, on the expiry of the permissible window, we have been able to observe these ceremonies, due to welcome reinvestment in the Telescope Fleet. Many observers have remarked that one of the most moving spectacles that they have ever witnessed is that of these superficially unappealing creatures, chanting and meditating in harmony, in rites devoted to the happiness and well-being of all things whatsoever, wherever they may be.