11

In the Malloreon of David Eddings, Star Trek, and the game Loom, among many others, there are races of beings who are shown as being highly advanced, who have the goal of becoming beings made of pure light (although in Loom, some became light, some became birds, etc,).

When did evolving into beings of light first occur in Scifi or fantasy?

  • 1
    Not an answer, but related, and I thought you might find it interesting: Energy Beings - Television Tropes & Idioms – David Stratton Jun 20 '13 at 4:43
  • 2
    @DavidStratton The literature section claims that this idea is “Older Than Television,” as there's an example in Lovecraft's 1927 The Colour Out of Space. – Bradd Szonye Jun 20 '13 at 4:57
  • 3
    This idea harkens back to the earliest mythologies which promoted animism and other spiritual practices. Most religions promote the idea of beings of energy, light or formlessness. I believe this idea of achieving a "higher" state of being has been part of human consciousness since we began asking what happens after we die. – Thaddeus Howze Jun 20 '13 at 10:57
  • Does the Hooloovoo from HHGG count? – b_jonas Jun 21 '13 at 12:54
8

Published in 1952, Isaac Asimov's David Starr, Space Ranger, the first novel of the Lucky Starr series, has aliens that have shed their material bodies and became beings made of pure energy.

4

Out of the Silent Planet (1938) has beings without material bodies, although they don't evolve that way.

  • I can't verify whether the answer is wrong or right. But, if it's right, it should be accepted. – I Love You 3000 Jun 30 '13 at 1:44
  • If memory serves (I read the book > 2 decades ago), if it is the Eldila to which you refer, they had material bodies, but they moved/vibrated too fast to be seen except as a blur/light under normal circumstances. – Flimzy Jul 2 '13 at 9:58
  • Yes, the Eldila. I wasn't aware of them having material bodies of any kind, but it's possible you are right. – DJClayworth Jul 2 '13 at 13:41
3
+100

The classic 1956 film Forbidden Planet likely gave the energy being thing a good boost when it turned out that the Krell's attempt at peaceful discorporation was disrupted by "Monsters from the Id!" Energy beings, and beings of light have been around for a long time, but it looks like usage of 'being of light', got a big and sustained boost around 1974:

enter image description here

  • 3
    So... What happened in 1974? – user1027 Jun 20 '13 at 22:42
  • 1
    How many are from phrases like "nuclear energy being more dangerous than coal?" I am not sure this is a good test. – James McLeod Jul 1 '13 at 22:06
  • 1
    "energy being the main requirement", "energy being needed...", "some energy being..." are just three of the hundreds of constructs that could exist and have nothing to do with beings made of energy. – DJClayworth Aug 1 '13 at 20:04
  • 1
    To try and analyse this further I did a google search for "energy being". With the single exception of the very first hit (Wikipedia) I searched 20 pages of results in vain for any references to 'beings of energy' in the sense we are talking about before giving up. Meanwhile ngram searches for the synonym "being of energy" return zero hits to eight decimal places. I conclude that virtually none of the ngrams "energy being" are referring to actual beings of energy. – DJClayworth Aug 2 '13 at 3:03
  • 1
    60 or 100 phrases should be no problem, since "energy being <anyverb>" would fit. Distributed, consumed, generated, created, transmitted, lost, wasted, recovered, conserved, replaced, converted, increased, decreased, stored and restored will get you started. And that's before we start on necessary, required, essential, desirable and optimal. – DJClayworth Aug 19 '13 at 17:24
3

Whether this answer is acceptable to you will depend on how you define "advanced race," "fantasy," and "beings of light," but here goes...

As most modern stories which talk about "beings of light" tend to do so with some sort of religious or spiritual overtone, it is probably no surprise that the concept would have originated in the realm of religion and spirituality.

Stories of people turning into angels, demons, ghosts, gods, or other spirtual beings have been around for millennia, and in many cases these types of spirit-beings (especially angels and gods) are portrayed as "beings of light".

A few examples I could find, in roughly reverse chronological order:

  • 1843 - A Christmas Carol
  • ~500 AD - Christian artwork begins to show the ressurected Jesus as a "being of light"
  • 61-115 AD - An Ancient Ghost Story by Pliny the Younger
  • ~500 BC - Greek mythology has the myth of the phoenix, which dies, to be regenerated as the sun
  • ??? - By some accounts (1) at least some segments of Hindusm hold that god-like or angelic devas may have been humans in past lives
  • 2494 BC - The Egyptian god Ra was the sun, or represented by the sun, although he was not, to my knowledge, believed to have been a lesser person/being previously
  • 2780 BC - The Egyptian god Atum, also represented by the sun
  • 3000? BC - Egyptians believed the deceased Pharoahs would become gods after death and "ascend to the sky and dwell among the stars"

I think this last one is both the oldest I can find, and the closest match to your description, leaving only the question of how you define an "advanced race."

2

I think a very important, fitting term that's still missing in this Q&A is Transcendence. This article discusses that sci-fi trope in detail and names a bunch of early stories that qualify. For example, Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End" (1950 orig.), Theodore Sturgeon's "The Cosmic Rape" (1958), Alfred Besters' "Tiger! Tiger" (1957)

Transcendence can be considered as a wildcard symbol for what comes after human/AI intelligence soars (by definition) beyond the comprehension of pre-singularity minds [...] humanity departing or evaporating into unknowable realms

However, they also note a difference between the positive transformation of transcendence and becoming immaterial in general:

Not every story of escape from the bonds of matter achieves transcendence: in Isaac Asimov's "Eyes Do More Than See" (April 1965 F&SF), humans who have attained Immortality as energy beings mourn the loss of bodies and bodily sensations. - See more at: http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/transcendence#sthash.kYMdCuMx.dpuf

But out of universe, why does this happen in many sci-fi stories?

A tonal shift towards transcendence can be a convenient way to conclude a story whose narrative crescendo can increase no further. [...] "... you build to a certain climax and there's no way to go to finish it off, except mystic [...] you gotta go mystic".

  • 1
    @PearsonArtPhoto: You're entirely right, that wasn't time proof and I expanded the answer. I didn't include any quotes at first because I thought the entire article was relevant, rather than it containing a single crucial phrase. – Junuxx Jul 1 '13 at 19:49
1

Though not the first because of its 1975 publication, the Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson features accounts of human beings becoming beings of pure energy through a process called "transcendental illumination", which is usually triggered by the deaths of hundreds or thousands of human beings.

It also draws heavily upon the Cthulhu Mythos, and both is and contains hilarious parodies of Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged.

Hail Eris!

  • Welcome to SFF.SE. Since you state in your answer, that you are actually not giving an answer to the specific question asked, you might consider putting it in a comment instead, which exist to be helpful in leading to the correct answer (for this, you need to gather a bit of reputation first). Especially since an answer has already been accepted. Our aim is NOT to create an exhaustive list of similar publications, only to find the correct answer. More details can be found here: scifi.stackexchange.com/tour (you even get your first badge be reading it :D). Enjoy your stay :D – BMWurm Aug 15 '14 at 15:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.