A sampling of the “fissured ceramics” letters that he received after he became famous with “Cosmos”:
●“I have discovered a planet between Venus and the earth. . . . I am in Attica Correctional Facility and am unable to check out this discovery further without your assistance.”
●“I feel we have much to give to each other — you in the scientific field and me as one who is working with those beautiful, highly evolved Beings living on the planets, stars, orbs in our many universes. . . . ”
●“Behind Jupiter hidden from earth, is a small planet and for the want of a name, let us call it, JUPITENOUS. It is on this planet that these UFO’s come from. . . . ”
One woman wrote him in the fall of 1996 to discuss people who communicated from beyond the grave. Sagan wrote back:
“The only thing that would convince me, coming over from ‘the other side’, is information that we do not yet have but that once enunciated would be verifiable. Let’s have Sophocles, Democritus, and Aristarchus dictate their lost works. Let’s ask Fermat to reproduce his short proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem. Have Alexander the Great tell us where his tomb is so we can go dig and verify.”
In the papers, we see Sagan imagining life not only on Venus and Mars but even beneath the surface of the moon. That’s the young Sagan, fresh out of the University of Chicago.
We also see the mature Sagan pondering the tendentious issues of God and the relationship of science and religion.
In a 1989 letter to famed Harvard scientist Stephen Jay Gould, he refers to a Cincinnati Post editorial:
“Do you understand how — assuming either of us ever did say ‘The universe can be explained without postulating God’ — this could be understood as dogmatic? I often talk about the ‘God hypothesis’ as something I’d be fully willing to accept if there were compelling evidence; unfortunately, there is nothing approaching compelling evidence. That attitude, it seems to me, is undogmatic.”
In October 1996, Sagan wrote to Robert Pope of Windsor, Ontario:
“I am not an atheist. An atheist is someone who has compelling evidence that there is no Judeo-Christian-Islamic God. I am not that wise, but neither do I consider there to be anything approaching adequate evidence for such a god. Why are you in such a hurry to make up your mind? Why not simply wait until there is compelling evidence?”
He died two months later. Soon after, Gould wrote to Sagan’s widow:
“He taught the whole world. What a wonderful life!”