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The Immortalization Commission
by Constantine Sandis
In eighteen hundred and seventy-four
something occurred that we should not ignore:
Darwin, Galton, and Eliot
Attended a séance that was ‘tiring and hot’.
Spiritualism was growing quick,
Thomas Huxley was worried sick.
The Society for Psychical Research would claim
Sidgwick, Bergson, and William James.
These Presidents of the SPR
thought that paranormal science could go far.
Huxley had reached the end of his tether,
spiritualism now bigger than ever.
They sought for answers empirical,
through automatic writing unusual
‘Is death the end or not?’ they asked,
seeking verification through mystical tasks.
They concluded death was not the end,
Huxley thought they’d all gone round the bend.
Even ‘sensible philosophers’ like Henry Sidgwick,
Had by now become obsessed with writings automatic.
What on earth is the point of morality,
when everything is tainted by mortality?
Cross-corresponding with the dead?
Huxley thought Sidgwick had lost his head.
Fast forward now to September 1920:
Lenin commissions H.G. Wells and Gorky
to conquer death through technology,
thinking God equals socialist humanity.
Supported by the KGB,
Another foolish quest for immortality.
A century later, John Gray is on a mission,
attacking what he calls ‘The Immortalization Commission’.
The long and short of what he says,
is that science sometimes works in mysterious ways.
If we are to believe John Gray,
science channels magic to this day.
As with Straw Dogs and Black Mass, the moral is the same:
‘Humanism is religion, under a different name’.
Our trouble is that no one sees
that we humans are no better than the snakes or bees.
Any kind of faith in humanity,
Gray equates with insanity.
His book,that I hereby review,
at times bites more off than its author can chew.
The dialectic is occasionally weak,
but truth it nonetheless does mostly speak.
The only claim that Gray finds sane,
is that evolution has no aim.
So what’s the author’s own solution,
if there’s no point to evolution?
The consolation is short enough to to tweet:
‘Mortality is freakin’ sweet’.
As Freddie Mercury used to sing,
‘who wants to live forever?’ – not Queen, or King.
But I cannot lie, I can’t pretend,
that I’m happy with this happy end.
Despite all arguments, from Lucretius to Gray,
I’d pick immortality if I could have my way.
An interesting read, worth every other tree.
Out of five stars, I’d give it three.
© Constantine Sandis 2011
Constantine Sandis is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Oxford Brooks University and NYU in London.