The Immortalization Commission

Science and the Strange Quest to Cheat Death

Publisher: Anchor Canada
A great philosopher will change the way you think about your life.

For most of human history, religion provided a clear explanation of life and death. But in the late 19th and early 20th centuries new ideas — from psychiatry to evolution to Communist — seemed to suggest that our fate was now in our own hands. We would ourselves become God.

This is the theme of a remarkable new book by one of the world's greatest lving philosophers. It is a brilliant and frightening look at the problems and opportunities of a world coming to grips with humankind's now solitary, unaided place in the universe. Gray takes two major examples: the belief that the science-backed Communism of the new USSR could reshape the planet, and the belief among a group of Edwardian intellectuals — popularized through mediums and automatic writing — that there was a non-religious form of life after death.

Gray presents an extraordinary cast of philosophers, journalists, politicians, charlatans and mass murderers, all of whom felt driven by a specifically scientific and modern world view. He raises a host of fascinating questions about what it means to be human. The implications of Gray's book will haunt its readers for the rest of their lives.

From the Hardcover edition.


It is an illusion that we were ever alive,
Lived in the houses of mothers, arranged ourselves
By our own motions in a freedom of air . . .
Even our shadows, their shadows, no longer remain.
These lives lived in the mind are at an end.
They never were . . .
—Wallace Stevens
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A Globe and Mail Best Book

The Immortalization Commission is a sober account of a hitherto almost unnoticed but remarkably widespread phenomenon—and also a romp of a read. . . . In this brief, modest-seeming yet profound book he makes his most compelling plea yet for man to come to his senses and stop dreaming of immortality, for himself and for the earth.” —John Banville, The Guardian (UK)
“Gray’s debunking of theology’s grip on ethics is . . . timely and timeless.”
—Amol Rajan, The Independent (UK)
“John Gray’s superb meditation on our desire for immortality makes for an enthralling read.”
—Richard Holloway, The Observer

"[Gray] is a master of intellectual history. He has a sharp eye and a vivid writing style. And best of all, he dissects the pieties of others without regard for party, ideology, faith or faction."
Ottawa Citizen.

"The most important living philosopher."
— Will Self

“. . . engrossing. . . . Gray’s latest quest is to separate reality from delusion, and he achieves this brilliantly. . . . The astuteness of Gray’s thinking, the connections he makes between a wide range of subjects – philosophy, theology, psychology, history, ethics, morality – and the clarity of his conclusions makes this book extremely satisfying.”
—M.A.C. Farrant, The Globe and Mail
“In his newest book, The Immortalization Commission, this fearless thinker reveals widespread contemporary myths concerning death and immortality.”
The Prague Post
“The British philosopher and free-wheeling intellectual John Gray is in serious danger of making philosophy exciting and fun to read. . . . The Immortalization Commission is a fascinating piece of intellectual history.”
The New York Times

From the Hardcover edition.