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The Immortality Delusion

A Reading from C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis

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What’s really at stake in the push for trans­humanism? Writing in 1945, C. S. Lewis presciently addressed this question in his novel That Hideous Strength. Here, at a meeting in a secretive research compound known as the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments, the scientist Filostrato is confiding to the newcomer Mark what the Institute’s goals really are:

In us organic life has produced Mind. It has done its work. After that we want no more of it. We do not want the world any longer furred over with organic life, like what you call the blue mould – all sprouting and budding and breeding and decaying. We must get rid of it. By little and little, of course. Slowly we learn how. Learn to make our brains live with less and less body: learn to build our bodies directly with chemicals, no longer have to stuff them full of dead brutes and weeds. Learn how to reproduce ourselves without copulation….

“The world I look forward to is the world of perfect purity. The clean mind and the clean minerals. What are the things that most offend the dignity of man? Birth and breeding and death. How if we are about to discover that man can live without any of the three?…

“For the moment, I speak only to inspire you. I speak that you may know what can be done: what shall be done here. This Institute – Dio mio, it is for something better than housing and vaccinations and faster trains and curing the people of cancer. It is for the conquest of death: or for the conquest of organic life, if you prefer. They are the same thing. It is to bring out of that cocoon of organic life which sheltered the babyhood of mind the New Man, the man who will not die, the artificial man, free from Nature. Nature is the ladder we have climbed up by, now we kick her away….

“Of course…the power will be confined to a number – a small number – of individual men. Those who are selected for eternal life.”

“And you mean,” said Mark, “it will then be extended to all men?”

“No,” said Filostrato. “I mean it will then be reduced to one man. You are not a fool, are you, my young friend? All that talk about the power of Man over Nature – Man in the abstract – is only for the canaglia. You know as well as I do that Man’s power over Nature means the power of some men over other men with Nature as the instrument. There is no such thing as Man – it is a word. There are only men. No! It is not Man who will be omnipotent, it is some one man, some immortal man.…It may be you. It may be me.”

woodcut of snake with an apple on his head

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Contributed By C.S. Lewis C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis, a British novelist, poet, and Christian apologist, has been called one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century.

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