X-Message-Number: 10472
Date: Fri, 25 Sep 1998 21:25:11 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Re: CryoNet #10356

Re: Message #10356  CRYONICS AS RELIGION

A few weeks ago, Professor Ettinger reviewed a "portion of the discussion" 
regarding the concept of using religion as a model 
for "outreach", to help grow the cryonics movement.

The concern I have read in the Cryonet regarding the issue of avoiding the 
appearance of  legal fraud and not misleading cryonics 

prospects with imbalanced information is valid.  But, as Professor Ettinger 
wrote, "A religion is free to make dogmatic assertions 
without objective evidence."  

These words bear deep consideration, in my opinion.

The promise of life after death has been a part of many religions.  The ancient 
Egyptians seemed almost obsessed in regard to 

preparing for death.  As Christianity (and more specifically Roman Catholicism) 
today has the largest number of members of any 

religion in the world, and as it has survived for two millennia and, finally, as
it remains accepted as the cultural "backdrop" to 

most Western modern societies, Christianity is worthy of careful attention as a 
model or "underpinning" for a successful religion 

of Immortalism.  I will have more to say shortly regarding this issue of 

The message in brief?  Many people fear death and Christianity offers them hope.

Yet life after death is not a necessary component in a successful religion.  
Buddhism in at least three of the four major popular 

versions of that religion (Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana versus Heavenly 
Realm forms of Mahayana) does not posit that 
the individual self even exists.  

Theraveda "enlightenment" consists not of "salvation" through personal survival,
but the realization that the concept of a separate 

individual self is a psychological illusion (much as there exist optical 
illusions).  Most Mahayana and Vajrayana versions include 

this view but posit a wider attainment for the individual personality (not 
individual "self") which is transhuman in nature.  

Nevertheless this is just one traditional example of a successful religion based
upon personal transcendence without any promise 

of personal survival.  Buddhism shows us that personal transcendence can be a 
successful motivation as well.  

The message in brief?  Many people want to grow and become more than they are 
and consider this to be "spiritual".

Both dealing with fear of death and personal transcendence are issues which 
cryonics deals with in a slightly different manner 

because of the scientific hope it relies upon, but these are not unique in human
history.  The Egyptians seemed to hold that by 

properly preparing the mind before death and the body after death, not only 
would the individual survive death but would 

become one with the gods (transcendence), rising to the stars to join Osiris 
(later seen as the constellation Orion).

There is the attraction of the exotic in the spread of most successful world 
religions.  The popular author, Robert Ringer (Winning 

Through Intimidation and Looking Out for Number One), referred to this 
phenomenon as the respect almost always given to "the 

expert from afar".  Or to take the opposite tact, to quote Christ, "A prophet is
without honor in his own country".  Or again the 
old saw, "Familiarity breeds contempt".

The trappings of the exotic (which is whatever is foreign to your culture) cause
the masses to generally treat with special attention 

what is offered in such trappings.  In this regard, any religion of Immortalism 
might be best served by assuming at least some of 

the symbology of ancient Egypt.  The symbol of the Egyptian "ankh" seems to be 
one of the oldest in this regard and resonates 

quite well with the Christian cross.  I would propose that the ankh be the 
symbol of Immortalism for this reason alone.

Earlier I mentioned Christianity as being perhaps used as an "underpinning" for 
a religion of Immortalism.  By this I mean that 

Western culture, especially in the United States, tends to accept unthinkingly 
many of the precepts and mores of general 

Christianity.  Yet there are thousands of varied sects and differing church 
theologies everywhere.  

For example, when Spiritualism was all the rage in Europe and the United States 
in the 1930s, you would see it presented almost 

universally as "Christian" Spiritualism.  Spiritualist churches sported crosses 
and portraits of Christ, ministers wore standard 

clerical garb and church services were virtually indistinguishable from what one
would find next door at a more conventional 

Protestant house of worship.  People then felt more comfortable superimposing 
their "new" beliefs (mediums can speak to the 
dead in seances) upon the underpinnings of their cultural upbringing.

Today, the situation is quite different.  Fewer people go to a church 
(especially if we include Europe).  Secular life is the norm 

and not the exception, as in earlier generations.  To better grasp the 
difference, I would suggest that the so-called "New Age" 

movement demonstrates the changes better than most.  New Age churches (such as 
Unity) retain most of the Christian 

underpinnings, but tend to be more open to lectures, open meetings and study 
groups, rather than the more traditional Sunday 
sermons and prayer meetings.  

Along this line a recent phenomenon has sprung up with the "Art Bell Chat 
Clubs".  The New Age radio host personality, Art 

Bell launched this year a coordinated effort to line up speakers to travel the 
country (and world) going to locally-based "Chat 

Clubs" to give talks on everything from the coming destruction from "Y2K" to 
"The Mars-Egypt Connection" (with UFOs 

thrown in, of course).  I attended recently just such a meeting and saw what I 
feel to be the future of modern religion.  The 

personal touch of having a local "fellowship" group is balanced with contacts 
with "experts from afar" (national speakers).  The 

feeling was absolutely religious also in that there was no questioning of facts,
but acceptance of dogma (mostly that the earth is 

about to undergo some enormous apocalyptic crisis killing some/most of the 

(And, I might add, they were selling rather expensive survival equipment and 
supplies.  Not too different from selling a 

technological answer to survival and transcendence called cryonics, it seems to 

My point is that a religion of Immortalism would be well-served to model this 
approach.  No need to buy or build expensive 

church buildings.  Rent hotel rooms for meetings and form local "chat groups" 
(the resonance to internet chat groups is clear 

here).  I would suggest that members of Immortalism could keep their "basic" 
religious beliefs but add the promise of survival and 

transcendence.  The New Age is thrashing around for something solid to lean on.
The New Age movement shares only a few 

themes, and I find these themes to be shared by Immortalism through cryonics.  
These themes include reincarnation, guidance 

from transhuman beings (via channeling and prophesy), coming transformative 
earth changes, taking personal responsibility as a 
part of the world community and human transcendence as a spiritual goal.

For example, take the New Age belief in reincarnation.  Immortalism can offer 
CONSCIOUS reincarnation.  The sense I have is 

that personal responsibility requires that the usual amnesia of "traditional" 
reincarnation be bypassed.  In this sense alone, 

cryonics can be seen as a part of personal spiritual development or, if you 
will, a "spiritual path".

The issue of the NDE (near death experience) was treated by James Halperin in an
evenhanded way in his brilliant novel "The 

First Immortal".  (I kept feeling that he had intended to do something a bit 
different with the NDE, just as Arthur C. Clarke led us 

on in his film 2010 to expect something "wonderful" and then only ended up 
offering mankind more real estate near Jupiter).  Yet 

what I don't see being dealt with in the New Age community is a very simple 
issue.  A five-minute NDE produces profound 

psychological changes according to some very serious scientific investigations.
What would be the changes we would find in 
someone restored to life after a 25-year NDE?  

I have no intention of arguing this issue with skeptics nor 19th Century-style 
materialists.  I am discussing here a theological issue 

regarding the concept known in Hinduism as the "avatar" - the incarnation of a 
god-being as a human.  Those who embrace 

Immortalism could well expect as an article of religious faith that the NDE is a
cumulative experience which produces change in 

those who pass through its doors.  Today's under-one-hour NDE subjects testify 
that their lives are changed - and careful 

psychological studies back up their claims.  Would it be so strange to expect 
that years, decades of "NDE" would produce 
change even more than a few minutes? 

The dead shall return to earth and, finally, tell us about the beyond.  Up until
the recent years of the NDE, no one was 

"supposed" to be able to tell us anything.  The dead do not return, we were told
for years.  Yet with cryonics, they will.  What 

will they tell us?  The ten-minute NDE-ers already write volumes on their few 
minutes of experience.  What will 25-year NDE-

ers say and do?  (As with everything connected with the future of cryonics, it 
is hubristic to assume that they will all return from 

an experience of nothingness.  You can't prove in advance of the fact that this 
will be the case.  As an issue of faith, I find it 

easier to accept that the ten minute NDE experience won't hold a candle to a 
ten-year NDE.

Christianity is based upon not merely survival and  redemption (whether through 
"absolution" or "salvation"), but upon the 

promise that the Messiah will return and the earth will be transformed "in the 
twinkling of an eye".  This is the aspect of 

transcendence which is often overlooked when we consider Christianity.  We 
forget that it is a religion based upon an 

expectation for not merely a better future, but a transcendent future when the 
"Kingdom of Heaven" arrives on earth.  This is 

treated in the Bible especially in regard to "the Elect" - a specific number of 
human beings who will be taken up by Christ at his 

return, removed from this world entirely, and then returned empowered to 
institute the transformation of all life on earth.

It does not take a great deal of thinking to note how an extended NDE due to 
cryonic suspension 

matches the above scenario remarkably well.  The individual dies and yet, 
because he will be restored to life, he will return with 

the changes of a "super-NDE".  And/or he returns because nanotechnology (or its 
equivalent) has transformed the world such 

that there is now "a new Heaven and a New Earth" (space travel and a restored 
home world).

I realize that many who read these words will feel distaste regarding the issues
of spirituality and religion.  Yet, like it or not, your 

perspective is unpopular and your numbers are few.  The masses of the world seek
survival and transcendence, right or wrong.  

And I find that the prophesies of several current and historical world religions
remind me in very strong ways of the same future 

which technological futurists like Eric Drexler and Hans Moravec have projected.
It is as if primitive people were trying to 

describe a future we are only now approaching through technology while they had 
only the metaphors of their primitive world to 
draw upon in describing it.

But, it is pointless to proselytize for a religion not yet created.  (Besides, 
if you are signed up for cryonic suspension, this is quite 

literally "preaching to the choir").  What I wanted to do here was to point out 
that Immortalism could, with relatively little effort, 
come out of the scientific closet and function as a rather powerful religion.  

Professor Ettinger suggested in his message (#10356) that such a religion would 
require "fellowship, dedication" and 

Fellowship comes out of the united vision of a future which is coming.  Not 
everyone will join "The Elect" but all are welcome to 

do so.  Dedication results from social commitment to the movement.  We stand 
together to open the new future for all.  We 

renounce personal transcendence until it is available to all (the oath of the 
Boddhisattva, the being who forestalls personal 

enlightenment to work for the enlightenment of all other living things first).  
The symbol?  The ankh, the cross whose head(piece) 

is open, the single eye through which we can gaze into the future, that ornament
worn over the head and above the heart, the 

symbolic promise for five thousand years of eternal life, the key to immortality
held in the hands of ancient gods and goddesses 

restored to its rightful place on the breasts of their children for whom "death 
will have died".

The theology of immortalism could be embraced by a single quote, brought into 
light after two thousand years of waiting, "I come 

not to destroy, but to fulfill."  Immortalism as a religion could be seen as the
fulfillment of all the major religions of the past.  Only 

now we can see the shape of things as they come, and the prophesies of the ages 
shortly to be fulfilled.  The Extropians refer to 

this time, I believe, as "The Omega Point".  How curious that the founder of 
Christianity said, "I am the Alpha and the Omega."

Religion comes from the Latin "religare" (ligament), meaning to bind back to 
strongly, to powerfully return.  Those of us who take 

the liquid nitrogen plunge will return and we will be different.  I feel that 
this is the essence of religion.  Immortalism.  Eternal 
return and powerful transcendence.

-George Smith

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