THE FUTURE OF IMMORTALITY by Robert Jay Lifton

THE FUTURE OF IMMORTALITY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An unusual moral urgency and intellectual acuity permeate these essays (most previously published) from noted psychiatrist/author Lifton, whose investigation here of catastrophic evil and its implications mirrors his work in such books as The Nazi Doctors, The Broken Connection, Death in Life, etc. Hiroshima, Vietnam, Auschwitz, nuclear winter, totalitarian religious cults, suicide: Lifton devotes one essay or more to each of these horrors, driven, he states in a brief introduction, to ""know how it was possible--given the human potential for evil. . .for us to retain a sense of hope for the future."" His answer lies in the title essay (preceded, as are the others, by an updating note), a speech delivered at the Harvard Divinity School in 1985: ""to commit to the newly precious principle of identifying with the human species and its larger continuity."" Reverberating throughout this collection, which includes in its new material a scathing examination of the ""Star Wars"" defense system and a succinct anti-nuclear manifesto, is the constant reminder of a simple choice: to embrace life, or to hate it; to fall victim to the phenomenon of ""doubling,"" Lifton's term for the psychological mechanism of evil whereby the self divides into two functioning wholes, one performing evil while the other rationalizes, or to face squarely Armageddonist tendencies in society and in oneself, and to commit to ""the flow and continuity of human life."" With their erudite, often subtle argument, Lifton's calls to conscience demand close reading, but they can reward with a deeper, more hopeful understanding of humanity's potential for evil and for good.

Pub Date: Feb. 25th, 1987
Publisher: Basic Books