The Immortalization Commission, by John Gray
Published by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, a division of Macmillian publishing.
Gray discusses the connections between Darwin, the Spiritualism movement of the late 19th to early 20th century, scientific inquiry into death, and how the scientific method has helped reclaim spirituality from science.
This is an interesting read, touching upon the key figures and movements in science, philosophy, psychology, and religion of the times that led to the co-development of the Soviet and Western studies of the human soul. It’s a slow read, containing rich language and many interconnected facts, and written almost like a doctoral thesis rife with cross-disciplinary research. Yet the text helps bring to life some of the personalities of the era to explain the scientific, spiritual, and religious drives that led to prevalent 20th Century thought on science and religion. It’s a good read, and worth the effort to reconnect with our current understanding of mortality.
UPDATE – I finally slogged my way through the end of the book, and while I still stand by my previous comments on the work, I have one additional observation. The author tends to put the veracity and validity of science on the same footing with that of religion. This feels a bit to me like apologism in an effort to appear not to be attacking religion. I contend that science, while not a complete philosophy of the universe, is still adaptive enough to allow it to survive the ravages of time, while religion transforms either into mythology, or is subsumed into another religious philosophy. These possibilities weren’t covered in the text, likely because they would have been besides the point. Still, the evolution of philosophy can be dissected in much the same philosophical way as the evolution of man. In some ways, a science or philosophy cannot be said to be valid unless it also accounts for its own creation, existence, and demise.