A Beginner's Guide to Immortality

Extraordinary People, Alien Brains, and Quantum Resurrection

Clifford A. Pickover
Thunder's Mouth Press, 2006

"Pickover inspires a new generation of da Vincis to build unknown flying machines and create new Mona Lisas." -- Christian Science Monitor

"Bucky Fuller thought big, Arthur C. Clarke thinks big, but Cliff Pickover outdoes them both." -- WIRED

"A perpetual idea machine, Clifford Pickover is one of the most creative, original thinkers in the world today." -- Journal of Recreational Mathematics

My interview. We entered Second Life, the on-line virtual universe, to explore, dream, and discuss the nature of reality and our place in our vast cosmos. (More photos of our journey here.)
Book Excerpt
New Scientist Review of Book: "A stimulating and mind-expanding brew".
New York Times Review :"Contemplates realms beyond our known reality."
Literary Magazine: "Pickover's ability to fit so many fresh ideas into such a small space may not be a trick of physics after all, and may instead simply be his unerringly eloquent literary style, which allows him to succinctly encapsulate in few words what others could barely spell out in thick tomes."

This book is a companion to the book Sex, Drugs, Einstein and Elves.

Now at Amazon.Com

After you die....

After you die, will the world remember anything you did? Most of us rarely leave marks, except on our immediate family or a few friends. Your great-grandchildren may carry some vestigial memory of you, but that will fade like a burning ember when they die -- and you will be extinguished and forgotten.

Through the centuries, many have striven to achieve "immortality," through science, myths, religion, or dreams of lifelike heavens -- and also through a creative work that left some lasting mark. A Beginner's Guide to Immortality highlights these unusual thinkers who punched through our ordinary cultural norms while becoming successful in their own niches. Here, we celebrate these extraordinary people and their curious ideas.

Science writer Cliff Pickover explores the borderlands of science and art in his latest and greatest work. Part memoir and part surrealistic perspective on culture, Pickover gives readers a glimpse of new ways of thinking and of other worlds as he reaches across cultures and peers beyond our ordinary reality. Unlock the doors of your imagination with topics that range from the creative genius of author Truman Capote, musician John Cage, and occult rocket-scientist Jack Parsons, to cutting-edge scientific speculation on immortality, mythology, near-death experiences, evolution and intelligent design, and quantum resurrection. A Beginner's Guide to Immortality is the hammer that shatters the ice of our unconscious.

Pickover illuminates some of the most mysterious phenomena affecting our species. What is creativity? What are the religious implications of mosquito evolution, simulated Matrix realities, the brain's own marijuana, and the mathematics of the apocalypse? Could we be a mere software simulation living in a matrix? Who are Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and Emanuel Swedenborg? Did church forefathers eat psychedelic snails? How can we safely expand our minds to become more successful and reason beyond the limits of our own intuition? How can we become immortal?

Flammarion Cosmos

The Quest for Immortality

Jacob's Ladder


Brain from Planet Arous
(discussed in book)


Scene from The Matrix


Brain contemplating
life in a jar


Maidanek death butterflies

Table of Contents


A Celebration of Unusual Lives
A Symphony for Chameleons
Pop Culture
A New Age for America
The Butterfly Effect

Chapter 1 Truman Capote and The Brain from Planet Arous

In which we encounter The Brain from Planet Arous, "The Visible Man," sex-starved alien brains, Truman Capote, the Fissure of Rolando, the stigmata of genius, In Cold Blood, Mia Farrow, Music for Chameleons, Candice Bergen, Norman Mailer, Answered Prayers, the grunting of a renegade hog, eccentric geniuses, the nature of creativity and intelligence, Blackwing-602 addicts, work habits of successful writers, homosexuality, mental disease, short people, guitarist Theodore Roosevelt Taylor, famous polydactyls, the "Black and White Ball," and the six-fingered Vladislav Khodasevich.

Chapter 2 John Cage and the Zen of Music

In which we encounter John Cage, the future of music, the end of movies, "Europera 5," the mystery of silence, "Eclipticalis With Winter Music," amygdala-stimulation movies, neoproterozoic Lake Vostok, deadly mushrooms, overspecialization, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, premaxillary bones, Samuel Johnson, Haydn's Farewell Symphony, Francis Galton, the Biblical book of Job, and the silence of God.

Chapter 3 Gilgamesh, God, and the Language of Angels

In which we encounter Maidanek death butterflies, crawling brains, brains in jars, the doll-people of the Popol Vuh, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, cryonics, near-death experiences, Emanuel Swedenborg, glimpses of hell, Gehennah, Tophet, Jewish Sheol, the Witch of Endor, H. P. Lovecraft, devils and demons, Beelzebub, Iblis, ash-Shaytan, Jesus in Hell, Gilgamesh, Austen Henry Layard, Utnapishtim, Mount Mashu, George Smith, the Flood, the afterlife, Susan Blackmore, William James, Varieties of Religious Experience, John Nash, schizophrenia, the power of placebos, the quest for reality, over-belief, John Dee, John Kelley, Enochian records, Terence McKenna, Plato, and DMT-containing plants.

Chapter 4 The Matrix, Quantum Resurrection, and the Quest for Transcendence

In which we encounter H. P. Lovecraft's "The Whisperer in Darkness," Greg Egan's Permutation City, Larry and Andy Wachowski, brains made of bicycle parts, the North American Vexillological Association, Jell-O minds, autistic simulacrums, zombies, actuopalynologists, brain pseudomorphs, cosmic onions, the location of the soul, hyperspecialization, Rene Descartes, dreaming, the Tajal people, Marilyn vos Savant, The Matrix, Frederik van Eeden, lucid dreaming, simulating reality, multiverses, artificial life, gebits, Ray Kurzweil, Emily Dickinson, Digital Philosophy, Stephen Wolfram, Robert Heinlein, The Truman Show, George Berkeley, consciousness, Robin Hanson, "peas and carrots," uncommon psychiatric disorders, Nick Bostrom, Process Physics, quantum resurrection, and quantum immortality.

Chapter 5 Jesus and the Future of Mind-Altering Drugs

In which we encounter highway mega-messiahs, Biblical use of marijuana, psychedelic snails in the Christian basilica at Aquileia, "keneh-bosem," Carl Sagan, Jesus in movies, brain-eating monsters, Roger Corman, Attack of the Crab Monsters, Nancy Sinatra, Jack Nicholson, LSD, the value of mind-altering drugs, the brain's own marijuana, endocannabinoids, MDMA (ecstasy), "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," DMT, ayahuasca, Ibogaine, Myron Stolaroff, Einstein and Google, state-specific sciences, and Charles Tart.

Chapter 6 Clockwork Butterflies and Eternity

In which we encounter Rainer Maria Rilke, Nathaniel Hawthorne, beauty, death, robot butterflies, ether butterflies, hypergraphia, 64 obsession, Nikola Tesla, Philip K. Dick, Alice Flaherty, writers who used drugs, the dream butterflies of Ernst Junger, Jack Kerouac, and Benzedrine-laced Coca-Cola.

Chapter 7 Evolution, Ice Cream, and The Goddess of Chopped Liver

In which we encounter Sylvia Weinberger, chopped-liver, God's laryngeal nerve, Reuben Mattus, "prochronic" events, Haagen-Dazs ice cream, the Reese Candy Company, livers in myth, foie gras, Liver-Eating Johnston, Silence of the Lambs, Attack of the Liver Eaters, "Merrye Syndrome," liver evolution, liver divination, intelligent design, creationism, molecules in space, the emergence of life and new species, monkeys typing the Bible, Robert Ardrey's killer ape, mosquitoes, flowers, polyploidy, beetle engineering, poodles and wolves, fecund enclaves of subterranean creatures, the Omphalosian view of reality, Philip Henry Gosse, John C. Whitcomb, Arkansas Act 590, abortion, escape ovulation, zygotes, hepatoscopy, Etruscans, haruspimancy, the liver and the "butterfly effect," divination, and Shakespeare.

Chapter 8 The Whispers of History

In which we encounter mathematical formulas, Srinivasa Ramanujan, Jean-Paul Sartre, large libraries, Malcolm X, dictionaries, wonders of the modern world, Will Durant, the waves of history, knots, Isaac Asimov, James Burke, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Aleister Crowley, Jack Parsons, L. Ron Hubbard, Robert Heinlein, Marjorie Cameron, Alvin Toffler, Karl Japsers, the axial age, Marshall McLuhan, Truman Capote, Wilhelm Rontgen, Velcro, Charles Goodyear, Harry Coover's superglue, the mathematics of rapture, the Doomsday Argument, Nick Bostrom, the phalanges of history, and Charles Fourier.


In which we encounter Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, Gilgamesh gardens, New Jerusalem, Calvino strings, and spacetime tangles.

Cathedrals of the Mind

Now at Amazon.Com

Pickover's book entertains, informs, and invites his readers -- old and new -- to test their powers of lateral thinking and to see the world in a fresh way.
"Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror." -- Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

"Every great work of art has two faces: one toward its own time and one toward the future, toward eternity." -- Daniel Barenboim, Parallels and Paradoxes

A Beginner's Guide to Immortality is a celebration of unusual lives and highlights creative thinkers who punched through our ordinary cultural norms while becoming successful in their own niches. Here, we study these extraordinary people and their curious ideas. Through these individuals, we can better explore life's astonishing richness and glimpse the diversity of human imagination.

Their works and ideas often bear a personal mark, and a striving to tear apart traditional thinking or to make an impact -- whether it was for their brilliant writing, for making the world's best chopped liver, or creating shocking new musical forms. Almost all of the people in this book had an irreverence toward authority and a self-sufficiency and independence. They were passionate about their work. Most blazed a trail. What can we learn from them to enhance our own creativity?

Going beyond the intriguing individuals, many of the concepts in the book encourage lateral thinking, and grab ideas from many fields such as mathematics, philosophy, zoology, and entertainment. We'll tackle quantum resurrection, the religious implications of mosquito evolution, simulated Matrix realities, the brain's own marijuana, and the mathematics of the apocalypse. If each area of human knowledge is likened to a spider web that glimmers in the sunlight, then these special topics come with unexpected connecting strands that unite the webs in a vast, sparkling fabric.

In the first part of the 21th century, we are leaving the Information Age and entering the Conceptual Age. The most important people, and certainly the most interesting, will be those who create inventions that change our ways of life and break new ground. But more importantly, the hottest individuals will be those who are good at recognizing patterns in culture and belief, those who try to understand the forest and not just the trees. These pattern recognizers also help others become creative and dream daring dreams.

This book is for anyone who wants to be transported to new seas, while deepening the waters and lengthening horizons. The book is a mystery-garden carried in the palm of your hand.

Is life just a dream?

Mehujael, first appearance: 7:00 pm 
Listen to Mehujael speak (approximation) 

Some Web Pages Cited in the Book

Book Review

A Beginner's Guide to Immortality, by Clifford Pickover
17 February 2007
Marcus Chown
"IT IS hard to classify this book, certainly one of Clifford Pickover's most quirky and free-roaming. As the author himself says in the foreword, it is part memoir and part celebration of extraordinary people with extraordinary ideas, such as the author Truman Capote and the rocket scientist Jack Parsons. In these essays Pickover manages, among other things, to ask: What is the origin of creativity? What are the religious implications of mosquito evolution? Could we be a software simulation in a matrix? And can we ever become immortal? A stimulating and mind-expanding brew." (From issue 2591 of New Scientist magazine, 17 February 2007, page 52)

Book Index

abortion, xxi-xxii, 21-22, 198-201
accidental discoveries, 224-225
afterlife, 40-47, 50-58, 63-69, 71, 81, 112, 119, 158, 179, 237
See also near-death experiences
alcoholism, 1, 4, 6-7, 16-18, 140-142, 149, 161
Ardrey, Robert, 188-190
artificial life, 90-93
Asimov, Isaac, 216
Attack of the Crab Monsters, 99, 132-134
Atwater, P. M. H., 46
Axial Age, 222-223

Ben and Jerry's, 178
Benzedrine, 171
Berkeley, George, 102
bestsellers, xii
Bible, xxiii, 37, 47, 50, 53, 66, 129, 186, 214, 236
bicycle brain, 103-104
bipolar disorder, 10, 17, 111
bits, universe, 114-115
Black and White Ball, 5-6
Blackmore, Susan, 58
Blackwing-602, 8-9
Boids, 92
book scenes, 109-110
Bostrom, Nick, 104-105, 112-114, 228-230
Brain from Planet Arous, The, 2-3, 23, 25, 40, 76, 131
bicycle parts, 103-104
frozen, 43
interfaces, 24-25, 29, 41
in jars, 40, 42
mind, 96-97, 101-104, 239
movies, 40-41; see also Brain from Planet Arous
simulations; see simulated mind and worlds
Brockman, John, 105, 212
Burroughs, William, 168
effect, xx-xxi, 106, 204
symbols, 56, 160-165, 169, 172 

Cage, John, xv-xvi, xxii, 26-33
Cahill, Reginald, 117-119
Calvino, Italo, 235-238
Cameron, Marjorie, xxii, 219-220
cannabinoids, 138,146-148
cannabis, 129, 130, 136-141, 145-148, 151-152, 168
	See also marijuana 
Capote, Truman, xv-xvi, xxii, 1-22, 223
Carter, Brandon, 228
Cathedrals of the Mind, xxii, 243
Chalmers, David, 100
chameleons, xiv-xvi, 240
Christina, Greta, 237
computational hypothesis, 100
conceptual age, xvii
consciousness, 63-64, 80, 85, 102-103 105, 150-151, 169, 239
Jell-O, 123-124
mind, 96-97, 101-104, 239
Conway, John, 93
Coover, Henry, 224
Corman, Roger, 99, 133-135, 181
Corral, Valerie, 145
creationism, 182-183, 196
creative class, xviii
creativity, 10
	class, xviii
	schizotypes, 19
	sexuality, 14, 20
Crowley, Aleister, 218
cryonics, 43
cuneiform, 50, 53

Daumal, René, 169
Davies, Paul, 90
Dawkins, Richard, 183
Dee, John, 67-69
devil, 47-48
Dick, Philip, 166
digital philosophy, 100
divination, 202-205
DMT, 71, 77, 115, 138, 141, 170, 236
doll people, 69
Donovan's Brain, 41
doomsday argument, 227-228
dreams, 83-87, 115-116
lucid, 87-89
laws, 149-151
and writers, 168-171
See also cannabinoids, psychedelics 
dualism, 97
Donne, John, 238-239
Durant, Will, 210, 214

eccentricity, 8-9, 19, 59, 218
Eco, Umberto, 210
Egan, Greg, 78-80, 94
Egolf, Tristan, 16
Enochian, 67-69, 219
escape ovulation, 200
Everett, Hugh, 120
evolution, 182-193
dogs, 183, 190-192
Lystrosaurus, 196
mosquitoes, 190, 192-193
outer space, 185
speciation, 190
	theory, 183
	Tiktaalik, 183-184
	See also intelligent design

Fiend Without a Face, 40-41
finger lengths, 12
Flaherty, Alice, 167
flood, 53-55, 70, 194
Florida, Richard, xvii-xviii, 14
Fourier, Charles, 230-232
Fredkin, Ed, 100-101

Galton, John, 35
gebits, 118
genius, xiv, 7-8
afflictions, 9-10, 17-19, 61
bipolar disorder, 10, 17
children of, 161
creativity, 10
resistance to, 9
school ability, 15
sexuality, 12, 14, 20
suicide, 16
Gilgamesh, Epic of, xxiii, 50-55, 58, 70-72, 101, 157-158, 236, 240
God, 37, 101, 130, 228
Goethe, Johann, 33-34
Google, 144
Gosse, Philip, 194
Gould, Stephen, 151
Grob, Charles, 141

Häagen Dazs, 177-178
Hanson, Robin, 82, 109, 127
Harris, Sam, 84, 126
haruspices, 202-205
Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 160-166
Heinlein, Robert, xxiv, 101
hell, 44-49, 66, 220, 227
Hemingway family, 16
hepatoscopy, 201
	false, 194
	knowledge, 214, 226
revolutions, 221-222
	sensitivity to events, xx-xxi, 204
	simulation, 106-107
	social innovations, 230-231
Hitler, xxi
Holt, Jim, 198, 227
homosexuality, xv, 4, 13-14, 16, 18, 20, 232
hypergraphia, 166-168

ibogaine, 142
ice cream, 177-178
Ice Man, 81
methods of achieving, xxiii, 26, 34, 43-44, 120-123, 199
quantum, 119-121
intelligent design, 187, 194-198
inventions, xvii, 13, 106, 212, 216, 223-224
machines, 225-226
Invisible Cities, 235-236
IQ, 14, 84, 140

Jacobs, A. J., 32-33, 167, 242
James, William, xv, 60-64, 150
Jarrell, Randall, 18
Jaspers, Karl, 222
Jell-O consciousness, 123-125
Jesus, 46, 49, 128-131, 222-223, 238
Johnson, Samuel, 35
Johnston, Liver-Eating, 180
Junger, Ernst , 172

Kelley, John, 67-69
Kerouac, Jack, 171
Klinger, Christopher, 117-119
knots, 215-216
knowledge, xv-xviii, 64, 82, 95, 102, 116, 210
growth of, 214-216
Kosslyn, Stephen, 239
Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth, 55-59
Kurzweil, Ray, 95, 98

LaBerge, Stephen, 88-89
laryngeal nerve, 198
lateral thinking, xvi
Layard, Austen, 51
LEGO, 102-103
Levitt, Steven, xxi
Linklater, Richard, 85-86
liver, 176-182, 201-202, 205
Liver Eaters, 181
Lloyd, Seth, 114, 240
Lotsof, Howard, 142
Lovecraft, H. P., 42, 77-78
Lowell, Robert, 18
LSD, 136, 138, 142-144, 166, 225
lucid dreams, 85-89

M&Ms, 178
Maidanek, 56
Malcolm X, 211
many-worlds interpretation, 120-123
marijuana, xvi, 129-130, 137-140, 144-152
	See also cannabis 
mathematical formulas, 208-210
	and rapture, 226-228
Matrix, The, 84, 89, 98-99, 110
Mattus, Rose, 177-178
Mayakovsky, Vladimir, 18
McKenna, Terence, 68, 128
McLuhan, Marhsall, 223
MDMA (ecstasy), 138-139, 141
Mesopotamia, xxiii, 50-55, 201-203
Metzger, Richard, 218-219
mind simulations; see simulated minds and worlds
Mindscan, 94-95
Mishima, Yukio, 16
monkeys typing, 186-187
Moravec, Hans, 123
mosquitoes, 190-193
movies, xviii, 24-25, 40-41, 46, 77, 132, 135, 181
multiverse, 90
mushrooms, xv, 26, 31-33, 130, 149
	deformed musicians, 11-12
futuristic, xiv, 24, 29
See also Cage, John
Muslims, 44-45

Nash, John, 60-62
near-death experiences, 45-49, 56-59, 63-64
Nephilim, 69
New Jerusalem, 236
Nicaragua stamps, 208-209
Noah, 53-55
Nozick, Robert, 100

obsessive behavior, 10, 35, 138, 162, 165-167, 170
omphalos,  194
Oscillococcinum, 179

Pang Brothers, xviii
Parsons, Jack, xv-xvi, xxii, 218-221
peas and carrots, 108-109
Permutation City, 78-80, 94
phalanges, 230-232
Pink, Daniel, xvii
planets, 213
Plato, 70
Platt, James, 87-88
polydactylics, 11-12
pop culture, xvii, xxv
Popol Vuh, 69
process physics, 117-119
Proust, Marcel, 169
psilocybin, 149
psychedelics 130, 135-139, 140-149, 153, 168
See also DMT
psychiatric disorders, uncommon, 110-111

immortality, 120
many-worlds, 120, 122-123
process space, 119
resurrection, 119-120
quotations, see Cathedrals of the Mind

Ramanujan, Srinivasa, 209
rapture, 226
reality onion, 111-112
reality simulation, 100-101, 106, 111-117
See also simulated minds and worlds
Reese Candy Company, 178
Reese, Martin, 90
Reinhardt, Django, 11-12
resurrection, quantum, 119-120
Riegel, Hans, 178
Rilke, Rainer, 157-160
Roe v. Wade, xxi-xxii
Röntgen, Wilhelm, 224
Ruck, Carl, 130
Rucker, Rudy, 239

Sagan, Carl, 137, 151
Sartre, Jean-Paul, 210
Satan, 47-48
Sawyer, Robert, 94-95
schizophrenia, 19-20, 60-61, 140
serendipity in science, 224-225
sexuality, xvi, 12-14, 20, 44, 218
	social innovations, 232
Sheol, 47-51
Shermer, Michael, 183, 197
Shulgin, Alexaner, 153
silence, 28, 36-37
simulated minds and worlds, 78-84, 89-112
Smith, George, 53-54
snails, 130
social prosthetic systems, 239-240
soul, 96-97
specialization, xxiv, 32-33, 82
speciation, 191-192
Sporns, Olaf, 96
Stolaroff, Myron, 142-144
Storm, Howard, 45-46
Stradanus, Johannes, 212
suicide, 15-18, 122, 161, 218
suspended animation, 43-44
Swedenborg, Emanuel, 64-66

Tart, Charles, 150
Taylor, Theodore Roosevelt, 11
technology, 221
See also inventions
THC, 145-148
time perception, 136-137
Toffler, Alvin, 221
Tsiolkovsky, Konstantin, 216-217
TV shows, xviii

Utnapishtim, 53-55, 101

Van Eeden, Frederik, 85
virtual lives, 116-117
Volume Library, 211-213

Wachowski Brothers, xvi, 99-100
Waking Life, 85-86
Weinberger, Sylvia, 176-178
What We Believe But Cannot Prove, 105
Witkiewicz, Stanislaw, 170 
Wolfram, Stephen, 101
Woolf, Virginia, 15
on drugs, 168-172
self-destructive, 15-18, 168

X-rays, 224

Yesenin, Sergei, 18
Yule log, xix

eXTReMe Tracker