Some people are very enthusiastic about the prospect of extending the length of their life, Whereas others are only focussed on a qualitative life. Mass life extension presents us with ethical dilemmas such as the ensuing impact of cumulative welfare, healthcare and public services requirements.
Desirable or not life extension beyond societally recognised parameters is possible. The conventional view is that the French woman Jeanne Calmat who lived till 122 years is the longest ever living person. However, there is strong evidence to suggest that Li Ching-Yuen who died on May 6 1933 was actually born in 1677 and thus died 256 years of age. Yuen was a master herbalist who lived in the mountainous Chinese Provence of Sichuan. There are so many reputable factual accounts of his life that the extraordinary length of his years cannot really be disputed. His answer to the secret of his long life was ” Tranquil mind. Sit like a tortoise. Walk sprightly like a pigeon. Sleep like a dog.”
Nonetheless, there are accounts of other individuals who are said to have lived lives considerably longer even than Yuen’s life. One such person is the great Yogi Babaji who is said to live in a remote part of the Himalayas since the third century. During my travels to India I met a Sadhu, the Indian equivalent of a monk, in Varanasi who has met Babaji. He described his skin as emanating a golden aura, with extremely handsome features and youthful body. Apparently Babaji appears extremely rarely to spiritual seekers. By all accounts he can only be found by those willing to negotiate their way through some of the most treacherous Himalayan terrain. Nevertheless, a few select westerners such as the author Peter Kelder have been privileged to meet him. From Babaji, Kelder derived his globally acclaimed five Tibetan rites. The exercises believed by some to be a modern day fountain of youth.
The quest for life extension, even physical immortality is as old as life itself. The ideology of immortality was centrifugal to the philosophy and aspirations of the ancient Taoists of China and the Siddhis of Sri Lanka and southern India. Both traditions had their own secret formulas and incantations designed to radically regenerate the human organism. Similarly, the Ayurvedic sages of India indulged in the practice of Kayva Kalpa which combines regenerative herbs with “darkness retreats” to reverse the ageing process. The latter involves a person remaining in pitch black darkness for maybe a month whilst on a very restricted diet. The intense quietude by alleviating the everyday pressure on our brain and internal organs facilitates the recharge of the human nervous system and cellular mechanism.
I confess that i have an all consuming fascination with the European alchemists and their quest to discover the philosopher’s stone. The elixir of life which would lead them to physical immortality and to the manifestation of every desire. The mysterious 14th century French man, Nicholas Flamel, is speculated as having found this elusive philosopher’s stone. Although Flamel has no monopoly over immortality. The 18th century German Comte De Saint Germain who famously intermingled with European high society is also supposed to have exhibited signs of possessing the philosopher’s stone. The legendary figure was said to have remarkable supernatural powers and was thought to be at least 500 years old. The famous thinker, Voltaire, referred to him as “the wonder man”.
The alchemists were the forerunners of modern chemistry. The advanced proponents of which sought the holy grail of turning base metals such as lead into gold, through the use of the philosopher’s stone Some who possessed this gift such as Flamel were said to have amassed incredible wealth. The eternal stone was discovered by a process known as the Magnus Opus or Great Work. This magical stone, when grounded to a powder is known to be saffron in colour. Whereas in solid form it is reddish purple in colour according to alchemical texts.
Contemporary sciences such as nanotechnology, stem cells and robotics hold the promise, according to some ambitious scientists, that a privileged elite within the forthcoming generation may never have to taste death. Some actually believe that radical life extension is available here and now by combining cutting edge supplements with a predominately raw food diet. Science has proven categorically that long term reduced calorific intake is conclusively linked to human longevity. And specific types of the nutritional supplement, Resveratrol, is known to mimic this process without the dietary inhibitions. Even more exciting, is the discovery that ageing occurs because of the shortening of the telomeres length of our DNA. Derivatives of the herb, Astragalus, can preserve and even lengthen these telomeres allegedly reversing the ageing process.
Age reversal is now not only a possibility but a probability. Not a matter of if but when. Joint experiments between Harvard and North South Wales universities have successfully reversed the ageing process in mice. Human trials have now started on the chemical Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide NAD to see if the results can be reproduced anthropomorphically. What is emerging is the paradigm that ageing is caused not so much by the breakdown of cellular integrity but by the propensity of cells to miscommunicate.
Our species is at an evolutionary crossroads beyond which lie almost unimaginable possibilities. We are not only evolving biologically but spiritually. Evolution is nature. Evolution is consciousness. And before we try to define and limit the frontiers of human evolution we should remember the immortal jellyfish. The Turritopsis dohrnii jellyfish found in the Mediterranean Sea and Japan is for all intents and purposes biologically immortal. We can only but imagine the grandest vision of tomorrow’s humanity.