On a small rocky island at the southernmost point of Europe, a bearded Russian scientist addresses a nervous church congregation in a darkened outhouse. "There won't be any new generations," he says. "We are the last generation. We won't permit the birth of people who are mortals. They are not needed."
Smoking a roll-up and wearing a tattered windbreaker, he looks little more than a vagrant. He's actually a highly intelligent member of what can only be described as an "immortality commune," though, one formed on the island of Gavdos by seven Russian scientists who moved there more than 15 years ago. Amongst them are Chernobyl survivors—in fact the movement's headed by a man who survived a fierce dose of radiation at the plant–psychoanalysts, and rocket engineers. Their work is mysterious, conducted in hand-built laboratories on a self-contained compound with unidentifiable contraptions lying rusting outside on the dirt paths. One of the buildings they built has a green opaque pyramid of glass protruding from its roof and looks like something taken straight from J.J. Abrams's imagination.
All of the scientists hold prestigious mainstream degrees and some of them have even worked for the Russian equivalent of NASA. However, instead of scrutinizing chemical vials and reverse engineering foreign technologies, the scientists worked the land as laborers for many years for little to no cash reward. The priest on Gavdos Island gave them seven acres of land where they built up their own houses and helped others with electrical work, farming, and carpentry.
After setting up a means of sustainable living, their strange, closed-off experiments and esoteric philosophies on immortality soon shrouded their plans in obscurity. Secret intelligence services were even sent in by the European government to investigate, but apparently found nothing.
For over a decade the church and the scientists shared a harmonious relationship, but now the immortals have irked the local community by making their hidden plans public. They feel the need to "reconstruct the world" and implement "the birth of a new immortal human." The scientists are even facing extradition after they began building a Greek temple, where they aim to revive Pythagorean philosophy and unearth forgotten Greek mysteries.
A Norwegian filmmaker named Yiorgos Moustakis and a Greek director named Nikos Labot are making a documentary about the scientists and their extraordinary thesis.
"Many urban legends surrounded this group," he tells me. "Some thought that they came to this island to get cured from radiation. Others were saying that they are spies working for the KGB or CIA, working on a top-secret program. Most of these stories were told by people who had already met them and had seen their constructions around the island."
To explain in full detail the plans that these outspoken scientists have is to estimate the length of a piece of string, but the general objective seems to be a quest in which they're trying to reach the next phase of our evolution as human beings.
"It is a huge study," says Moustakis. "The proof you are asking lies inside this study in the same way that the proof of, let's say, Einstein's relativity theory lies in the maths. In the case of the relativity theory, of course, it was experimentally proven later on in labs–the CERN accelerator, etc. But first, before this theory was tested in practice, it needed a working theoretical framework. To put it another way, yes, [the scientists] definitely have a theoretical framework that works."
The scientist's philosophy when undertaking this immortality idea is comparable, Moustakis says, to Buddhism led not by religion and mythical deities, but by tangible science and something that you can actually put your hands on.
Some say it's pseudoscience, some voodoo; others are fearful of their plans. Most simply don't understand it. After living off the land for years, the concept could be interpreted as an Alex Supertramp-type philosophy where they live off the grid, enhancing their minds by avoiding the daily drone of pandemic consumerism and rat race brainwashing. This theory, however, doesn't take into account their strong religious connections, mysterious ceremonies, and obsession with radical Greek philosophers. Nor does it explain their makeshift engineering and the fact that they've raised a temple against the islanders' wishes and are calling it "The Temple of Apollo."
Pagan-looking glyphs can be seen painted on the side of the structure. Its existence alone is causing trouble within the local community, who are branding the scientists heretics. Happy to rock the boat further, the immortal commune has even written to the church on the mainland, requesting a Bishop or an enlightened Priest to be sent to the island to perform ceremonies and prayers to the Virgin Mary, asking for her help in building the temple of a god that reflects an entirely different religion.
"Is it possible," asks one of the scientists in Yiorgos Moustakis's film, "for humanity to make the transition to the next level of existence?" As a gang of scientists practice fringe theory on a desolate island, perhaps they'll find the answer.
To find out more about Yiorgos Moustakis and Nikos Labot's documentary, click here.