Cultural immortalism

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Kalypso Offers Odysseus Immortality. From Homer’s Odyssey, oil on canvas28 X 40” FP30[1]

Cultural immortalism is the concept of living on through a social or cultural collective memory.

“There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.” ― David M. Eagleman, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives[2]


Fame, celebrity, notability, infamy etc can create a large social or cultural influence that may or may not extend significantly beyond death.

Ancient gods and legendary figures may have been based on or influenced by the lives of real people. This then may transmute into figures of exceptional or supernatural powers, and in turn into deities or spirits.

Explicit acts may be designed to keep the memory of the dead alive. Veneration of the dead, sometimes incorrectly refereed to as ancestor worship is where a family or larger social group performs rituals to keep the memory of a person alive. This could involve national days of mourning, visiting a place of burial or utilizing a respectful tone when speaking of the deceased or canonization of saints. Conversely, a deliberately unmarked grave can be a mark of disrespect towards a deceased criminal in order to shorten their legacy.[3]


The story of Odysseus is a classic example whereby preserving his legacy as a king, husband and warrior, is depicted as incompatible with physical immortality offered by goddess Calypso.[4]


Most transhumanists would be unsatisfied with mere cultural immortality, preferring to physically live on in some form.

“I don't want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don't want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment.” ― Woody Allen, The Illustrated Woody Allen Reader[5]