Skip to navigationSkip to content
Gemäldegalerie Museum Berlin
“The Fountain of Youth” (1546), Lucas Cranach the Elder.

The four stories we tell ourselves to get over our fear of death

Death is inevitable. At the same time, it’s impossible for any of us to quite picture ourselves snuffing it.

And so humans keep finding creative ways to convince ourselves that death is not the end, according to Stephen Cave, an expert on death and immortality and the executive director at the University of Cambridge’s Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence. As Cave explains in his book Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization, the stories that we’ve told ourselves, across every culture and era, can be sorted into one of four categories.

Dr. Stephen Cave.

You are reading a Quartz member exclusive.

Become a member to keep reading this story and unlock unlimited access to all of Quartz.

Membership will also get you:

See the rest of our guide to The business of immortality

Exclusive videos that show you how the world is changing faster than ever before

Deeper access to our journalists and the Quartz community

Our extensive archive of guides on the forces that are shaping our future