Mortals : How the fear of death shaped human society - Ross Menzies


How the fear of death shaped human society

By: Ross Menzies, Rachel Menzies

Paperback | 14 September 2021

At a Glance


RRP $34.99



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Human society is shaped by many things, but underlying them all is one fundamental force - our fear of death. This is the ground-breaking theory explored in Mortals.

The ground-breaking book that uncovers how our fear of death is the hidden driver of most of humankind's endeavours.

The human mind can grapple with the future, visualising and calculating solutions to complex problems, giving us tremendous advantages over other species throughout our evolution. However, this capability comes with a curse. By five to ten years of age, all humans know where they are heading: to the grave.

In Mortals, Rachel Menzies and Ross Menzies, both acclaimed psychologists whose life's work has focused on death anxiety, examine all the major human responses to death across history. From the development of religious systems denying the finality of death, to 'immortality projects' involving enduring art, architecture and literature, some of the consequences of our fear of death have been glorious while others have been destructive, leading to global conflicts and genocide.

Looking forward, Mortals hypothesises that worse could be to come-our unconscious dread of death has led to rampant consumerism and overpopulation, driving the global warming and pandemic crises that now threaten our very existence. In a terrible irony, Homo sapiens may ultimately be destroyed by our knowledge of our own mortality.

About the Authors

Rachel E. Menzies completed her honours degree in psychology at the University of Sydney, taking out the Dick Thompson Thesis Prize for her work on the dread of death and its relationship to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Beginning in her undergraduate years, her work on fear of death and psychopathology has been published in Clinical Psychology Review, Australian Clinical Psychologist and several leading international journals. She has been invited to speak at distinguished international events and to deliver a workshop tour across seven cities with the Australian Association for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (AACBT). She was the lead editor of Curing the Dread of Death: Theory, Research and Practice, and, having completed her masters and doctoral degrees in psychology in 2020, she has recently taken up a postgraduate fellowship at the University of Sydney. She can regularly be heard on national radio, popular podcasts and at relevant public events such as The Festival of Death and Dying.

Ross G. Menzies completed his undergraduate, masters and doctoral degrees in psychology at the University of NSW and is now a professor in the Graduate School of Health at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). Over his career he has been founding Director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at the University of Sydney, National President of the Australian Association for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (AACBT), President and Convenor of the 8th World Congress of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies (WCBCT), and, most recently, founding Director of the newly formed World Confederation of Cognitive and Behavioural Therapies (WCCBT). He has trained psychologists, psychiatrists and allied health workers in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) around the globe and is the previous editor of Australia's national CBT journal, Behaviour Change. He continues active research and has published nine books and more than 200 journal papers and book chapters.
Industry Reviews
'Spoiler alert: if you read this book, you will die. But, as well as being fascinating, this book can also help you die a better death, and live a better life.'
Julian Morrow, comedian, ABC presenter, member of The Chaser team

'A death-defying book from two leaders in the field.'
Professor David Veale, King's College London

'A fascinating tour of our species' attempts across millennia to come to terms with mortality. Mortals offers a stunning glimpse into what our fear of death means for our future. A must-read.'
Professor Thomas Heidenreich, Esslingen University

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