Tag Archives: religion

Ethics of Apotheosis

The notion of apotheosis—of becoming divine—originated in the human mind as early as Ancient Egypt, where pharaohs received honor as gods, sometimes only after death but sometimes in life. Ancient Greek autocrats beginning with Philip II of Macedon later continued the practice, assuming divine honors for themselves. Throughout the history of the world, too, religions have appealed to the Everyman’s dream of becoming divine.

To date, apotheosis has consisted alternately of pretension and superstition. But transhumanity—at the ultimate limit of transcending the human body, mind, and spirit—implies true apotheosis.

  • Superability. Technology will enable us to do that which ages past reserved for gods—unimaginable feats will become commonplace.
  • Immortality. Death will lose its sting as we preserve our bodies, minds, and spirits, whether biologically, cybernetically, or wholly artificially.

In a future in which apotheosis becomes the rule rather than a mere figment of the imagination, how we conceive of our ethical obligations to ourselves, others, and the world will have to change. As we come into divinity, we will have to take on the mantle of divine lawgiver.

Spirituality’s Place in Transhumanity

Some thinkers within the transhumanist movement have propounded that transhumanism assume the place of a secular religion. This sentiment comes from pure motives—eradication of obsolete superstitions—but misses the point. Transhumanity serves as a means but offers no ultimately fulfilling ends.

For so long as humans have existed, we have sought meaning and purpose in our lives. In earlier times, when we believed in the supernatural, that higher realm lent this baser existence meaning and purpose. As our scientific advancement has progressively dispelled those supernatural notions, some of us have fallen into despair of the loss, while others have bravely created new meaning and purpose for ourselves.

Transhumanists owe a debt of gratitude to scientific disillusionment for proving that reality does not flow unchanging from some supernatural force or figment—because no one created us, we serve ourselves as our own masters. If in that masterdom we so choose, we can rightly aspire to transcend the vale of imperfect humanity that we have inherited from haphazard natural processes. Such is transhumanity.

But we should not pretend to transcend the quest for meaning and purpose, even if they consist in nothing but hedonistic pleasure. Hedonism, after all, is a kind of life philosophy, one which answers the questions that remain even after we transcend the present state of our human bodies, minds, and spirits. Other philosophies are equally possible in transhumanity—hedonism is not the only possible life philosophy for a transhumanist.

Even when we live forever, in perpetual wellness, with unimaginable capabilities and complete freedom from superstition, still then we will desire more than merely a Red Queen’s Race: running faster and faster, never to get anywhere but just to stay in place.

“[I]n our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else [] if you run very fast for a long time[.]”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

—Lewis Carroll,
« Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There » 46

Unceasing self improvement never produces self fulfillment. A place for a thoughtful philosophy of life—perhaps for a kind of spirituality—that directs our existence to fulfilling ends will remain, even when we attain every new dizzying height of transhumanity.