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Robert Anton Wilson, High Weirdness, and Buddhist Meditation – with Erik Davis

Erik Davis

Michael Taft speaks with Erik Davis about author Robert Anton Wilson, anarchism in the 1970s, Terrence McKenna, P.K. Dick, psychedelics, cultures of awakening now and then, Zen practice, and more. 

Erik Davis is an author, podcaster, award-winning journalist, and popular speaker based in San Francisco. He is probably best known for his book TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information, a cult classic of visionary media studies that investigates how our fascination with technology intersects with the religious imagination. And his podcast, Expanding Mind has long been a favorite of mine.

Show Notes

0:25 – Introduction

2:58 – Erik’s book, High Weirdness, Drugs, Visions, and Esoterica in the Seventies

6:11 – The impact of Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger; guerrilla ontology; libertarianism, anarchy, and radical individualism

13:34 – Wilson’s anarchism’s basis in his cosmic view against institutionalized and concentrated power

15:43 – Ontological anarchism – ‘multiple perspectives all the way down’ ; relationship of metasystemic thinking and emptiness/nonduality; the challenge of wrestling with different perspectives that don’t quite fit together and the insight that comes from it

23:10 – How trying to fit everything into one map doesn’t work, and the place of psychedelics in recognizing that; realizing that language constructs reality, and learning to deconstruct and go beyond language and maps

27:23 – Wilson’s Quantum Psychology, its exercises in switching models and taking new perspectives;  what makes a spiritual teacher different from somebody who is handing you a lot of very useful techniques and practices

33:00 – Why tech/STEM people might be interested in meditation and psychedelics; how younger generations connect more horizontally rather than vertically (between generations or between different statuses in society); psychedelics as learning experiences rather than tool-using experiences

37:26 – Capitalism’s influence on views and uses of psychedelics, how a potentially radical or even revolutionary compound can be whittled down into something that’s a performance enhancer

40:00 – How mainstream materialism (“all reality is created by the brain”) requires explanations for what happens with psychedelic use; how the illegality of psychedelics affects the vibe and the relationship with them

44:29 – Modern taming down of both psychedelics and meditation; reminding people about the potentials for radicality and weirdness: “The weird is part of reality. It’s not a distortion of what is otherwise seen with clarity.”

48:21 – Pharmaceutical companies patenting synthetic psilocybin – “There’s still all these mushrooms growing up in the grass, and as long as there’s a culture of […] people who like weird experiences, there’s going to be this zone that’s outside of it”

54:27 –  How do you encourage the highest percentage of people who are doing corporate mindfulness, mainstream meditation to enter into the deeper folds of it

1:04:46 – Outro

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