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Erik Davis Podcasts

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37 of The Best Podcast Episodes for Erik Davis. A collection of podcasts episodes with or about Erik Davis, often where they are interviewed.

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37 of The Best Podcast Episodes for Erik Davis. A collection of podcasts episodes with or about Erik Davis, often where they are interviewed.

Updated daily with the latest episodes

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21. Building a Better Self: Demystifying Stoic Anthropotechnics with Erik Davis

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21. Building a better self: Demystifying stoic anthropotechnics with Erik Davis

Welcome to Episode 21! We have a new website: www.beautifulloserspodcast.com Currently the site is a page to direct you to either the substack or your preferred podcast player. More coming soon. We also debuted our new theme song. Written and performed by Zach Nichols. We’ll discuss the theme in greater depth in a future episode. 

Today’s episode revisits the themes from episode 14, where we discussed media, masculinity, and self-help culture in the context of theories of fascism and totalitarianism.

We’re diving into a specific constellation of thinking around stoic philosophy, mindfulness, self-help, and contemporary culture. Why is an ancient philosophy like stoicism suddenly popular today? Why is it often talked about in context with vaguely eastern practices of mindfulness? How do all of these things relate to an emergent industry of self-help and self-care?

We are dissatisfied with the materialist critiques that simply point out the ways that these practices are often schemes to make money—though the critiques themselves are undeniable. These entrepreneurs often have branded and sponsored content, apps, and other pay-to-play lifestyle gear to help you detach yourself from the material world. Occasionally these schemes are especially malicious, like with the example of the MLM-Cult NXIVM, as documented in the HBO documentary series The Vow. Cultish marketing schemes aside, it is more often the case that they’re the intellectual and commercial products of marketing entrepreneurs as amateur philosopher, trying to engage with ancient philosophy in a way to help improve the lives of people today. 

Our dissatisfaction with the straight-line materialist critique stems from our own experiences. These practices are useful. They do yield positive, objective benefits. More important, they are valuable systems of knowledge, these are legitimate systems of thought that merit consideration and deliberation. As is often the case on Beautiful Losers, we find ourselves with a classic baby and bathwater situation. 

To help us chart a course through this constellation we have Erik Davis, who most recently authored High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies. Erik is more than deft thinker and superb writer: he is our friend. Although we hail from different discursive traditions, we share certain sensibilities and foundational insights that cut across discipline, genre, and historical period. Erik is another member of this small intellectual enclave that existed in Houston, Texas in the second decade of the aughts. It’s always a pleasure for us to bring members of that community back together, if only to capture a small fragment of the intellectual curiosity and geniality that shaped our advanced degrees. 

For this discussion we read a lot of stuff. Contemporary blogs on stoicism and mindfulness along with ancient stoic texts, we also looked at more popular and contemporary critiques of happiness culture. As a sort of “meta text” to organize all of these ideas we used Peter Sloterdijk’s book You Must Change Your Life. At the risk of becoming the official Sloterdijk podcast, we went to this text because Sloterdijk offers something akin to a “systems theory” account of spiritual practice. He argues that one of the key distinctions for the human is our ability to “have a practice” and he uses the word “anthropotechnic” to define the particular complexes of external and internal actions. A person in prayer may bow his head and fold his hands while he simultaneously directing his internal thoughts toward the divine; a soccer player taking a penalty kick empties her mind of all distractions and becomes completely focused on visualizing her immanent physical actions. These anthropotechnic complexes can result in what Sloterdijk describes as a “vertical tension” a general sense of a higher level of being. In religious contexts this is understood as communion with the divine, in sport this is getting “in the zone.” According to Sloterdijk’s account, it’s the act of the practices themselves that produce the vertical tension, not that the practices themselves reveal a hidden world.

For Sloterdijk, to be a human is to have these practices, we cannot but be a creature that practices. It’s for this reason — our permanent state of having a practice — that something like religion will never go away. On the question of religion, Sloterdijk’s argument comes from two directions: on the one hand he clearly shows how no amount education, enlightenment, “progress” will eliminate religion from culture, while on the other hand he reduces the metaphysics of religious experience to a functionalist relationship between practices and perceptions.

The reason that we lean on Sloterdijk is because we want to produce a very nuanced critique of our subject, but in order to do that we need to be able to distinguish between practices, behaviors, feelings, meanings, interpretations, and metaphysical reality. Often what frustrates us is how one of these terms is mean to justify or explain another term. For some, the feeling of transcendence reveals that a transcendent reality exists. Sloterdijk’s book suggests a much more simple interpretation: what if the complex of activity you practice has as consequence the feeling of transcendence? What stoicism and mindfulness practice reveals is that their functionalist nature doesn’t diminish or invalidate the experience itself. Like Sloterdijk, we don’t make this point in order to dismiss the category of truth, rather our purpose is to reconstitute these ideas within the context of a more grounded understanding of what these experiences actually are.

Stoicism is a powerful discourse. It teaches a set of practices that provide very real and tangible techniques for self-preservation. Principles like the dichotomy of control help you understand the difference between things you can control and things you can’t control. This principle is taken up in myriad therapeutic ways, from the serenity prayer in 12 step programs to founding principles in cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT). 

Techniques like these help buoy the self and help people get through tough times. There’s a reason that the caricature of the stoic is a hard man with a stiff upper lip: these techniques merge nicely within a broader concept of masculinity. But for those of us that are committed to a more porous notion of subjectivity, collective organization, and materialist outcomes, what does stoicism offer? 

The paradox comes into focus when thinking about the self. Stoicism today is inflected with contemporary notions of the self. So the project of boundaries and control become gamefied: rather than passively accepting that which we can’t control, we’re encouraged (incentivized) to expand our domain of control in specific, technical ways. 

It’s from that central tension that our conversation achieved lift-off. As has often been the case with our advanced theory episodes: We seek to offer the critique, and then critique the critique. With someone like Erik on board, we also tried to go one level further: to critique the critique of the critique. Or in other words: can we disassemble the object, put it back together differently, take it apart again in a different way, and put it back together again? We’ll let you be the judge the this heady little experiment. 

Stay beautiful, losers

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Nov 06 2020 · 2hr 2mins
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#18 Dr. Erik Davis - The Chaos Path

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Dr. Erik Davis is an American writer, scholar, journalist and public speaker whose writings have ranged from rock criticism to cultural analysis to creative explorations of mysticism.

Few people are able to talk about the spirituality with  a precision and accuracy born of a commitment to always remain open to the Mystery. 

Erik shares his own path, describing how he maintains scientific viewpoint while also embracing the weird and unknown aspects in all religions, especially Christianity and Buddhism.

We talk in detail about "the psychonaut"scientifically minded explorers who use psychedelics in an attempt to map the fringes and consciousness - places where there might still be dragons.

Show Notes

3.00 Spiritual and uncanny experiences occurred in Erik’s childhood bedroom

7.00 Fear and fascination 

14.00 How Erik spans science and spirituality

19.00 Erik’s deep experience with Christian art

24.00 “The weirdest year of your life”

27.00 Erik on prayer and grace

32. 00 “America can’t escape the shadow of puritanism”

36.00 Psychonauts vs religious seekers 

45.30 Psychosis as an occupational hazard

57.00 Practical Buddhist ethics

1.03.00 The role of a spiritual teacher

1.08.00 When Erik met Ram Dass

Oct 30 2020 · 1hr 13mins

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Erik Davis of Fandango, Astronaut Terry Virts, Director Sebastian Sdaigui, Mulan on Disney+

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Listen in as we interview Erik Davis (Managing Editor, Fandango), Col. Terry Virts (Astronaut and Producer of the book “How to Astronaut” and the film “One More Orbit”) and Sebastian Sdaigui (Director, Run for His Life).
Host Calista B. is joined by KF! Critics Nathalia, Ethan and Tiana.
Before you spend your hard earned dollars at the movies, be sure to listen to what our youth reporters have to say.
Sep 13 2020 · 1hr
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#ACFM: Microdose: Erik Davis on the Cosmic Right

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Jeremy Gilbert talks to Erik Davis, scholar of weird culture, mysticism, and the fertile crossover between esoterica and politics. From gnostic revivals to conspiracy theories, the JFK assassination to QAnon – why does there seem to be a sudden resurgence in conspiracy theories, sometimes in the most unexpected corners? Is there a connection between conspiracy theory and the ‘California Ideology’? And does rationalism always triumph in politics? Erik’s latest book, High Weirdness, is out now. https://novaramedia.com/?p=24214

Aug 13 2020 · 1hr 7mins

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Our Pandemic Psychedelic Trip, Erik Davis

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The great psychologist and psychedelic therapist Stanislav Grof described psychedelics as a "non-specific amplifier" of consciousness, meaning that they made everything more intense, both positive and negative experiences.
If the pandemic crisis has acted like a non specific amplifier of many of the existing issues with society and culture, and we are now all in an altered state together, how can we best navigate it?
Erik Davis is a historian of psychedelic culture, and in this conversation with Rebel Wisdom's David Fuller he looks at what can be learnt from the pioneers of the past, such as Terence McKenna, Philip K. Dick and Robert Anton Wilson.
He is the creator of the site Technosis, and the author of many books including "High Weirdness": https://techgnosis.com/ 
You can also become a Rebel Wisdom member, for many benefits including our regular Q&As with the interviewees from our films, check out: https://www.rebelwisdom.co.uk/plans
Jul 19 2020 · 43mins
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Paranoia, Conspiracy, and Covid, with Erik Davis

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Author, podcaster, award-winning journalist, and cultural historian Erik Davis speaks with host Michael Taft about QAnon as a new religion, Gnostic psychology and the power of the secret truth, new narrative warfare exploiting human psychology, technologically-sophisticated divination techniques, the “disenchanted paranormal,” taking responsibility for your own processing of reality, the angel of the library, Metal Hurlant, 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 a cult classic of visionary media studies that investigates how our fascination with technology intersects with the religious imagination. Erik’s most recent book is High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies. 

Read Erik’s newsletter The Burning Shore

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Jul 14 2020 · 57mins
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Erik Davis - High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies

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In this episode, Joe and Kyle interview Erik Davis, Author of High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies. In the show they cover topics on La Chorrera, uncertainty, synchronicities and more.

3 Key Points:
  1. Erik is the Author of High Weirdness, a study of the spiritual provocations to be found in the work of Philip K. Dick, Terence McKenna, and Robert Anton Wilson.
  2. These 3 authors chart the emergence of a new psychedelic spirituality that arose from the American counterculture of the 1970s. Erik examines the published and unpublished writings of these thinkers as well as their own life-changing mystical experiences.
  3. Erik is America's leading scholar of high strangeness, and talks of synchronicities, uncertainty, and all things weird.

Support the show Navigating Psychedelics

Show Notes About Erik
  • Erik went into the PhD program and always wanted to write about Phillip K Dick
  • He got a sense that he didn't want to spend 3 years in Phillip’s head
  • He looked into the works of Phillip K Dick, Robert Anton Wilson, The McKenna brothers, etc
    • He wanted to find a way to take their experiences seriously, without taking them literally

The Book

  • Much like understanding religious experiences, unpacking psychedelic experiences involves clinical analysis, free-thinking, pragmatism, and skepticism. “Creative insecurity is one of the greatest gifts of these compounds.” People want an answer, but maybe there isn’t always an answer. “There’s something else that’s going on that's more cosmic, and difficult in a lot of ways. I want to invite that difficulty in.”
  • A large reason people have difficulty with uncertainty is because often, there are many “answers” right there, likely from someone trying to sell them something. Studying religion made Davis more critical of these “sellers,” but gave him much more sympathy and patience for religious people because of the fact that they’re seeking something.
  • Davis’ favorite image for the idea of courage in trying to understand the unknown is that of a tight-rope walker. The tight-rope walker steps away from solid ground, and the only way to survive is to maintain balance. “There is a way of continuing to be reasonable, asking questions, respecting balance and homeostasis, even as you enter into really difficult situations.” 
  • He wanted to tell these stories because “that’s what the weird is. [Psychedelic experiences] are great- they can be holy, they can be integrative, they can be healing, they can be unifying, they can be restoring- all those things are true, and they’re totally weird! And what are you going to do with that? You’re going to pretend that’s not there?”
  • The healing part of psychedelics is great, but viewing psychedelics as a learning tool is equally as important.
La Chorrera
  • Erik says that it's the great story
    • He says that no one had taken it seriously, and he wanted people to recognize what their work was, which was their experiences
    • Its half science, and half a ritual
    • It was a theater of transformation and novel experience
    • The purpose is to avoid the traps of blaming it on psychosis, and look at it as a creative venture
  • “I think a lot of us wrestling with psychedelics and visionary experiences have our own challenge of, how do we put these pieces together?” - Erik
  • “I want to invite that difficulty in, it's not always love and light” - Erik
    • When someone is uncomfortable, people just turn away from it, and they just live in this lie 
  • Erik says he blames the culture and capitalist scene
    • Because of uncertainty, there are so many experts ready to sell you something
    • “The people who are seeking, I have more sympathy for. The people that are selling, I have less sympathy for” - Erik
  • “If you keep the balance, you can go pretty far and not fall in” - Erik
  • A lot of conspiracy theorists hand over their sovereign-ness
    • “I know” gives you an answer
    • We have reasons to distrust institutions
  • It's good to have a dose of skepticism
  • "Conspiracy theory is a concept that is and has been used to obfuscate real questions” but why do we put our trust in one entity over another? While some of this obviously comes from a growing level of distrust of the media and mainstream authority figures, a lot of it comes from people wanting to avoid “not knowing.” “I see a lot of conspiracy theorists just handing over their own sovereign 'not knowingness' and they can gain a false power of ‘knowing.’"
  • Believing conspiracies gives people an answer and story, makes them feel both knowledgeable and a part of something (they’re an insider vs. all the others who don’t know what's going on), and they’re marginalized because they’re going against the mainstream system- they thrive in an “us-against-them” conflict.  
  • Research synchronicity: “A lot of the synchronicities are actually just books talking to each other in weird and unexpected ways.”  
  • We are pattern recognition machines on a spectrum. Not recognizing enough can make us viewed as cold and unemotional, but if we see a lot of patterns, we’re more open to paranormal or occult ideas. If we see too many, we may have mental issues.  
  • These experiences happen, but Davis doesn’t believe there’s much more to it than that, as we are living in a mystery. “I enjoy the feelings associated with them, but in the same way that we do not “believe” great works of art, I don’t leave with some sense that I have now seen something that requires me to revise my worldview. The take-home prize is mystery.”
  • Erik says he can't write off people like Osho or Crowley
    • Even if they may have caused abuse or bad things, they have done a lot of great things for humanity
  • While misogynistic, creepy and cruel, it is rude to not recognize Crowley's contributions. And “when he was on, he was a great writer. Visionary literature.”
  • Genesis P-Orridge said that cults are actually important to the development of humanity. Davis feels that cults can be like theatre- a creative director sets a stage and usually they’re the only one who knows everything that’s going on, there are practiced, learned scripts, some people like it, while others get screwed and hate it, etc. Cults are more complicated than people give them credit for, and are often seen more negatively because they disrupt families, particularly the role of a parents vs. the parental-like roles of cult leaders. But often, while not a popular opinion, good things can come out of cults.
  • What's a cult? Its a creative director who sets the ‘stage’ and script that people learn etc


High Weirdness Book

About Erik Davis

Davis was born during the Summer of Love within a stone’s throw of San Francisco. He grew up in North County, Southern California, and spent a decade on the East Coast, where he studied literature and philosophy at Yale and spent six years in the freelance trenches of Brooklyn and Manhattan before moving to San Francisco, where he currently resides. He is the author of four books: Nomad Codes: Adventures in Modern Esoterica (Yeti, 2010), The Visionary State: A Journey through California’s Spiritual Landscape (Chronicle, 2006), with photographs by Michael Rauner, and the 33 1/3 volume Led Zeppelin IV (Continuum, 2005). His first and best-known book remains TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information (Crown, 1998), a cult classic of visionary media studies that has been translated into five languages and recently republished by North Atlantic Press. He has contributed chapters on art, music, technoculture, and contemporary spirituality to over a dozen books. In addition to his many forewords and introductions, Davis has contributed articles and essays to a variety of periodicals. A vital speaker, Davis has given talks at universities, media art conferences, and festivals around the world. He has taught seminars at the UC Berkeley, UC Davis, the California Institute of Integral Studies, and Rice University, as well as workshops at the New York Open Center and Esalen. He has been interviewed by CNN, NPR, the New York Times, and the BBC, and appeared in numerous documentaries. He has hosted the podcast Expanding Mind on the Progressive Radio Network since 2010, and earned his PhD in Religious Studies from Rice University in 2015.

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May 26 2020 · 1hr 26mins
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COVID Weirdness with Erik Davis

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Author of High Weirdness, Erik Davis discusses psychedelic politics, media paranoia, conspiracy theories, and consensus reality in the time of COVID-19.

Apr 17 2020 · 55mins
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Embracing Mortality, With Erik Davis

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Well the surprise here is that this is an opportunity, to appreciate this time of silence and to appreciate our fragile mortality. The desert has always offered that to the seekers, to the lunatics, to the prophets. Guest Erik Davis joins us for the full hour, as we talk about the very entertaining and enlightening audiobook he just finished for his best-selling High Weirdness. Be here now, with your desert friends. New sounds from RedBlueBlackSilver. Listen to our Friday night broadcast on KCDZ FM, 107.7 in Joshua Tree.

Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/user?u=26080998

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Apr 03 2020 · 1hr
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Movie Food (and Food Movies) with Erik Davis

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Rob Petrone hangs with Fandango managing editor Erik Davis, throwing movie food (and drink) hot takes his way that include beer, Twizzlers and Albert Brooks. Plus, Rob shares a dinner-and-a-movie dining tip that includes a food hack.
Feb 13 2020 · 23mins