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How mastering the art of losing control can help us live a better life a wise witty and dynamic guide to the philosophy of human ecstasyJules Evans is lying at the bottom of a mountain after a skiing accident But he's not thinking about his broken femur He's having an ecstatic revelation Jules's brush with ecstasy leads him on an investigation why have we been happy to accept Greek philosophy's attitude that rationality is the highest part of human nature for so many centuries when we are capable of so many states of experience? On his way Jules discovers that by mastering the art of losing control we can liberate ourselves from toxic habits and lead a better deeper life Balancing personal narrative interviews and readings from ancient and modern philosophers The Art of Losing Control is a fascinating funny and thrilling guide to the different ways we can experience ecstasy and how it can motivate us heal us and set us free


10 thoughts on “The Art of Losing Control

  1. says:

    I've decided that Western culture has a problematic relationship with ecstasy and this narrows and impoverishes our experience of reality Jules Evans asserts in his new book A philosopher by trade he has focused on Stoicism CBT and Buddhism Each philosophy—or way of liberation in Zen Buddhism's case—are receiving much deserved attention in contemporary wisdom literatureHowever we're living limited lives due to a hyper rational worldview fearful of losing control Stoicism insists the way to flourishing is via rational self analysis and self control That's often true but not always There is something to be said for those moments when we lose control when we surrender to something greater than us even if it means going beyond critical rationality The Stoics had little positive to say about romantic love or intoxication or music dancing and the arts in general—all of which involve moments of ecstatic surrender Their philosophy lacks rituals myths and festivals which have helped humans find ecstasy over the millennia Using personal experimentation with various avenues of ecstasy—including joining a charismatic Christian church psychedelics a ten day Vipassana retreat rock concerts Nature cinema and ecstatic dance workshops—Evans walks us through the benefits and pitfalls of enthusiasm or peak experiences Grounding his framework on William James' pragmatism and the insights of depth psychology Carl Jung he delves into the frightening waters of mystery awe and the SublimeMy experience with this book nearly ecstatic at times was like reading a book I would have written had I been intelligent and a few years advanced He uotes from all the right influences And most invigorating for me he remains agnostic eschewing metaphysics for what matters what is going to make us live meaningful lives? I'm surprised this book hasn't received reviews and disappointed that it will be ignored by the very people who could benefit the most from it yeah I'm talking to you my material realist friends This is a fantastic volume for those trying to find a middle way between a mechanistic cosmology and a theistic worldviewIt's encouraging to know there are others out there approaching ideas in a pragmatic way reminding us to stay open to the ineffable the devastatingly beautiful and infinitely unknowable Western culture has been chained by a worship of narrow rationality justified in some ways but we must make room for Apollo and Dionysus in our lives if we want to live closer to our human potential and beyond in the case of transhumanistsA thorough review has been published at Erraticus as an essay titled Ecstatic Experience How the West Can Find Itself by Losing Control


  2. says:

    Jules Evans wrote Philosophy for Life And Other Dangerous Situations in 2012 in which he describes how ancient philosophy primarily Stoicism saved his life In The Art of Losing Control A Guide to Ecstatic Experience published in 2018 he has concluded that the Socratic path risks becoming arid over cerebral rationalism and to counter this we all could do with some Dionysiac ecstasy Jules asserts that since the Enlightenment western culture has had a difficult relationship with ego loss and we have lost our spiritual worldview and instead view the universe in terms of matter and the materialJules decides the best way of exploring how people react to ecstasy is to experience all of these things for himself The Art of Losing Control A Guide to Ecstatic Experience is an imaginary festival with each zone becoming the topic of a chapter And so in what is a pretty well worn path we accompany Jules as he explores tantric love charismatic Christianity psychedelics cinema rock n roll meditation retreats AI and so on It reminded me a little of The No9 Bus to Utopia by David Bramwell however Jules provides a lot of interesting history which results in a substantial and rigorous academic explorationJules believes we would all benefit from transcending our egos on our journeys to enlightenment however as he points out the road is littered with casualties opportunists and charlatans There's also a dark side whilst the desire to lose yourself can be satisfied by sex LSD or song it is also present in acts of violence murder etc I came away unconvinced by his suggestion that we all need to find a way to accommodate our ecstatic impulses particularly as he crowbars in so many disparate examples athletes being in nature political rallies drug experiences etc but perhaps I've become too rational Either way it's an interesting and worthwhile read if ultimately a little unconvincing 35


  3. says:

    Humans have always had the desire to seek experiences out beyond their comfort zone Some of these can be a real benefit to people; a shared experience in a crowd commune with a greater spirit and those most intimate of moments can generate a real buzz They can though be dangerous as individuals can become addicted and lose touch with their closest friends The search for ecstasy had been mostly disregarded by western intellectuals as they looked to enlightenment for answers Philosopher Jules Evans thinks that ecstasy needs to play a larger part in human emotional development and he decides to try as many ways possible in the search for that perfect momentEvans decides the best way of exploring how people react to ecstasy is to experience all of these things for himself Starting with Holy Trinity Brompton he undertakes an Alpha course in the search for religious joy moves onto the thrall of the mosh pit and musical enlightenment discovers the allure of the silver screen takes time to consider his position in the universe seeks harmony with nature before tentatively venturing into the tantric love temple in Dorset of all places The future does not escape either whether it is seeking a transhumanist philosophy and become immortals or to lose themselves in the binary worlds or cyberspace where no one knows you’re a catAs the search for the ecstatic experience grows Evans has provided the closest that we have got to a guide to losing control He argues that it can be beneficial to us as individuals as well as society as a whole but that there are caveats He comes from a philosophical background making parts of the book occasionally uite esoteric but there are some funny moments in the book and generally it is well written and understandable By undertaking these series of strange and occasionally enlightening experiences gives him a greater authority to provoke a discussion in this book and gives us plenty of food for thought


  4. says:

    This was a gift from a friend The hippie in me wanted to love this book but couldn't uite like it The concept of the book is interesting the author goes through all these ecstatic experiences from drugs to Vipassana and writes about them the author tricks you into thinking that at the end there will be a best to worst list Spoiler alert there isn't The problem with this book is to understand every chapter its enough to read the first 3 4 pages the rest of the pages in the chapter are just the re iteration of the same thoughts


  5. says:

    Its a great read Evans has developed a very comprehensive yet broad look at the ecstatic and what it means Written in a easy to digest and evenly divided chaptersHowever both the anthropologist and the climber in me feels like there are important parts forgotten when it comes to the social implications of ecstatics as well as the natural and dangerous domains Even though I still think it is a brilliant work


  6. says:

    A very insightful read on the apparently lost ability of Western culture to embrace transcendental and ecstatic experiences Makes a great link between the effects of ao Evangelical worship songs art psychedelic drugs and transhumanism on the way we think behave and feel A truly fascinating well written book that broadened my spectrum on the need of people to lose control and find transcendence Shines a new light on my own religious experiences


  7. says:

    This is a philosopher’s account of sampling from the various wells of ecstatic experience It’s one of many works these days on what the ancient Greeks called ekstasis There’s been major interest in investigating the topic in recent years Historically religion was the means by which people pursued ecstasy but – increasingly people who don’t care for the dogma and tribalism of religion are starting to crave its blissful and ego shedding aspects As a work of immersion journalism the book is a mixed bag Evans does seek some firsthand experience of most of the topics covered but the extent of his immersion and his discussion of it varies greatly For example he goes into great detail in pursuing and discussing mystic Christianity but isn’t so comprehensive in discussing neo Tantrism ie Western or sex centric Tantra and his discussion of psychedelics draws heavily upon decisions experiences made as a teenager which it could be argued is a little like commenting on the Eucharist based on that time you got drunk on Boone’s Farm and scarfed down a bag of Doritos Though to be fair the author is clear and cognizant that his youthful dalliances weren’t necessarily euivalent to a conscientious pursuit of heightened consciousness but are a warning to heed Leary’s advice on “set and setting” At any rate if you are expecting immersion journalism on the level of Michael Pollan’s “How to Change Your Mind” you’ll find this book isn’t consistently on par though it does have its moments That said Evans does a fantastic job of researching the topic and presenting interesting perspectives on the subject and he does so with humor and inuisitiveness I will say that in the latter chapters I sometimes found myself very intrigued by the discussion but it would occur to me that I couldn’t see a direct link being made to the pursuit of ecstatic experience Maybe it was just me but if he strayed he strayed interestingly – which is better than the alternativeThe book consists of an introduction and ten chapters The chapters cover such approaches to ecstasy as religion primarily Christianity is discussed obviously focusing on sects and subsects that pursue rather than shun ecstatic experience the arts rock n roll with an intriguing focus on its surprising resemblance to religion psychedelic substances meditation neo Tantrism war and violence communing with nature and transhumanist efforts With the exception of Evans’ investigation into meditation for which his experience involved Vipassana a nominally Theravadin Buddhist system Evans’ book focuses heavily on Western approaches I actually enjoyed this because it seems like there is much discussion of Eastern approaches and those rooted in them The book is annotated and has a section of photos in the back as well as a few other graphics where needed I enjoyed this book and learned lot from it As immersion journalism it displayed a wide variance of depth and openness but it was well researched and the information was delivered in a light and readable manner


  8. says:

    This is a fascinating engaging book by philosopher Jules Evans on ecstatic experiences Evans defines ecstasy in its original meaning as standing outside oneself which occurs in experiences of self transcendence or moments of unselfing where one feels connected to something larger or greater than oneself While ecstatic experiences may sometimes be extraordinary they are also regularly experienced by many in ordinary activities in nature relationships conversations or states of flow for example Evans suggests humans naturally seek ecstatic experiences as a result of a need for experiences of self transcendence without which we begin feeling isolated bored and disconnected when this need goes chronically unmet He also makes a helpful distinction between healthy transcendence and toxic transcendence and claims Any method of letting go however innocuous can become problematic We could become addicted to switching off the mind with a bottle of wine every night or junk TV or a spliff or Valium or porn or heroin or violence Interestingly he writes Western culture has a problematic relationship with ecstasy and this narrows and impoverishes our experience of reality In 1973 the anthropologist Ericka Bourguignon undertook a survey of 488 societies around the world and found that 90 percent of them had institutionalized rituals for achieving ego loss Western society is very unusual in its lack of such rituals and its denigration of non rational states of mind Evans argues We need outlets for ecstatic connection in our societies or people turn to toxic communities like cults gangs and networks of addiction Examples of joining extremist groups like ISIS can be understood at least in part as motivated by our natural search for ecstasy and self transcendence as ISIS delivers adherents a larger sense of purpose and meaning of heroic proportions albeit in a context that is incredibly divisive and destructive Evans' writing and storytelling are very engaging throughout the book He goes on a tour through a variety of contexts of ecstatic experience ranging from charismatic and revivalist religion the creative arts rock and roll concerts psychedelic drugs contemplative and meditative practices tantric sex war and violence sports and modern technologies such as virtual reality simulators Overall he provides an insightful treatment of an underappreciated topic


  9. says:

    Very engaging most thought provoking bookIn a way it is shocking to see several ways of finding transcendence religion art sex drugs rock and roll violence discussed all at the same informative levelIt makes me wonder deeply about my own love for church services and sacraments if they are than an addictionThe book is a mix of all kinds of information and the experience of the author What he wrote about the subculture of the alpha course is so recognizable to me that it makes the rest of the book also trustworthy to meAt the one hand this book shatters illusions showing how certain strange events just happen if we create the right circumstances and the similarities between the various ways on the other hand the author shares lots of testimonies about spiritual experiences without judgement If anything he opened my eyes to the fact that we humans just need transcendence to be truly alive But this need is fraught with danger and we need to learn how to create safe places for it


  10. says:

    I loved this book Evans does a little of the stunt exploring that a lot of nonfiction writers do to sell books these days certainly can't blame them but he tempers his adventures perfectly with a cogent summary of the history and philosophy behind why ecstatic experiences are still so threatening to Western society This book helped me to make sense of why I tend to pursue such experiences myself and it may convince even the tradition bound as to why such experiences are so necessary in our society currently