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Recapture the Rapture: Rethinking God, Sex, and Death in a World That's Lost its Mind

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A peak-performance expert maps out a revolutionary new practice—Hedonic Engineering—that combines the best of neuroscience and optimal psychology. It’s an intensive program of breathing, movement, and sexuality that mends trauma, heightens inspiration and tightens connections—helping us wake up, grow up, and show up for a world that needs us all.

This is a book about a big idea. And the idea is this: Slowly over the past few decades, and now suddenly, all at once, we’re suffering from a collapse in Meaning. Fundamentalism and nihilism are filling that vacuum, with consequences that affect us all. In a world that needs us at our best, diseases of despair, tribalism, and disaster fatigue are leaving us at our worst.

It’s vital that we regain control of the stories we’re telling because they are shaping the future we’re creating. To do that, we have to remember our deepest inspiration, heal our pain and apathy, and connect to each other like never before. If we can do that, we’ve got a shot at solving the big problems we face. And if we can’t?  Well, the dustbin of history has swallowed civilizations older and fancier than ours. 

This book is divided into three parts. The first, Choose Your Own Apocalypse, takes a look at our current Meaning Crisis--where we are today, why it’s so hard to make sense of the world, what might be coming next, and what to do about it. It also makes a case that many of our efforts to cope, whether anxiety and denial, or tribalism and identity politics, are likely making things worse.

The middle section, The Alchemist Cookbook,  applies the creative firm IDEO’s design thinking to the Meaning Crisis. This is where the book gets hands on--taking a look at the strongest evolutionary drivers that can bring about inspiration, healing, and connection. From breathing, to movement, sexuality, music, and substances--these are the everyday tools to help us wake up, grow up, and show up. AKA--how to blow yourself sky high with household materials. And the best part? They’re accessible, by anyone anywhere, no middleman required. Transcendence democratized.

The final third of the book, Ethical Cult Building, focuses on the tricky nature of putting these kinds of experiences into gear and into culture—because, anytime in the past when we’ve figured out combinations of peak states and deep healing, we’ve almost always ended up with problematic culty communities. Playing with fire has left a lot of people burned. This section lays out a roadmap for sparking a thousand fires around the world--each one unique and tailored to the needs and values of its participants. Think of it as an open-source toolkit for building ethical culture.

In Recapture the Rapture, we’re taking radical research out of the extremes and applying it to the mainstream--to the broader social problem of healing, believing, and belonging. It’s providing answers to the questions we face: how to replace blind faith with direct experience, how to move from broken to whole, and how to cure isolation with connection. Said even more plainly, it shows us how to revitalize our bodies, boost our creativity, rekindle our relationships, and answer once and for all the questions of why we are here and what do we do know?

In a world that needs the best of us from the rest of us, this is a book that shows us how to get it done.

320 pages, ebook

Published April 27, 2021

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About the author

Jamie Wheal

4 books96 followers
Jamie Wheal is the author of Recapture the Rapture: Rethinking God, Sex and Death In a World That's Lost Its Mind, and the global bestseller Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work. He is the founder of the Flow Genome Project, an international organization dedicated to the research and training of human performance.

His work and ideas have been covered in The New York Times, Financial Times, Wired, Entrepreneur, Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc., and TED.

He has spoken at Stanford University, MIT, the Harvard Club, Imperial College, Singularity University, the U.S. Naval War College and Special Operations Command, Sandhurst Royal Military Academy, the Bohemian Club, and the United Nations.

He has advised the executives at Deloitte, Red Bull, Google, Lululemon, Facebook, TD Ameritrade, Nike, and Goldman Sachs.

He lives high in the Rocky Mountains in an off-grid cabin with his partner, Julie; two children, Lucas and Emma; and their golden retrievers, Aslan and Calliope. When not writing, he can be found mountain biking, kitesurfing, and backcountry skiing.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 120 reviews
Profile Image for smschumacher.
161 reviews11 followers
November 20, 2021
Well this was a trip. I saw a random 5 minute video and thought “I want to hear more from this guy.” He definitely wins the award for most fascinating conversationalist at parties.

However, it’s a hard book to review. It’s like if you put Tim Ferris, a religious studies professor, a neuroscientist and a horny yoga instructor in the same room and told them they had 24 hours to come up with a blueprint for getting the most out of life.

He talks about the end of religion as a source of meaning (which he calls Meaning 1.0). And how secularism has failed as a replacement (Meaning 2.0). He then proposes his idea of Meaning 3.0, which must consist of non-dogmatic, low-barrier technologies, namely Respiration, Embodiment, Sexuality, Substances and Music.

There was a mashup of a lot of neuroscience and psychological principles that I’ve read about elsewhere, and while I enjoyed those sections I feel like he missed a key component: therapy. Be it CBT, dialectic, EMDR, whatever, I just felt that if he’s discussing how humans can find meaning and become better humans, there needs to be an archeological expedition into your own personal psychology. I expect that’s the role he’s given to substances, but I’m a bit skeptical that inhaling nitrous oxide is going to help you uncover the ways you’re a product of your social, cultural and familial environment and did you really consciously choose anything? Some things can only be realized through deep introspection and therapy.

Basically this book married a ton of different fascinating concepts and ideas into a smorgasbord of suggested life principles. Or something like that. If you’re into that kind of thing you might enjoy it. It felt a bit much but I think that’s just because it’s the kind of random pondering I might engage in after having read books about psychology, neuroscience, religion, politics, cults, THE WORLD IS ENDING OHMYGOD WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE, psychedelics, tribalism and how everything is broken. I just haven’t written a book about it.
April 30, 2021
A fascinating nexus of anthropology, psychology, neurobiology, and spirituality. The author blends abstract and heady topics into entertaining and easy to understand stories. If you've been wondering why everything feels both exponentially better and exponentially worse, this book explains why. Truly a book for our times.
Profile Image for Lucas Cohen.
5 reviews3 followers
April 28, 2021
Devoured the book in two days! One of the best books I've ever read.

I've been following Jamie's work for quite a few years now, and was beyond excited for the chance to read this book.

And I was blown away by the beauty, humor, and brilliance of the story and ideas shared. I kept thinking "Holy sh*t, this just keeps getting more and more fascinating" From neuroscience to psychology to anthropology to mythology––it's all beautifully woven in as a ripping story.

Recommended for anyone who's curious about the state of the world, where things are heading, how to integrate the complexity of everything, and paths forward for inspiration, healing and connection.
Profile Image for Jack.
27 reviews4 followers
August 9, 2021
This book is dangerous, but maybe necessary

The world lies at a crossroads, getting both exponentially better and exponentially worse; this would be a lot for any civilisation to handle, never mind one without any sense of meaning and one that seemingly everyone in believes to be coming to an end. So how can we collectively recapture the Rapture? In this book, Jamie argues that to do this we must recapture the lower case 'rapture', our access to peak states; experiences of extreme pleasure and joy, through which we can experience greater ecstasy, healing and connection to others.

Jamie Wheal is a modern-day Promethean, stealing fire from the edges of society and attempting to make it open-source, scaleable and accessible for all. But in this case, fire is a metaphor for the 'deep now' or Kairos as the greeks would call it. The method of attainment of these states isn't just formal mediation or spiritual disciplines, but as he poetically coined 'blissfuck crucifictions', peak states of consciousness 0btained through tweaking the biological drivers of drugs, sex and rock and roll.

In this book, he first outlines the current state of the world and the need for a change, coined 'choose your own apocalypse, he then hands you the manual to assessing peak states, the 'alchemists cookbook' and finally offers ways in which we can build communities around access to these states in a healthy and open way, 'ethical cult building'.

On the one hand, the information in this book, in the hands of the wrong people, is incredibly dangerous, on the other hand, leaving the world in the hands of those without access to the deep now is incredibly dangerous.
The world might not be ready for this book yet, but it sure as hell needs to be
One of, if not the most fascinating and novel books I have ever read!

Profile Image for Nuno Rosa.
6 reviews2 followers
June 26, 2022
"Science is Physics, and the rest is stamp-collecting" this is a book about stamps. It has the vigor of a sales pitch but nothing to sell, maybe a trip to enlightenment with a vague direction.
It's a wonderful book for the glossary of ideas it gathers, but I don't see how it can improve what it references.
Profile Image for Taka.
684 reviews507 followers
January 10, 2022
I had to put it down. The only portion of the book worth reading—at least for me—is Part II, the "Alchemical Cookbook," which promises much, much more than it ends up delivering: a hodgepodge of techniques, research findings, and popular books. There were the breathing techniques, which were interesting to read about, but the chapter didn’t go into depth at all. The chapter on embodiment was also quite interesting, especially the insight that BDSM transforms pain into healing and how prostate massage via Aneros can give mystical experiences. It got me thinking about doing a little more prostate massaging like when I used to, more than 10 years ago. Another good takeaway was that mystical experiences accessed via substances don’t change the person entirely, that its effectiveness might be subject to Pareto’s principle—that the 80% of what you can get from them happen in the first several experiences, and that we go to session after session to glean the remaining measly 20%. An interesting thought for sure. That said, the crucial chapters on sex were nothing but a big, anticlimactic let-down. So the message boils down to having orgasms without feeling guilty? Okay. What about the dilemma posed in Sex at Dawn that the author touches on? About married men cheating on their wives with younger women to get a boost in testosterone? What can men do about it, and what does intentional sexuality look like? I really, really wanted to like this book, but apart from the interesting tidbits, I was just left with such a sense of dissapointment that I had to put it down.
546 reviews8 followers
November 29, 2021
I enjoyed Wheal's characterization of choosing your own apocalypse.

The second part, Alchemist Cookbook, is the most interesting to me. It's clearly in Wheal's area of expertise with many interesting ideas. However, when Wheal himself ran an experiment to see his ideas this really works, the results were yes but... There is a >10% possibility that it could go all very bad. That's rather high for a scalable solution. I appreciate Wheal's candor - while this stuff works fantastic at first, we tend to go back to baseline. That's why you don't see "hippy stoners becoming the Timelords of the Universe."

Part three of the book about ethical cult-making was impassioned, but I'm not sure what to make of it.

And of course, extra credit for referencing Robert Anton Wilson and High Weirdness.
Profile Image for Barry.
85 reviews
August 6, 2021
Great concept. This book takes religion and cuts the fat. The higher plane experiences typically associated with a religious practice are isolated and analyzed here, and it attempts to make them available for practical use. There is also some commentary on modern society and speculation on the future of mankind- something I really enjoyed reading about and especially when written by a well-read author like this one.
There were a couple chapters and sections that lost my attention. Anything approaching self help I’m wary of. But these moments are in the minority. Most of the book was very enjoyable to read and included passages I will definitely reference again.

Profile Image for Mandy.
24 reviews1 follower
January 16, 2023
Life changing, everyone should read.
Profile Image for Joseph Knecht.
Author 3 books30 followers
July 2, 2021
The book reads like a literature review. It tries to summarize some practices such as music, dancing, sex, psychedelics that tend to arise the ineffable within us. Using many of these practices, we can try to evolve as species and play infinite games instead of finite games. But in order to play infinite games, first, we must realize that we are infinite.

It contains some of the most interesting findings in the fields of psychology, philosophy, and spirituality from the past century.

I have seen some interviews of Jamie, and when I picked up the book I expected some more originality, rather than rehashing old ideas with a hopeful tone.

Nonetheless, this is an enjoyable read for your summer vacation.

No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War is a spiritual war, our Great Depression is our lives.”

According to Carse, there was another game, the Infinite Game—which, instead of having winners and losers, creates conditions where the purpose isn’t to end the game victorious. The purpose is to tune the game so everyone can keep playing it indefinitely.

To recap: A viable candidate for Meaning 3.0 will need to fulfill the pro-social functions of traditional 1.0 Faith—Inspiration, Healing, and Connection. And, to stand a chance of helping the world, it needs to fulfill the inclusive promise of 2.0 Modernism, and be Open Source, Scalable, and Anti-fragile.

Patanjali, the founder of modern yoga, said, “Breath is the umbilical cord to the universe!” Once you understand the basics of acceleration, brakes, and steering, respiration can take you wherever you want to go. To infinity, and maybe even beyond.

I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man’s. —William Blake

Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack, a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.”

Indian philosopher Nisargadatta observes, “the Other World is this world, rightly seen.”

Profile Image for AURORA.
307 reviews23 followers
May 27, 2021
Grāmata ļoti 2020. gada noskaņās - esam iekšā the great reset procesā, nevar saprast, vai viss slikti un alarming, gatavojamies apokalipsei un singularitātei, un tai sekojošam tehnokrātu triumfam vai arī pilnīgam doom. Attīstās visādi nano-goo un sazin kas vēl no 5.paaudzes (militārajām) tehnoloģijām, datu apstrādes ātrums paātrinās, sāk notikt civilizācijas pārcelšana uz Marsu, bet vienlaikus ir reģioni, kur nav pieejams pats, pats nepieciešamākais. Man jau viena tāda līdzīga grāmata pagadījās - This One Wild and Precious Life: A Hopeful Path Forward in a Fractured World, kur gan viss vēl histēriskākos - a la Grēta T.- toņos. Šīs abas iet uz manu 2021.gada goodreads antitopu.
It kā aktualočka, it kā interesantas domiņas, bet viss uzrakstīts tādā vairāk milleniāļu publicistikas kompilējuma stilā, bez faktiem, bez izvērtējumiem, bez zināšanu fundamenta.
Profile Image for Fernando.
2 reviews1 follower
November 10, 2021
Really wanted to like this book. It seemed like it was going to touch on so many interesting things, and purported to solve so many of humanity’s biggest philosophical quandaries, but ultimately the greatest takeaway I got from it was the author’s propensity for over promising and under delivering. Every time it seemed like he was going to get to the “good stuff”-the applicable, well-substantiated stuff-he moved on to the next, completely different section.
Profile Image for Andrew.
136 reviews
September 1, 2022
A great book that talks about a timely subject, namely the memetic confusion surrounding a period of global cultural transition. I liked it because it broke things down into their constituent elements before building back a coherent narrative.

Organized religion (Meaning 1.0) used to provide us with faith and comfort, but was largely founded on the elitist idea that only those who believed were saved. Modern liberalism (Meaning 2.0) is the antithesis to the thesis, the belief that everyone, everywhere through democracy, free markets and civil rights can experience the salvation of the thesis. Hierarchy and equality. But both alone cannot usher us through to the coming world and because both Meaning 1.0 and 2.0 have failed (when taken alone, meaning 1.0 results in fundamentalism and meaning 2.0 results in global inequality and nihilism) we’re being swarmed with Rapture Ideologies, ideologies that share four key beliefs: the world is broken, there will be an inflection point in the near future, everyone we value will be saved, and we need to get there as fast as possible.

The first part of the book tackles the question of what can Meaning 3.0 look like, a meaning that blends hierarchy and equality into a seamless whole.

Three design features it must take from meaning 1.0 include:
Inspiration: if for only a moment, we have our reason for being through the tough times.
Healing: we need to be able to wipe the slate clean, from time to time.
Connection: to a community of similar-minded people.

Three design features it must take from meaning 2.0 include:
Open-source: there’s no one-size-fits all solution, it needs to be adaptable on the ground.
Scalable: it needs to be cheap or outright free, low-tech and user-friendly.
Anti-fragile: it needs to get better as things get worse.

Throughout time, new transformational movements have popped up here and there, only to be suppressed, often ruthlessly, by the ruling elite who wish to maintain business as usual. To counter this, you need to seed a revolution, not lead it; use ingredients that are easily accessible to individual and communal sovereignty and spread the information far and wide.

How will we manage to seed this revolution and create Meaning 3.0? By paying closer attention to our bodies. We house an impressive array of bio-psycho-social technologies, if we only know where to look! And what are these open-source, scalable, anti-fragile technologies? Respiration, embodiment, sexuality, substances, and music supporting inspiration, healing, and connection.

RESPIRATION: Whether it comes wrapped in spiritual, marital, or athletic language, breath training boils down to three things: oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. Varying the rate, depth, and rhythm of our breaths changes the ratios of the three gases that make up our atmosphere. In turn this affects how our bodies and brains perform and how out hearts and minds feel. That’s it. What I found interesting is his discussion of nitrous oxide and its capacity for inducing the feeling of deep knowing. William James took the gas and found it instantly illuminating; how can a mere gas produce these effects? It has control over the brain in ways no other drugs do. Beta waves are where we do most waking thinking and alpha and theta waves are where we experience flow states and meditative trances. Delta waves are where we’re unconscious or dreamlessly asleep. Nitrous induces delta frequencies without making the user fall asleep, meaning its like back door lucid dreaming.

EMBODIMENT: pain and suffering have an ancient relationship to healing and people have been decoupling what they feel physically from what they experience emotionally. Humans are unique in being able to hot-wire pain to experience pleasure and healing. While we cannot manage the amount of pain that we are subjected to in life, we can choose to meet pain on purpose and with intention, and it’s this that appears to be the key. As much as we might dance around it, or seek to repress out core physicality, it is an essential and unavoidable part of the human experience.

SUBSTANCES: psychoactive substances are as old as human culture and there’s an increasing need for them nowadays. As we’ve disenchanted the world, the left hemisphere vision is threatening to take over completely, leaving us feeling doubtful that there’s any mystery or magic left in the universe. Is it possible to transform out passing illuminations into abiding light? Obviously, not everyone should consume entheogens willy nilly; we need to have a structured calendar where certain individuals are allowed to take these drugs at appropriate times, say around initiations that are celebrated anyways, such as coming of age celebrations, marriage, and death.

SEX: Sex for the majority of animals is violent, dangerous and brief. We are not like that at all. Fertility, abundant recreational sex, permanent female breasts, frequent female orgasm, and larger penises occur nowhere else in the animal kingdom. We’re so different that our rapid acceleration into Homo Sapiens has to consider our divergent sexuality as one of the prime candidates fueling that change. Sex is a source of confusion and shame; but it can also lead to transcendence, terrain that tantra in the East and magick in the West have explored. Catharsis, the deep alleviation of suffering, often goes hand in hand with ecstasis. Anything providing the former does so through the latter.

A little note on the double-blind method; it’s best for tracing linear incremental change, but is terrible for multivariable matrices where causation is nonlinear. (Left vs Right of McGilchrist…) The Kitchen sink Method is the solution to this. Instead of isolating individual components and fiddling with the dials, we throw everything ‘but the kitchen sink’ at the problem and ‘then’ fiddle with the dials until we get the outcome we desire; after we can reliably get this result, we figure out what combination of elements can reliably induce it. It’s not isolate, fiddle, and then extol the individual element; it’s cluster, fiddle, then extol the emergent product.

We need the Kitchen Sink Method in order to create a connected community with peak experiences and deep healing. But we have a terrible history when it comes to creating them; it’s rare that these groups don’t end in hedonization (endless pursuit of pleasure), commodification (selling the sacred), or weaponization (manipulation of these tools for personal or institutional gain). In Feldman Barrett’s book, she says that rather than having dozens of emotions, at the interoceptive level there are two axes along which our emotions can vary: positive to negative and active to passive. These same responses arise when faced with a charismatic leader.
Active and positive: fuck.
Active and negative: fight.
Passive and positive: follow.
Passive and negative: fear.
But there is a fifth option; instead of dumping our authority and agency, we can step up and own our power and potential. Instead of seeing Jesus as the Saviour and us as the meager sheep, we can see our potential as Christ consciousness, where we rise up to the messiah, not as followers but as equals. (Again, Baha’u’llah is a great leader but he’s not a manifestation as distinct from others; he’s a leader only insofar as he creates other Baha’u’llahs! “Rather than telling people what to believe, based on a distant and non-repeatable founder’s revelation, we can share the methods that prompt belief.” In that instant of living, embodied truth ‘faith’ doesn’t mean blindly following someone else’s dogma; it’s actually trust without reservation.)

What are the essential ingredients for Meaning 3.0? Meaning 1.0 tended to have five core elements:
METAPHYSICS: an understanding of reality that makes sense of epiphanies and paradoxes.
ETHICS: the dos and donots, allowing the whole community to coexist and grow together.
SACRAMENTS: reliable techniques of ecstasy that allow newcomers to attain insights.
SCRIPTURES: narrative pegs to hang the events of our lives upon.
DEITIES: some higher power to aspire to, otherwise it’s pure self-interest. (As it is, because we’re god but that’s another argument.)

Altogether, a very helpful and clear exposition of what this world needs at the moment. Fully endorse this book.
Profile Image for Corrie Allison.
4 reviews6 followers
June 7, 2021
Incredible read. Wonderful insights. Can’t recommend this book enough.
Profile Image for Jeung Min.
3 reviews
June 20, 2022
As someone who was born and raised in a cult (the Moonies) and then became a devout agnostic at the age of 22, Jamie Wheal's book-length manifesto Recapture the Rapture may just be the software update needed, especially for those who have god-shaped voids within, to encourage us to find the best parts of radical process theology without getting lost in the worst parts of toxic religious ideology.

Wheal's three pillars of ecstasis, catharsis, and communitas and his map of the intersection between "chronos + kairos" alone makes this book worth the price of admission. His anti-cult checklist is a must-read for anyone who's suffered from mind control and systemic abuse. His musings on the Jungian "golden shadow", anamnesis, BDSM, hedonic engineering, Arcana Americana, Yeshe Tsogyal, the ichthys, the Stoned-Ape Hypothesis, Teilhard De Chardin's Christogenesis, and the metaphorical underpinnings of the "Blissfuck" crucifixion are to die for (pun totally intended).

But he doesn't stop there: he manages to weave, with grace and clarity, true wisdom from the masters of the past — William James (The Varieties of Religious Experience), James Carse (Finite and Infinite Games), Martin Buber (I and Thou), and even good old Kurt Vonnegut (his timeless "Shape of Stories" lecture) — with real facts from the top neuroscientists in the field today (Lisa Feldman Barrett, Andrew Huberman, David Eagleman, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi). Nowhere else have I seen a writer integrate game theory, information theory, literary theory, and music theory all at once and with such style and substance and sublimity.

As a quote miner myself, I likewise appreciated Wheal sprinkling his greatest hits throughout the book. Here are a few that stuck with me:

“There are ten levels of prayer, above them all is song.” ― Hasidic saying

“All your crying don't do no good
Come on up to the house
Come down off the cross, we can use the wood
You gotta come on up to the house”
― Tom Waits

“The only difference between a cult and a religion is the amount of real estate they own.”― Frank Zappa

“If we can forgive what has been done to us... If we can forgive what we've done to others... If we can leave all of our stories behind. Our being villains or victims. Only then can we maybe rescue the world. But we still sit here, waiting to be saved. While we're still victims, hoping to be discovered while we suffer.”― Chuck Palahniuk

“Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.” ― Elton Trueblood

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man's-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.” ― Pema Chödrön

“The question is not having hope. The question is being a hope!” ― Cornel West

“The answer is never the answer. What's really interesting is the mystery. If you seek the mystery instead of the answer, you'll always be seeking. I've never seen anybody really find the answer. They think they have, so they stop thinking. But the job is to seek mystery, evoke mystery, plant a garden in which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom. The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer.”― Ken Kesey

“We are as gods and might as well get good at it.” ― Stewart Brand

“The Other World is this world, rightly seen.” ―Nisargadatta

If there's one take-home I ought to share from this book it's this: radical honesty, radical responsibility, and radical hope are the antidotes in a world where holier-than-thou gurus, spiritually-bypassed influencers, and self-righteous cult leaders exploit and weaponize love, faith, and obedience against their own followers to make a quick buck, maintain crusty/dusty/musty/rusty hierarchies of power, or feed a never-ending ego trip. Embracing our birthright as Omegans and Homo Ludens may be the only winning move left. Embracing our painful neurobiology and psychedelic chemistry may be a way to unite our past mythology with our potential autobiography. Embracing Keats' negative capability, Hegelian dialectics, and DFW's bothness may be the way society can overcome polarization, indoctrination, and black-pill nihilism. Embracing our own divinity + mortality may the only way to lift ourselves out of our own hell and finally find our humanity.

If you are anything like me and can't shake off that dumb overwhelming paranoid feeling that World War III or an American Civil War 2.0 or total societal r/collapse is just around the corner, Recapture the Rapture may be exactly what you're looking for to chill the fuck out and find some soul force. If nothing else, it's a proper goddamn kickoff to whatever Meaning 3.0 will actually mean to us. It's not an easy task to eff the ineffable but Wheal's educated guesses and humble attempts are as good as they come.

To quote the Tibetan Book of the Dead, "This is it!"
Profile Image for Raluca.
87 reviews
January 10, 2023
It's been a pleasure reading this, it's witty, fresh, apocalyptic (as in "pulling the lid off of" rather than as in "eschaton") and fun.

We start with the proposal that the world as we built it may or may certainly be on a countdown.

"First, we're going to have to take stock of how we got into our current predicament. We're going to have to account for all the places we've traded courage for comfort, dedication for distraction, and inspiration for information. Put simply, as we untangle this tale, it's going to get worse before it gets better."

The author goes on to point out the crumbling of the major structures that were holding us and our beliefs together so far:

Meaning 1.0: organised religion -> creating a vacuum with its fall in the centre of civic life.
Meaning 2.0: prosperity through free markets and liberalism.

Next we get introduced to the now obvious task of establishing Meaning 3.0 (I guess they'll have to coexist in ways that build coherence with each other, so the others would have to change in the shapes that would allow that in their process of being (re)sculpted into reality).

- It would need to be broadly relevant though and locally adaptive /p77
open source - scalable - anti-fragile
- It would also need to be based on three elements vital to human flourishing
inspiration - healing - connection.

We then get to explore the toolbox we can realistically use, given the context above.
And it comes down to simple, yet sophisticated tools:






Yeah, I know what you may be thinking and I raise you this: "Taboos, after all, don't arise unless there's something powerful at stake."

Now, hold up right there though. Let's remember. We are human. We get carried away. We may not know the difference between a blessing being a blessing and a blessing becoming a curse. Or the other way around, really.

So the challenge lies in them antitheses:
"to engineer Ecstasis without the Crave (addiction)
to prompt Cathrsis without the Cringe (indulgent Self Help)
to create Communitas without the Cult (leaders and followers)"

The book gives one a good round through of the new Big 5, with hints at what works - how and why. Things one can try, providing a pallet where there is something for everyone, regardless of budget.

There will always be a way to make things and ourselves better, as long as there is access to at least one of them. There are also methods and protocols shared, confessions of actual people having tested them, and the whispered promise of personal growth that one can self-mediate (in one's own space and day-to-day).

The book slowly becomes less about the world and more about ourselves.
After all, if there's something you own the world, is saving yourself.
You basically get to do The Work, by doing the actual work (on yourself).

The book is about 350 pages long, but I can tell it's a brief starter kit/summary (of the tip of what we know so far). The point is: "...we might have to give up our search for common ground, to meet each other on higher ground". But first you need to get yourself there. One step at a time, one bump at a time, one cathartic experience at a time; so: "Take your insights for what they are, integrate them and keep going".

The author dives deep often enough though, that the book is full of insights, besides methods. Here, catch this one: "we've spent so long meticulously collecting the stories of our Grief, and using them as a shield against showing up fully, that when it comes time to toss them on the fire, we often hesitate."

And of course, next comes the idea of God, and where this enters the scene is when we pose the question: where does all this insight and growth and self assigned purpose comes from? The transcendental is discussed without it being called a name. IT just IS. And its IS-ness is merely noticed within the pages.

It is beautifully elegant, yet scientific - the way this book is put together.
It fully acknowledges that we are on the brick of destruction yet it offers nothing but a hopeful and practical perspective. And it has to be conceptual and freely available, for it to be perpetuated with ease, to ease build core support structures for us to understand that we are at liberty to choose, not just settle for how things and we are, but reach for how things be (to borrow a Pratchett reference - if you don't get it, then go get a Discworld book for your own Soul's sake. You are welcome.).

So let's talk about the final pieces of this lovely typed out home-brewed footnote to being.
It talk about us and why the potential is greater than the decay:
"We're never fully fixed. We're never totally broken.
And the moment we stop to wriggle off that commitment, something beautiful happens (...)"
& "(...) we are never expected to finish the work, nor are we excused from it."

I'd leave you with:

"Take the Ride. Remember what you forgot (Anamnesis). Come Home."

& "Stay Awake. Build Stuff. Help Out."

But there is also P.S. I want to add:

Favourite song mentioned - Leonard Cohen - Anthem.
Favourite word mentioned: "Golden Shadow" - not the dark parts we have a hard time owning up to but the bright parts we are afraid to own.

Hope something lid up in you, and if you're looking for more sparks like the taster here, read the book. Thanks for checking the review out.

Peace In.
Profile Image for Moha.
70 reviews9 followers
July 4, 2021
Jamie Wheals lays the foundation of some very ambitious, promising and ‘outside-the box’ solutions for what ails our world.
Profile Image for Siim Mesipuu.
1 review2 followers
September 23, 2021
Definitely don't choose this book to be one of your first reads ever, but if you are more advanced already then fascinating book. For me TOP3 book I've ever read!
Profile Image for Alex Pausan.
6 reviews
January 9, 2023
From the “scientific” perspective, 1 star. However, it had a lot of interesting references and nuggets of information, so I gave it 2 stars.

Liked info on:
- Holotropic breathing
- Some problems with the current economic model and philanthrocapitalism
- How to identify cults and the dangers they present
- How could one play an infinite game
- Also, beautiful ideas on music, embodiment
If the author had striped the scientism out, he could have called this book “Ways to explore the colors of life”.

Did not like
1. Cherry-picking studies that fit the presented worldview, skew information in their favor, and present theories from the social sciences as facts. And anyone familiar enough with social sciences knows they are not math, and the understanding of the world is constantly evolving.
Here are a few examples:

1.1 Scientific *proof*
- “Lisa Feldman Barret, has dismantled much of neuropsychology with her theory of constructed emotions… These researchers and hundreds of others are giving both proof and permission for us to reconnect our bodies to our brains.”
- I agree that body and mind should be treated together, not separately. But Lisa Feldman did not dismantle anything.

- First, she proposed a theory that builds on top of the existing ones, and then she tried to “undermine the science showing universality in the interpretation of facial expressions”, according to Paul Ekman, who is a pioneer in the study of emotions: https://www.paulekman.com/blog/darwin...

- Second, the most popular review of her book states points out that while her theory is interesting and well presented in the actual scientific paper it was published, the book has misleading claims and strawman “classical neuropsychology”. While I did not read the book yet, the reviewer posted several links and resources to support his position:
- “Barrett put her perspective in contrast to what she calls "the classical view of emotions". However, there isn't as such a clear classical view of emotions. There are certain theories which over the years has gradually evolved… all the solutions she provides, are solutions which has existed for a very long time, and has been developed by people who believed in fx "basic emotions" which belongs to her category "the classical view of emotions".

- Bottom line, there are dozens of other studies that support the different theories, so this is far from settled or being proven :))

1.2. Religion as an adaptive advantage
- “After all, religion, as a cultural meme, would not have persisted for tens of thousands of years if it didn’t convey an adaptive advantage… In their 2019 report Religion’s Relationship to Happiness, Civic Engagement and Health Around the World, the Pew Research Foundation found that “people who are active in religious congregations tend to be happier and more civically engaged than either religiously unaffiliated adults or inactive members of religious groups.”
- First of all, that was a survey that didn’t prove any adaptive advantage. One can find data to support this idea or to contradict it.
- From the same Pew Research foundation: “Atheists and agnostics, however, are higher on these socioeconomic measures than other unaffiliated Americans and the general public. Fully 44% of atheists and agnostics have at least a college degree, compared with 26% of those who say their religion is ”nothing in particular” and 28% of the general public. And about 38% of atheists and agnostics have an annual family income of at least $75,000, compared with 29% of the general public.” https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/...

- Or GDP of countries generally correlates negatively with their religiosity. So rich countries tend to be less religious.

1.3. Sex:
- “All these features of human sexuality - long term sexual partnership, private sex, concealed ovulation, extended female receptivity, sex for fun… that render human sexuality so distinctive…” - citing a renowned anthropologist.
- Curious why if he researched when an ethologist would have to say about this. He is either not aware of or ignores it. An ethologist is a scientist who *interviews an animal in its own language*. E.g., dolphins don’t talk but can echolocate. Bats have poor vision but use echolocation too.
- The fact that he expects to see and measure the same behavior humans have in the animal kingdom, 1-1, shows ignorance or a fortunate omission.

- Towards our “uniqueness”, dozens of animals mate for life. According to prof Robert Sapolsky, some monkeys physically mimic being fertile to don’t carry a child they don’t want (I couldn’t find the reference. It was in the Human Behavioral Biology course). Bonobos have about 75% of their sex for fun, not sometimes, as he mentions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOY3Q...

2. A new religion
- This book is not about society beyond religion but about society powered by a new psychedelic-based faith. Also, subtly underlying the value of Christianity and its core message, “none of us can escape from, even if we wanted” :))
- A big part of Jamie’s message and the solution moving forward is psychedelics enabling us a deeper state of consciousness. Like that would be a truer reality than our everyday one.
While I agree that one can experience the dissolution of the ego, trauma healing, or other benefits from psychedelics, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. What is true from those visions, and what is a hallucination?
Some examples:

- Describing some communities reaching a different form of "enlightenment":
- “All stages involve increasing degrees of privation - fasting, sleeplessness, dehydration, dancing. Once you have been initiated, you are permitted to use the substances…” - Then continues referring to the ritual: “Now that we have considered the utility of sacramental use… “
- Even without the substances, one may be delusional in that setting. Add psychedelics on top, and then you have your true answers. :)

- Provides an entire list of activities to be performed to get to the "true" consciousness state. Then people will reach enlightenment, but he calls it Kairos. And reaching that point, people can learn whatever they need. Again, not saying one cannot learn, but one may need a lot more than a bunch of trips to improve. What about the effect priming has on our experience? If one is Christian, chances are they may see Jesus, or chackras if they are yogi and so on... A lot to unfold there.

3. Bad reasoning
3.1. False dichotomy: “It’s either religious belief or nihilism”
- I would argue that one can be an atheist and still be awed and inspired by the magnificent universe without being a nihilist

3.2. Slippery slope
- “Aberrant interactions between dopaminergic reward systems, a dysfunctional amygdala, and the neurohormone oxytocin engender a neural milieu that improperly assigns emotional salience to environmental stimuli… Put more simply: We’re overcooked, overclocked, and losing our minds. Even familiar and comforting narratives are breaking down.”
- First, not everyone has a dysfunctional amygdala.
- Second, it’s from a study about impairment in schizophrenia.
- Third, he forgot to add the beginning of that phrase: “It is hypothesized that aberrant interaction …” and the conclusion of the study, “What is known regarding amygdala and dopaminergic alterations in schizophrenia combined with data on the role of oxytocin in prosocial behavior suggest a neural circuit that may contribute to aberrant emotional salience processing”.
- As with any scientific paper, careful and precise wording.

- Wonder how he concluded that *all of us*: “Put more simply: We’re overcooked, overclocked, and losing our minds”

3.3. Embodiment & pain avoidance
- ‘Animals can be trained to self-harm to get a reward but only with positive reinforcement like food. “Generally, when an animal experiences something negative, it avoids it” We appear to be unique in the animal kingdom in discovering you can hot-wire pain to experience pleasure and even healing.’
- Ok. Do humans understand that they will get something positive before going into such an experience?
- Yes… then they do, so there’s the positive reinforcement, but with a different perspective.
- To heal and avoid greater emotional pains, we go to the smaller pain.
- So again, it’s a pain avoidance mechanism.

3.4. Circular breathing - An absolute claim with no proof
- “but no one has mastered this technique as thoroughly as the first nations of northern Australia.”
- First, it’s an ancient practice in dozens of countries https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circula...
- Second, I’m curious how he made the evaluation :)
- This style of reasoning is common throughout the book, and then jumping to other conclusions.

In closing, I'm quoting historian Ian Morris:
“The problem is, if you are a serious scholar, you know that all other serious scholars disagree about absolutely everything. This is why I always worry a little bit when I read big history books written by people who didn’t start off themselves in old-fashioned, traditional academic disciplines. If you haven't done that, you just don’t know the kind of knife fights that go on in the long grass over these tiny little details. If you don’t at least understand how the arguments have been waged, you’re not in a position to say, “OK, here I’ve got three world-famous experts disagreeing about X... Which am I going to believe? Whose story is more plausible?” You’re just not in a position to judge that, unless you at least know how the arguments get waged.”

Returning to this book, how did Jamies Wheal decide which studies are “true”? Was he biased to start with? I find it to be a pseudo-science book addressed to the “not religious but spiritual” audience who is looking for big truths.
Profile Image for Jamie.
121 reviews2 followers
February 25, 2022
Highly recommend. I always get super geeked out when an author talks about other books I’ve read.
Profile Image for Jonathan Lu.
324 reviews17 followers
June 16, 2022
Meaning 1.0 = religion, salvation based on exclusion
Meaning 2.0 = modern capitalist / democratic societies, salvation based on inclusion. Everyone gets a chance
Both have failed. What is meaning 3.0?

4 characteristics common to rapture:
1) World is fucked
2) There is a solution
3) Some of us will make it to the other side
4) Let’s get there as fast as possible
The search for the perfect red heffer = Elon Musk’s goal to colonize mars
- Techno-Utopianism is a form of rapture
- A tech vs. religious solution, some will make it to the other side who are smart/adaptable vs. righteous

Meaning 3.0 must be
- Open-Source - anyone can tinker
- Scalable so that nothing is cheaper / more accessible
- Anti-fragile

Culture architecture based on
- Respiration
- Embodiment
- Sexuality
- substances
- music

- Hedonist: all in to try a new experience. Issue is not knowing when to stop
○ Fuck monkeys
- Purist: pursuit of mediation and prayer. My body is my temple. Issue is pride, missing gas.
○ "Crypto-puritan" - missing gas
- Conformist: Follow what the doctor ordered. Compliance is their Achilles heel, missing steering
○ Straight-edge

- Hyper-oxygenation Iike a scuba diver
- Practice breathing O2 with NO2
- "Meduna test" by Stanislav Graf: 30% O2 / 70% CO2 mixture - used to screen for psychosis risk to LSD
○ Give 3x the O2 content + CO2 that makes the body think suffocation
○ Named after Ladislas Meduna
○ AKA Carbogen - test given to individuals prior to psychedelic psychotherapy to determine whether or not the patient would react poorly
- Story of "Dr. Coult" - giving out N2O in exhibitions to make money
○ who was a 19yr old Samuel Colt from Amherst who would create the gun
○ N2O used to be used recreationally
- Dr. Brown who studied at Stanford
○ Waking Delta wave activity related to insight / dissociation, improvement of depression

Embodiment - feeling to healing
- Research of physiology of trauma
- Story of Nerman (sp?) going underground of vampire community
○ Many NYFD went into BDSM community after 9-11
○ Dealt with survivor guilt by being physically punished. Weeping in a safe place
○ Nothing sexual
- Pain as an indulgence is unique to humans
- Sorry of how Israel became center of cannabis research - Rafael Mechoulam
○ CB system related to anandamide - entire body’s signaling system of memory/feeling
○ Signal for stem cell repair, prevent glutamate secretion after TBI
- Story of navy seals testing tongue electrical stimulation to detect changes in elevation while diving. Also helped prevent the bends
○ The “palm” device, TLNS
○ Nerve endings on tongue root back to central cranial nerve and ANS via vagus nerve
- Hiro Takashima (sp?) company Enera for treatment of prostate urine control
○ led to super orgasms among older men
○ Trigger of vagus nerve

- Music only recently separated from physical movement. Believed to predate written language. First artifacts are always music instruments
- Queen we will rock you originally lacked the stomp stomp clap until live aid - then Freddy Mercury had he epiphany and they went back to re-record
- Music for group trance - used by tribes when social cohesion failing

- Biological imperative for procreation - woman’s ability to conceive with a new sexual partner is extended +/-3 days
- “The affair of the 40s” - when testosterone decreases and men seek a younger lover to restore testosterone levels
- Women after menopause when
- Humans the only species evolved for sex - multiple female orgasm, large male

Meaning 3.0
- Physiology has replaced what used to be mystical
- Believe what you want to believe but don’t lose faith: Elton Trueblood. “Faith is not belief without truth, but trust without reservation”
Profile Image for Angela Kong.
20 reviews1 follower
January 14, 2023
Thought the premise of the book — a promise of synthesis between anthropology, biochemistry, spirituality, sociology — was interesting. That’s all that’s interesting about it. The actual book was a hodgepodge of quotes, studies, references cherry picked and cobbled together without much depth.

This book might be better enjoyed by someone who enjoys leafing through ideas/topics. If this was a conversation with the author I’d very much enjoy having it, meandering through plains of ideas! So perhaps my gripe has more to do with my personal preference for what books should be — either great storytelling (great novels are above all great fairytales, literature does not tell the truth but makes it up) or focused deep dives / investigations of the truth.

This had neither — no storyline or depth of coverage.
Profile Image for Matt Cannon.
290 reviews6 followers
July 24, 2021
This is part two of Stealing Fire, another great book on the subject of neuroscience and improving the human condition. If you read this, get ready for some unusual topics that you'll probably be uncomfortable with.

This book takes familiar verbiage most of us have heard and turns it all on its head. The book is controversial and will challenge your thinking whether you're an Atheist, a Christian, a Muslim, a Scientist, or anything else for that matter.

I was looking forward to this book when I heard Jamie Wheal and Jason Silva talking about it on a Clubhouse interview. Now that I've finished the book, I see it's about so much more than they covered on that long form interview, which was excellent and interesting.

This book is about open sourcing things that are currently exclusive. It's about embracing who we are on a deeper level. The stories and history in this book fascinated me and made me think.

It taps into James P. Carse's Infinite Games, Andrew Huberman's Neuroscience, gets far back into history, telling stories about characters like Hassan-i Sabbah, who was described as a ghost, cipher, who's been dead for 1000 years. He was also known as the Old Man of the Mountain. He was the first master of Hedonic Engineering, an unusual subject covered in the book. Marco Polo wrote about him as did Dante and Nietzche. The Manchurian Candidate talked about a sleeper agent posed for an execution was inspired by this legend as did the blockbuster game Assassins Creed who situates its origin story there at the Alamut Castle, also known as the Hassan-i Sabbah stronghold.

I'm sure I'll be thinking about it for a while, which is one of my favorite kinds of books.
77 reviews
October 3, 2021
Centers on the concept of "rapture ideology," the increasingly common idea that the world is coming to an end somehow and only special people will survive (religious rapture, techno-utopias, climate crises, QAnon, etc.). Touches on biohacking, flow states, and creating a meaning-driven community of pro-thinking people.
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. The premise is great. A lot of the concepts he introduces are great. It is the way the book is written that really got on my nerves. He uses turns of phrase and references that no one has ever heard of. He has a special lexicon of terms that only have meaning within the context of this book, so if you forget what they mean because they were introduced five chapters ago, good luck understanding what he's trying to say. The style of writing most often can be called conversational or lecture-style, but sometimes feels more like beat poetry. This is fine for like-minded audiences, but it limits the people I can recommend it to because it's not written for them. That's a shame, because the world is losing its mind and he has good insights into how we can turn things around.
I hate to speculate that this is the reason, but he did mention that due to the COVID pandemic, he crash-wrote the book in four months. Some parts do feel like they were rushed to completion.
Profile Image for Chris Boutté.
Author 8 books151 followers
July 26, 2021
When it comes to this book, I don’t know if I’m an idiot or if the emperor has no clothes. And when I refer to the “emperor”, I mean the book and not the author. Jamie Wheal is an incredible writer, but when it comes to this book, I don’t know if I loved it or hated it. In reality, it’s somewhere in between. This book is great if you read it as a collection of essays, but as a book, it felt like a fever dream. Whenever I pick up a book, I ask, “What’s the purpose of this book?” and “Who is the target audience?”. One minute, the author has some social commentary about the world today, then it dives into part 2 called “The Alchemist Cookbook” where there’s a chapter on breathing, music, two chapters on sex, and some others. Finally, it ends with ethical cult building.

I loved each chapter and part individually, but I have absolutely no clue how they all fit together. I found myself agreeing with most of the author’s opinions and commentary, but like I said, maybe I’m dumb because it just didn’t seem to be cohesive as a book. So, should you read it? Sure. I don’t know if I’ve ever left a book so confused and enlightened at the same time.
Profile Image for Bob German.
Author 2 books5 followers
July 21, 2021
It's as if the author broke into my house, read every book on my bookshelf, then wrote a book summarizing all of them and then jumping off from there.

It really ties the room together, so to speak, and gives us some great 2021 jumping-off points on how to move forward. If you're pretty well-read and pretty well-educated, but still feel a bit stalled in modern culture, and your old patterns just aren't cutting it anymore, give this book a try. Something's bound to shake loose and come unstuck.
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