Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies
550 pp., 6 x 9 in, 23 b&w illus.
- Published: November 5, 2019
- Published: June 11, 2019
- Published: October 11, 2019
An exploration of the emergence of a new psychedelic spirituality in the work of Philip K. Dick, Terence McKenna, and Robert Anton Wilson.
A study of the spiritual provocations to be found in the work of Philip K. Dick, Terence McKenna, and Robert Anton Wilson, High Weirdness charts the emergence of a new psychedelic spirituality that arose from the American counterculture of the 1970s. These three authors changed the way millions of readers thought, dreamed, and experienced reality—but how did their writings reflect, as well as shape, the seismic cultural shifts taking place in America?
In High Weirdness, Erik Davis—America's leading scholar of high strangeness—examines the published and unpublished writings of these vital, iconoclastic thinkers, as well as their own life-changing mystical experiences. Davis explores the complex lattice of the strange that flowed through America's West Coast at a time of radical technological, political, and social upheaval to present a new theory of the weird as a viable mode for a renewed engagement with reality.
High Weirdness is the first book in a very long time that's given me the feeling of discovering a secret truth—a set of corridors through the maze of consciousness, existence, anomaly, and synchronicity. It's the sense of complete novelty yet utter familiarity, like suddenly remembering a dream that you've been having every night and then forgetting. Davis is describing, perhaps even retrieving, the strange attractor driving the visionary seventies. It's a sensibility all but lost to the utilitarian, conformist predictability of the digital age. Yet it's also precisely the terrifying and awesome novelty we need to recover if we're going to preserve the uniquely human ability to embrace paradox, celebrate ambiguity, and laugh at death. Don't be afraid. It's just the weird.
Douglas Rushkoff, author of Team Human and Present Shock
Things got so weird in the seventies that even the weirdest got to turn pro. Even if I was tripping I couldn't imagine a better guide to McKenna, Wilson and Dick than Erik Davis. He has always taken the religious dimension of modern esoteric thought seriously, yet also lightly. Here he proves yet again to be a reliable guide to the outer limits.
McKenzie Wark, author of Molecular Red and The Beach Beneath the Street
Erik Davis' deep expertise in the esoteric underpinnings of popular culture makes him the perfect psychonaut to navigate the major perturbations in our reality field wrought by those giants of the counterculture, Terence McKenna, Robert Anton Wilson, and Philip K. Dick... Thanks to Davis' unique ability to straddle high scholarship and hipness with his learned, sympathetic perspective and lively yet rigorous writing style, the publication of High Weirdness marks an important milestone in esoteric studies and the conjunction of two previously separate worlds.
Victoria Nelson, author of The Secret Life of Puppets and Gothicka
It's miraculous how High Weirdness gives us so bracingly sober an account of the far reaches of psychedelic delirium. Rejecting easy credulity on the one hand, and snarky dismissal on the other, Erik Davis explores ecstatic experience without turning it into mystical dogma, but also without ever explaining it away. High Weirdness is neither a wonder tale nor a philosophical treatise; yet it is a masterpiece of what I can only call speculative fiction, or indeed speculative realism.
Steven Shaviro, author of Discognition and The Universe Of Things
What happens when a trained historian of religions seriously engages the magical mushrooms, flying saucers, science fiction, and invisible trickster entities of the 1970s counterculture with the open mind and heart of a gifted literary artist? What happens when a rigorous intellect encounters a monstrous bestiary of actual spectral presences? Erik Davis happens. This book happens. And I could not be happier about it. May this book, like a glowing UFO, land on your lap, and every other lap,and weird our world beyond all measure.
Jeffrey J. Kripal, author of Secret Body: Erotic and Esoteric Currents in the History of Religions
The book focuses on three people who were, well, highly weird.
With prose as fluid as his subjects' beliefs regarding consensus reality Erik Davis brilliantly dissects three otherworldly experiences and in doing so makes clear how “a decentralized and postmodern nation—the nation Americans still live within, even more fractiously—became codified.”
Davis isn't looking to hack your common sense. Instead, he's asking the reader to question the rigid hierarchies of their perceived realties.