Stealing Fire
Stealing Fire

Stealing Fire

In their own ways, with differing languages, techniques, and applications, every one of these groups has been quietly seeking the same thing: the boost in information and inspiration that altered states provide. (Location 117)

a glimpse above the clouds. First in isolation, then in increasing numbers, and now, if you know where to look, virtually everywhere you look. (Location 125)

Plato described ecstasis as an altered state where our normal waking consciousness vanishes completely, replaced by an intense euphoria and a powerful connection to a greater intelligence. (Location 168)

Their awareness shifted. They stopped acting like individuals, and they started operating as one—a single entity, a hive mind. In the high-stakes hot zone that is their job, this collective awareness is, as Davis says, “the only way to get the job done.” (Location 174)

During the states we’re describing,23 this signature shifts markedly. Instead of widespread activity in the prefrontal cortex, we see specific parts of this region either light up and become hyperactive or power down and become hypoactive. (Location 387)

Consider one of the simplest and oldest ecstatic techniques: meditation. (Location 396)

neurofeedback devices that steer the brain directly toward that alpha/theta range. (Location 400)

Sure, it cost millions to build, but if it could help them flip that switch reliably—if it could help more good men learn this invisible skill—it would be worth much more than that. (Location 420)

By using the tanks to eliminate all distraction, entrain specific brainwaves, and regulate heart rate frequency, the SEALs are able to cut the time it takes to learn a foreign language from six months to six weeks. (Location 433)

We don’t pay extra to see more, we pay it to feel more—and think less. (Location 493)

Put bluntly, we watch porn to get high, not to get laid. (Location 498)

think it’s safe to assume that a good part of what we’re habitually doing online is more to forget ourselves for a moment than inform ourselves for the long haul. (Location 505)

Selflessness, Timelessness, Effortlessness, and Richness, or STER for short. (Location 572)

This was Silva’s monologue too, but he stumbled onto a curious fact—altered states can silence the nag. (Location 600)

This means that the self is more about movement through different forms of consciousness than about defending and identifying with any one form.” (Location 624)

Without the ability to separate past from present from future, we’re plunged into an elongated present, what researchers describe as “the deep now.” (Location 644)

we stop scanning yesterday for painful experiences we want to avoid repeating. (Location 648)

“felt they had more time available, were less impatient, more willing to volunteer to help others, more strongly preferred experiences over material products, and experienced a greater boost in life satisfaction.” (Location 658)

The past is less an archived library of what really happened, and more a fluid director’s commentary we’re constantly updating. (Location 663)

often invisible with foresight. But when non-ordinary states trigger timelessness, they deliver us to the perpetual present—where we have undistracted access to the most reliable data. (Location 667)

While these states may make us feel better, can they help us think better? Do these short-term peaks enable us to solve real-world problems? (Location 763)

Solving wicked problems requires more than a direct assault on obvious symptoms. (Location 779)

discovered that their ability to find solutions required holding conflicting perspectives and using that friction to synthesize a new idea. (Location 781)

You have to give up exclusively identifying with your own, singular point of view. (Location 785)

you can cut quite a few corners. Initial studies showed eight weeks of meditation40 training measurably sharpened focus and cognition. Later ones whittled that down to five weeks. (Location 796)

Creativity, learning, and productivity are essential skills and those percentage gains are big numbers. (Location 843)

It’s why, Turner argued, communitas is too potent to unleash without proper checks and balances: (Location 1145)

frightening example, co-opting traditional techniques of ecstasy—light, sound, chanting, movement—for his Nuremberg rallies. (Location 1148)

“the ‘Sieg Heil’34 used in political rallies was a direct copy of the technique used by American college football cheerleaders. (Location 1152)

Utopia of We, the experience of communitas at scale. (Location 1156)

“Individualism is out. We are all one. No one is better than anyone else. Anyone who disagrees will either be shot, imprisoned or ‘rehabilitated.’” (Location 1157)

His core argument is that through the experience of selflessness, timelessness, and effortlessness—his so-called “Power of Now”—we can dwell in a place of unlimited richness. (Location 1219)

Price’s realization—the idea that we sometimes have to “break down to breakthrough”—quickly (Location 1258)

“an essentially empirical approach to matters of the spirit that made tools more important than beliefs. (Location 1264)

pyramid36 not only were more ethical and empathetic; they performed better in the workplace as well. (Location 1504)

Since the time of the Greeks, Western thinkers have considered the mind the engine that drives the bus and the body the passenger that comes along for the ride. (Location 1544)

Einstein’s quote “you cannot solve a problem at the level at which it was created” is invariably used to encourage higher, more expansive solutions. But the opposite is equally true. Sometimes, lower, more basic solutions can have just as big an impact. (Location 1577)

Rather than using bodily changes to impact mood, she’s measuring bodily expression to unearth deeper psychological conditions. (Location 1604)

This part of the brain helps us move through space by judging angles and distances. (Location 1723)

When race car drivers feel the road beneath their pedals, or blind people feel the sidewalk through the tips of their cane—or, for that matter, when SEALs merge with their team on a night op—it is partially the result of the right parietal lobe blurring the boundary of self. (Location 1726)

we can repurpose it to function more like a user interface (or UI)—that easy-to-use dashboard that sits atop all the other, more complex programs. (Location 1793)

employees, we can follow ESADE’s lead and use neurofeedback to heighten group coherence and prompt more productive strategy sessions. (Location 1806)

Instead, we can stay above our storytelling mind and simply monitor the knobs and levers of our neurobiology. (Location 1818)

“This is really just the beginning,”34 explains Autodesk distinguished researcher and synthetic biologist Andrew Hessel. “Pretty much any substance made by a plant, tree or mushroom, including all the neuroactive substances, is within reach of synthetic biology. (Location 2150)

The siren song of “hours in an alternate universe” that Dean sought has continued to beckon to pilots convinced they can dodge the rocks. (Location 2198)

Technology is bringing ecstasis to the masses, allowing us to taste it all, without having to risk it all. (Location 2227)

A 2012 study found that encounters with perceptual vastness, be it the endless spiral of galaxies in the night sky or Jones’s’ larger-than-life projections, triggers a self-negating, time-dilating sense of awe. (Location 2327)

That’s when Siegel realized that meditation was simply a tool meant to provoke a very specific reaction in the brain, but it wasn’t the only tool available. (Location 2364)

On Necker, as at Burning Man and Summit’s Powder Mountain, everything is deliberately designed to create communitas. (Location 2750)

“I get an extra two hours of great work done, and the other twelve are really, really productive—so trying to get that balance in life is really important; not saying that one shouldn’t party hard as well.” (Location 2754)

By realizing that non-ordinary states are more than just a recreational diversion and can, in fact, heighten trust, amplify cooperation, and accelerate breakthroughs, a new generation of entrepreneurs, philanthropists and activists is fundamentally disrupting business as usual. (Location 2765)

Pleasure, Lilly had discovered, was an endlessly motivating and potentially all-consuming pursuit (at least in males). (Location 2913)

“Before any question of free speech,13” he writes, “comes the question of ‘who controls the master switch?’” (Location 2954)

it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine a government declaring certain brain chemistry subversive. (Location 2971)

But for the short few days of its existence, the event holds the dubious distinction of being one of the most surveilled cities in the country. (Location 3061)

turns out that the FBI has conducted a multiyear intelligence program at Burning Man. The official reason was to scout for domestic terrorists and track potential threats from Islamic extremists. (Location 3065)

the so-called information economy, toward the selling of feelings, or what author Alvin Toffler called the “experience economy.” (Location 3121)

what you get is the promise that after three months of sweating in their stripped-down boxes (as CrossFitters call their workout spaces), you’ll become a radically different person. (Location 3135)

For the pitch to be most effective—that is, to earn the most money—it had to be highly engaging and display significant contrast between positive and negative story elements. (Location 3167)

quickly stockpiling intimate data on not just what you and three billion other people ‘favorite’ but . . . a thousand other details. (Location 3177)

“Wow, I am Jesus Christ. Clear the decks, people, I’ve got things to do!” (Location 3240)

mostly it hits people with devout religious beliefs. Every now and again, it fells average tourists. (Location 3244)

that it’s evidence of some kind of sacred anointment. When triggered by an awe-inspiring encounter with the Wailing Wall, the result is Jerusalem Syndrome. (Location 3246)

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year,”11 Bill Gates once said, “and underestimate what they can do in ten.” In bringing back ecstatic insights, it’s critical that we calibrate the difference between the reach-out-and-touch-it immediacy of the “deep now” with the frustratingly incremental unfolding of the day-to-day. (Location 3286)

And that’s the problem that free diving shares with many other state-shifting techniques: return too soon, and you’ll always wonder if you could have gone deeper. Go too far, and you might not make it back. “When we go down,” Molchanova had told an interviewer not long before her death, “we understand we are whole. We are one with the world.” (Location 3321)

“What one believes to be true is true or becomes true, within certain limits to be found experientially and experimentally. These limits are further beliefs to be transcended. In the province of the mind, there are no limits.” (Location 3345)

“saved my life.” Since making this discovery, she has designed and built some of Burning Man’s most famous art cars (including the one Tony Hsieh moved to his Downtown Project in Las Vegas). (Location 3382)

“If I spend two weeks at Burning Man and only get that experience a handful of times, then I feel cheated. It wasn’t worth it. But now I can try different things. That’s the real change. Now I know I have options, that there are actual comparisons to make.” (Location 3385)

three parameters—risk, reward, and time—provide a way to compare nonordinary states. (Location 3394)

requires twelve weeks and offers a slightly lessened benefit. (Location 3406)