"The Ravages of Revelation" by Rob Latham
Excerpt from the Los Angeles Review of Books.
OCTOBER 19, 2019
ERIK DAVIS’S NEW BOOK is at once a brilliantly original study and a recap of familiar themes the author has been pondering for the past two decades. Like his pioneering 1998 debut, TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information, High Weirdnessexplores the way modern networked society tends to inspire revivals of hermetic and other occult traditions. It thus updates Davis’s analysis of the convergence of contemporary occult and psychedelic subcultures in Nomad Codes: Adventures in Modern Esoterica (2010). And, like his 2006 volume, The Visionary State: A Journey Through California’s Spiritual Landscape, High Weirdness shows how this epochal conjuncture of mystical worldviews, magical practices, and psychoactive lifestyles expresses a uniquely West Coast sensibility, a fusion of NorCal hippie utopianism and SoCal punk paranoia.
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"An exploration of the emergence of a new psychedelic spirituality in the work of Philip K. Dick, Terence McKenna, and Robert Anton Wilson."
Summary and Endorsement reposted from MIT Press
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In High Weirdness, Erik Davis—America's leading scholar of high strangeness—examines the published and unpublished writings of these vital, iconoclastic thinkers, as well as their own life-changing mystical experiences.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.
author of Team Human and Present Shock
Image Source: MIT Press