97 - Zak Stein on Love in a Time Between Worlds: A Metamodern Metaphysics of Eros

Ep. 97

This week’s guest is Dr. Zak Stein, an author and educator whom I met as fellow students of the work of philosopher Ken Wilber over ten years ago. Zak took the road of serious high academic scholarship while I was learning the less laudable and messier way through immersion in the arts and entertainment world, but here we are converging to discuss one of the most important issues of our time: the need for a new human story that includes both modernity’s rigorous scientific inquiry and postmodernity’s revelation of how everything we know is framed by language, culture, and perspective. Without some clever, soulful balance of the two we’re stuck in a “post-truth” era where our need for answers to our fundamental questions leads us backwards into “isms” instead of forwards into something more good, true, and beautiful than what has come before.

Zak’s answer (like so many other guests on Future Fossils) is to get MORE rigorous about the scope and limits of the world disclosed by science, MORE honest with ourselves about the context-bound claims we can make on knowledge, and MORE open to how all “reality” starts in direct experience, as conscious subjects – where we meet to make new, open-ended, ever-more refined, evolving answers to the questions:

What is human? What is love? What are we here to do?

Read Zak’s new paper, “Love in a Time Between Worlds: On the Metamodern ‘Return’ to a Metaphysics of Eros”:


‘Where modern scientists often critique the claims of metaphysics as unverifiable and thus untrue, postmodernists critique both science and metaphysics for making truth claims in the first place. Either way, to call an idea or theory “metaphysical” has become another way of saying it is unacceptable. Often with comes with some implication that the theory is a kind of superstition, which means metaphysics is taken not as an attempt to engage the truth but rather as a kind of covert power play or psychological defense mechanism. I argue the opposite: metaphysics is what saves us from a descent into discourses that are merely about power and illusion. Believe it or not, there are metaphysical systems that survived postmodernism and popped-out of the far end of the 1990’s with “truth” and “reality” still intact. These include object oriented ontology and dialectical critical realism, among others.’

Zak is also the Co-Presdient and Academic Director at the Center for Integral Wisdom:


…and on the scientific advisor board at Neurohacker Collective:


— In this episode we discuss:

Lewis Mumford, Ken Wilber, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Jurgen Habermas, Seth Abramson, Timothy Morton, Rudolf Steiner, Alfred North Whitehead, Hanzi Freinacht, Daniel Schmachtenberger, Jordan Greenhall, and many other luminaries.

Right-wing and authoritarian political thought is resurgent today because of the absence of reasonable discourse about metaphysical realities during a time when exactly these realties are being put in question due to the apocalypse of global capitalism and the accompanying planetary transition into the Anthropocene .

The way we answer questions like, “What is the human?” will determine the next century because of the emerging power of new technologies that render the human mailable in unpresented ways, which has been made clear by writers like Yuval Harari.

“The difference between metaphysics and science is not about what you can see and what you cannot see. It is about what you are paying attention to when you are seeing.”

“What we call postmodernism is just modernism with the volume turned WAY up.”

The difference between modern, postmodern, and metamodern views on science and the realities disclosed by science.

What does it mean to cut a definition of the human out of our education systems?

The relevance of Rudolf Steiner’s metaphysics and pedagogy in 21st Century education – especially its attention to subjectivity and interiority.

How fundamentalism, nationalism, racism, and other regressive movements in society are symptoms of a postmodern assault on consensus reality.

“In the absence of metaphysics, there’s a vacuum of meaning…what can step into that is not always pretty.”

“After postmodernism, we can’t return to some pat, totalizing answer for everybody. After postmodernism, when we begin to build a new coherence, it’s always going to be a polycentric and dynamic and always renegotiated coherence. And that’s what science ought to be, which is to say, knowledge building, and not knowledge finding. Period.”

“Ideas matter – and right now, we live in a context where ideas matter only insofar as they can be leveraged for clicks on websites that generate advertisement revenue.”

When did we start gladly giving our decision-making powers over to others? And who do we trust now when we know that expertise is so contextual and frequently abused?

Making the Earth into a giant building is the beginning of metamodern history – the Anthropocene signaling our deep relationship with the ecosphere.

Michael reveals his vision of an Eclipse Station & Black Madonna University as a nobler motivation for a second “space race.”

We’ve succeeded in making mega-machines out of people but need to reframe what it means to be IN relationship…

Hyperobjects and a metamodern investigation of synchronicity and time…the objectivity of time is tricky.

“Animals do not build sundials, even though they would benefit greatly from them. And so you’ll notice that one of the things that sets humans apart is their ability to make metaphysics – that they relate to things that are objectively real, like time.”

The eternal and the everlasting – two different things.

“Who gets to decide, and how do we get to decide, on these deep questions?”

“To reify a false and truncated metaphysics – for example, to say that love doesn’t exist, that free will doesn’t actually exist – to really try to build institutions based on that, which would result in a radically authoritarian society – these things have been done. But never with the technological power that we now have to, for example, to build a school around that hypothesis. Or an army. And so there’s this very sincere need to make sure that as we move through this period, we’re keeping the voices who want to simplify and reduce and return to modernity and the monological at bay. So applaud, the postmodernists, but we also want to get beyond the postmodern critique, and the whole spirit and emotion of critique, and somehow move into a space where we’re reconstructing a new metanarrative, instead of taking potshots and deconstructing anyone who steps up to offer a metanarrative. After postmodernism it needs to be provisional, polycentric, built iteratively through collaboration. But there needs to be a project in good spirits in that direction. Because the regressive tendencies on the right who want to drive us toward racism and nationalism are having questions about, ‘What is the human?,’ and answering them irrationally. We need to have VERY reasonable and profound answers to questions like, ‘What is human?,’ ‘What are we here on Earth to do?,’ ‘What is a relationship?,’ ‘How important are relationships?,’ ‘What is love?,’ ‘Is love real?’, ‘What’s the significance of love?’…these things are part of what it means to be human.”

How do we build a just and humane, “post-tragic” culture on the other side of the Crisis of the Anthropocene?

We are all dependent on unjust and ecologically devastating supply chains…now what?

“Hate creates externalities. Love creates no externalities.”

The logic of the metamodern system has to be one in which there are no externalities.

Support this show on Patreon

Join the Facebook Group

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts

Subscribe on Google Podcasts

Subscribe on Stitcher

Subscribe on Spotify

Subscribe on iHeart Radio

More Episodes


Weaving A New Prehistory to Rewild The Future - Michael Garfield at Earth Frequency Festival 2017

Ep. 145
"We are living through a health crisis, an economic crisis, a racial crisis, and a democratic crisis. Each would be historic on their own. All of them are connected. That they have struck together in this way just might be what compels our transformation."–Anand GiridharadasThis week’s episode is over three years in the making: my talk from Earth Frequency Festival 2017, about a revised narrative of prehistory from which we can grow new myths better suited for our times. I almost didn’t post this episode at all, even after nearly two full days of editing, because it felt tone deaf to zoom out so far and discuss topics like mass extinctions, the evolution of plant-pollinator symbiosis, my critiques of transhumanism and SpaceX, and how fish and clams represent complementary strategies for dealing with turbulent environments.But this feature-length rant erupted from me at a time that rhymes intensely with our current moment: I was scheduled to present on futurism immediately following a heart-wrenching and visceral presentation on the (then ongoing) Standing Rock protests, and it felt right then as it does now to wield what I know in service of new stories that better serve the work of social justice. After all, it is only the alienated and colonized mind that sees climate change, racism, economic inequality, and ecological devastation as separate issues.No: if we are to truly embrace our interbeing with the biosphere (and we must), then we cannot exclude other human beings —or even nonhuman sentient beings —from our maps and models of the nondual truth of who we are.One more disclaimer: This is the last unpublished talk I gave before I started work at the Santa Fe Institute, where my poetic intuitions and armchair science scholarship have been challenged to rise to far greater rigor and discernment.I regard this two-hour screed as both one of my most inspired riffs, the closest that I ever got to a Terence McKenna sermon…but it’s also full of embryonic, raw ideas that have evolved A LOT since this recording happened.I share it with you not as a completed document but as a snapshot of a story in the weaving, and I hope you hear it as the work in progress that it was and is.Thank you and I hope you’ll take a moment to read the supplementary materials below, and support the crucial social justice orgs helping protect the lives and freedom of your neighbors here on Earth, in this especially intense and pivotal moment.For the next few weeks I am donating 100% of the sales of my original paintings and inventory of canvas prints to ACLU and Unicorn Riot. If you would like to put your money to a good cause and get some cool art for doing so, please visit https://instagram.com/michaelgarfield for details.Support this show on Patreon for over a dozen secret episodes, the Future Fossils book club, and weekly community calls, and much more. Or, better, read and share the resources below.Theme Music: “God Detector” by Evan “Skytree” Snyder (feat. Michael Garfield).My embarrassingly white and male list of mentions from this talk:Bruce Damer, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Ernst Haeckel, Proteus (documentary), Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace, Diane Musho Hamilton, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Kary Mullis, Francis Crick, The Bardo Thodol (book), Ram Dass, Neem Karoli Baba, Biosphere 2, William Irwin Thompson, Marshall McLuhan, Alvin Toffler, Marie Toffler, Stewart Brand, Wall-E (film), Gregory Bateson, John Muir, Richard Doyle, Darwin’s Pharmacy (book), Thomas Henry Huxley, Gideon Mantell, Colin Elder, Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen Baxter, The Light of Other Days (book), Albert Einstein, John C. Wright, Timothy Leary, Elon MuskShare these resources:–––> Ally Tools <–––http://www.ally.tools“Whether or not you think you hold them, stereotypes shape the lives of everyone on Earth. As human beings, we lack the ability to judge each situation as unique and different…and how we group novel experiences by our past conditioning, as helpful as it often is, creates extraordinary complications in society. As modern life exposes us to an increasing number of encounters with the other in which we do not have time to form accurate models of someoneor some place’s true identity, we find ourselves in a downward spiral of self-reinforcing biases —transforming how we practice law enforcement, justice, and life online. Our polarized, irrational world calls for an intense look at what it will take to humanize each other— at traffic stops, in court, on social media, and anywhere our doubt about an unfamiliar face can lead to tragic consequences.”https://complexity.simplecast.com/episodes/7Complex systems science resources on algorithmic justice, moral economics, nonviolent policing, healing slums, countering hate on social media, and more:https://santafe.edu/news-center/news/sfis-statement-support-victims-injustice“One can’t claim to be an ally if one’s agenda is to prevent his or her own future dystopias through actions that also preserve today’s Indigenous dystopias. Indigenous environmental movements work to reject the ancestral dystopias and colonial fantasies of the present. This is why so many of our environmental movements are about stopping sexual and state violence against Indigenous people, reclaiming ethical self-determination across diverse urban and rural ecosystems, empowering gender justice and gender fluidity, transforming lawmaking to be consensual, healing intergenerational traumas, and calling out all practices that erase Indigenous histories, cultures, and experiences.”https://www.yesmagazine.org/issue/decolonize/2018/04/03/white-allies-lets-be-honest-about-decolonization/“Racial and economic inequities need to be tackled as this country seeks to recalibrate its economic and social compass in the weeks and months to come. Racism, in short, makes it impossible to live sustainably. Here’s what three prominent environmental defenders had to say in interviews this week about how the climate movement can be anti-racist.”https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/03/climate/black-environmentalists-talk-about-climate-and-anti-racism.htmlThank you for listening. Reach out any time.

144 - On Dinosaurs & Holy Wars: Creationist Amusement Parks & America's Strange Relationship with Science, with Monica Long Ross & Clayton Brown

Ep. 144
This week I talk with film-makers Monica Long Ross and Clayton Brown about their bizarre and wonderful documentary, We Believe in Dinosaurs —and how a creationist amusement park in Kentucky provides a lens through which to examine the tense relationship between science, religion, and business in America. This is a conversation about what happens when premodern, modern, and postmodern worldviews duke it out on a landscape of rapid change for which none of them are sufficient. It’s about the surreal Young Earth dinosaur museums of Late Capitalism, but more, it is about our trust (or lack of trust) and where we put it when we lose the plot.Support this show on Patreon for over a dozen secret episodes, the Future Fossils book club and Discord server, weekly community calls, and much more.Grab the books we talk about on Future Fossils and Amazon will chip me a little of the proceeds, at no cost to you.Theme Music: “God Detector” by Evan “Skytree” Snyder (feat. Michael Garfield)Additional Intro Music: “Lambent” by Michael GarfieldTopics:How an Australian fundamentalist extremist ended up building a $200M “replica” of Noah’s Ark as a theme park in rural Kentucky.How Young Earth creationists can doubt geology but trust high-energy physics: their distinction between experimental versus observational science.The role of Big Money and economic development in the entire history of dinosaur science, and the use of dinosaurs as rhetorical tools (or “missionary lizards”).What’s really behind the culture wars between science and religion…and how it is that fundamentalists can come to believe they’re practicing better science than the scientists.The fractal weirdness of culture wars between different sects of American Christianity about matters of scientific investigation.Amusement parks and museums as architectural arguments for particular worldviews.Why so many people distrust science, and why people seek out preposterous but easy-to-understand narratives when history moves too fast for comfort.What it looks like when 21st Century global industry meets 1st Century religious zealotry: giant warehouses full of masterfully produced educational media for Bible propaganda.Why our origin story and Earth history will probably always be an issue of contention and an area where people will distrust scientists.How faith and hope appears in the science of the abstract and its practitioners: both legitimate high energy physics, and illegitimate cold fusion.Religious privilege versus religious freedom (and how trying to teach Genesis in high school biology is not about religious freedom, but power).Entering a recombinant flux of personal worldviews, thanks to the Web, in which all possible religions exist.What is the tipping point where an abstract risk becomes tangible enough for all of us to agree on its existence, much less a strategy for adaptation?Mentions:Bill Nye, Ken Ham, Mirta Galesic, Henrik Olsson, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Florida, Isaac Newton, Aristophanes, Charles Darwin, Steve Brusatte, David B. Kinney, Santa Fe Institute, Large Hadron Collider, The Ark Encounter, The Smithsonian Institute, University of Kansas Natural History Museum