99 - Erik Davis on How to Navigate High Weirdness

Ep. 99

This week’s guest is Erik Davis – one of my great inspirations, someone who has influenced me and this podcast in immeasurable ways since I first encountered his amazing criticism, histories, and “seen it all” visionary cool – I still recommend his first nonfiction book (Techgnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information) on a near-daily basis, and his show Expanding Mind has got to be my number one most-listened podcast of all time.

Erik is a native Californian Gen X mystic who played no small part in the explosive West Coast visionary cyperpunk scene in the 1990s alongside folks like Terence McKenna, Timothy Leary, RU Sirius, Doug Rushkoff, and Jaron Lanier. But he’s taking a profoundly different stance these days, with a Religious Studies PhD in hand and a new book at the printers, drawing on his thirty-plus years experience investigating modern life’s weird marginalia to help us navigate a world in which the weird’s no longer marginal.



High Weirdness Drugs, Visions, and Esoterica in the Seventies by Erik Davis

"A study of the spiritual provocations to be found in the work of Philip K. Dick, Terrence 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 In High Weirdness, Erik Davis—America’s leading scholar of high strangeness—examines the published and unpublished writings of these vital, iconoclastic thinkers, as well as their own life-changing mystical experiences.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."

"Erik Davis is an American journalist, critic, podcaster, and counter-public intellectual whose writings have run the gamut from rock criticism to cultural analysis to creative explorations of esoteric mysticism. He is the author of Techgnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information, The Visionary State: A Journey through California’s Spiritual Landscape, and Nomad Codes: Adventures in Modern Esoterica."

We Discuss:

Enacting the weird through media

The 1970s understood as the sort of beginning of our darker, weirder time - capitalism, consumer credit, surveillance, paranoia, density, historical dread…

“The occult, conspiracy theory, a dark dreamlike character…is now central…the way fictions become operational as quasi-truths to navigate the post-truth environment…the popularity of psychedelics…”

Key literacies for navigating Our Weird Future

Slender Man as operationalized fiction, as a kind of “tulpa” or thought-form activated into quasi-life

The intermarriage of reality and the hoax

HP Lovecraft’s modern distance from his horrors vs. Phil Dick’s postmodern intimacy with his horrors

The Coming Age of DNA Monsters and Routinized Weirdness

“We are called upon to analyze our resistances to all variety of shifts, mutations, couplings – and unless we want to go reactionary and hold onto certain ideas we have about how humans should be, or how the world should be, we’re in a situation of a strange kind of embrace with the other.”

Distrusting the Apocalypse

Figure-ground collapse in the impression of planetary hyperobjects into our immediate awareness

Neuroplasticity and neoteny – becoming childlike in order to surf accelerating change

Future shock and getting drawn into (right-wing, fundamentalist, fear-based, racist, boundary-defending) stories as a bid for solid ground

“Not knowing who we really are is part of the game. In fact, it’s one of the great opportunities of our moment.”

Plasticity vs. Flexibility ~ Will or Flexibility 

The discipline of transforming subjectivity - religions as practical algorithms for self-transformation, not as collections of beliefs

Everything you do is a self-engendering practice

“I look at the 20th Century, and the most important thing that happened in the 20th Century is cybernetics – both the concept and the operationalism of creating communication feedback loops that begin to generate their own processes.”

“The further I go into a cybernetic model, at least for me, it needs to be ground out in a deepening relationship with animals, with weather, with food, with plants, with plant wisdom, and definitely with those peoples – in whatever traces, in whatever mutations we can encounter them now – those groups, those societies, that had a very different relationship that’s not really mediated by the machine.”

The return of the nonhuman, cultural retrieval, the archaic revival, “reanimism”

Intelligence is Everywhere

Present Shock & the collapse of history & Jurassic Park

The future of time - metaperspectival time

Zizek’s critique of Buddhism and how mindfulness has been coopted by neoliberal surveillance capitalism

More Episodes


189 - Planet-scale Musical Chairs: 21st Century Human Geography with Parag Khanna

Ep. 189
This week on Future Fossils, we sync up with globe-trotting (Singapore-based) futurist Parag Khanna, author of several internationally best-selling books on the shifting landscape of human geography and technological evolution. My acquaintance with Parag dates back all the way to 2011 when I found his Hybrid Reality Institute, and started writing for his BigThink blog, thanks to the writing of Jason Silva — I knew this was a party I couldn’t miss, even though I was then, as now, deeply ambivalent about the contours of the futures he and his colleagues were making visible with their rigorous research. This spirit has defined my entire adult life: if you want to help steer something in a better direction, you might just have to get your hands down into the murk and engage with it deeply enough to be in the position to make a difference. So when his agent contacted me about interviewing him about his latest book, 2021’s Move: The Forces Uprooting Us, I knew it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. But let me be clear that Parag sees things very differently than I do, and I appreciate that about him: he has a keen sense of the risks and dangers of our times but emphasizes the opportunities because the facts are there to support it. If you move around as much as he does, and always has, you get a kind of synoptic view of the planet and the tension between individual destiny and collective momentum comes into a new tuning. This is a beast of a conversation. It was hell to edit. I’m glad it happened. Here you go!Complete, extensive show notes at Patreon.✨ Housekeeping:• Intro music is "You're In My Self-Portrait" from my 2012 album Golden Hour. Outro music is "City of Jewels" from my 2013 EP of the same name. For something completely different, check out my latest live album, recorded at Meow Wolf Santa Fe while opening for DeVotchKa.✨ Other Ways To Support The Work & Community:• My roughly-monthly newsletter at Substack• Venmo: @futurefossils• PayPal.me/michaelgarfield• ETH: FutureFossils.eth• BTC: 1At2LQbkQmgDugkchkP6QkDJCvJ5rv3Jm• NFTs: Rarible | Foundation | Voice | Hic Et Nunc | Mint Songs