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The Philosophy of Ecstasy

From the ritualized intoxications of Dionysian cults in the Greco-Roman tradition and the spiritual awakenings of the early mystics, to Amazonian indigenous ceremonies celebrating the sublimity of nature and modern rock concerts, the search for ecstasy is a universal one.

Albert Einstein believed that ecstasy was “the finest emotion of which we are capable” and Aldous Huxley wrote that all humans have “a deep-seated urge to self-transcendence.” The philosopher William James argued that such states of mind were just as important to human flourishing and opened the individual to wider forms of being. Yet ecstasy, from the Ancient Greek ἔκστασις meaning "to be or stand outside oneself,’ has largely been unexplored in its relationship to science, philosophy, society, and politics.

In this salon we will consider different forms of consciousness including dreams, metaphysical moments, and experiences of ecstasy. We will discuss the historical evolution of our understanding of these experiences from Ancient Greece to the European Enlightenment and the present day. We will then question the fundamental nature of these experiences and the possible implications on an individual and collective level.

We are fortunate to have the philosopher Jules Evans as our speaker for this salon. His new book “The Art of Losing Control: A Philosopher’s Search for Ecstatic Experience” offers a fascinating perspective on the topic. Caspar Henderson (a past salon speaker) wrote that Jules’ book is “An original and outstanding investigation into a poorly understood but central experience in all our lives. Jules Evans is brave, honest and wise- a great companion and guide on a fascinating journey.”

Prior reading of the book is not required to participate in this salon, although we highly recommend reading it!

There will also be classical music, poetry, and video projections of experiences of ecstasy from cultures around the world, perhaps inspiring an ecstatic experience of our own!

RSVP to this event is required: