The Natural Origins of Supernatural Experiences

Altered states of consciousness are documented across cultures, from shamans to Silicon Valley coders. As different as these experiences seem, there are four neurological features they all have in common.

Transcendent experiences that were once attributed to gods, angels, muses, or even possession, are now being demystified by neuroscience. Jamie Wheal, Director of Programs at the Flow Genome Project, explains that each culture has unique rituals and narratives when it comes to non-ordinary experiences of consciousness or ‘altered states’, whether that’s mediation, flow state, psychedelic experiences, or others. A farmer in India, a peasant in Mexico, and a coder in Silicon Valley will all have vastly different ways of approaching altered states, and will give vastly different descriptions once they come out the other side – perhaps they saw a vision of Ganesh the elephant God, received a message from the Virgin of Guadalupe, or produced a brilliant line of code while in a Matrix-like binary blur. However, those experiences are more alike than we think. Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler devised a functional framework so they could compare non-ordinary experiences across cultures. Here, Wheal explains that they identified four common elements of altered states of consciousness, which they coined as STER: selflessness, timelessness, effortlessness and richness. Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler's book is Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work.

Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler's book is Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work.

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Ethan Hawke: Your Subconscious Is More Sophisticated than Your Intellect

Nothing kills creativity like overthinking it. Jumping from anecdote to anecdote from his incredible career, Ethan Hawke illustrates why letting your subconscious steer the ship will get you to a more honest, creative place than your intellect ever could.

We all know the actor Ethan Hawke, star of films like Gattaca, Dead Poet’s Society, and Training Day, but have you met director, screenwriter, novelist, and philanthropist Ethan Hawke? With an energy that can’t be hushed and a curiosity that won’t quit, Hawke is a creative tornado.

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