Why the world is going crazy—and how to win back our minds

Why are rapture ideologies exploding?

JAMIE WHEAL: It's really easy to forget, that we're just monkeys with clothes. If you took all of life on Earth and you compressed it into one 24-hour day, anatomically modern man shows up at four seconds before midnight, cave paintings at one second before midnight. We've been playing at civilization for a fraction of a second.

Everything is going into exponential change, from education to quantum computing, to cryptocurrency, to transport, to macroeconomics, to geopolitics, to climate crisis, to everything. It's breaking our brains. We're overwhelmed, we're collapsing in grief. It does feel that the handrails, the things that we used to look to for stability and security, have just evaporated. If we've experienced a collapse in meaning how do we go about restoring it?

I'm Jamie Wheal, founder of the Flow Genome Project, and author of "Recapture the Rapture: Rethinking God, Sex, and Death in a World That's Lost Its Mind." The collapse in meaning, that I think you can at least argue we're in the midst of right now, is complex and multivariable. We've had a collapse in traditional organized religion, what you could call kind of Meaning 1.0. For the first time ever, the nuns, the spiritual but not religious, like the "none of the above's," is the largest and fastest growing religious movement in North America. There are increasingly folks that feel like, "Hey, those stories, those codes, those ways of being, don't match my identity. Don't match my choices. Don't match my community." So organized religion is no longer a place to hang our hats. And at the same time, modern liberalism has also been getting a little creaky. That's Meaning 2.0. Think of the ivory tower in academia, news media, businesses, and corporate titans and leadership, potentially even medicine. And you just take those and you just go one by one. You're like, oh, well, Goldman Sachs sold middle America down the river in 2008. And McKinsey helped Purdue Pharma sell more OxyContin well after the negative effects were demonstrated. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, which used to be considered the journals of record are now imploding. And the same thing with doctors, the same thing with corruptions in peer review, and the replication crisis. Basically everything you've ever seen on a TED Talk is probably not true.

So all of the places that we used to use rules of thumb or decision-making shortcuts, that's just evaporated. So in that collapse, we're getting fundamentalism on one side, and we're getting nihilism on the other. We're getting diseases of despair. We're getting real heartbreak. I think you could make a case that that is why we're seeing this uptick in conspiracy theories of all stripes. Will anybody make sense of all of this nonsense for me? If you can give me a happily ever after, if you can tell me that I'm one of the good guys, and you promised to get me to the other side, hundreds of thousands of people these days, are deeply vulnerable to that promise. These are rapture ideologies. We can see examples of that with ISIS and Christian Zionism. But I think what is equally important to note is that they show up in Wall Street, in Silicon Valley.

All of these rapture ideologies share the same structure. Number one, the world as we know it is screwed. Number two, there's an inflection point coming soon. Number three, as soon as we get to that inflection point, me and mine, the elect, the saved, are going to score one of the golden tickets to the other side. Number four, so let's get there as fast as possible. Don't worry about the collateral damage of the world we're leaving behind. So the question then is, how do we create liberating structures so that a lot of people all around the world, can experiment, innovate and adapt their own approaches to finding and restoring meaning, without it coming tops-down? If we want to create Meaning 3.0, which is a blend of traditional religion, and modern liberalism, how do we have the salvation that religion promises, and the inclusion that modern liberalism is committed to? From Meaning 1.0, we need healing, inspiration and connection. From the modern liberal side, we want this to be open-source. We want anybody anywhere to have access to this, needs to be scalable, really cheap or outright free. And then the third, is it has to be anti-fragile. But as Mike Tyson said, "everybody's got a plan until they get hit," right? So the idea of an anti-fragile solution is one that actually digs in and get stronger, more rooted, more effective as things deteriorate around it.

If you want to do things that everybody has access to that are effective, start with evolutionary drivers like breathing, sexuality, embodiment, substances and music. Our nervous systems and our bodies can actually be profoundly potent tools to discharge trauma, and to prompt peak states and inspiration. Bringing that design thinking approach is an attempt to support that. So that would be the hope for Meaning 3.0. It doesn't promise an out for an escape. It doesn't promise a happily ever after that is structurally different from right here, right now. We need tools to mend our trauma, tools to reconnect with inspiration, why we're here and what it all means, and tools to better connect with each other. And if we can do that, then we stand a chance of recapturing our rapture, our bliss, our contentment, our belonging, our passion, and the story of who we are, the story of where we're going, and the commitment to figure out together what do we do now.

  • The speed at which civilization is progressing has become overwhelming for modern humans and has caused what Jamie Wheal (author of Recapture the Rapture, founder of the Flow Genome Project, and host of the Collective Insights Podcast) calls a "collapse of meaning."
  • For many, Meaning 1.0 (organized religion) and Meaning 2.0 (modern liberalism) no longer provide the structure and guidance that they used to. "It does feel like the handrails, the things we used to look to for stability and security, have evaporated," says Wheal. "If we've experienced a collapse of meaning, how do we go about restoring it?"
  • In order to reach Meaning 3.0—which Wheal says is a blend of traditional religion and modern liberalism without the promise of an escape—we need to focus on mending trauma, reconnecting with inspiration, and connecting better with one another.


Photo by Callum Shaw on Unsplash
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