Jamie Wheal: 'The worst people are taking all the best drugs'
An interview with the annoyingly good-looking author of Stealing Fire and Recapture the Rapture on how 'Alpha burners' took over the world.
Here’s an interview I did with the annoyingly-good-looking Jamie Wheal, author of Recapture the Rapture and co-author of Stealing Fire. We talked about his life and work, and then got stuck into western spirituality and what’s wrong with it. Jamie was particularly interesting on how the global elite got into psychedelics, and why ‘all the worst people are taking all the best drugs’. How can spiritual culture go beyond self-absorption, and get into serving others?
Here he is on hippies running the world:
One of the original impetuses for Stealing Fire was I found myself at the UN having a private dinner under Chatham House rules, with a bunch of people talking about cannabis legalisation, and then them all saying ‘see you on the Playa in three weeks’. Then I was on Necker Island with Richard Branson and that whole crew, and it was all these elite Alpha Burners. Then I found the same thing in Basel, and I was like, wait, what do Davos, the UN and Necker Island have to do with Burning Man? You’re getting this globally-distributed technomatic glitterati going on. This transnational hypermobile psychedelically-informed bunch of Alpha hippies pretty much running the world.
On his disillusionment with that scene:
That book came out in the early spring of 2017. That summer I saw a bunch of psychedelic Burners who’d done all the things, all the substances, all the personal growth workshops, all the things you would ever advocate and hope for the rest of humanity to heal and grow up. They were also running a nominal crypto transformational organisation to save the world. They shat the bed in such a thoroughly spectacular and self indulgent fashion over that summer. It was precursors of a lot of social justice stuff, but also a lot of entitlement stuff, and then off to the next party, then off to Burning Man, and it felt like a swarm of locusts. That was such a pronounced experience that I went into a bit of a depression that autumn. I thought, fuck if those people had access to all those things and they can’t even get to the starting line with their boots laced up. Then what?
Does the overlap between spirituality and extreme wealth tend to produce narcissism and self-absorption?
It always has. The worst people are taking all the best drugs. If you really want a psychedelic renaissance, the beautiful people don’t need any more. What we really should be doing is creating therapeutic interventions for doctors, nurses, farmers, firefighters…like, the people who have already committed their life to service to others. The bourgeois-bohemians it is almost to a one still all about them. They are seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, they just want the most pleasure and the least pain. It is still egoic seeking and virtue displaying and peacocking. It’s self-actualization, run into the ditch in overdrive, in all its bleakest forms. Every single long-standing religious tradition has explicit teachings about service to others. Self-actualization doesn’t.
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