“A highly personal, richly informed and culturally wide-ranging meditation on the loss of meaning in our times and on pathways to rediscovering it.” —Gabor Maté, MD, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction
A neuroanthropologist maps out a revolutionary new practice—Hedonic Engineering—that combines the best of neuroscience and optimal psychology. It’s an intensive program of breathing, movement, and sexuality that mends trauma, heightens inspiration and tightens connections—helping us wake up, grow up, and show up for a world that needs us all.
This is a book about a big idea. And the idea is this: Slowly over the past few decades, and now suddenly, all at once, we’re suffering from a collapse in Meaning. Fundamentalism and nihilism are filling that vacuum, with consequences that affect us all. In a world that needs us at our best, diseases of despair, tribalism, and disaster fatigue are leaving us at our worst.
It’s vital that we regain control of the stories we’re telling because they are shaping the future we’re creating. To do that, we have to remember our deepest inspiration, heal our pain and apathy, and connect to each other like never before. If we can do that, we’ve got a shot at solving the big problems we face. And if we can’t? Well, the dustbin of history has swallowed civilizations older and fancier than ours.
This book is divided into three parts. The first, Choose Your Own Apocalypse, takes a look at our current Meaning Crisis--where we are today, why it’s so hard to make sense of the world, what might be coming next, and what to do about it. It also makes a case that many of our efforts to cope, whether anxiety and denial, or tribalism and identity politics, are likely making things worse.
The middle section, The Alchemist Cookbook, applies the creative firm IDEO’s design thinking to the Meaning Crisis. This is where the book gets hands on--taking a look at the strongest evolutionary drivers that can bring about inspiration, healing, and connection. From breathing, to movement, sexuality, music, and substances--these are the everyday tools to help us wake up, grow up, and show up. AKA--how to blow yourself sky high with household materials. And the best part? They’re accessible, by anyone anywhere, no middleman required. Transcendence democratized.
The final third of the book, Ethical Cult Building, focuses on the tricky nature of putting these kinds of experiences into gear and into culture—because, anytime in the past when we’ve figured out combinations of peak states and deep healing, we’ve almost always ended up with problematic culty communities. Playing with fire has left a lot of people burned. This section lays out a roadmap for sparking a thousand fires around the world--each one unique and tailored to the needs and values of its participants. Think of it as an open-source toolkit for building ethical culture.
In Recapture the Rapture, we’re taking radical research out of the extremes and applying it to the mainstream--to the broader social problem of healing, believing, and belonging. It’s providing answers to the questions we face: how to replace blind faith with direct experience, how to move from broken to whole, and how to cure isolation with connection. Said even more plainly, it shows us how to revitalize our bodies, boost our creativity, rekindle our relationships, and answer once and for all the questions of why we are here and what do we do now?
In a world that needs the best of us from the rest of us, this is a book that shows us how to get it done.
Jamie Wheal is the author of the global bestseller Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, Navy SEALs and Maverick Scientists are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work. Wheal is an expert in peak performance and leadership, specializing in neuroanthropology––the intersection of culture, biology and psychology and the founder of the Flow Genome Project, an international organization dedicated to the research and training of ultimate human performance. Wheal is a mountaineer who’s guided the North Face of Mount Everest, trained Navy Seals, Olympians and RedBull extreme athletes and advised everyone from the U.S. Naval War College and Special Operations Command to the executives of major corporations including Google, Goldman Sachs and Cisco, among others. His work and ideas have been covered in The New York Times, Financial Times, Wired, Entrepreneur, Harvard Business Review, Forbes, INC, and TEDx. Wheal lives in Austin, TX.
“This is a book on the biggest sort of thinking -- from personal to societal -- written by an author with an eye for what matters, an ear for story and a mind for the sublime." — David Eagleman, Neuroscientist at Stanford, New York Times bestselling author of Livewired and Incognito, and host of PBS The Brain
“The death of belief has led to a collapse of meaning, and many of us are looking to neuroscience and psychology for inspiration and understanding. Wheal knows that peak states bring about deep healing, and he is here to deliver. This enrapturing book not only details various drivers of our cultural evolution, it becomes one itself.” — Julie Holland, MD, Author of Good Chemistry: The Science of Connection From Soul to Psychedelics and Weekends at Bellevue
"A highly personal, richly informed and culturally wide-ranging mediation on the loss of meaning in our times and on pathways to rediscovering it, from breath through psychedelics--a search fueled by Jamie Wheal’s boundless curiosity and commitment to transformation." — Gabor Maté M.D., Author: In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction
“Can humanity survive today’s exponential world change? Doomsayers say NO--we’re flying blind in the spiraling collapse of civilization. But Wheal offers us a savvy, intriguing and novel roadmap to self-renewal. And it’s packed with literary, cultural, historical and biological references as well. You won’t forget this gem--it’s a fascinating read.” — Dr. Helen Fisher, Senior Research Fellow, The Kinsey Institute, Chief Scientist, Match.com, author Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love
"Recapture the Rapture offers an invaluable roadmap for transformational consciousness and culture, filled with practical tools to harness our healing, reclaim our inspiration and connect to each other for the road ahead." — Rick Doblin, Founder and Executive Director, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)
"This apocalypse is far more complicated than end-times usually are, but Jamie navigates the complexities with rigor and merciless wit. He’s one of those writers who frustrates my desire to make disparaging generalisations about non-Indigenous thought!" — Tyson Yunkaporta Author of Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World, Apalech Clan
"Recapture the Rapture is both a hymnal and an operations manual for the party at the end of the world-as-we-know-it. The cure for spiritual bypassing and conspirituality is not more mindfulness, it seems, but a redemptive and mutant religiosity that dives into the deep end of our contemporary catastrophe." — Erik Davis, author, High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the 70s
"I have a feeling that like most readers, I'm closer to those who have lost the rapture than those who live in it. Luckily for us, Jamie Wheal has laid out a fun and accessible path to reclaiming the ecstasy that makes life not merely worth living, but possible in the first place and sustainable in the long run."
— Douglas Rushkoff, Author of Team Human, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus
"In his rhythmic prose, Wheal crafts A mystical balm. A fool-proof formula for transcendence. And the kind of sacraments here, at the end of history, that could spawn the much-needed recognition of our shared humanity.." — Brian Muraresku, Author NYT Bestseller The Immortality Key
"The way forward, argues Wheal...is to rediscover and reinvent our humanity in radical ways that places community, respect for ourselves, the planet and the human species at the center of our strategy for survival; and it’s a strategy that can work for everyone."
— Dennis McKenna PhD Ethnopharmacology, Author Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss and The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens, and the I Ching