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Thinking Ahead with Carter Phipps
57 minutes | May 24, 2021
Deepak Chopra: Inside the Mind of a Spiritual Pioneer
There are few people in the world of writers, musicians, artists, and celebrities who are instantly recognizable by just a single name. Oprah, Sting, Bruce, Beyonce—to name a few. Deepak falls into that rarefied category. Ever since he burst onto the progressive spiritual scene in the late eighties with his unique mix of health, wellness, science, spirituality, and celebrity, Deepak Chopra has been a cultural force—writing, speaking, debating, and generally making himself a constant presence in the media. Today, his name has become almost synonymous with “spiritual but not religious” subculture heavily influenced by Eastern philosophy and Indian spiritual thought. Indeed, Deepak himself, a former student of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (the Beatles' guru), has been one of the most articulate and consistent proponents of what we might call a modern, scientifically informed version of ancient Hindu mysticism. On this episode of Thinking Ahead, I speak with Deepak about his recent article—It’s Time Reality Got a Makeover—exploring the limits of scientific materialism. But we didn’t stop there. In the end, we covered a lot of ground—materialism, idealism, consciousness, the brain, reality, psychedelics, UFOs, and even his own remaining life goals. Never at a loss for words or ideas, Deepak is unique thinker, and it was a pleasure to peer inside the mind of this spiritual icon.
78 minutes | May 2, 2021
Bill Plotkin: The Mythopoetic Dreams of a Psychologist Gone Wild
There is something about the American Southwest—once home to the Navajo and the Utes and the Anasazi before them—that stirs the soul, evoking our deep, mythopoetic imagination. It is to this spiritually charged corner of the world that author Bill Plotkin, founder of the Animas Valley Institute, invites people to travel on unique and powerful journeys of what he calls “nature-based soul initiation.” These are not weekend workshops or Outward Bound adventures. They’re more serious, more transformative, and ultimately more life-altering. Ultimately, their purpose, as he explains in his recent book The Journey of Soul Initiation, is more than an experience; it’s a long-term metamorphosis of identity. Plotkin distinguishes his spiritual approach from what he calls “upper world” paths that emphasize transcendence and the discovery of universal truths. His path traverses the “underworld” of the individual soul uncovering its unique evolutionary “niche.” In his book, Plotkin suggests that it’s rare in our culture today for people to truly develop into the higher stages of adult maturity. Many get stuck in a type of adolescence or in-between state that has nothing to do with age. And those that do manage to make the journey often do so only by struggling through the territory on their own. There are few guides and fewer clear signposts to help us walk this very personal developmental path. Plotkin’s work seeks to change that—to provides guides and maps that can be of authentic help to people along on that sometimes lonely path of transformation. Plotkin, who refers to himself as a “psychologist gone wild” is perhaps best described as an endearing mashup of Carl Jung, eco-theologian Thomas Berry, and a Navajo elder. I enjoyed our conversation about his own journey, his work, and the challenges of deep, sustained, and soul-level transformation.
80 minutes | Apr 13, 2021
Tisha Schuller: The Role of Oil & Gas in a Carbon-Neutral Future
Every day, Americans use oil and gas. We heat our homes, we drive our cars, we power our technology and our lives. And yet, due to climate concerns, we know we need to move toward carbon-free sources of energy as fast as possible. But changing our national infrastructure is a challenge, not to mention international infrastructure—even with the ongoing push for renewables. So the questions loom: How do we get from here to there? How do we decarbonize our energy sources faster and at scale? And what role, if any, will oil and gas play in that carbon-neutral future? On this episode of Thinking Ahead I address these questions and more with energy expert Tisha Schuller. I met Tisha a few years ago at a gathering on political polarization that the Institute for Cultural Evolution co-sponsored with the Breakthrough Institute and the Esalen Center for Theory and Research. A passionate environmentalist, Tisha is the former head of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association—a role in which she excelled, but that also left her a grizzled veteran of the fracking wars. During that time, she worked hard to adjudicate between the needs of the industry and the concerns of Colorado’s increasing powerful environmental groups (that chapter of her life story is chronicled in the book Accidentally Adamant: The Story of a Girl who Questioned Convention, Broke the Mold, and Charted a Course Off Map.) Since then, Tisha has founded a consulting group, Adamantine Energy, in Boulder, Colorado, that helps oil and gas companies all over the country and the world make the necessary transition to deal with our increasingly climate-focused social and political landscape. What I appreciate about Tisha is not only her rich knowledge of the energy industry, but the way in which the intense scrutiny and political and cultural landmines she has faced have led her to evolve as a person. Out of those trials and tribulations, she emerged a deep and integrative thinker, someone who really understands not just energy but the cultural voices around it, and who can speak about the climate debates as someone who has really sat on all sides of the table. She is someone I trust to give me the straight story about the future of this increasingly important arena that affects all of our lives.
73 minutes | Mar 30, 2021
Jordan Gruber: Exploring the New Psychology of Multiple Selves
Are you one person? One self? A singular personality? Or, as the poet said, do you “contain multitudes”? In the new book Your Symphony of Selves, authors Jordan Gruber and James Fadiman argue that each one of us is composed of many distinct selves that make up the totality of who and what we are. They attempt to rescue this notion from the realm of mental illness and schizophrenia, and show how the concept of healthy multiple selves has a rich history in psychology, art, spirituality, philosophy, and even science. They suggest that the goal of mental health should not be to find your one true self, but to find ways to “be in the right mind and the right time.” It’s a compelling idea, especially in contrast to the prevailing view, so I was delighted to welcome Jordan, a longtime friend, to join me on this episode of Thinking Ahead. To my mind, the modern world has been, at least in part, defined by the assertion of the individual self, the universal self, the modern ego. In earlier eras of human history, the self was seen as a repository for all kinds of Gods, instincts, and archetypes—it was the playground of muses; the battleground of angelic impulses and demonic forces. Many of those predilections were tamed in the effort to become a more unified, individual sense of self that is the hallmark of the modern world, and I certainly think that was a good thing. But has something been lost as well? Are we making room for all of the dimensions of who we are? In the postmodern era, there has been a movement to reclaim and more fully appreciate a sense of the diversity, difference, divergence, and multiplicity, in culture—and perhaps within the individual as well. I find it fascinating to trace the evolution of the human sense of self—or selves—as it interacts with the evolution of culture. And whether we are ultimately one, or many, there’s no doubt in my mind that our psychological health will benefit from making more room for our inner diversity.
73 minutes | Mar 23, 2021
Justin Scheck: MBS, Power, and the Future of the Middle East
MBS. Those three letters may not mean much to many Americans, but in the Middle East, they are instantly recognizable. They are the initials of Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of the Royal House of Saud—the most powerful person in Saudi Arabia and one of the more influential figures in world politics at the moment. When Mohammed bin Salman became next in line to the throne a few years ago, there was hope that the young leader might represent a more modern, dynamic Saudi Arabia, one less in thrall to the conservatism of the country’s religious clerics. And in some ways, that has proved to be true. MBS has taken numerous steps to evolve his country. He has worked to reduce the power and influence of the religious establishment; to wean the country off of its reliance on oil; to curb corruption; to expand the economy; and even change the country’s relationship with traditional enemies like Israel. But unfortunately, there is much more to the picture, as is laid out in the recent book Blood and Oil: Mohammed bin Salman’s Ruthless Quest for Global Power by Justin Scheck and Bradley Hope. MBS has embroiled Saudi Arabia in regional conflicts, shown a proclivity for ruthless political infighting, and thrown political rivals in jail or worse. Most notably and shockingly—in the eyes of the West at least—he was involved in, or failed to stop (depending on who you believe), the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.So, who—and what—is MBS? Is he the best hope for leading the young and restless Saudi populace into a brighter, more modern future? Or is he an impulsive, ruthless autocrat, with little regard for the international ethics or norms of leadership, who could destabilize global politics? These questions may seem a world away from the United States, and from many of the topics I usually cover in this podcast. But I would argue that the ongoing tension between traditional religious worldviews and a more modern worldview is a key fault line across the world right now, and its tremors will touch us all. How societies like Saudi Arabia make the transition into modernity, and how they deal with the reactions and counter-reactions that are so often part of that transition will say a lot about how our global future unfolds. We have learned the hard way that what happens in the Middle East does not always stay in the Middle East. The fortunes of the region play an outsized role in the future stability of geopolitics. That’s why I invited Justin Scheck, Wall Street Journal reporter and co-author of Blood and Oil to come on the podcast and talk to me about MBS, Saudi Arabia, and the future of the Middle East.
78 minutes | Mar 16, 2021
Jeffrey Kripal: Mystics, Mutants, and the State of Progressive Spirituality
Jeffrey Kripal has carved out a unique place in American culture. He’s a professor of Religious Studies at Rice university, with an unparalleled range of knowledge in mysticism, philosophy, esoteric thought, gnosticicm, spirituality, human potential, and so much more. Kripal’s work extends beyond academia as well. He spent a number of years as chairman of the Board at the renowned Esalen Institute in California, birthplace of the human potential movement. He’s a prolific author who has written numerous books and essays, developing a body of work that is as impressive as it is groundbreaking and sometimes controversial. Two of his books that I’ve particularly enjoyed are his history of Esalen (Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion) and the delightful and insightful Mystics and Mutants: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal. This last title touches on another of Jeff’s great contributions: his laudable efforts to bring the paranormal into the realm of authentic study. From the evolution of consciousness to the exploration of mysticism to the pursuit of the paranormal, Kripal’s work has made room for a new generation of scholars to branch out and study more of dimensions of what lights up America’s spiritual and religious life. I honestly think he’s one of the most important figures in progressive spirituality today and I was delighted to have this opportunity to catch up with him on the latest episode of Thinking Ahead.
69 minutes | Mar 9, 2021
James Piereson: Political Polarization and the Future of a Divided Nation
America is more politically and culturally divided than it has been at any time since the Civil War. At least, that's what many political scientists tell us, and I see no reason to argue. Polarization is a truly “wicked problem” as some say, meaning a problem that involves so many interconnected and entangled issues—politically, culturally, economically—that solving it seems near impossible.But polarization won’t last forever. In its history, America has gone through periods of great polarization and other times of relative consensus. Today, as we face a dangerously divided nation, it’s important to consider the causes and consequences of the situation, and ask what, if anything, we can do about this great challenge of our generation. For this episode of Thinking Ahead, I speak to James Piereson, President of the William E Simon Foundation and a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan institute. He is also the author of the book Shattered Consensus: The Rise and Decline of America’s Postwar Political Order.Is a major economic or political crisis inevitable? Is the two-party system going to continue indefinitely? How soon might we expect a change in the political winds? What insights does America’s past offer about the tremendous challenges in our future? This episode explores the promise and peril of today’s politics in a deeply divided society.
97 minutes | Feb 9, 2021
Craig Hamilton: Countercultures, Conspiracy Theories, and Everything in Between
QAnon. The hidden dangers of 5G. The nefarious secret plans of Bill Gates. The global cabal of pedophiles. Massive election fraud. Jewish space lasers. Conspiracy theories have grown like weeds during the pandemic and everyone, it seems, is trying to understand why. And this is not just a phenomenon on the Right. We also see it spreading widely in the alternative health and wellness movements and progressive spirituality, which have tended to be more politically Left. In fact, a new term has been coined to describe this unholy alliance: “conspirituality.” However far-out they may seem, these beliefs are becoming surprisingly common in the networks I’m connected to. So what is going on? How concerned should we be? How do we draw the line between the questioning of authority that has always been a hallmark of the counterculture, and the descent into dangerous fantasy? In order to help me grapple with these questions, I reached out to a very close friend, Craig Hamilton. Today, Craig is a well-known and popular spiritual teacher whose online courses and programs have been enjoyed by many thousands. But I first met Craig almost three decades ago, when we were fellow spiritual seekers and later editors of the magazine What Is Enlightenment? Craig is still one of the first people I turn to when I have a conundrum or a question ricocheting around in my head, and I play the same role for him. We’ve been having deep dialogues about every issue under the sun for a long time, and I’m delighted that I can now invite Craig on my podcast and share these always-insightful conversations in a public forum.
85 minutes | Feb 1, 2021
Brian Muraresku: Psychedelic Sacraments and the Secret History of the Western Mind
When you think of psychedelics, what comes to mind? Probably not the ancient Greeks. Most people associate these mind-altering substances with the hippies of the sixties and seventies, or perhaps with some shamanic traditions. Yet new research suggests that psychedelics may be more deeply entwined in the roots of Western civilization than we realize. My guest today, classics scholar Brain Muraresku, has taken a remarkable journey across the ancient world in search of evidence for this theory. Brian is the author of the bestselling book The Immortality Key: The Secret History of the Religion With No Name. His ideas are finding a welcoming audience today, as our culture undergoes a radical reevaluation of our relationship with psychedelics. As the “war on drugs” gives way to a new era of study and engagement with these substances in both therapeutic, spiritual, and recreational settings, perhaps our culture is also ready to entertain the idea that they played a key role in the shaping of the Western mind, many millennia before the hippies showed up. Did psychedelics empower some of our civilization’s greatest thinkers and mystics—Plato, Socrates, Parmenides, Pythagoras, Plotinus, and others? Were there hidden psychedelics in the stories of Homer? Could an ancient “war on drugs” conducted by church authorities explain the so-called witch-hunts of the Middle Ages? Was there more to the wine of the original Eucharist than we realize? Is there any evidence that Jesus partook? Join Brian and I as we explore these questions and more.
82 minutes | Jan 25, 2021
Ed Freeman: Stakeholder Capitalism and the Opportunity Gap
What is the purpose of a corporation? In 2019, the Business Roundtable, which represents almost 200 of America’s leading CEOs, published an answer to this question, committing to lead their companies “for the benefit of all stakeholders,” by which they meant customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and shareholders. The media jumped on this idea, and it made headlines around the world for its contrast to the traditional view of corporations as existing solely to serve shareholders. But in truth, it wasn’t a new idea at all. The notion of “stakeholder theory” or “stakeholder capitalism” has been around since the 1970s, slowly gaining traction and cultural mindshare. And one of the key proponents and developers of the theory has been Ed Freeman, a professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and author of numerous books and papers on the topic, including most recently The Power of And: Responsible Business Without Trade-Offs. In a culture that is too quick to condemn business as the root of all evils, Ed is a refreshingly positive voice for the transformative power of entrepreneurism. In our conversation, we reflected on how to improve access to opportunity, how to encourage innovation, and why—almost fifty years after its emergence—the notion of stakeholder capitalism is finally getting a moment in the sun.
11 minutes | Jan 22, 2021
Carter's Rants & Reflections, Inauguration Edition: Politics As Process
Following Joe Biden's inauguration, I reflect on the extraordinary but easy-to-miss significance of the peaceful transfer of power, and the evolutionary vision of American politics contained in poet Amanda Gorman's description of our country as "a nation that isn't broken but simply unfinished."
77 minutes | Jan 18, 2021
Jimena Canales: Einstein, Bergson, and the Great Debate about Time
Once upon a time, Henri Bergson had the world at his feet. In the early part of the 20th century, he was the philosopher du jour—celebrated in popular culture, his advice trusted by powerful figures of the day, his lectures attended by thousands, and his writings studied in the salons for which Paris was famed. Yet today, people hardly remember him. And the reason for his diminishment in the annals of history? In a word, Einstein.I have been an admirer of Bergson for many years, and featured his ideas in my book Evolutionaries, but it was only when I recently came across a book by historian of science Jimena Canales that I fully understood why he gets so little love these days. In The Physicist and the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson, and the Debate that Changed Our Understanding of Time, Canales tells the story of a very public clash between the then-respected philosopher and the brilliant young physicist, which culminated in a 1922 debate. The specific topic of their disagreement was the nature of time, but the underlying schism was between two fundamentally different ways of seeing the world. In fact, in some sense it represented the key intellectual fault lines of the twentieth century: between science and the humanities, physics and metaphysics, objective and subjective. In our fascinating conversation, Canales explained to me why the questions Bergson was raising are still so relevant today; how she hopes a new relationship can emerge between the sciences and the humanities; and why—even a hundred years after the infamous debate—taking Bergson seriously is still a risky career move.
72 minutes | Jan 5, 2021
Michael Lind: Populism and the New Class War
What are the causes of political populism? How and why has it manifested so strongly in America? This country is often considered a society in which class is less important, but is that really true? In this episode of Thinking Ahead, Carter speaks to Michael Lind, professor at The University of Texas, about his book The New Class War: Saving Democracy from the Managerial Elite. Lind suggests that a new economic and cultural elite has risen in the last few decades and argues that only by recognizing the nature of this new class can we understand the resistance and frustration that is driving populist sentiment. He calls for a new “democratic pluralism” that can revitalize our body politic and reconnect increasingly alienated political factions. This wide-ranging conversation about the America’s political scene concludes with a discussion about the nature of democracy itself, and its deeper purpose.
33 minutes | Dec 14, 2020
Carter's Rants and Reflections: The Social Dilemma
Netflix’s popular documentary The Social Dilemma is causing millions of viewers to rethink the influence of big tech on our society and ourselves. But does it go too far? In this inaugural "Rants & Reflections" episode of Thinking Ahead, Carter discusses the film and the provocative questions it raises. How do we develop a more conscious relationship with social media and the “attention economy”? Is human psychology just easy prey for the incentives of “likes" and “retweets”? It the situation really as catastrophic as the movie suggests? Are there historical parallels? The personal and societal challenges presented by The Social Dilemma are profound; our response must be equal in intelligence and wisdom. Carter delves into the good, the bad, and the oft-neglected in-between in this thoughtful analysis of technology’s new frontier.
68 minutes | Nov 22, 2020
Steve McIntosh Part 2: Toward a Post-Progressive Golden Age
In the second part of this two-part series with Steve McIntosh, author of Developmental Politics and co-founder of the Institute for Cultural Evolution, Carter and Steve discuss the conflicts between worldviews in American politics. Can we defend the strengths of one worldview without being shackled to its pathologies? How do we protect liberal values that are increasingly under attack? With the rise of climate concerns, the “me too” movement, and the recent racial justice upheavals, progressive politics has come of age and is exerting more influence on the American scene. Can we embrace these more evolved values without enabling their troubling excesses? The work of sorting out progress from pathology is the essence of cultural intelligence and is essential If we are to truly overcome political polarization. This episode of Thinking Ahead envisions a new politics, and posits that today’s seemingly insurmountable troubles might contain the seeds of a new Golden Age.
90 minutes | Nov 23, 2020
Steve McIntosh Part 1: Cultural Intelligence and the Roots of Polarization
Why is America so polarized? Today everyone wants to know. Explanations abound—money in politics, gerrymandering, cronyism in Washington, the two-party system, the electoral college, the primary system, or even the structure of Constitution. While these issues are each worthy of real concern, many are effects rather than causes. In this episode of Thinking Ahead, Carter interviews Steve McIntosh, author of Developmental Politics and co-founder of the Institute for Cultural Evolution, about the underlying cultural issues that are driving our hyper-partisan era. They discuss the historical roots of polarization; the rise of progressive politics in the 1960s and 1970s; and the ways in which progressivism’s new influence has upset the applecart and changed the political dynamics of the country. And they propose the emergence of a new “cultural intelligence” that can help reconcile America’s competing worldviews. Can we integrate progressive concerns without abandoning or condemning other legitimate political views? How do we build a post-progressive coalition can transcend polarization and appeal to more of the country? Is there a way forward that doesn’t involve worsening civil strife and conflict? This episode is a deep dive into a new way of thinking about American politics.
69 minutes | Nov 15, 2020
Jeff Booth: Deflation, Cryptocurrency, and the Coming Reset
Deflation, inflation, debt, interest rates, QE, Federal Reserve policy—for many, words and ideas like these that come from the world of economics might as well be a foreign language. And sometimes, they seem like one. But they are important. In this episode of Thinking Ahead, Carter dives into technology and economics with Jeff Booth, author of The Price of Tomorrow: Why Deflation Is Key to an Abundant Future. Booth is a former entrepreneur and CEO who thinks that the power of technology is making just about everything in our lives cheaper. That could be good—except if you have lots of debt. And today, our economic system is awash in it. Perhaps that’s why, in the past few months, Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell has promised just the opposite—that the Fed is committed to creating inflation, come hell or high water. So what does the future hold—inflation or deflation? How will these dynamics effect politics? Investments? Cryptocurrency? Are we headed into a currency crisis? Are we caught in a debt bubble? This episode is a deep dive into the profound and complex relationship between technology, economics, central banks, and the future of our society.
88 minutes | Nov 8, 2020
Dr. Mark Forman: Trauma, Healing, and the Monster's Journey
Trauma. It’s a term we hear everywhere today, or so it seems. In our psychologically informed age, the idea that many of us—if not all of us—carry around some psychological and even physiological effects from troubled events in our history is commonplace. But what if all trauma was not the same? In this episode of Thinking Ahead, Carter interviews Dr. Mark Forman, author of The Monster’s Journey: From Trauma to Connection. Mark takes listeners on a new archetypal journey of self, one that compares and contrasts to the much better known “Hero’s Journey” archetype made popular by famed mythologist Joseph Campbell. For those who experienced significant early childhood trauma in their own lives, the Monster’s Journey describes the pathway to wholeness, peace, and connection. In their conversation, Mark and Carter explore how to heal the inner “monster” and what a path of recovery might look like. How do we know if our own history might have included the type of trauma that would generate an inner “monster”? How do we break the karmic chain that links generations in traumatic psychological events? Even for those who haven’t undertake the monster’s journey, there is much to learn in this episode that may be relevant in better understanding a friend, companion, family member, or loved one.
85 minutes | Oct 12, 2020
Eric Wargo: Time, Precognition, and the Awakening of the Long Self
Have you ever had a dream that seemed to come true? You are not alone. Some of the most famous people in history have reported having precognitive dreams. Are they just imagining it? Or is there something more interesting going on? In this episode of Thinking Ahead, Carter interviews Eric Wargo, author of the book, Time Loops. Wargo has deeply studied the nature of time and precognition and has come to some fascinating, unconventional conclusions. Is it possible that much supposedly psychic phenomena are actually misinterpreted precognitions? Together, they explore the physics of time, the history of precognition, and how to get in touch with the latent capabilities of our “long self.”
53 minutes | Sep 15, 2020
Robert Bryce: How Electricity Explains the World
Energy and power is fundamental to the information age, and few people bring as much insight and knowledge to the table as Robert Bryce, author of A Question of Power and creator of the new documentary Juice: How Electricity Explains the World. They discuss the future of energy, the role of new technology, Climate Change challenges, and the increasing global demand for electricity. Beginning with a discussion of America’s own efforts to bring energy to rural communities in the 30s, they discuss the developing world. How do we meet the demands of human growth over the next decades without pouring unacceptable amounts of carbon into the air? How do we balance the desire to decarbonize our electricity sector with the need to reduce “energy poverty” and increase opportunity? Will the future of energy be determined by solar? Natural gas? Nuclear? Is green energy a grand illusion or can it address our future energy demands?
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