Stealing Fire Book Summary - Stealing Fire Book explained in key points
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Stealing Fire summary

Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal

How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work

3.9 (166 ratings)
28 mins
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    Stealing Fire
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    The quest for non-ordinary states of consciousness is thousands of years old.

    Nearly two and a half thousand years ago, Alcibiades, a young Greek politician and army general, threw an unforgettable party at his Athens villa. To get his guests in the mood, he served up a special drink called kykeon, which was normally reserved for a select few of Greece’s elite.

    See, this mind-expanding drink was meant to be part of an exclusive, nine-day ritual held each year called the Eleusinian Mysteries. Alcibiades wasn’t invited, but he managed to steal some kykeon anyway to ensure his own soirée was memorably wild. 

    Rumors spread. Alcibiades fled Athens and was sentenced to death in absentia for blaspheming the secrets of Eleusis. But just like the Greek myth of Prometheus, who was punished eternally for stealing fire from the gods of Olympus, Alcibiades’s fate didn’t deter those who came after him from seeking out ways to alter their consciousness. After all, he did get away with it.

    The key message here? The quest for non-ordinary states of consciousness is thousands of years old.

    We don’t know exactly what it was in kykeon that gave its drinkers such spiritual, cathartic experiences. One theory is that the barley in it was contaminated with the ergot fungus – the same one used to make LSD today. Regardless, this type of ecstasis clearly wasn’t intended for the plain Janes and average Joes of ancient Greece.

    Today, twenty-first-century Prometheans are changing that, but their own versions of kykeon take many forms.

    The authors met with all sorts of individuals – from military personnel and elite athletes to tech entrepreneurs and health-care providers. Their research showed that across the board, people are seeking ways to improve performance by changing their sense of reality and achieving some form of ecstasis.

    Trial lawyers have experimented with psychopharmaceutical drugs. Military officers have spent weeks at meditation retreats. And stock traders on Wall Street have shocked their brains into ecstasis with electrodes.

    When you add up the money we spend trying to get out of our own heads, you end up with an Altered States Economy of about $4 trillion annually. This includes legal substances like alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine; illicit drugs like cocaine, methamphetamines, and heroin; and pharmaceuticals, psychiatric counseling, video games, action sports, music, and film. Throw in pornography and social media, and there you have it.

    But how well do we really understand the mechanics of ecstasis?

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    What is Stealing Fire about?

    Stealing Fire (2017) explores the controversial and exciting pursuit of altered states of consciousness. From tech entrepreneurs to BASE jumpers, meditators to festival-goers, it takes readers on a whirlwind tour of the revolutionary nonconformists trying to change the way they experience the world.

    Who should read Stealing Fire?

    • Burning Man enthusiasts
    • Entrepreneurs curious about performance hacks
    • Psychology buffs interested in alternative therapies

    About the Author

    Steven Kotler is a New York Times best-selling author who specializes in human performance. He’s been nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes and has appeared in over 100 publications, including the Atlantic and the Harvard Business Review. His other books include The Rise of Superman, Bold, and The Art of Impossible.

    Jamie Wheal is the founder of the Flow Genome Project, an international organization that researches human performance. He has given talks at Stanford University, Imperial College London, and the United Nations. Wheal is also the author of Recapture the Rapture.

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