New Books Network

People have always sought ecstatic experiences – moments where they go beyond their ordinary self and feel connected to something greater than them. Such...

People have always sought ecstatic experiences – moments where they go beyond their ordinary self and feel connected to something greater than them. Such moments are fundamental to human flourishing, but they can also be dangerous. Beginning around the Enlightenment, western intellectual culture has written off ecstasy as ignorance or delusion. But philosopher Jules Evans argues that this diminishes our reality and denies us the healing, connection and meaning that ecstasy can bring.

In his book, The Art of Losing Control: A Philosopher’s Search for Ecstatic Experience (Canongate Books, 2017) he sets out to discover how people find ecstasy in a post-religious culture, how it can be good for us, and also harmful. Along the way, he explores the growing science of ecstasy, to help the reader – and himself – learn the art of losing control.

Evans’ exploration of ecstasy is an intellectual and emotional odyssey drawing on personal experience, interviews, and readings from ancient and modern philosophers. From Aristotle and Plato, via the Bishop of London and Sister Bliss, radical jihadis and Silicon Valley transhumanists, The Art of Losing Control is a funny and thought-provoking journey through under-explored terrain, which Evans creatively maps out like a tour through a festival, with stops at the major pavilions along the way. [complete with a cutely drawn festival map at the front of the book]

Jules Evans is policy director at the Centre for the History of Emotions at Queen Mary, University of London. He is the author of Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations, which was published in 19 countries and was a Times Book of the Year. Evans has written for The Times, Financial Times, Guardian, Spectator and WIRED and is a BBC New Generation Thinker. He also runs the London Philosophy Club, the world’s biggest philosophy club.


Carrie Lynn Evans is a PhD student at Université Laval in Quebec City.