Jon Brooks 5 min read

Jules Evans: A Philosopher’s Guide to Stoicism and Ecstatic Experiences (HEx Podcast #19)

Philosophy Psychology & Happiness art of losing control

Jules Evans on the HighExistence Podcast
Jules Evans on the HighExistence Podcast
You may be having the most extraordinary psychedelic experiences. You may be communicating with DMT-entities. Mamma Ayahuasca might be visiting you nightly. But if it’s not making you a kinder person. Then it’s just a holiday. It’s just a thrill. You might as well just be watching a movie. You might as well be watching Disney’s Fantasia because it’s not making you kinder person. It’s not making you a more loving person. It might even be making you a worse person because you’re becoming a self-regarding, vain dick.

— Jules Evans, HEx Podcast #19
If you look at the literature on ecstatic experiences, it often just focuses on psychedelic experiences, and it says this is the type of experience you can have when you’re on LSD or magic mushrooms or MDMA and so on. That’s a rather narrow way of looking at it. In fact, people have similar kinds of ecstatic experiences in lots of different domains, in lots of different fields of human activity. I’m a big admirer of Aldous Huxley, because I think he more than anyone else had this kind of bird’s eye view of all the different ways in which people get out of their heads and go beyond their ordinary egos.

— Jules Evans, HEx Podcast #19

Jules Evans is a practical philosopher, writer, helps run the largest philosophy club in the world, and played a key role in the modern resurgence of Stoic philosophy. Jules’ first book Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations, explores how ancient Greek and Roman philosophies (particularly Stoicism) can help us flourish today. His second book, The Art of Losing Control, explores how people find ecstatic experiences in modern western culture.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • The wonders and limits of Stoic philosophy
  • Near death experiences
  • Why Aldous Huxley was so great
  • The value of ecstatic experiences
  • Ayahuasca retreats stories
  • The dark side of psychedelics
  • Jules’ most recommended books
  • And tons more…


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plant medicine
plant medicine


  • What to you is the point of philosophy? [02:54]
  • How Jules became interested in Stoicism and Greek philosophy. [04:10]
  • Was your PTSD triggered by a bad LSD experience? [07:27]
  • What Jules could have done differently to manage the fallout from his difficult LSD trip. [10:06]
  • Jon discusses how he believes his levels of neuroticism has declined as he’s gotten older. [11:36]
  • Jon shares his interest in Stoicism. [12:36]
  • Jon explains how he used Stoic techniques to help him cope with the fear of jaw surgery. [13:21]
  • How Jules used Stoicism to help him cope with social anxiety. [14:09]
  • Was simply learning about CBT and Stoicism enough for you to reduce your social anxiety, or was there a practical element too? [16:46]
  • Jules explains how cognitive bias, perfectionism, and poor coping strategies prevented his recovery from anxiety. [19:35]
  • Jules explains what happened in his near death experience (NDE). [22:02]
  • How Jules’ epiphany from his near death experience led him to CBT. [30:54]
  • Stoicism is about being true to the god within you. [32:28]
  • How Jules connected his mystical experience with Stoicism, CBT, and eventually Buddhism. [32:54]
  • Jules explains his role in the modern resurgence of Stoicism. [34:17]
  • Some of the areas of human nature Stoicism doesn’t address. [37:01]
  • Why did you call your second book The Art of Losing Control? [39:34]
  • Jules explains the wide-ranging states of ecstatic experiences. [41:04]
  • What are the main paths to losing control that you discovered in your research? [43:54]
  • Alcohol as a means to escape ordinary consciousness. [45:44]
  • Jules explains what he calls “The Festival of Ecstasy.” [46:59]
  • How war, violence, and crowd rallying can be seen as ecstatic experiences. [52:12]
  • The worship of technology as a substitute for religion. [55:34]
  • The 1960s as the antidote to the Enlightenment’s pathologizing of mystical experiences. [57:04]
  • Why is it normal for many of us fear going beyond our ego and have ecstatic experiences? [58:59]
  • What is a spiritual emergency? [01:05:46]
  • Jules explains how any route to transcendence can become unhealthy if it isn’t approached wisely. [01:09:26]
  • How ecstatic experiences and psychedelics can lead to ego inflation. [01:13:44]
  • Jules discusses his first ayahuasca ceremony. [01:14:18]
  • The easy and the hard path to becoming a shaman. [01:16:34]
  • The dark side of psychedelics. [01:17:39]
  • What can we do to prevent ourselves from falling into the trap of ego-inflation when having ecstatic experiences? [01:19:11]
  • The only value of ecstatic experiences. [01:23:42]
  • Jules explains how after finishing his two books he then saw the limits of them. [01:25:03]
  • The mature Buddhist view of ecstatic experiences. [01:27:11]
  • How do you live your life both on a daily basis and in a more general sense different after doing the research for these two books? [01:29:03]
  • Jules discusses his post-Ayahuasca dissociated experience. [01:31:46]
  • The importance of understanding spiritual emergencies: a spiritual awakening which has temporary psychotic features. [01:34:27]
  • The things that can help people through spiritual emergencies. [01:37:04]
  • Jon shares a story about a friend’s spiritual emergency. [01:40:11]
  • The danger of seeing your experience as unique and special. [01:42:37]
  • The rise in reporting of mystical experiences. [01:45:46]
  • Why we need a mature, nuanced terminology for ecstatic experiences. [01:46:54]
  • What are your favorite books on the topics you write about? [01:48:06]
  • Pema Chodron’s personal crisis. [01:53:06]
  • Closing remarks and where to find out more about Jules. [01:54:18]

By Jules Evans:

On Stoicism:

On Ecstatic Experiences:


Other Books Mentioned:

Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks is a Stoicism teacher and, crucially, practitioner. His Stoic meditations have accumulated thousands of listens, and he has created his own Stoic training program for modern-day Stoics.

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