Note: Erik will be speaking with the author of the book, Mike Jay, live at 2pm EST today on his new weekly internet radio show Expanding Mind over at http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com — Ed.
The universe is made of thoughts
by Erik Davis (techgnosis.com)
The Atmosphere of Heaven, Mike Jay’s latest book of hard-as-nails history of consciousness, tells the curious story of the Pneumatic Institution, a somewhat heretical outpost of British medical exploration where chemistry, poetry, and Jacobin politics crossed. Researchers at the Institution, founded at the close of the eighteenth century by the clearly excellent Thomas Beddoes, had the good fortune and cleverness to discover, at the turn of the nineteenth century, the giddy metaphysical glee of sucking down bags of nitrous oxide. Jay enlivens his story with well-drawn characters—including Samuel Coleridge, the brilliant Humphry Davy, and the very fat and lovable Dr. Beddoes—while the economic, political, and philosophical turbulence of the time is almost too vividly invoked. Indeed, though Jay’s exacting assessment of the era’s struggles with tyranny, recession, war, and the deflation of liberty curtail some of the book’s escapist potential, these contemporary shudders are somewhat compensated by the modestly comforting realization that, at least as far as modernity goes, it was ever thus.