Subcultures


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The Bray family reading bedtime stories at the Family of the Mystic Arts Commune. Photo by John Olson/LIFE Picture Collection/Getty
Essay/
Subcultures
Utopia Inc

Most utopian communities are, like most start-ups, short-lived. What makes the difference between failure and success?

Alexa Clay

Essay/
Philosophy of religion
Undercover atheists

Seduced by science and rationalism, yet tied to their families and communities, Hasidic atheists opt for a double life

Batya Ungar-Sargon

Brotherhood. A young Argentinan legionnaire and his colleagues make fun of their instructor at the base in Nimes, France, 31 August 2015. Photo by Edouard Elias from his series Patria Nostra .
Essay/
War and peace
The legend of the Legion

His cap is bleached as white as the bones of a Saharan camel. Is the romance of the French Foreign Legion a cult of death?

Robert Twigger

Photo by Eric Lafforgue/Gamma-Rapho/Getty
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Cognition and intelligence
How totalism works

The brainwashing methods of isolation, engulfment and fear can lead anyone to a cult. I should know – I was in one

Alexandra Stein

Cult or religion? The Easter 'Passion of the Christ' procession in Comayagua, a small town in Honduras. Photo by Teun Voeten/Panos
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Subcultures
What is a cult?

Cults are exploitative, weird groups with strange beliefs and practices, right? So what about regular religions then?

Tara Isabella Burton

Raving in the ‘90s. Photo by PYMCA/UIG/Getty
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History
Drugs du jour

LSD in the ’60s; ecstasy in the ’80s; ‘smart’ drugs today: how we get high reflects the desires and fears of our times

Cody Delistraty

Photo by Luke MacGregor/Reuters
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Fairness and equality
Not born this way

Other liberation movements have rejected the idea that biology is destiny. So why should gay rights depend on it?

Shamus Khan

Subversive technology. Photo by Hossein Fatemi/Panos Pictures

Essay/
Information and communication
The hacker hacked

The hacker ethos is wild and anarchic, indifferent to the trappings of success. Or it was, until the gentrifiers moved in

Brett Scott

Far from the madding crowd; Michelle Nijhuis, her husband and daughter in Colorado. Photo by JT Thomas
Essay/
The environment
The ghost commune

Unplugging from the electrical grid was relatively easy. What we didn’t realise was that we needed the human grid, too

Michelle Nijhuis

Participants in a traditional Ayahuasca ritual of spiritual and physical healing in La Calera, Cundinamarca, Colombia in 2014. Photo by Eitan Abramovich/AFP/Getty
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Consciousness and altered states
Model hallucinations

Psychedelics have a remarkable capacity to violate our ideas about ourselves. Is that why they make people better?

Philip Gerrans & Chris Letheby

Music fans at Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow, Scotland, 27 May 1984. Photo by Daily Record/Mirrorpix/Getty
Essay/
Music
Now THAT was music

One grim day (when youth is over) you find that new music gets on your nerves. But why do our musical tastes freeze over?

Lary Wallace

Photo by stereohype/Getty

Essay/
Subcultures
The spirit molecule

The theory that the brain produces its own psychedelic compound provokes pop-culture enthusiasm and scientific controversy

Graham St John

Photo courtesy the author

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Gender and identity
Why be nonbinary?

A world segregated into male and female categories feels suffocating. Nonbinary identity is a radical escape hatch

Robin Dembroff

The Battle of Karbala by Abbas Al-Musavi. Late 19th - early 20th C. Brooklyn Musuem. Photo by Corbis
Essay/
History of ideas
Return of the king

The ‘cosplay Caliphate’ of ISIS is a deadly fantasy, but a familiar one in the West. It feeds the same urges as Tolkien

Benjamin Dueholm

A Dalit woman carrying water in Orissa, India. Mikkel Ostergaard/Panops
Essay/
Human rights and justice
Caste lives on, and on

Indian society deludes itself that caste discrimination is a thing of the past, yet it suffuses the nation, top to bottom

Prayaag Akbar

From The Song of Los (1795) by William Blake. Courtesy Library of Congress
Essay/
Computing and artificial intelligence
fAIth

The most avid believers in artificial intelligence are aggressively secular – yet their language is eerily religious. Why?

Beth Singler

Illustration by Gerda Wegener (1886-1940) for the newspaper The Sourire (1925) Paris, France. Photo by Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images

Essay/
Gender and identity
Transgender: a dialogue

The conversation about trans identities has been riven by bitter divisions. Two philosophers offer radically different perspectives

Sophie-Grace Chappell & Holly Lawford-Smith

Courtesy of Big Robot Games/Jim Rossignol

Essay/
Computing and artificial intelligence
Hunger games

A new wave of videogames offers lessons in powerlessness, scarcity and inevitable failure. What makes them so compelling?

Will Wiles

Children of the followers of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh at the Medina Commune in Suffolk, England, in 1984. Photo by the David Reed Archive/Alamy

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Biography and memoir
The lost children

The adults who joined Bhagwan’s ashram sought freedom, love and light. Many of their children found darkness instead

Lily Dunn