Paranormal Activity

Once in a great while books with the potential to shift paradigms come along. These rare books often deal with taboo subjects, those areas of inquiry forbidden even to the most educated sectors of society. One of those books is Jeffrey Kripal’s Authors of the Impossible. I bought this book because of its subtitle: The Paranormal and the Sacred. I have argued before that paranormal subjects are very closely related to religion, but it is so unusual to find another scholar who openly takes on this question that I was shocked at finding Authors of the Impossible. Kripal is an academic who is willing to consider what is, as he admits, impossible. Those who’ve read deeply in the record of human experience, however, know that weirdness has accompanied us from the time we could write it down. It stands to reason that the uncanny stretches back before even that singular hallmark of human development. I have suggested elsewhere that it might even be the origin of religion itself.

Universities are establishment institutions. Free inquiry is not free, as I’m sure advocates of the National Security Act are glad to know. Most university professors who’ve seen a ghost or some unidentified object in the sky or an anomalous creature will never admit it. The easy equation of such things with mental instability keeps establishment people in line. It also cuts off honest inquiry into things people have experienced for centuries. Kripal is unafraid. In this book he considers the works of explorers most academics refuse to take seriously, despite their obvious intellectual ability: Frederic Meyrs, Charles Fort, Jacques Vallee, and Bertrand Méheust. Let’s have a show of hands: who has heard of any of them, except maybe Charles Fort? Each of these explorers was/is very educated. Each takes an aspect of the paranormal seriously. As Kripal points out, we will accept a physicist from CERN telling us that the impossible happens at the quantum level, but if you see a UFO you belong in an asylum. Is it because the paranormal violates not only the laws of physics, but also the laws of religion?

Life is too large to take it all in. We don’t even know what consciousness is. This is a question to which Kripal returns to conclude his book. His suggestion is that the paranormal is a literary hermeneutic—we are written by forces and powers outside our knowledge. Without denying science, indeed, while advocating it, Kripal suggests that it is not the whole picture. We are animals with two brains fused into one, and even scientists and materialists feel the sting and caress of emotion. Kripal is brave enough to assert that the emotive, imaginary side is just as real as the rational, materialist side. Noone can seriously doubt science and step onto a jet, Kripal shows that one need not doubt science to step onto a UFO either. If we are willing to participate in the reality our minds generate, the potential for human evolution really explodes. The only problem with Authors of the Impossible is that it is too short. An extremely deft writer, Kripal makes you laugh and think at the same time. And when you’re done, you’ll realize just how weird the world really is.

6 thoughts on “Paranormal Activity

  1. Henk v in the "bat cave"

    If someone documented the paranormal as real and detectable (if you can hear see and feel it, detectors could pick it up from a distance) it would be an earth shattering discovery in physics.

    As it stands, the paranormal is entertainment (deep personal massage for some) just like any other religion be it one that involves gods, alternate “medicine” or organic biscuits.

    Remember the cookie cutter came first Steve.

    Yes, I do enjoy mythology, sometimes for its complexities and sometimes just because mythology students cant be bothered looking out a window at night.

    All of the above requires somebody to leave their critical thinking skills. Philosophy is a great tool, but it doesnt get you a cookie cutter.

    The bit about the two brains fused to one is of course literary license I hope?


  2. Steve Wiggins

    Good points, Henk. I recommend Kripal’s explanation–it is much better than mine. About the two brains, I must confess to being in two minds about it.


  3. Mud and Foath

    I’ll take just one random Point you made in the piece;

    “Kripal points out, we will accept a physicist from CERN telling us that the impossible happens at the quantum level, but if you see a UFO you belong in an asylum. Is it because the paranormal violates not only the laws of physics, but also the laws of religion?”.

    Its not the impossible that happens at the quantum level. To you it may be impossible to Kripal it may be impossible. When making repeatable measurements and working out what has happened leads to further prediction you have done the highly unlikely until you had a decent collider.

    In making such a statement, Kripal has drawn a red herring across the path of a very bad argument about UFO’s .

    Why Kripal uses UFO’s as an argument for the paranormal is beyond me.


  4. Pingback: Paranormal Activity |

  5. Henk..

    Pyramids power sites? Only since that deliberate gag article in SciAm from 1969..

    Its a joke that appears to have gone too far in US consciousness…what’s next? eric von D ?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.