Book Club Channel
Paranormal America: An Interview with Jeffrey Kripal
In terms of the religious resistance and the gross demonization of the paranormal, even this makes sense, since if paranormal events are basically pre-religious revelations, then they also likely challenge the existing revelations. They are, if you will, the future of revelation. One can well understand, then, why they would be resisted. That too needs to be queried, needs to be understood. We also need to take very seriously that individuals often experience a paranormal event in profoundly negative terms, as "demonic." The sacred is not the good. The sacred can be positive or negative, or both at the same time.
Do you expect this book to change anyone's mind? About what?
Oh, I have written too many books and read too many stupid reviews to be naïve about changing anyone's mind. I'm not sure people change their deep views so easily. I think worldviews and metaphysical assumptions—which is what I am really going after here—are held largely on an unexamined and inaccessible level, "unconsciously," as we say. What I do think a book like this can do is provide a truly open mind with better frameworks to take seriously something the person wanted to take seriously anyway, but couldn't. I think this book, if read in conjunction with my earlier book Authors of the Impossible (which is essentially an intellectual history of the paranormal and the psychical), can do that. I hope so anyway.
You've said that one of your concerns is that the book will be read and presented as a historical reflection on religion and pop culture, when it is really about deep metaphysical issues and religious questions as these are addressed through pop culture. Can you say more about the claims that your authors and artists (and you through them) are making about the nature of consciousness, the imagination, the paranormal and the nature of time?
Sure. I sum these up in the book in two phrases: the Human as Two and Time as Two. By the Human as Two, I refer to the common experience of my authors and artists that they are two: a finite, socially constructed, temporal social ego; and an infinite, spaceless, timeless Mind. This claim in turn implies the other, namely, that Time is Two. There is the tick-tock, linear flow of ordinary time; and there is the Presence or Now of eternity, of a form of consciousness that is not in space-time and so is not born, does not die, and is—to use the traditional theological expressions—immortal and divine. My authors return again and again to this doctrine not as a piece of speculation, but as a living, direct experience. They do not "think" this. They know this.
In terms of my approach to the imagination, I am very much in line with my colleague Jess Hollenback on this one. Usually, the human imagination is a producer of fantasies, a dreamer, a daydreamer. But sometimes, sometimes, it is infused or "empowered" by weird metaphysical energies. In these moments of influx, the human imagination is no longer a projector but a kind of "translator" or "mediator" of Mind, which communicates, which probably can only communicate, to the social ego through symbol and myth. Here the fantasy is also the fact. The trick is the truth.
Let's rewrite the subtitle. What other pithy phrases sum up this book?
The original subtitle was "The Secret Life of a Superpower." I was trying to get at the idea here that American culture possesses a kind of hidden life, a secret story, and that this secret life revolves around the category of the paranormal. Let's just face it: America is a paranormal culture.