Book Club Channel
Paranormal America: An Interview with Jeffrey Kripal
What was the hardest thing about writing this book?
Knowing when to stop. Deciding what not to write about. My editors at Chicago were so patient with me, but they also had to tell me when to stop, when to cut. You want me to do what? That was so hard. There was blood on the cutting room floor. Blood everywhere.
Which chapter was the easiest to write?
The chapter on the mytheme of Mutation, which is really about Esalen and my dear friend and spiritual mentor, my Professor X, Michael Murphy, who co-founded Esalen. I could have written that chapter in my sleep. Maybe I did.
What other books are you reading at the moment, and what is inspiring you currently?
I've been reading a good deal about neuroscience and the two hemispheres of the brain: David Eagleman, my colleague across the street over at Baylor Medical School, on Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain; now Leonard Shlain on The Alphabet and the Goddess; soon Iain McGilchrist on The Master and His Emissary. I just think so many of our philosophical assumptions in the academy boil down to the left hemisphere making fun of and rejecting the right hemisphere. This is clearly a mistake. It's so pointless, and so dangerous. I don't want to make fun of the left hemisphere now. I admire all that reason, language, and math. I just want to get the right hemisphere back into the conversation, with all that imagination, art, intuition, and, frankly, mystical experience. The Human as Two again.
Often, the best book ideas come while you're writing a book. Have you started the next one?
Embarrassingly, there are a number of books in the works. I'm working with Wiley-Blackwell on a next-generation textbook on how to compare religious phenomena, for example. Also, my editors at Chicago want me to write a history of sexuality and religion in America. This has been a constant theme in my work. I need to return to that base. Lots to say there, to put it mildly. But I am also realizing that I have said a great deal over the last two decades, maybe too much, and that I need to synthesize and organize all of this in some accessible fashion for the next generation. What is it that I have said, really? What are these books truly about? I actually feel this need quite intensely, to be frank and honest about the matter. I thus want to work on a major theoretical statement about the mystical roots of the study of religion and why comparison remains, and must remain, our primary method.
I also want to go after the materialism and scientism that I think has pretty much shackled and silenced the humanities in contemporary culture. I want to help regenerate and revision the humanities as a fundamentally hopeful practice. This major theoretical statement will be titled something like The Human as Two: Comparativism Unbound. My sci-fi and comic book artists and authors are definitely part of the inspiration here. They already know this.
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