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Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal Hardcover – November 15, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 376 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; First Edition edition (November 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226453839
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226453835
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6.4 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"An invigorating read, and a cross-cultural bonanza you never saw coming. Boldly embracing the enigmatic Id, Jeffrey Kripal has gathered the silver threads of grand mythologies, sacred texts, and mystical creeds, binding them to the visionary Super-Ego at the heart of modern literature’s bastard sons--comic books and science fiction."

(Barry Windsor-Smith)

"Mutants and Mystics chronicles the emergence of a complex and startlingly dangerous energy in our world.  Because we don't know what it is, we identify it as paranormal. But perhaps what it should really be called is 'abnormally powerful,' for, as Jeff Kripal reveals with satisfying skill in this book, it has come to define the very essence of the popular imagination. Instead of fairies and sylphs and gorgons, our rationalist world is defied by a folklore of superheroes, supervillains, and dangerous strangers, and, as I know all too well, can be shattered by them in some very real ways. Mutants and Mystics is the first book that shines the light of reason and insight into this swarming forest. As a wanderer here, I found the light that poured from these pages as blessed as it is breathtaking."

(Whitley Strieber, author of Communion)

"For most of the history of popular culture, the creators and the academics--the storytellers and the scholars--have sat in different rooms, in different houses, virtually on different worlds, having virtually no contact with each other. Even when the professors began to discover the secret, inner meanings and contexts of B-movies and comic books and science-fiction pulps, there was little contact between the classroom and the creators.  Now, however, Jeffrey J. Kripal has come along--both analyst and aficionado, examiner and enthusiast. He bridges the gap between spirituality and its sometimes seedy outcroppings in pop culture, and forges—or rather, reveals--a synthesis that was really there all along, if so many guys with PhD’s hadn't had a vested interest in not recognizing it. More power to him, I say! Or rather--more super-power!"

(Roy Thomas, writer of The Uncanny X-Men, Fantastic Four , The Incredible Hulk ,)

"Jeffrey Kripal is not only serious about some very strange stuff in Mutants and Mystics, he is seriously smart and singularly thought-provoking about it. Trust me, I've been there and this book is an excellent guide, maybe even a new map of mysterious terrain first charted in antiquity. Always scholarly yet never stuffy, always fun but never superficial, Mutants and Mystics makes a solid case for contemplating ancient myth as secret (if garbled) history and demonstrates how that myth/history is perpetuated in pop culture, whether today's creators are fully aware of what they're doing or not."

(Doug Moench, author of Batman and The Big Book of the Unexplained)

"The message is that we need to step backwards from our culture to see these hidden patterns, and in this endeavor Kripal provides new maps of the secret world of superpowers. To access these deep strata of reality and to achieve a measure of self-realisation, we need to embrace this strangeness and not be frightened of it. . . . Kripal has a lively style and a deep love of (perhaps reverence for) his subject matter."
(Fortean Times)

(Times Literary Supplement)

About the Author

Jeffrey Kripal is the J. Newton Rayzor Professor of Religion and chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University. He is the author of six books, including Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion and Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Dr. Kripal challenges our very way of thinking and invites us into a more vibrant world.
Colin Cox
It's revealed that the supernatural evokes a sort of sexual stimulation in it's readers and connects us with deeper layers of mind.
Daniel J. Neiman
I myself have been experiencing things that are talked about in this book and it blew my mind to know that others have too!

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By R. Perry on October 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What do superheroes Superman, X-Men and Fantastic 4 have in common with the paranormal, Jacques Vallee, Whitley Streiber, Charles Fort, ? EVERYTHING . . .according to Jeffrey Kripal. WOW . .. what a cool book. Mutants and Mystics helps to bridge the gap between spiritually and pop culture with an exciting and thought provoking read, so much so, I had to put it down frequently to let his ideas just "soak in". Like many baby boomers, I've always been interested in comic books, super heros, sci-fi movies and paranormal phenomenea. This scholary and fun to read book focuses on how the paranormal has helped to generate the pop culture genres of science fiction, superhero comics and pulp fiction.
The author details numerous personal histories and colorful anecdotes which include amazing paranormal experiences of authors and artists alike. I especially enjoyed learning more about Ray Thomas, the "Amazing Stories" history and his own paranormal experiences; Barry Windsor-Smith's UFO encounter and pre-cognitive experiences; Philip K. Dick's gnostic beliefs and fantastic personal visions, just to name a few. After reading the chapter discussing Jack Kirby's wonderful world of aliens, ancient astronauts, mutants, counter culture and consciousness, I've got a new appreciation for my childhood interest in comic books. I felt like I was reading a "hidden history" of American culture. Buy the book, you won't be disappointed.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bill Bridges on November 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was written just for me. I swear Jeffrey Kripal telepathically scanned my mind and knew all the buttons to push to make me devour this book. For someone like me who has spent years reading and writing sci-fi and weird horror in pop culture mediums - comics and games -- it's a welcome relief to see an academic take it all seriously. Well, not so serious as to make it boring and stuffy. Kripal admits that it was his remembering his love of comics as a kid that called him to take a fresh look at what comics have been telling us all these years, in light of his religious studies scholarship. That and a synchronistic X in a parking lot upon exiting an X-Men movie.

The book explores the intersection of pop culture - specifically comics and the sci-fi pulps - and the paranormal, and finds things are stranger and more uncanny than most readers, let alone sci-fi fans, are aware of. Kripal reveals the many hidden themes that all-too-often synchronistically crop up in comics and the lives of those who author them. He proposes that we are living in a Super-Story, an over-riding narrative behind the many sub-narratives we tell ourselves in pop culture. Well, we think we're telling these stories, but we ourselves are being written. By what and by whom? That remains mysterious and rather Gnostic, but once we come to Realization we can move to Authorization and becomes "authors of the impossible" writing the stories of our own lives.

This is a good companion book to Grant Morrison's Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By ghostcat on November 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mutants and Mystics will delight religion scholars, spiritual seekers, comics fans, and also all interested in American culture. Though Kripal is primarily interested in individuals, and tells their story wonderfully, he does offer profound insights on 20th century politics and society. The art work is an extra treat. I have read perhaps hundreds of books in 2011, and this was by far the best. Kripal's books just get better and better.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By David Dark on January 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this gift of a book, Kripal carefully dissolves those conventional divisions that would keep our storied enthusiasms and insights (sacred in their way) isolated from our sense of daily existence. Our worlds are even weirder than we thought, and Mutants & Mystics goes a long way toward overcoming the consensual delusions that keep us so bored, unhappy, and violent. Get this book, and get busy.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Kripal has basically provided an in depth study into a subject that links the development of various paranormal phenomena from the turn of the 20th century to the present (i.e., to the beginning of the 2nd decade of the 21st century) with the growth of the fictional mediums of comic books and the sci-fi genre in general. The paranormal has always encompassed a set of chimeric phenomena, reacting and appearing to those who experience it in accordance with the specific cultural beliefs, tropes, and expectations of any given society and time period. The role of human consciousness in determining what given form both reality and para-reality takes, the purpose of paranormal phenomena and sci-fi fiction in shaping human evolution, and the amazingly intriguing concept of what Krigal describes as the Super Script - the concept that humanity collectively "writes" our own reality in subtle but dramatic fashion through any given era's mythology, folklore, and fiction - is described in great detail culled from very thorough research. As part of this study, Kripal demonstrates how time is clearly not linear as it appears to be to our limited human perceptions - it seems the future can actually affect the past as well as the reverse in ways we are scarcely aware of - and he describes how many well-known personages in crafting the most enduring and iconic characters and stories in comic book fiction and sci-fi prose have experienced significant paranormal phenomena that had a profound impact on the fiction they crafted. The implications of the material researched in this book on the sometimes thin connection between reality and what we commonly consider fiction, and on the physical, mental, and spiritual development of the human species, is potentially staggering. If you are a fan of comic books and sci-fi in general as well as an avid student of the paranormal, this book is a must-read for you!
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