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Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred Paperback – May 30, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Kripal’s erudite writing, interspersed with snippets of humour, moves along at an enthusiastic pace; it is evident that he finds this area of study exciting, both personally and academically. Rather than dismissing the paranormal as pseudo-science or belonging only to the rat-bag fringe, Kripal suggests instead that a more gainful approach is to investigate how the paranormal might bridge the sacred and the scientific. . . . This is an intriguing and daring book. . . . that greatly contributes to those discussions and suggests methodologies that can integrate the humanities and the sciences, the brain/mind distinctions, contemporary neuroscience, and psychical research.”
(Lynne Hume Journal of Contemporary Religion)

About the Author

Jeffrey J. Kripal is the J. Newton Rayzor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought at Rice University. He is the author of several books, including Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion and The Serpent’s Gift:Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (November 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226453871
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226453873
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #193,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
If there is one common human responsibility, it is to evolve beyond our parents. Jeff Kripal has moved this responsibility to another level. He is one of the few academics in religious studies who has evolved out of dogma of scientific-materialist and absolute cultural relativisms. This is no mean accomplishment considering that one first has to conform and perform excellently to get into a top graduate institution. Once there, the orthodoxy is more deeply inculcated and conformity is closely supervised. Then, just to make sure no heretics slip through, there is a seven-year probation period with peer review at every corner before one has the possibility of achieving academic tenure. No wonder the world passes academia by. Congratulations to Dr. Jeff and to his editor at the University of Chicago Press. How often is an author allowed judicially to use the f*** word in academic discourse?

Dr. Jeff has written a book about a variety of unexplained phenomena (e.g., paranormal and psi) from a 21st-century perspective. This means that he has moved beyond dualistic either/or thinking and beyond the taboo of subjectivity (see B. Alan Wallace's great book with the same name). Indeed, at his best Dr. Jeff has demonstrated cases of a nondual confluence of subject-object (for Schroedinger fans, it can be expressed metaphorically but not literally as the collapse of the wave function) as he delves into what has heretofore been "forbidden knowledge." It has been forbidden because any inquiry with any degree of openness into these realms reveals the (appalling IMO) explanatory poverty of science or religious studies paradigms. This book, in a very polite, erudite, entertaining, and direct way shows just how "the King has no clothes."

What does this mean? A lot.
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Format: Hardcover
"Authors" relays historically that there are a select few who are not timid to face, to embrace reality. Everyone knows that answers provided by conventional culture are lacking, but despite this realization, few have the courage to explore their own intuition. To succumb to traditional answers is the easy way, but as in Plato's cave allegory, they are illusionary and offer only temporary relief.

Jeff Kripal provides an historical summary of phenenomal events. He chronicles the work of four remarkable authors dating from the time of Mark Twain to the present who undertook research on the paranormal and were unafraid to publish their findings.

"Authors" is about a group of courageous pioneers. Kripal is clearly the present day leader.

The book is riveting. It goes beyond the mental filter of orthodoxy into the realm of the impossible.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is an absolute must! it's implications are extremely far-reaching: It deals with the very core of our consciousness. This book will literally transform your view of the world. I do not know any academic author who writes like Jeff Kripal - he engages the reader all along, fluidly moving between registers - intellectual history, theory and popular culture. His humor is especially great. If you are teaching anything - recommend it to your students!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have to say this was one of the most exciting books I've ever read. As a French literature scholar, the references to French theorists and writers was certainly a draw. For instance, I'd never heard of the 19th-century psychic Alexis Didier and his influence on Balzac, Dumas and Baudelaire. My own writing on the atypical wiring, early life experiences, and paranormal activities of poetic geniuses [In Their Right Minds: The Lives and Shared Practices of Poetic Geniuses] shares many common findings with Kripal's.

While I've always been a skeptic about UFO sightings, the historic connection to religious visions was particularly interesting and made sense. Plus, who am I to say we are the only sentient beings in this big wide Universe, where the time / space continuum also affords interesting possibilities for paranormal encounters. Speaking of encounters, I had no idea that the French scientist in Spielberg’s movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” was based on Jacques Vallée, one of the “authors of the impossible” that Kripal studies.

I see how many people either loved or loathed Authors of the Impossible. Personally, I found Kripal’s style to be as engaging, even friendly and often funny, as it was scholarly and thoughtful. I was so enthralled that I read through the whole thing in a week.
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Format: Hardcover
Jeffrey Kripal has a weird style. I've never seen a Chicago UP book with so many three word sentences. Really just three.

And four word paragraphs.

And f$#%&ing bad language.

For effect.

I had to force myself to get through the first 50 or so pages. His flashy hippy-geek-mystic persona mellows out toward the end, however. (Or maybe I just got used to it.) But then his persona is part of the point, and I generally sympathize with that point. Kripal is selling us an alternative narrative of modern experience, a narrative that has been marginalized by the dogmatic tendency of organized religion and, more importantly, institutional science. Kripal is busting out, and he sounds like it. He has a refreshingly confident way of telling us that the world is weird. Very weird. Paranormally weird. (And that is just how he would say it.) Most useful to me, he gives us a way of talking about the undoubtedly "subjective" character of paranormal events--he focuses on UFOs, but the same applies to NDEs, spirit communication, etc.--while affirming their empirical reality. The key insight of the whole book is what he calls the "dialectic of consciousness and culture," which is basically postmodernism regrounded in a metaphysics of consciousness. Consciousness is a real thing that is really pushing the world somewhere, but the only way we ever know pure consciousness is through a kaleidoscope of stories that write themselves through ourselves, through language, and--impossibly--the natural world.

Kripal does not quite allay my concern with the diffuse character and absence of clear moral direction in the"New Age.
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