Monday, October 25, 2010

Demand the Impossible, Part 2: Creating New Impossibilities

If you haven't already, please read part one of this discussion here.

CK: How do the authors you choose to focus on process this shifting reality? In other words how can they justify this seemingly imperceptible fluidity to themselves as rational beings?

Jeff Kripal: Reason does not exhaust who we are and how we know. We also know the world through intuition, instinct, dream, altered states, meaningful coincidences, precognitions, and so on. No author I treat would deny reason, nor would I. They would simply question reason's ability to exhaust the nature of the real.

So what are the nuts and bolts of the Impossible? Is this something that we will understand through quantum mechanics, or is this like a carrot at the end of a celestial stick that is ultimately driving our evolution?

I am suspicious of any future promise of the scientific method to "explain" paranormal experiences, although I can well see how better science might make room for such events in its modeling. Honestly, I think this is part of the problem, that is, I think one of the major reasons we have not properly appreciated and understood psychical phenomena is that we imagine that they can only be fitted into the scientific method, that there are no other ways of knowing the world other than science. The result, of course, is that whatever dimensions of that world that do not happen to fit into this kind of objectivism and materialism get "erased" as unreal, illusory, etc. We thus fail to understand them at all.

How would you respond to a typical skeptic, who'd charge that this is all imaginary; that cold, hard reality is a constant?

Reality is cold and hard only to those who approach it with the conviction that it is cold and hard. Scientific materialism is a worldview like any other. It is astonishingly useful to do all sorts of things with, so it is obviously partially true, but it itself cannot establish itself as an absolute and final truth. Most of our experiences, moreover, do not support it.

That is why scientific materialism always excludes first-person experience as "anecdotal" (a true cop-out) and denies the existence of the subject or psyche on its own terms. It cannot account for the nature of consciousness qua consciousness. So it denies that it exists at all. Which is absurd.

One of the side effects of looking into these matters can be a sense of hopelessness (Keel, especially), which is endemic in our society now anyway. What gives you hope and keeps you engaged in topics that many of your peers might simply dismiss?

Ultimately, I think the paranormal phenomena are immensely hopeful and expansive, as they suggest, to me anyway, a form of consciousness so great and so grand that we cannot imagine it other than in religious or "divine" terms. I am not suggesting that these things are signs of "God," but I am suggesting that they are signs of a kind of superconsciousness that would raise our estimation of human nature immeasurably.

Our egos, social selves, or religious identities, of course, are not always ready for this expansion, and so they experience this form of superconsciousness as threatening, terrifying, dark, and so on. Keel was a very honest observer here, but his books also contain an unmistakable "mystical" streak that is ultimately positive and at least potentially expansive and hopeful.

Are people like Vallee, Keel or Fort simply strange attractors? Meaning are they keyed into an aspect of reality - on more than just a theoretical basis - that many others can not experience? And what creates this kind of individual?

Very simply, what I think is that human beings are normally too well put together to experience such things, but that in those situations in life where the ego is temporarily compromised or even erased (car wrecks, serious trauma, psychopathology, yes, and psychedelics), the real comes "rushing in" because it CAN now. It is not being "blocked" or "filtered out" by the brain and a healthy ego. I am not suggesting that such experiences are pathological, but I am suggesting that pathology is one, of many, ways to catalyze them

When you read about ancient religious figures you see that 'intuition, instinct, dream, altered states, meaningful coincidences, precognitions, and so on' are the actual basis of their experience. Do you feel that fact is threatening to people- that there's this big need for the skies to literally open and the answer from on high to be handed down?

If you mean, do I think that the paranormal is threatening to religious systems because it implies that institution and mediation are not always necessary, yes, I think that. The paranormal is as demonized in religion as it is in science.

You're at the leading edge of a very strange and still unformed impulse that takes the Impossible seriously. Do you this developing into a movement, or is the Impossible too subjective to act as a unifying principle?

I certainly do not want to be part of yet another movement, much less another religion. We have quite enough of those, don't we? I would rather help catalyze a new way of thinking and being in the world, something more akin to an artistic movement or school of thought. I'm just trying to think about this stuff honestly. I'm just trying to describe what I see. I don't claim any omniscience here.

You've had a close relationship with Esalen- do you see that institution returning on a larger scale to dealing more directly with the Impossible? If not, do you see other institutions taking all of this more seriously?

I'm a huge fan of Esalen and any other institution that attempts to wander into these "third realms" beyond reason and beyond belief. My sense here is that such places fill incredibly crucial roles in our society, and that they are functioning as "signals from the future" of new ways of organizing our knowledge, our societies, and, perhaps most important of all, our relationship to the natural world.

The past ways and the present ways are certainly not working. Part of this future envisioning will certainly involve what I call the Impossible, that is, it will involve embracing more and more of reality into a fuller and fuller vision of human nature and its astonishing scope. That is all, in the end, I am really asking for: that we not underestimate ourselves; that we appreciate just how weird and wonderful the human being is as an expression of the immeasurably larger and weirder evolving cosmos; that we come to know our own supernature.

For more information of Jeff and his upcoming documentary, click here.


  1. Once again, some really great work, interesting indeed. Not much else I can say, really.

  2. @Chris K,
    Yep! Raj said it... "AWESOME"!

    I particularly love this answer...

    a form of consciousness so great and so grand that we cannot imagine it other than in religious or "divine" terms. I am not suggesting that these things are signs of "God," but I am suggesting that they are signs of a kind of superconsciousness that would raise our estimation of human nature immeasurably.

    I think, perhaps the expiry date of the word "PARANORMAL" has just about been reached. It certainly is appearing that what we once categorized under that catch-all term is actually more NORMAL than we once thought.

    ... at least I remain, as always, HOPEFUL!

    (and I should add, I'm also appreciative of your finely honed wordsmithing skills!)

    To add to the answer above with a comment towards the noted resistance in the scientific community to acknowledge or explore certain phenomena...

    internal emotional conflicts arise in accepting a living UNIVERSE or a superconsciousness ... as the notion of such certainly makes it more difficult for us to conduct warfare, profit at another's loss, or have a general disinterest in the welfare of others!


  3. "If an item does not appear in our records, it does not exist". -- Jedi Librarian

  4. I really feel what this guy is meaning--my only reservations up to now are his use of 'superconsciousness' and 'supernature'. I don't like 'super'--With that I get uncomfortable and am reminded of the Nazi 'ubermensch'/'super'man, and the myth of that with transhumanism dreams.

    I in no way am implying he is meaning that, but I just dont dig super as a pre-fix. I am more liking the Taoist like groove of water is amazing because it exists in LOW places too. Ie., that life is diverse and things we consider NOT 'super' are ambiguously sacred also?

    But I am very tempted to checkout his book and get it. I love this encouragement to liberate knoweledge from traditions, eithe rpast or present. Loveit when he says how the 'paranormal' was DEMONized BOTH by Christianity and science--albeit with the latter they use different terms to stigmatize all about this, like ridicule, pathological accusations, and all the tactics the Cult of Scientism has in its bag of tricks

    I just saw this very interesting video by the way. because noone has helped me link cool here yet you'll have to make do with this bare url

    UFO Family Detail Testimony Phoenix Lights Craft

  5. Muzuzuzus - right on! Project Superman, needs to be considered.

  6. I posted something very sympathetic to the last post on this, and I do find this fascinating. But just for completeness I'm going to put forward a contrarian position.

    "Reality is cold and hard only to those who approach it with the conviction that it is cold and hard. Scientific materialism is a worldview like any other."

    I must point out the danger of adopting a post-modern "anything goes" / "it's all good" mentality.

    Yes, the dogmatism of science can be a wall. The problem is that walls can be protective. The eternal enemy of all thought, all reason, all art, all science, all intuition, and all culture is outside. It is called religious fundamentalism.

    Imagine that we are in a house surrounded by zombies. The zombies are fanatical religious fundamentalism and mindless superstition. Rational scientific materialism is like the boards over the doors and the windows. It's keeping the zombies out. Yet, we really would like to go for a walk and (like every zombie movie) we feel that maybe we forgot something important in our car. There's a box of ammo and two gallons of water in the front seat!

    Yet the instant we crack the door, in reach the decaying hands. "There is no separation of church and state!" one moans. Another groans "God haaaates fagssss..." A hideous disfigured Irving Kristol staggers about in the distance... "there are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people..." he gurgles... Thousands of con artists and quack medical scammers mill around.

    Can we make a run for the car and get back without letting them in?

  7. Adaml - how about flying to the car and getting in via the sunroof?

  8. wotiewotwot: nice. :)

    I'm just saying that it can be hard to be open minded when there's a war on. There are people who want us to be open minded so that we'll learn and grow and evolve, and then there's people who want us to be open minded so they can ram their own thing in there and slam it shut again.

  9. Chris, AMAZING! I think that science and organized religion need to accept a reality which is broad enough to accept the paranormal. What is the paranormal? It's the widened scope of viewing the universe! Religion and science wants us to see pathways only as wide as a city street, true reality is the width of an Interstate Highway!! Where does that leave us? In the warm arms of open-minded spiritual science. The world the Troi's wanted us to sense on Next Gen!

  10. Beautiful stuff. Great. Check out Peter KIngsley, "Reality" and "Dark Places Of Wisdom", detailing the shamanic roots of classical Greece. Parmenides, the "father of logic" was a shamanic healer. Plato put a stop to all that. Then the church drove in the nail. Probably kept it secret for themselves. Of course it bleeds back out. Ya can't stop spring.

    Even the Tibetan Buddhists slaughtered the Mongol shamans! Incredible. These mystical energies now seem to get used for warfare and Kontrol on this plane.