AUTHORS OF THE IMPOSSIBLE
The Paranormal and the Sacred
By Jeffrey J. Kripal
Surely to author the impossible is a contradiction in terms, yet it is our insatiable hunger for mystery that drives so many of the great minds of our times. Author Jeffrey Kripal is no less fascinated with the impossible. His new book attempts to recover a history of “thinking off the page” through the work of four investigators of telepathic experiences, ghosts, UFO encounters, and other strange or unexplainable instances of the 20th century supernatural.
Jeffrey Kripal is both a philosopher and historian of religion and uses his expertise – by focusing an exclusive chapter each on the work of Frederic Myers, Charles Fort, Jacques Vallee and Bertrand Meheust – to construct a history of theorising the occult that takes in philosophy, anthropology and post-structuralism.
He begins with Myers who coined the word “telepathy” and was a founding member of the Society for Psychical Research in Cambridge in the 1880s. He came to believe that most of reality, including our own consciousness, lay hidden, and that the human race was evolving progressively towards greater supernatural powers. He spent much of his life attempting to reconcile the claims of science and religion, conducting telepathic experiments, testing spiritualist mediums under “laboratory” conditions, and collecting stories of deathbed transmissions.
The second case study is Charles Fort. He was also a compiler of phenomena, a “collector of coincidences” who studied newspapers in the early 20th century, gathering reports of hauntings, ghosts, ectoplasm and things that simply should not be. His science-fiction novel, X, written in 1915, suggested that our reality might be like a film, projected from the rays of some alien consciousness, an idea taken up by many science fiction writers.
Kripal then focuses on Jacques Vallee, the Internet entrepreneur and Rosicrucian mystic who after a long study of UFO sightings decided they were potential evidence for psychic forces emanating from the future.
Finally he focuses on sociologist Bertrand Meheust, whose studies of mystical phenomena led him to suspect that popular accounts of paranormal experience may in fact reveal a history of real supernatural occurrences.
These unusual and creative thinkers, who diligently tried to explain the impossible, are largely unacknowledged by science or even science-fiction writers. Kripal has written this study in the hope the evidence for the supernatural means we rethink our basic beliefs about the nature of subjective and objective reality.
What would our world look and feel like if we did not doubt telepathy actually existed? Or what if the evidence for UFOs, or “visitations” of the Virgin Mary, were convincing enough to appear real rather than the delusions of a few? Would this change consciousness or influence our understanding of science, time, religious belief, or perhaps more importantly, our innate “sense of the sacred”?
“I am not asking us to know more. I am asking us to imagine more,” he writes in the Introduction. “This ability to imagine more is precisely what defines an ‘author of the impossible’ for me,” Kripal says.
Kripal also hopes that as more and more people become aware of the work of these great thinkers, we will finally concede that thoughts once thought, and then disseminated to others, gives us “plausible reasons to consider the impossible possible. Thus they (the writers of the impossible) become both author and author-ize it.”
These are clearly huge, consciousness-changing questions. We are all products of our culture and mass-belief, whether we acknowledge this or not. This book encourages us to put these beliefs to one side and consider telepathy, teleportation, precognition and UFOs with an open mind.
Many New Dawn readers will be familiar with some of the authors Kripal focuses on, but it is good to read their stories in historical context. He deftly outlines the gifts and specialities of each author. Bertrand Meheust, for example, teaches that we really do shape our worlds, even if we do not fully determine them.
“We are magicians all. But as whole cultures extended through centuries of time, we are much more than a collection of knowing and unknowing magicians stumbling about with their consensual spells called language, belief and custom. We are veritable wizards endowed with almost unbelievable powers to shape our new worlds of experience and realise different aspects of the real,” he writes.
The chapter on Jacques Vallee is particularly insightful with lots of personal touches. Many New Dawn readers will know of Vallee’s early career as an entrepreneur in the computer industry of Silicon Valley and the development of the Internet. But he was also the inspiration for the character of the French scientist, Claude Lacombe, played by François Truffaut in Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi classic, Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Jeffrey J. Kripal has done a masterful job pulling all this information together and offering insightful visions of the minds that opened the doors to the impossible becoming possible. Authors of the Impossible is a “must have” for any serious student of alternative thought and anyone who wants a strong grounding in the origins of mind-science. It is certainly a well-thumbed book in my library, with several pages underlined.
– Reviewed by Lesley Crossingham in New Dawn 132