Just posted in Literal Magazine, my review of Whitley Strieber and Jeffrey J. Kripal's THE SUPER NATURAL: A NEW VISION OF THE UNEXPLAINED. It's a crunchier review than my usual 500 - 1,000 words; I went into detail about my own encounter with a mystical text, Francisco I. Madero's Manual espírita of 1911, plus brief discussion of Jeffrey Mishlove's The PK Man.
This book is a flying ax of apocalypse. But whoa, let's first bring this identified flying thoughtform to Planet Earth: to Texas; Houston; Rice University; Department of Religion; and finally, the office of the J. Newton Rayzor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought, Jeffrey J. Kripal.
Professor Kripal, who describes his work as comparing "fantastic states of mind and energy and their symbolic expressions in human history, literature, religion, and art," is one of two authors, alternating chapters, who have launched this catch-it-if-you-can metaphysical ax. The other is Whitley Strieber, a Texan internationally famous for his horror fiction and series of memoirs beginning with Communion: A True Story, the 1987 best-seller about his encounters with UFOs and entities he calls "the visitors." Whether you indulge in Strieber's shiver-worthy writings or not, you've no doubt seen the image of a "visitor" from the cover of Communion everywhere from the movies to cartoons: a bulbous rubber-like head with darkly liquid almond-shaped eyes.
If you've read this far and are tempted to stop, I urge you to take a breath—a bold breath. Should you still feel bristling hostility, as many educated readers do at the mere mention of such subjects as UFOs and "the visitors," that's normal. Soldier through the discomfort, however, and you may be able to open a door from the comfy cell of mechanistic materialism onto vast, if vertiginous vistas of reality itself—and not to the supernatural but, as Kripal and Streiber would have it, the super natural.
That door does not open with a key but with what Kripal terms a cut—as provided by Immanuel Kant, that most emminent of bewigged German philosophers. More about the "Kantian cut" in a moment.
Never mind the remarkable contents of The Super Natural, the fact that two such authors would write a book together is remarkable in the extreme. Strieber, while building a passionate following for Communion, his many other works and esoteric podcast, "Dreamland," has also attracted widespread ridicule for his memoirs which go beyond retailing his perceptions of his abductions by "the visitors" to adventures, both in and out of body, with orbs, hair-raising magnetic fields, blue frog-faced trolls, and the dead. Nonetheless, Kripal, as one steeped in the literature of the world's religions, identifies Strieber's Communion as "a piece of modern erotic mystical literature," and indeed, nothing less than a litmus test for his own academic field:
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It might go out in July. Maybe again in September.
It will have news and new podcasts,
including from the Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project
Selected Book Reviews by C.M. Mayo:
by Sam Quinones
by Edward H. Miller
by Lisa G. Sharp
By Frances Calderon de la Barca