I’m extremely interested in the upcoming book (and associated documentary) Authors of the Impossible (book released May 15). Authored by Jeff Kripal, Professor of Religious Studies and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University, Houston, Texas, the book surveys the history of the paranormal and how it bridges the often-ignored space between the extremes of belief (fundamentalist religions on the one side, fundamentalist atheists at the other). It does so by grounding itself in the research and writings of four important personages in the history of the paranormal, including a few of my favourites:
Most scholars dismiss research into the paranormal as pseudoscience, a frivolous pursuit for the paranoid or gullible. Even historians of religion, whose work naturally attends to events beyond the realm of empirical science, have shown scant interest in the subject. But the history of psychical phenomena, Jeffrey J. Kripal contends, is an untapped source of insight into the sacred and by tracing that history through the last two centuries of Western thought we can see its potential centrality to the critical study of religion.
Kripal grounds his study in the work of four major figures in the history of paranormal research: psychical researcher Frederic Myers; writer and humorist Charles Fort; astronomer, computer scientist, and ufologist Jacques Vallee; and philosopher and sociologist Bertrand Méheust. Through incisive analyses of these thinkers, Kripal ushers the reader into a beguiling world somewhere between fact, fiction, and fraud. The cultural history of telepathy, teleportation, and UFOs; a ghostly love story; the occult dimensions of science fiction; cold war psychic espionage; galactic colonialism; and the intimate relationship between consciousness and culture all come together in Authors of the Impossible, a dazzling and profound look at how the paranormal bridges the sacred and the scientific.
Though the book is still a couple of months away from release, you can get a good taste of the thinking behind it by heading to the official website for the documentary. There’s you’ll find a journal/blog exploring some of the ideas in the book, and I have to confess that a lot of it resonated very strongly with me. Here’s the early trailer for the documentary (no interview excerpts included though):
Also on the site you’ll find the Impossible Talk Podcast, where so far there are in-depth interviews with Jeff Kripal, Dean Radin, and Stephen Braude – all academics who have been open enough to approach the taboo topic of the paranormal. You can also pick up some eye candy in the form of desktop wallpaper, and view interview excerpts – just the one at the time of writing, but impressive enough to finish with. It’s writer Doug Moench discussing one of the scariest synchronicities I’ve ever heard: