I will describe how I came to host an archival collection of private papers, correspondence, and case files of researchers and experiencers around a number of anomalous phenomena: among them, the UFO, contact and abduction events, once classified “remote viewing” practices of the U.S. intelligence communities, physical mediumship, near-death experiences, and precognitive dreams. Today, these sorts of experiences are often gathered under the rubric of the “paranormal,” originally a French term of significant nuance that has since taken on other meanings in the English language, mostly, it turns out, from popular culture. I will approach these phenomena comparatively, engage American popular culture as one source of potential new thought, and theorize such “impossible” experiences as collapsing the subject/object distinction and the structures of space-time that define our ordinary psychosocial lives. I will suggest that one of the main reasons that we have failed to take seriously these common events is because we lack a sufficient theory of the imagination. This is the future human.
Jeffrey J. Kripal is the Associate Dean of the Faculty and Graduate Programs in the School of the Humanities and the J. Newton Rayzor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought at Rice University. He also helps direct the Center for Theory and Research at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California and sits on numerous advisory boards in the U.S. and Europe involving the nature of consciousness and the sciences. Jeff is the author of ten single-authored books, including, most recently, The Superhumanities: Historical Precedents, Moral Objections, New Realities (Chicago, 2022), where he intuits an emerging new order of knowledge that can engage in robust moral criticism but also affirm the superhuman or nonhuman dimensions of our histories, cultures, and futures. He is presently working on a three-volume study of paranormal currents in the sciences, modern esoteric literature, and the hidden history of science fiction for the University of Chicago Press collectively entitled The Super Story: Science (Fiction) and Some Emergent Mythologies. His full body of work can be seen at http://jeffreyjkripal.com He thinks he may be Spider-Man.