The Super Natural: A New Vision of the Unexplained
by Whitley Strieber and Jeffrey J. Kripal
From C. M. Mayo’s review…
“[i]f we, as scholars of religion, cannot take this text seriously, if we cannot interpret it in some satisfying fashion, if we cannot make some sense of this man’s honest descriptions of his traumatic, transcendent experiences, then we have no business trying to understand his spiritual ancestors in the historical record. We either put up here, or we shut up there. I decided to put up.”
Now to the Kantian cut. It is to distinguish between the appearances of things and what may actually lie behind them. In making that cut, we recognize that while our physical senses provide us with essential survival-oriented information, in no way do they even begin to convey to our consciousness awareness the totality of reality. As Kripal writes, this cut “is a very reasonable and appropriate response to our actual situation in the cosmos.” Furthermore, “Once one makes such a cut, one can, in principle, take any religious experience or mythical world seriously and sympathetically without adopting any particular interpretation of it, much as one suspends disbelief to enjoy a good novel or watch a science-fiction movie.”
In other words, we don’t need to accept nor reject Strieber’s reports of UFOs and “the visitors”— yes, we can keep the lids on our coconuts while adopting the stance of radical empiricism in considering large-scale quantum phenomena!
Put yet another way: if we can simply look at such experiences as Strieber’s, sit with them, consider them “seriously and sympathetically, without adopting any particular interpretation”—we can then, to quote Kripal again, “begin to study their patterns, histories, narrative structures, sexual dimensions, and philosophical implications.” The Kantian cut thus gives us the power to then spiral up to a broader, richer view. It is an astonishing power.
. . .
Many people know Strieber as “that guy who wrote about being abducted by extraterrestrials.” In fact, Strieber reports his perceptions of his experiences, but as to what they actually are, he says, “I am a wanderer, lost in a forest of hypotheses.” Strieber also echoes Kripal in arguing that, “it is not necessary to believe in such things as flying saucers, aliens, ghosts, and other unexplained phenomena in order to study them.”
But to study such things without puckerlips, and all brain cells firing, one must make that Kantian cut—and one needs courage to persist, for that Kantian cut must be made again and again in the face of our inclination towards easy polarities, to either believe or, more commonly, reject, bristling with hostility or scornful laughter.
As Kripal puts it, one must “learn to live with paradox, to sit with the question.”
SOURCE: Literal Magazine – C. M. Mayo
“A thought-provoking, intelligent reconceptualization of supernatural events.”
SOURCE: Kirkus Review