Wednesday, February 17, 2016

New (older) book alert - "Mutants & Mystics."

Hi all,

Jeffrey J Kripal 

Jeffrey J Kripal is J Newton Rayzor Professor of Philosophy and religious thought at Rice University, Houston, Texas. I last reviewed a book of his, "Authors of the Impossible" in a blog post dated 16 January 2011.

Image courtesy of Amazon Books

I recently came across a 2015 paperback edition of another of his books "Mutants & Mystics: Science Fiction, superhero comics, and the paranormal," which was originally published in 2011. Both editions are published by the University of Chicago Press; ISBN is 978-0-226-45383-5.

Image courtesy of Amazon books
Mutants & Mystics" explores paranormal currents. "By paranormal currents, I mean the real-life mind-over-matter experiences of artists and authors that often inspire and animate these stories, rendering them both mysteriously plausible and powerfully attractive." (p.2.)

The book is lavishly illustrated with samples of comic book strips; book covers and other colourful visual feasts.

Of what interest is this book to the UAP researcher?

Amongst others, in the book's 370 pages, we find:

Ray Palmer

Ray Palmer, who played "...a central role in the development of the flying saucer craze of the late 1940's and '50s..." (p.95.) We learn here, that Palmer saw his first saucer in 1939, "...a brilliant silvery disk, apparently at an elevation of 5,000 feet, directly west of Chicago's Loop." (p.98.)

In the spring of 1948, Palmer and Curtis Fuller published "Fate" magazine, with volume 1 number 1, featuring a cover story by none other than Kenneth Arnold.

Palmer published "...stories, and more stories, on flying saucers." (p.108.) Palmer and Arnold later co-wrote the book "The Coming of the Saucers" in 1952.

John Keel

John Keel, was a writer and a journalist. Kripal documents Keel's global explorations " the Middle East. Asia, Europe and the Americas, looking for anything that was bizarre, absurd or fantastic." (p.155.) UAP were a part of Keel's world, and he went on to publish a series of books on the subject.

"Significantly, the first edition of Strange Creatures" featured a striking Frank Frazetta painting. For the comic book fan, this linked the Keel paperback on the paranormal directly to the pulp fiction and comic book worlds, since Frazetta was already a legend in the latter worlds...." (p.158.)

Otto Binder

Otto Binder, wrote comic strips from 1939; particularly Captain Marvel, and later at the end of the 1950's entered the realm of popular science writing. From an initial sceptical viewpoint on UAP in 1961, he gradually came to change his mind on the phenomenon, ending up publishing three books on UAP.

Whitley Strieber

"...there is probably no author more illustrative of our mythemes and the experiential paranormal currents that they fictionalize within American popular culture than the  novelist Whitley Strieber." (pp292-293.)

Between 1977 and 1983 Strieber wrote conventional horror novels; but it was from 1985 that a series of interactions with unusual visitors changed his world view. He described the events, and the effect on him in a series of bestselling books. Relevant to Kripal's area of expertise, Kripal noted  "Perhaps most radical of all, however, are Strieber's speculations on the origin and nature of religion." (p.315.)

"Strieber's texts also very clearly participate in what in  Authors of the Impossible I have called the dialectic of consciousness and culture, that immensely rich historical process through which paranormal currents and mythical themes interact  - through out-of-body ecstasies and metaphysical energies as much as through books and institutions - with specific individuals to shape and reshape the form and feel of the real from age to age." (p.328.)

What are some of Kripal's concluding thoughts?

"I suppose the first thing to say is that all of this is completely impossible within our mirrored culture of religious fundamentalism and scientific materialism, which  appear oddly united in their ferocious 'damming' of the paranormal." (p.330.)

"My conclusion is that American popular culture is suffused with these seven mythemes...which are forming a kind of super-story, a modern living mythology, right in front of our eyes." (p.330.)

My comments

"Mutants & Mystics" is a deep and complex read, but elements of UAP are spread throughout this comprehensive review of science fiction, superhero comics and the paranormal. I learnt a lot about the early days of science fiction, and UAP. If you haven't had a chance to familiarise yourself with Kripal's valuable contribution to our area of interest, then I would suggest it's time to get yourself a copy of both "Authors of the Impossible" and "Mutants & Mystics."

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