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13 Apr 2010



Religious studies professor discusses paranormal 

By KELLIE SPANO Contributing Writer kspano@smu.edu


Published: Monday, April 12, 2010

Updated: Monday, April 12, 2010

Students, professors and faculty gathered at McCord Auditorium last Thursday night to hear Jeffrey Kripal, professor of religious studies and chair of the department of religious studies at Rice University, speak about his book.

He explained how the book, entitled “Beyond Belief, Beyond Reason: Religion, Science and the Paranormal” related to the upcoming film he is co-producing called, “Authors of the Impossible.” The lecture was presented by the SMU religious studies department, but was not limited to religious criticism.

Kripal began the lecture with a video clip from his film exploring one instance of the paranormal. He believes that people who want to talk about these things are humiliated, so they stay silent. As a result, the paranormal has become a taboo subject.

But Kripal wants to change things. Even though he thinks a lot of people are ready for discussion, he believes people lack the language to speak about these things.

“I liked how the speaker explained the relationship between having a vocabulary for a phenomenon and people’s willingness and [comfort] to speak about the phenomenon,” junior dance major Christine Harris said.

Kripal made it very clear that he does not believe that the paranormal violates materialism in modern science, nor does he think it’s amenable to the scientific method. From the beginning of his lecture, he said that he believes the place for the paranormal is in the sacred study of religion, defining sacred as the divine in positive or negative form—not the good.

Freshman Sheny Palacios said that she found a lot of Kripal’s ideas interesting.
“He wants get the public to believe in something small about the ‘paranormal,’” Palacios said. “First he wants to get people to believe that it does exist, then have people believe in his theories about the paranormal.”

Kripal explained that he believed consciousness is not bound to the brain or the body. Paranormal events, he said, speak across the gap of ego or the super conscious field, namely that consciousness is out of space and time. Normally, it happens in dreams: he explained this idea with an anecdote about table lifters.

“There were three people who would play a game called “table lifting” where they would put their fingers on a table and try to lift it,” Kripal said. “One day it worked and these three people lifted the table for three hours where they saw visions of John Wayne, The Sticks and the person who built house.”

Kripal believes that the way to evoke the paranormal capacities is to feel one of two emotions: trauma or love.

The point of his film is to offer a middle way that is in between the ‘pure fiction’ devil factor that Hollywood exploits, and the ‘cheesy’ factor that the history channel explores.

“We don’t talk about it or a language with which to talk about it, although it has been present since the 1800s,” Kripal said. “However, since the 20th century, we’ve moved away from paranormal. Religions do not like the paranormal because it takes them out of the picture. With the paranormal, any person can have a direct connection with the experience and spirituality.”

Palacios addressed his concerns by saying, “I do believe that supernatural things happen, but I did not believe his theories.”

The theory he emphasized was the Filter Thesis, which says that the mind is not in the brain and that the conscious and mind are different. This theory is found in psychology and basically says we have an ID , Ego and Superego. Most of Freud’s theories are rooted in the belief of evolution as opposed to creation.

“I believe there is a spiritual realm,” Kripal said, “but it should be sought through the right means.”

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