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In many ways, twentieth-century America was the land of superheroes and science fiction. From Superman and Batman to the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, these pop-culture juggernauts, with their "powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men," thrilled readers and audiences—and simultaneously embodied a host of our dreams and fears about modern life and the onrushing f In many ways, twentieth-century America was the land of superheroes and science fiction. From Superman and Batman to the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, these pop-culture juggernauts, with their "powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men," thrilled readers and audiences—and simultaneously embodied a host of our dreams and fears about modern life and the onrushing future. But that's just scratching the surface, says Jeffrey Kripal. In Mutants and Mystics, Kripal offers a brilliantly insightful account of how comic book heroes have helped their creators and fans alike explore and express a wealth of paranormal experiences ignored by mainstream science. Delving deeply into the work of major figures in the field—from Jack Kirby’s cosmic superhero sagas and Philip K. Dick’s futuristic head-trips to Alan Moore’s sex magic and Whitley Strieber’s communion with visitors—Kripal shows how creators turned to science fiction to convey the reality of the inexplicable and the paranormal they experienced in their lives. Expanded consciousness found its language in the metaphors of sci-fi—incredible powers, unprecedented mutations, time-loops and vast intergalactic intelligences—and the deeper influences of mythology and religion that these in turn drew from; the wildly creative work that followed caught the imaginations of millions. Moving deftly from Cold War science and Fredric Wertham's anticomics crusade to gnostic revelation and alien abduction, Kripal spins out a hidden history of American culture, rich with mythical themes and shot through with an awareness that there are other realities far beyond our everyday understanding. A bravura performance, beautifully illustrated in full color throughout and brimming over with incredible personal stories, Mutants and Mystics is that rarest of things: a book that is guaranteed to broaden—and maybe even blow—your mind.


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In many ways, twentieth-century America was the land of superheroes and science fiction. From Superman and Batman to the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, these pop-culture juggernauts, with their "powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men," thrilled readers and audiences—and simultaneously embodied a host of our dreams and fears about modern life and the onrushing f In many ways, twentieth-century America was the land of superheroes and science fiction. From Superman and Batman to the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, these pop-culture juggernauts, with their "powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men," thrilled readers and audiences—and simultaneously embodied a host of our dreams and fears about modern life and the onrushing future. But that's just scratching the surface, says Jeffrey Kripal. In Mutants and Mystics, Kripal offers a brilliantly insightful account of how comic book heroes have helped their creators and fans alike explore and express a wealth of paranormal experiences ignored by mainstream science. Delving deeply into the work of major figures in the field—from Jack Kirby’s cosmic superhero sagas and Philip K. Dick’s futuristic head-trips to Alan Moore’s sex magic and Whitley Strieber’s communion with visitors—Kripal shows how creators turned to science fiction to convey the reality of the inexplicable and the paranormal they experienced in their lives. Expanded consciousness found its language in the metaphors of sci-fi—incredible powers, unprecedented mutations, time-loops and vast intergalactic intelligences—and the deeper influences of mythology and religion that these in turn drew from; the wildly creative work that followed caught the imaginations of millions. Moving deftly from Cold War science and Fredric Wertham's anticomics crusade to gnostic revelation and alien abduction, Kripal spins out a hidden history of American culture, rich with mythical themes and shot through with an awareness that there are other realities far beyond our everyday understanding. A bravura performance, beautifully illustrated in full color throughout and brimming over with incredible personal stories, Mutants and Mystics is that rarest of things: a book that is guaranteed to broaden—and maybe even blow—your mind.

30 review for Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Scicluna

    Suggested Further Reading: Supergods - Grant Morrison Our Gods Wear Spandex - Christopher Knowles The 7 Spiritual Laws of Superheros A History of God Etidorhpa - John Uri Lloyd From India to the Planet Mars - Theodore Flournoy Roads of Excess, Places of Wisdom: Eroticism and Reflexivity in the Study of Mysticism - Jeffrey J. Kripal The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge - Jeremy Narby Book of Lie: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult - Richard Metzger Our Sentence is up: Seeing Suggested Further Reading: Supergods - Grant Morrison Our Gods Wear Spandex - Christopher Knowles The 7 Spiritual Laws of Superheros A History of God Etidorhpa - John Uri Lloyd From India to the Planet Mars - Theodore Flournoy Roads of Excess, Places of Wisdom: Eroticism and Reflexivity in the Study of Mysticism - Jeffrey J. Kripal The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge - Jeremy Narby Book of Lie: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult - Richard Metzger Our Sentence is up: Seeing Garnt Morrison's "The Invisibles" - Patrick Meaney Hollow Earth - David Standish The Rosicrucians: The History, Mythology, and Rituals of an Esoteric Order - Christopher McIntosh The Coming Race - Edward Bulwer-Lytton A Magical Universe: The Best of Magical Blend - Jerry Snider and Michael Peter Langevin A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of America Metaphysical Religion - Chaterine Albanese The Secret Doctrine - H. P. Blavatsky Atlantis and the Cycles of Time: Prophecies, Traditions, and Occult Revelations - Joscelyn Godwin The Lost Land of Lemuria: Fabulus Geographies, Catastrophic Histories - Sumathi Ramaswamy Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death - Frederic W. H. Myers Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented The Supernatural - Jim Steinmeyer Passport to the Cosmos: Human Transformation and Alien Encounters - John E. Mack The Secret History of Dreaming - Robert Moss Histories of the Hidden God - Jeffrey J. Kripal Mothman: Behind the Red Eyes - Jeff Wamsley The Many Lives of Batman: Critical Approches to a Superhero and His Media - Robert A. Pearson and William Uricchio The Rough Guides to Superheros - The Unauthorized X-Men: SF and Comic Writers on Mutants, Prejudice and Adamantium - Len Wein and Leah Wilson Turn Off your Mind: The Mystic Sixties and The Dark Side of The Age of Aquarius - Gary Lachman Alter Ego - Jeffrey J. Kripal Outside The Gates of Science - Damien Broderick Yoga Powers - Knut A. Jacobsen Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation - Mitch Horowitz How to Contact Space People - Ted Owens A Gathering of Selves: The Spiritual Journey of The Legendary Writer of Superman and Batman - Alvin Schwartz The Dream Connection - Philip K. Dick Communion - Philip K. Dick

  2. 5 out of 5

    Whitley

    Jeff Kripal has written the introduction to my upcoming book Solving the Communion Enigma. I got to know him after he sent me the section of Mutants and Mystics that is about me. The book takes the whole issue of what things like alien abductions actually are to a new level. I wrote a blurb for the book: "Mutants and Mystics chronicles the emergence of a complex and startlingly dangerous energy in our world. Because we don''t know what it is, we identify it as paranormal. But perhaps what it sho Jeff Kripal has written the introduction to my upcoming book Solving the Communion Enigma. I got to know him after he sent me the section of Mutants and Mystics that is about me. The book takes the whole issue of what things like alien abductions actually are to a new level. I wrote a blurb for the book: "Mutants and Mystics chronicles the emergence of a complex and startlingly dangerous energy in our world. Because we don''t know what it is, we identify it as paranormal. But perhaps what it should really be called is ''abnormally powerful,'' for, as Jeff Kripal reveals with satisfying skill in this book, it has come to define the very essence of the popular imagination. Instead of fairies and sylphs and gorgons, our rationalist world is defied by a folklore of superheroes, supervillains, and dangerous strangers, and, as I know all too well, can be shattered by them in some very real ways. Mutants and Mystics is the first book that shines the light of reason and insight into this swarming forest. As a wanderer here, I found the light that poured from these pages as blessed as it is breathtaking." It's a terrific book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mark Oppenlander

    Dr. Jeffrey J. Kripal teaches philosophy and comparative religions at Rice University. He is also an avid fan of superhero comics, science fiction and stories of the paranormal. In this book he combines his sensibilities as a researcher with his interest in tales of the strange, alien and metaphysical to come up with one of the weirdest books I have ever read. Kripal's premise is quite simple: Those who write science fiction, comic books and other tales of speculative fiction are often modern-day Dr. Jeffrey J. Kripal teaches philosophy and comparative religions at Rice University. He is also an avid fan of superhero comics, science fiction and stories of the paranormal. In this book he combines his sensibilities as a researcher with his interest in tales of the strange, alien and metaphysical to come up with one of the weirdest books I have ever read. Kripal's premise is quite simple: Those who write science fiction, comic books and other tales of speculative fiction are often modern-day prophets writing from personal experiences. These stories of the supernatural, paranormal and metaphysical that we so avidly consumer are grounded in some heretofore unexplained reality. Kripal does not try to "prove" that experiences of alien abduction, mutant powers or otherworldly happenings are true. Rather he simply presents the evidence: Many famous comic book artists and writers (e.g. Jack Kirby) have had unexplained metaphysical experiences that they later translated into material for their artistic work. The same is true for many renowned science fiction authors (e.g. Philip K. Dick). Kripal's research sources are unimpeachable; these writers and dreamers all believed that they had experienced things that transcended science and human experience. Kripal breaks down seven major themes that he sees running through these stories of the fantastic, dating back to the late 19th century. Those themes include Divination/Demonization, Orientation, Alienation, Radiation, Mutation, Realization and Authorization. Each of his chapters deals with one of these so-called mythemes in further detail. The seven mythemes represent both the somewhat normal progression of a superhero story, but also some of the stages through which a human mind or spirit goes when considering he metaphysical or occult realm. So what does all this prove? Well, nothing really. Kripal seems to think it is enough just to ask a lot of questions and draw a lot of inferences and half-baked conclusions and leave it at that. The book alternates between fascinating and frustrating, with Kripal clearly saying "there is something beyond the physical world that we don't fully understand," while all the time laughing at his own presumption from an aloof position of academic remove. It's like spending 300+ pages watching Mulder and Scully argue - if they happened to be two personalities housed within one person! In the end I think that Kripal does believe in something beyond the material world. But whether that "something" is ancient aliens, chakra energies or the mutating capabilities of the human genome itself is unclear. What is perhaps useful about this book is the way in which he catalogues some of the major trends in popular fiction and comic book entertainments and describes how those relate to our own quests for fulfillment. Whatever we each believe, it becomes obvious that superhero tales are really stories of our spiritual yearnings as human beings.

  4. 4 out of 5

    David James

    I'll admit that I generally loiter in the rationalist world and don't put much faith in the supernatural. But having delved back into the X-Men and the novels of Philip K. Dick in recent years, I opted to read this overly-long and decidedly unfocused book looking for insights that never seemed to happen. Kripal is rooting around in the pop culture world looking for ties to the realms beyond, and he's proven that if you filter your way through enough dross, you'll find the connections you were lo I'll admit that I generally loiter in the rationalist world and don't put much faith in the supernatural. But having delved back into the X-Men and the novels of Philip K. Dick in recent years, I opted to read this overly-long and decidedly unfocused book looking for insights that never seemed to happen. Kripal is rooting around in the pop culture world looking for ties to the realms beyond, and he's proven that if you filter your way through enough dross, you'll find the connections you were looking for. What he hasn't proven is his thesis, which in itself is not all that clear. Like a beginning jazz musician, he hits on all sorts of riffs here, once in a while hitting a good one, but usually just going on about nothing for far to long. The song he's riffing on lacks melody. The result is a mess of a book that is completely uncritical of paranormal claims, highly critical of scientific skepticism (is he involved in some sort in interdepartmental conflict down there at Rice University?), and not particularly informative about science fiction, superhero comics, or the paranormal (which he accepts as real but never offers anything more than anecdotal evidence for; we find ourselves once again at the old game of requiring faith to believe, which invariably means believing without thinking...not a good life plan, but believers don't have much else to work with). The book is not without its periodic merits (the above mentioned decent riffs that emerge every so often), but the most compelling case it makes is one the author probably didn't intend: he needs to spend less time reading too deeply into his old comic books, and more time out of doors.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Williwaw

    I just got a library copy of this book, and it is (so far) full of surprises. First, the book itself is quite beautiful. Much care has gone into every aspect of its manufacture and design. Second, I was delighted to discover that it includes many full-page, color reproductions of comic book covers and pulp magazine covers. I go crazy for that sort of thing! Third, this is really about how modern day mysticism and paranormal experiences have inspired the works of some very prominent popular write I just got a library copy of this book, and it is (so far) full of surprises. First, the book itself is quite beautiful. Much care has gone into every aspect of its manufacture and design. Second, I was delighted to discover that it includes many full-page, color reproductions of comic book covers and pulp magazine covers. I go crazy for that sort of thing! Third, this is really about how modern day mysticism and paranormal experiences have inspired the works of some very prominent popular writers, including Alan Moore, Barry Windsor-Smith, Philip K. Dick, and Grant Morrison. Update: I just finished the book. All my brain circuitry is fried. This book is a whirlwind tour of what is commonly thought of as the underbelly of pop-culture: science fiction, comic books, alien abduction narratives, and other outlandish stories that "really happened" to somebody. To appreciate this book, you need to believe, with Hamlet, that: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." If you lack Hamlet's open-mindedness, and you think science fiction and comics are "just for kids," then don't bother with "Mutants and Mystics." You'll never know what you missed; but that's okay, because what you don't know won't hurt you (as many are fond of saying). This was really my cup of tea, however, because I have recently become somewhat obsessed with science fiction, comic books, and pulp magazines. I'm also a big Philip K. Dick fan, and I'm interested in mysticism. For me, Kripal's book is a gift. Not only does it provide insight into some books that I have already read and loved (Dick's "Valis," for example), but it has introduced me to a potential list of texts that I'm not familiar with but are now on my radar or even on my "to read" list. For example: Whitley Strieber's "Communion," and the books of John Keel (author of "The Mothman Prophecies"). There's no adequate way to sum up "Mutants and Mystics." It is a rich, enchanting, and bewildering brew. I'm tempted to re-read it soon. But if I had to sum Kripal's book up in as few words as possible, I'd say this: "We have met the aliens, and they are us." (Bad grammar intended.)

  6. 5 out of 5

    M Christopher

    I've delayed posting a review of this book because I have such an ambiguous response to it. By the time I got around to reading it, I'd forgotten how it came to be on my list (it was on my shelf because my daughter gave it to me as a Father's Day present). As I began reading, I started thinking, "This reminds me of the bull**** sessions we used to have late at night at Rice University." Then I flipped to the author's bio on the cover and was reminded that Mr. Kripal is, in fact, the current chai I've delayed posting a review of this book because I have such an ambiguous response to it. By the time I got around to reading it, I'd forgotten how it came to be on my list (it was on my shelf because my daughter gave it to me as a Father's Day present). As I began reading, I started thinking, "This reminds me of the bull**** sessions we used to have late at night at Rice University." Then I flipped to the author's bio on the cover and was reminded that Mr. Kripal is, in fact, the current chair of the department of religion at Rice and that I'd first read of the book in the alumni magazine. "Mutants and Mystics" is indeed at one level some very high class university bull****. Kripal basically admits this in his introduction and mocks his own research and conclusions from time to time in his text, which is both endearing and distracting. His thesis could certainly lead to mockery by others so he defuses the situtation with some proactive self-deprecation. His point of view throughout the book (self-mockery aside) is that the creators of superhero comics and science fiction are our era's prophets. Knowingly or unknowingly, he posits, they have tapped into some very strange truths about the universe which deserve our attention. Despite Kripal's demurrals, it's clear he takes his subject quite seriously. Nor am I willing to dismiss it offhand. As William Shakespeare wrote, "there are more things in heaven and earth than dreamt of in (the average man's) philosophy." And while I am a skeptic regarding UFO's, ancient aliens, etc., I am a believer in the existence of a personal God who is the creator of all -- a stance which many in our culture find just as absurd. So, who am I to deny Mr. Kripal's convictions? All in all, I found this a fascinating, if occasionally frutstrating, read. Kripal presents a wealth of information about seminal figures in s/f, fantasy, and comic book writing. Because he is so familiar with his subjects, he occasionally under-writes context and over-writes details, leaving it hard to remember "who's who." But if you love comics, science fiction and paranormal speculation, you will likely enjoy "Mutants & Mystics."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kasandra

    I couldn't get past page 50 of this awful book. Yes, comics often illustrate, even beautifully, a wide range of human experience that some label "paranormal" (but which I think is simply experience on a 6th sense level, completely natural and normal, not at all "supernatural" and which simply can't yet be explained by science). However, to have had a gnostic experience does not qualify one to be smarmy, smug, self-righteous, or to hold out a New Age-y type belief that this proves that humanity a I couldn't get past page 50 of this awful book. Yes, comics often illustrate, even beautifully, a wide range of human experience that some label "paranormal" (but which I think is simply experience on a 6th sense level, completely natural and normal, not at all "supernatural" and which simply can't yet be explained by science). However, to have had a gnostic experience does not qualify one to be smarmy, smug, self-righteous, or to hold out a New Age-y type belief that this proves that humanity as a whole is "evolving" to some better space or time (or that humanity is really a colony that came from aliens who dropped on this planet). Come on, the New Age movement started in the 70s, and I think most educated humans can see that since then, we've gone a long way toward destroying our planet, wrecking our economies on a global scale, extincting many other species, and generally intensifying the gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots". I don't see humanity evolving in any positive way. So I can't swallow a book written in a hopeful, faith-based style that sprinkles fairy dust. If you want to learn more about mythology and man's attempt to explain his sense of spiritual self or "Divinity", read some Joseph Campbell. Don't waste your time on this crap. And don't even get me started on the Whitley Striebers of this world, out to make gobs of money through b.s. claims of alien abduction. If you're gullible, a fanboy/fangirl, or you really do think we were put here to colonize the planet by aliens, by all means, read away. However, if you're just looking for some interesting reading about the myriad ways humans have always used to try to explain what can't yet be rationally explained (and perhaps never will be, since each of us has our own individual response to what comes to us from a 6th sense perspective), like I said, read some Campbell or go back to the classics of Greek mythology.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bill Bridges

    This book was written just for me. I swear Jeffrey Kripal telepathically scanned my mind and knew all the buttons to push to make me devour this book. For someone like me who has spent years reading and writing sci-fi and weird horror in pop culture mediums – comics and games -- it's a welcome relief to see an academic take it all seriously. Well, not so serious as to make it boring and stuffy. Kripal admits that it was his remembering his love of comics as a kid that called him to take a fresh This book was written just for me. I swear Jeffrey Kripal telepathically scanned my mind and knew all the buttons to push to make me devour this book. For someone like me who has spent years reading and writing sci-fi and weird horror in pop culture mediums – comics and games -- it's a welcome relief to see an academic take it all seriously. Well, not so serious as to make it boring and stuffy. Kripal admits that it was his remembering his love of comics as a kid that called him to take a fresh look at what comics have been telling us all these years, in light of his religious studies scholarship. That and a synchronistic X in a parking lot upon exiting an X-Men movie. The book explores the intersection of pop culture – specifically comics and the sci-fi pulps – and the paranormal, and finds things are stranger and more uncanny than most readers, let alone sci-fi fans, are aware of. Kripal reveals the many hidden themes that all-too-often synchronistically crop up in comics and the lives of those who author them. He proposes that we are living in a Super-Story, an over-riding narrative behind the many sub-narratives we tell ourselves in pop culture. Well, we think we’re telling these stories, but we ourselves are being written. By what and by whom? That remains mysterious and rather Gnostic, but once we come to Realization we can move to Authorization and becomes “authors of the impossible” writing the stories of our own lives. This is a good companion book to Grant Morrison’s Supergods. It covers some of the same territory, but now from a broader perspective than the experiences of just one artist (Grant Morrison); we also discover the weird and prescient lives and art of other key comic-book and pulp prophets as Alan Moore, Jack Kirby, Barry Windsor-Smith, and Ray Palmer, among others. Next on my reading list is Kripal’s previous book, Authors of the Impossible. I’d previously read portions of his book, The Serpent’s Gift, and I plan to get back to that one soon, too. There’s a cornucopia of rich ideas and connections in Kripal’s work and I look forward to exploring them all.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    I don't know where to begin with this fascinating book. First, this is the quintessential non-ebook. The design elements, color plates, and the thick, creamy pages, sewn into a rich cloth-bound book makes this a pleasure to hold in the hand. If you read this on an ereader, I weep for you. As far as the topic goes, it jacked straight into the part of my brain that loves fortean phenomena, occult knowledge, and pop culture. If those topics appeal to you...if you were ever a member of Barbelith...i I don't know where to begin with this fascinating book. First, this is the quintessential non-ebook. The design elements, color plates, and the thick, creamy pages, sewn into a rich cloth-bound book makes this a pleasure to hold in the hand. If you read this on an ereader, I weep for you. As far as the topic goes, it jacked straight into the part of my brain that loves fortean phenomena, occult knowledge, and pop culture. If those topics appeal to you...if you were ever a member of Barbelith...if you read comics or have any interest in comparative religion, mysticism, or the paranormal, you should give this book a try.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    Every now and again, you go through your pile of unread books, chancing upon those that others bought for you--or that others recommended to you. On occasion, when you read books others recommended, you ask yourself, "Huh, why was he so certain that this book would resonate for me? Why did she think I would enjoy this?" And then there are those recommended books that knock your socks off--and you are so grateful for the recommendation. My Eighth Grade English teacher Miss Koschir suggested to my M Every now and again, you go through your pile of unread books, chancing upon those that others bought for you--or that others recommended to you. On occasion, when you read books others recommended, you ask yourself, "Huh, why was he so certain that this book would resonate for me? Why did she think I would enjoy this?" And then there are those recommended books that knock your socks off--and you are so grateful for the recommendation. My Eighth Grade English teacher Miss Koschir suggested to my Mom on Parents' Night that I read Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn. It has become one of my favorite all time books. (I love the movie too.) Last summer while up at my quirky graduate school for the summer session of my Memoir class, I saw advertised a talk by Jeffrey J. Kripal. Seemed interesting, so I went. He was talking about his new book, The Flip. Afterwards, I went up to talk to him and soon the conversation turned to one of my favorite topics, Superman. He recommended this. And boy did it knock me socks off. This is now one of my favorite all time works of scholarship. And not just for his thoughts on Superman. That said, what he said about the Man of Steel on pages 237-44 is more than the worth the cost of the book. Much more. Much, much, much more. "Precisely this: that there really had to be some sort of deeper hidden self of which our outward Clark Kent personality was but the dim reflection" (p. 240, quoting Alvin Schwartz). This book engaged me, enthralled me, made me think--not just about the appeal of superhero comics, but also of the resonance of fantasy and Science Fiction. It has helped me better articulate why so many of the best stories are set in fantastic worlds where the rules of everyday life do not apply. And has helped me understand why I write fantasy fiction--and how I might have come to tell my story in a comic books format. And it has confirmed a notion I have long been harboring--that superhero comics aren't just for kids.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Wonderful as an exploration of fantastic tropes in sci-fi, comic books, and paranormal literature and their roots in mysticism and gnostic spiritualities, but the author seems too credulous for my tastes. I love Grant Morrison and Alan Moore as much as the next comic book nerd, and wild ideas in weird sci-fi always spark my imagination, but uncritical treatment of Uri Geller and flawed remote viewing research projects caused my eyes, as if by some telekinesis, to roll uncontrollably. Skepticism Wonderful as an exploration of fantastic tropes in sci-fi, comic books, and paranormal literature and their roots in mysticism and gnostic spiritualities, but the author seems too credulous for my tastes. I love Grant Morrison and Alan Moore as much as the next comic book nerd, and wild ideas in weird sci-fi always spark my imagination, but uncritical treatment of Uri Geller and flawed remote viewing research projects caused my eyes, as if by some telekinesis, to roll uncontrollably. Skepticism is not the same as materialism is not the same as closed-mindedness. As Aristotle supposedly said (but probably didn't), "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." Mutants and Mystics is full of thoughts I had fun entertaining. I recommend it if you're fascinated by woo as a kind of contemporary creative mythology, like me, though I would encourage any reader who finds her/himself swayed by the more fantastic claims in Mutants and Mystics to do some critical research before joining the neighborhood UFO cult. An open mind is a great thing, but let's keep our wits about us. All that said, I would love to buy Jeffrey Kripal a beer and pick his brain as long as he'd let me. This guy can obviously geek out about the weird shit, and that makes for primo bar conversation in my book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dogson

    Best nonfiction books about the origins of Superhero comics being a sublimation of intense mystic experiences of a few writers, who decided to spin tall tales instead of getting up on a soapbox about the spiritual world, siddhis, and superpowers and being subsequently dragged off by the Men In White Coats. Keep in mind, this was the 1950s, early 60's, Kundalini awakenings and Yoga studios were not on every block at this point. So these guys just embedded the archetypes and mythologies into a new Best nonfiction books about the origins of Superhero comics being a sublimation of intense mystic experiences of a few writers, who decided to spin tall tales instead of getting up on a soapbox about the spiritual world, siddhis, and superpowers and being subsequently dragged off by the Men In White Coats. Keep in mind, this was the 1950s, early 60's, Kundalini awakenings and Yoga studios were not on every block at this point. So these guys just embedded the archetypes and mythologies into a new subculture, called Superhero Comics. Incredibly inspiring, especially if you're involved in energy work or meditation of any kind.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Seekers of Unity

    Fun shenanigans of a book. Takes you nice and deep into the world of comics, modern wizards, madmen and the fantastical. He plays a nice line between the psychological-critical and the psychical-just maybe, catching you off guard saying to yourself, just maybe, until he brings up ufo’s and grey men again. I would have liked to see him explore the archetype of the mage/wizard/storyteller/shaman deeper, as forming our stories, myths and words, that seems like fruitful ground for the sceptical enqu Fun shenanigans of a book. Takes you nice and deep into the world of comics, modern wizards, madmen and the fantastical. He plays a nice line between the psychological-critical and the psychical-just maybe, catching you off guard saying to yourself, just maybe, until he brings up ufo’s and grey men again. I would have liked to see him explore the archetype of the mage/wizard/storyteller/shaman deeper, as forming our stories, myths and words, that seems like fruitful ground for the sceptical enquirer. If you like books like this you'll love my project: http://youtube.com/c/seekersofunity?s...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Absolutely brilliant. Mind blowing.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Rosen

    I expected this to be something of a historiography tracing the effects of real-world paranormal beliefs and science fiction and superhero comics on one another. Unfortunately, it is more of an ideological text, focused on proselytizing in support of the author's particular worldview and backing it up with stories that, largely, just happen to have occurred to people in the science fiction and comics fields. It is not a bad book, but it was not what I had hoped it would be.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Corianne

    I love comic books. I love Forteana. I thought I'd love a book that combined the two. The problem is that because I love both comics and Forteana, this book didn't offer anything new. If you're looking for the "real" events that shaped the zeitgeist of comic books, then this is for you. Otherwise, it's just okay

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mitch

    Mind Officially Blown Kripal has penned an incredibly deep and powerful book on consciousness and its twisted history throughout our culture. He weaves an immense web of connections and synchronicity, that will amaze and shock you. A book that will leave you breathless and energized.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bill FromPA

    Throughout this book, Kripal describes several paranormal experiences of his own and various writers and artists, which often feature a sense of being outside of time. In reading this book, I sometimes had the sensation of having left the 21st century and stepped into the drugstores and newsstands of my youth where for a few dollars you could walk out with an armful of superhero comic books, magazines about UFOs and the paranormal, and maybe an SF / fantasy paperback or two as well. But this is Throughout this book, Kripal describes several paranormal experiences of his own and various writers and artists, which often feature a sense of being outside of time. In reading this book, I sometimes had the sensation of having left the 21st century and stepped into the drugstores and newsstands of my youth where for a few dollars you could walk out with an armful of superhero comic books, magazines about UFOs and the paranormal, and maybe an SF / fantasy paperback or two as well. But this is no nostalgia trip: for Kripal these elements of pop culture are, to steal part of a Frank Edwards title, Serious Business. While I’m all for serious treatments of popular culture, at times Kripal takes things a little too seriously for me. He seems to imply that these mass entertainments contain messages of personal and cultural transformation – he continually relates the messages in SF and comics to esoteric religious traditions like Gnosticism and theosophy. He tries to fit these various messages into a framework he calls a “super-story” (he’s as fond of that suffix as any comic book writer), which looks at superpowers, both (supposedly) real and fictional as obtained from or projected into various sources. These sources are Orientation (finding power or transcendence in a distant place, particularly the East), Alienation (travelers from or to outer space), Radiation (not just radioactivity, but any powerful energy release), Mutation (biological evolution), Realization (the discovery that one is part of a written story), and Authorization (the taking of the power of writing one’s story into one’s own hands). Despite having Science Fiction in the title, the book really covers very little SF – mainly Ray Palmer’s “Shaver mystery” series in magazines during the 40s and Philip K. Dick’s VALIS trilogy. In fact, I have the suspicion that Kripal has read considerably less SF than even I have: in his chapter on Mutation he doesn’t even mention Sturgeon’s More Than Human. Kripal deals much more extensively with comic book superheroes, which he sees, if I read him correctly, as prototypes of spiritual and / or physical transformation, figures embodying superpowers that have been cultivated by practitioners of occult disciplines over the past two centuries. Kripal prefers to focus on those comic book creators whose work conveys a specific message of a mystical or philosophical nature or who have personally had mystic or paranormal experiences, which are sometimes only loosely connected to their productions. For example, in the section covering Batman, Bill Finger only gets a passing mention, while many pages are devoted to a Batman writer I had never heard of, Alvin Schwartz (who primarily scripted the syndicated newspaper comics) because he later wrote and lectured on visionary experiences he had concerning his work in comics. Kripal seems highly credulous in regard to the paranormal, accepting most of the statements of figures like Uri Geller and Andrija Puharich who make some, to me, literally unbelievable claims. While he can occasionally offer a debunking type explanation, for example of Geller’s televised watch repair trick, he doesn’t seem to have read much in the skeptical literature. To be fair, the objective truth of these claims seems not to be all that important to Kripal, who treats much of the material, in a phrase he claims to take from Charles Fort, as “truth-fiction”, perhaps having reality in the minds of the perceivers, but the importance of which lies in embodying in symbolic form some psychological or spiritual truth. Despite all my criticisms and qualifications, I really enjoyed reading this book – mainly because I enjoy reading about comic books, particularly when an author has a take on the subject that I haven’t encountered before. The non-comic book material was less interesting for me; while I enjoyed the section on Ray Palmer / Richard Shaver, the later chapters concentrating on the mystical experiences of Philip K. Dick and Whitney Strieber were of less interest – they went over material I had read before and failed to add much new to my knowledge or belief in these men’s experiences.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas

    I picked up Authors of the Impossible a few months before reading this, and found Kripal's narrative and thought line in it to be compelling and touched on many things I have heard and read about the new myths and lores of the modern world. I liked it so much, I ended up suggesting a friend read this before I even had the chance to read it myself. I enjoyed this book almost as much as I enjoyed Authors, and felt it was lucid argument, not for the existence of the phenomenon, but for the existenc I picked up Authors of the Impossible a few months before reading this, and found Kripal's narrative and thought line in it to be compelling and touched on many things I have heard and read about the new myths and lores of the modern world. I liked it so much, I ended up suggesting a friend read this before I even had the chance to read it myself. I enjoyed this book almost as much as I enjoyed Authors, and felt it was lucid argument, not for the existence of the phenomenon, but for the existence of our involvement in it, which is an important distinction. Authors is a more personal account, following the experience of particular writers, whereas Mutants and Mystics zooms further out, while still focused on the experience of individual writers and creators. Mutants discusses the larger cultural impact of the ideas discussed in Authors, examining the interplay between those creating the art and narratives of the paranormal and mystical, and the actual subjective experiences themselves in the wider culture. Once again, there are no arguments that will convert the believer or debunker, and the data and evidence is left for others to debate over. Kripal is more interested in how the subjective becomes real, and the real effects subjective experience. The book is easy to read if you have some experience in philosophy, so it may be a bit difficult to navigate without a foundation level. In addition, some of his examples feel a little blown up and out of perspective. Otherwise, it is a thought provoking and fun view of a strange and compelling world.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Etienne

    As a literary review and history of the dynamics of mutual influence between science-fiction trends and popular narratives pertaining to the supernatural, this book is a work of unparalleled erudition. As a thesis on metaphysics and the malleable nature of reality, I'm afraid it did not succeed in convincing me. It is very likely I am not its intended audience; I am wary of the way that narrative conventions are sometimes essentialized. When we insist that our stories express a fundamental human As a literary review and history of the dynamics of mutual influence between science-fiction trends and popular narratives pertaining to the supernatural, this book is a work of unparalleled erudition. As a thesis on metaphysics and the malleable nature of reality, I'm afraid it did not succeed in convincing me. It is very likely I am not its intended audience; I am wary of the way that narrative conventions are sometimes essentialized. When we insist that our stories express a fundamental human nature, we necessarily must draw lines as to what that nature is, thereby running the risk of denying others our human dignity. I have seen nothing in "Mutants & Mystics" which might legitimate a narrow view of humanity, but I worry that the structure of its argument has been used to perpetuate iniquitous norms and roles.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    I got this book to help bridge the gap between sci-fi and superheroes. There were some good connections made, but it was packed with a lot of new agey stuff that detracted from any real connection that I could see. The author seemed more interested in looking at how much occult/gnostic/mystical stuff there was in the lives of major players in science fiction and occasionally referred to how some of this might have been an influence on comics creators, though he never really convinces me there's I got this book to help bridge the gap between sci-fi and superheroes. There were some good connections made, but it was packed with a lot of new agey stuff that detracted from any real connection that I could see. The author seemed more interested in looking at how much occult/gnostic/mystical stuff there was in the lives of major players in science fiction and occasionally referred to how some of this might have been an influence on comics creators, though he never really convinces me there's a solid connection. Honestly, it feels as though this was two books. One about the mystical aspects and one about a formula he has for looking at the evolution of superpowers and where they came from. Unfortunately, the two didn't seem to mesh well to me.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    You don't have to be a fan of comic book superheroes to appreciate Kripal's erudite discussion of how much mysticism has influenced Marvel, DC, and other graphic novelists, science-fiction artists and writers, including Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Ray Palmer, Jack Kirby, Alvin Schwartz, Barry Windsor-Smith, Philip K. Dick, Otto Binder, and Whitley Strieber. Kripal can talk authoritatively about Indian mysticism, Stan Lee, Charles Fort, UFOs and the Defense Department's remote viewing program. He You don't have to be a fan of comic book superheroes to appreciate Kripal's erudite discussion of how much mysticism has influenced Marvel, DC, and other graphic novelists, science-fiction artists and writers, including Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Ray Palmer, Jack Kirby, Alvin Schwartz, Barry Windsor-Smith, Philip K. Dick, Otto Binder, and Whitley Strieber. Kripal can talk authoritatively about Indian mysticism, Stan Lee, Charles Fort, UFOs and the Defense Department's remote viewing program. He makes interesting connections between obscure nineteenth-century occultists and modern notions of mental evolution, expanded consciousness, and the connections between ancient astronauts and our progress as a species. Highly recommended.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Scottsdale Public Library

    What do our stories tell us about our psyches? Kripal, a comparative religions scholar, explores modern myth in the making—in particular, how the mystical has crept into pop culture through superhero comics and science fiction. This book takes the reader on a fascinating tour of both amazing stories and the equally amazing real-life experiences of the authors of those stories. All of this leads the reader to two very interesting questions, “is reality a text we can read like a story?” and if so, What do our stories tell us about our psyches? Kripal, a comparative religions scholar, explores modern myth in the making—in particular, how the mystical has crept into pop culture through superhero comics and science fiction. This book takes the reader on a fascinating tour of both amazing stories and the equally amazing real-life experiences of the authors of those stories. All of this leads the reader to two very interesting questions, “is reality a text we can read like a story?” and if so, “is reality a text we can write like a story?” The author’s answer to both is a definitive “yes”—a conclusion that is both exhilarating and challenging. -- Brandon

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ron Record

    Wow. More than you ever thought possible to know about the relationships and characters involved in the evolution of consciousness from 19th Century mysticism to to origins of superhero comics and sci-fi to the nuclear age and UFO's - aliens, remote viewing, psychics, mystics, artists, Marvel/DC, et al. This book is large and packed. Well researched and easy to read. I would say my only quibble would be the academic tone at times - ok, ok, I get it ... no need to tell me what you are going to te Wow. More than you ever thought possible to know about the relationships and characters involved in the evolution of consciousness from 19th Century mysticism to to origins of superhero comics and sci-fi to the nuclear age and UFO's - aliens, remote viewing, psychics, mystics, artists, Marvel/DC, et al. This book is large and packed. Well researched and easy to read. I would say my only quibble would be the academic tone at times - ok, ok, I get it ... no need to tell me what you are going to tell me then tell me then tell me what you told me. Great bathroom reader. Definitely deserving of 5 stars.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    I haven't decided what I think about Kripal's conclusions yet--his insistence that there is a third way between religious fundamentalism and scientific materialism. However, this book was thoroughly researched, densely argued, and beautifully designed. (It's not often that an academic book can be described as aesthetically pleasing!) His work is an important contribution to the study of mysticism in culture, and will be especially helpful to me as I continue to think about the study of religious I haven't decided what I think about Kripal's conclusions yet--his insistence that there is a third way between religious fundamentalism and scientific materialism. However, this book was thoroughly researched, densely argued, and beautifully designed. (It's not often that an academic book can be described as aesthetically pleasing!) His work is an important contribution to the study of mysticism in culture, and will be especially helpful to me as I continue to think about the study of religious experiences.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Eugene Pustoshkin

    Good book. A bit too much UFO. I enjoyed about 2/3 of the book, especially the introduction, the history of comics and the occult, and the treatment of Philip K. Dick. In the last 1/3 I saw a bit too much UFO focus. In terms of Ken Wilber’s Integral framework the book represents, in my opinion, much of green meme’s indiscriminating pluralism. The author would benefit from learning more clinical psychology and getting a more integral (transdisciplinary) worldview.

  27. 4 out of 5

    William Ramsey

    Best book yet written? Kripal writes in a very engaging way about very cutting edge topics. Using themes from Science fiction and Super Hero comics, Kripal is able to get the reader to a new understanding about how we interact with the paranormal in everyday life, what ramifications that might have for humanity, and how religion (as the paranormal) should be studied in the academy. A fantastic read!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Roane

    If you've ever wondered what's been the inspiration behind some of the world's most iconic comics and mystical works, Mutants and Mystics gives you a look into the world behind the writing, the lives of the authors, and the mystical events they experienced that inspired their world views. Highly-recommended!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    A wonderful tour that links the world of super hero comics, movies and science fiction with the surprising discovery that a lot of those folks were strong paranormal investigators and experiencers. Kripal, as in his other books, is dedicated to destroying the idea that consensus reality is the only possible reality there is!

  30. 4 out of 5

    David Moore

    By far one of the most important books I have read so far. It ties together so many of my obsessions into one book and generates a fascinating narrative linking both popular culture and the paranormal. From such authors own experiences such as: Philip K. Dick, Whitley Strieber, Alvin Schwartz and many others.

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