To me, Jeff Kripal’s new book, The Superhumanities is a call to action and a radical reassessment of not just the humanities, but what it means to be human and the potential of what it could mean. You cannot skim this book. It is one of those rare volumes where every sentence and every word is essential. Kripal also eschews the language of the academy for a style that is accessible to any interested reader. Jack London said that good writing is clear thinking written out. Jeff Kripal’s writing and indeed this newest book is a prime example.
Jeff says that the word “Superhumanities” is a “nerdy expression” that he made up for a segment of the humanities with an accent of altered states of consciousness or altered states of knowledge that have produced extraordinary results in such areas as art, literature, philosophy and activism. These methods of perception and inspiration have been routinely ignored or even suppressed by academia and the sciences. He sees the reason that we hold on to outdated attitudes on the uncanny or paranormal are so “we can have our conclusions.” In other words, the worldviews of many of us (especially in academia, the sciences, or news media) is due to the desire to keep things out rather than challenge assumptions. When we talked about the role of science in looking at anomalies, Jeff came up with a great phrase: “Using science to look for the paranormal is like going to the north pole to find zebras.”