Jeffrey J. Kripal holds the J. Newton Rayzor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought at Rice University, where he is also the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies. He is the author of Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred (Chicago, 2010), Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion (Chicago, 2007), The Serpent’s Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion (Chicago, 2007), Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom: Eroticism and Reflexivity in the Study of Mysticism (Chicago, 2001), and Kali’s Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna (Chicago, 1995).
He has also co-edited volumes with: Wouter Hanegraaff on eroticism and esotericism, Hidden Intercourse: Eros and Sexuality in the History of Western Esotericism (University of Amsterdam Press, 2008); Glenn W. Shuck on the history of Esalen and the American counterculture, On the Edge of the Future: Esalen and the Evolution of American Culture (Indiana, 2005); Rachel Fell McDermott on a popular Hindu goddess, Encountering Kali: In the Margins, at the Center, in the West (California, 2003); G. William Barnard on the ethical critique of mystical traditions, Crossing Boundaries: Essays on the Ethical Status of Mysticism (Seven Bridges, 2002); and T.G. Vaidyanathan of Bangalore, India, on the dialogue between psychoanalysis and Hinduism, Vishnu on Freud’s Desk: A Reader in Psychoanalysis and Hinduism (Oxford, 1999).
His present areas of interest include the comparative erotics of mystical literature, American countercultural translations of Asian religious traditions, the history of Western esotericism from ancient Gnosticism to the New Age, and the connections between the paranormal and American popular culture.
Jeffrey Kripal discusses the realm of the noetic, located somewhere between entertainment and the arts and esotericism. One thing that marks this realm is its resistance to easy dualism. He describes the history of “metaphysical religion” where mind is ultimate in some sense, and it is mind that creates the reality. These concepts are as recent as The Secret and as old as Plato’s Cave, and have never entirely disappeared from the culture.