Jeff Kripal – Meaning vs. Mechanism

Dr. Jeffrey J. Kripal holds the J. Newton Rayzor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought at Rice University. He is also the Associate Director of the Center for Theory and Research at the Esalen Institute. He has authored nine books on religion, popular culture and the paranormal, Including Kali’s Child, Authors of the Impossible, Mutants and Mystics, The Super Natural: A New Vision of the Unexplained (with Whitley Strieber), and most recently, The Flip: Epiphanies of Mind and the Future of Knowledge.

Kripal is currently at the forefront of a revolution in the conversation between the sciences and the humanities. These two modalities of human knowledge are in need of reconciliation, since, as Kripal says in this interview, “a phenomena that can’t be studied without the scientific method does not mean it can’t be studied.” Dr. Kripal also described his personal crucible which set him on a path to understanding and eventually to the study of religion. An early spiritual crisis and revelations about his Catholic background and fellow students at a seminary launched him into a search for meaning.

For too long, Kripal believes, the mechanism of the paranormal (i.e. causes, theories, and hard data collection) have taken center stage in our quest for answers. He sees the experience of the witness as a key to finding the bridge between science and spirit. We discussed the need for a study of the meaning of these narratives and how they change the witness or experiencer.

This was a very enjoyable interview and a great way to return from the Radio Misterioso hiatus. Enjoy!

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7 Responses to Jeff Kripal – Meaning vs. Mechanism

  1. Loved it! Thank so much for asking Dr Kripal my questions and to Jeff for those detailed and intriguing answers. Much good food for thought here and I am feeling uplifted and inspired. Cheers!

  2. mjm says:

    Jeff always gives good interviews but even still this is one of the best I’ve heard.
    Also, it’s interesting how the UFO/paranormal podcasts I listen to seem to be leaning towards the same, as yet, undefined area as the occult podcasts in my feed. Very glad you’re back Greg, take care.

  3. rob says:

    Excellent conversation, thanks Greg & Dr Kripal. Much respect for the effort that goes into the show.

    The part about metaphors for consciousness & paranormal theories struck a chord. Historically we’ve tended to describe the big mysteries of the cosmos as analogous to the latest technology. In Greek times the universe was operated by the rules of cosmic music, then we switched to the idea of the universe as eternal clockwork machine set in motion by God, that became adapted slightly at the time of the industrial revolution to a system akin to a steam engine slowly running down over eternity (hence the law of entropy). Nowadays our highest technology is based around computers and we see it becoming a common theme that the universe is pure information and everything may simply be data in a giant computer simulation. Are these analogies useful or are they merely a simplistic way to describe super-complex phenomena that our limited brains can understand? After all a dog may develop ideas about television – is a magic window that lets you see and hear amazing things, it works when the owner presses a button, other buttons can change the window or make it louder – but the dog’s brain will never be able to understand concepts like pixel density or digital signal processing.

    With AI itself it seems that scientists have a difficult time quantifying neural ‘work’ in computing-friendly units & the estimates for the brain’s computational capabilities have changed constantly over time. In the 50s scientists like Von Neumann and Turing thought we’d be able to create an electronic brain superior to the real one as the electrochemical switching speeds of neurons were relatively slow compared to the electrical switching seen in the new transistor technology. As hardware got faster over time but AI still had no real breakthroughs scientists theorised that speed of singular switching components wasn’t the issue, but parallel processing. Billions of neurons firing together could out-compute a silicon device containing a much lower number of processors. Yet today we’re able to do large-scale parallelism (with each processor able to outperform a supercomputer from the early 80s) but simulating a human brain in any detail appears to be well beyond our capabilities. We’re excellent at simulating processes that can be described algorithmically – crunching data, calculating things, playing chess & computer games – but putting it all together to create an actual conscious machine intelligence doesn’t appear to be on the cards despite the optimism from the big tech guys. The AI devotees’ assumption is that everything is algorithmic (“Strong AI”) and scientists will eventually find the rules governing consciousness, sceptics like Roger Penrose think otherwise. Time will tell who’s right. Hopefully it isn’t John Lilly but if so then it was nice knowing you all & all hail our solid-state overlords…

    Almost forgot – this is a good book covering ideas about mathematics and has sections on Platonism and how mathematicians see the rules governing the universe. Not too technical, either.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mathematical_Experience

    • Jeff Kripal recently shared the stage with – Sir Roger Penrose – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoNDcpkKXg2UioJKxTZI-ZA

      I posted my critique of Kripal here before – his supposed claims about Ramakrishna were debunked by Indian analysts. Westerners impose their hard-wired psychophysiological worldview onto non-western realities – and this hard-wiring goes back to Platonic metaphysics as materialistic idealism, based on the Power Axiom Set (math as a mass ritual sacrifice). Read Abraham Seidenberg, a math professor publishing on the ritual origins of geometry and promoting also mass ritual sacrifice in his “illuminating” folklore articles co-authored with Sir Lord Raglan.

      One of the key factors in all of this is our current abrupt global warming ecological crisis as inherent to the Westernized worldview – also with its vast social injustice (genocidal colonialism, etc.) This goes back, as Seidenberg documents, to at least 3000 BCE. Archaeologists have pushed it back to 8,000 BCE at least if not a bit more.

      But humans have been around a lot longer doing their spiritual paranormal training – the San Bushmen culture is the origin of all this stuff and we are all from the San Bushmen culture! Yet in our high tech sophisticated times hardly anyone knows anything about them. I recommend Dr. Bradford Keeney as a guest on paranormal spiritual reality – he was a psychology professor who traveled the world studying shamanism. Now he’s the only accepted original human culture master healer (who is not a San Bushmen directly).

  4. awdsmirk says:

    Don’t call it a comeback, he’s been here for years! Great show and so many topics for relative newcomers to look up and dive into! I was not aware for example, of the Terrance McKenna Stoned Ape Hypothesis!

  5. Great show. I feel kinda embarrassed I couldn’t come up with a better question to ask Dr. Kripal, but I thank him for answering it nonetheless.

    The two books of his I’ve read (Mutants & Mystics and The Super Natural) have greatly influenced my thinking toward paranormal phenomena as of late. IMO this is the kind of direction UFOlogy should be pursuing, but I fear we’re all getting sidetracked following the trail of breadcrumbs (or rather, tic-tacs) left by the Intelligence community…

  6. Robert Oliver says:

    Greg, stupendous show! I had known of Dr.Kripal’s work from it being referenced by you and others and kept saying I needed to check out his books. After listening to the conversation I am absolutely going to get the new book and read his other work.

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