Jeffrey J. Kripal is the J. Newton Rayzor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought at Rice University. He is the author of Comparing Religions (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014); Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal (Chicago, 2011); 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).
In this second part we ask "the epistemic/ontological question": in studying these experiences, how far should we be concerned with the ontology? Would to do so be an abandonment of the scientific materialism which underpins the discipline, and therefore a slide back into theology? Or can there be a bigger model of materialism - a "complicated materialism", to use Ann Taves' expression - in which these phenomena might be suitably explicable?
Jeffrey Kripal argues that we need to make room for the paranormal in the study of religion, and that consciousness should be at the forefront of our study.