Graphic novels are the latest form of popular culture and media where mysticism and the paranormal are given free reign, writes Jeffrey J. Kripal in the Chronicle of Higher Education Review (December 16).
Kripal, who authored the recent book Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics and the Paranormal (University of Chicago Press), writes that there is a long list of comic book writers and artists ranging from Jack Kirby of the 1970s to Alan Moore and Grant Morrison (inspirers of the X-Men movies) today who were deeply involved in occult and paranormal activities. In his research, Kripal found that many contemporary popular artists and writers report mystical and paranormal experiences, “and they just as commonly identify those events as the source of their creative powers.”
Kripal argues that sci-fi novels and films, superhero comics and now graphic novels often function as the “media of deeply meaningful paranormal experiences,” because such phenomena have continually been excluded since the mid-20th century from academic and religious life. “The rise of behaviorism, Marxist materialism, social constructivism, computer modeling of the brain, and contemporary neuroscience all have helped to expel the categories of the psychic and the paranormal from academe, along with notions of soul, spirit and now mind itself as legitimate subjects of research worthy of financial support,” he adds.
Religious institutions have likewise rejected paranormal experiences as conflicting with doctrinal and institutional life, even though these encounters have functioned as “religious building blocks.” Thus, popular culture and esoteric communities have been the two remaining places where “paranormal events are free to speak and spark … [escaping] rational and religious censors.”
(The Chronicle Review, 1255 23rd St., N.W., Washington, DC 20037)