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Mutants and Mystics, by Jeffrey J. Kripal

Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal

Reviewed by Clive Prince

Mutants and Mystics is a fascinating and stimulating book, and an important one. It’s one of the most authentically Fortean works I’ve read a long time, as well as being perfectly in tune with the spirit of Magonia, since its addresses head-on the relationship between culture and the paranormal (defined in its widest sense to include everything from psi to UFOs and alien encounters).

Jeffrey Kripal is Professor of Philosophy and Religious Thought and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University, Texas, and since his youth an avid comic book reader and collector, two sides of his life that come together beautifully in Mutants and Mystics. He is the author of an exhaustive study of the pioneering Esalen Institute, Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion (2008) and Authors of the Impossible (2010), on paranormal and mystical experiences and their relationship to brain function. Mutants and Mystics is a follow-on from both. Its main inspiration was Kripal’s realisation, during his seven-year research into Esalen, of the parallels between that foundation, set up in 1962 to study and develop human potential, and Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in The X-Men comics, the first issue of which appeared less than a year after Esalen’s founding. This gave Kripal the idea of applying the ‘model of the fantastic’ he developed in Authors of the Impossible to science fiction and superhero writers and artists.

Read the full review

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