“Although paranormal phenomena certainly involve material processes, they are finally organized around signs and meaning. To use the technical terms, they are semiotic and hermeneutical phenomena . Which is to say that they seem to function as representations or signs to decipher and interpret, not just movements of matter to measure and quantify.“
In his book, Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred, Jeff Kripal takes a look at occult phenomena and their relationship to writing and reading that serve as bridges to the sacred and a superconscious realm.
“…paranormal phenomena are semiotic or hermeneutical phenomena in the sense that they signal, symbolize, or speak across a “gap” between the conscious, socialized ego and an unconscious or superconscious field.”
More than this, he attributes to reading and writing a power to:
“..replicate and realize paranormal processes, just as paranormal processes can replicate and realize textual processes.”
Reading and writing then become a participation in a process whereby we tap into a superconscious realm through story and myths of an occult or paranormal nature. Occult (meaning hidden) reading and writing, become a way in which one transgresses societal and cultural norms of perceived limits of reality. Occultism itself is a fairly modern phenomena which perhaps parallel the advent of communication technology, whereby we perceive and transcend cultural limits through access and comparison to foreign or alien (pun intended) notions of culture and reality.
The process of incorporating new ideas and symbols that shape and color perception and consciousness have always been at play. Through modern technologies that extend our view and reach, we now experience an unprecedented exchange between cultures inviting everything from amazement, disorientation, to war and destruction. Perhaps they also invite a reorientation towards a more expansive view of both the physical and non-physical boundaries of experience. It may not be surprising that the scientific aim of finding the edge of the universe coincides with expansive explorations of the boundaries of awareness through dreaming, meditation, hallucinogens, music and art. Explorations of the physical nature of the cosmos seem to be reflected in explorations of the non-material, hidden or occult nature of the world.
Even the marginalizing of the occult, for Kripal, serves a purpose by allowing irrationality to flourish off the cultural grid. He sees too, a sacred aspect to occult experience which becomes more viable in a secularized world. Ultimately serving a religious function and reclaiming for a secular society a valid experience of an invisible, imaginal, esoteric world of a superconscious field. To occulture then, is to create opportunity for a new dialectic between science and religion.
Superconsciousness then, is a realm transcending cultural differences and is accessible to anyone, regardless of time and place. Although the potential to experience superconscious awareness is ubiquitous, language and customs of culture limit awareness by creating perceptual boundaries. As I imagine it, this realm includes universal pre-figured archetypal, symbolic, religious and mythological forms as expressions of the conscious aspects of a totality that includes the physical forces and constraints of the universe.
“It is within this same dialectical context that I understand occulture as a kind of public meeting place of spirit and matter, as the place where Consciousness both occults or hides itself in material and symbolic forms and allows itself to be seen, “as if in a mirror,” so that it can be cultivated and shaped into definite, but always relative, forms. Occulture, then, both conceals and reveals.”
There remains a necessary and creative tension between the exploration of hidden dimensions of experience and the rigor of materialist science that fascinates me. I enjoy listening to popular scientists explain the necessity of space travel and cosmological laws for it often reveals symbolic and religious parallels. It doesn’t matter if scientists, or any of us are aware of this or not, it still feeds the expression of an ever-broadening cultural psyche. In the same way, occult, sci-fi and fantasy writers (think Philip K. Dick), through the esoteric dimensions of their imaginings, sometimes feed scientists with ideas for technology.
The existence of a superconscious realm also has parallels to Plato’s idea of anamnesis, or learning as remembering, especially the remembrance of archetypal and symbolic forms, whether from a personal or transpersonal past or future. If the source of consciousness and our very existence is the superconscious realm itself, it is no surprise to feel a sense of deja vu, or a hint that there is more to existence than meets the eye that only sees from within its culture, time and place.
Why some of us experience these hints more often, I do not know. In recalling my own childhood states of awareness, I was occasionally aware of something both hidden and forbidden, never completely able to ignore the presence of something beyond my senses. In my early teens, a time when my family life was turned upside down, I began to experience frightening poltergeist phenomena accompanied by an overwhelming sense of disorientation. Because of my family situation, it’s no surprise and can be written off as a by-product, or hysteria. But the effect of this experience increased my respect for the irrational and the sometimes inexplicable nature of life.
What intrigues me about Kripal’s ideas as well as those of Frederic Myers, is the connection of writing with the occult and revelation, and specifically to the idea that we are stories being written, especially as we read and write the impossible, or Henri Corbin’s imaginal.
“Corbin understood the imaginal to be a noetic organ that accessed a real dimension of the cosmos whose appearances to us were nevertheless shaped by what he called the “creative imagination” (l’imagination créatrice).”
I think he’s on to something quite meaningful to suggest that throughout our lives, we are writing and authoring, and at the same time we are being written and authored by glimpsing the imaginal, which in turn reveals through our creativity. Also, he quite comfortably acknowledges the necessity of ambiguous ideas, which to my mind most accurately reflect the nature of human experience.
“On one level at least, the human personality for Frederic Myers is an evolving story written into and read out of the cosmos over and over again within what he calls a “progressive immortality.” Read and written thus, we are all occult novels composed by forces both entirely beyond us and well within us. As a One that is also Two, we author ourselves, and we are authored.”
There’s more to the book which, if time allows, I’ll continue to write about.
All quotes: Kripal, Jeffrey J. (2011-09-16). Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred. University of Chicago Press. Kindle Edition.
34 thoughts on “Sacred Transgressions”
I enjoyed what you wrote about listening to scientists speak about cosmology, and recognizing deeper symbolic meaning, and then about the way science fiction seems to find its way into the “reality” conversation… There is a part of A Course of Love where Jesus speaks of the way physical reality is full of these symbols and meanings, as if they are echoes of the beautiful nature of Creation, albeit in slightly distorted versions due to the distortions contained in what we have collectively agreed to define as “real”.
This sort of leads to the other item I thought about, which is cultural lineages, and the way various cultures may strengthen and empower access to what you are describing as superconsciousness by carrying it from generation to generation. I am thinking specifically of experiences I’ve had in Native American ceremony, where clearly power flowed through channels long in the making that those from another lineage or culture would never knew existed perhaps.
(And yet there is a way also in which, once encountered, there is a recognition of the deep and abiding Love which is at the heart of all such pathways…)
I think there is a very real way in which a person of one cultural worldview cannot always access the experiences of a person of another cultural worldview, though I can’t necessarily explain it scientifically. As naive as that sounds, and as seldom as it may crop up in day to day experience– particularly as we are largely products of a modern worldview that doesn’t accommodate that which is not repeatable through controlling physically measurable parameters– I think there is something to it.
I think in our last conversation we ended on the note of writing and being written, and how they seem to both be going on at once. It was great to see that thought come back again…
I love your point about not accessing experiences from other cultures. That is an excellent reminder to me that we should enter into an exploration or learning about other cultures, or perhaps any other person, with an ongoing awareness that we don’t know and that there is always more to learn, and so, to stay open to newness.
Thank you for sharing that thought here. It resonates deeply with me right now.
We are indeed semiotic beings; our very form as perceptually bounded states of consciousness invokes a meaningful character to our separate identities. I believe that separateness is an artifact of the semiotics; we are all one, yet we retain individualized outlooks and propensities for thought, action, and reflection. Paranormal phenomena are no different from “normal” perceptual phenomena. We simply utilize a wider band of perception to allow awareness of greater interconnectedness across dimensions of consciousness itself. I do not, as a semiotic linguist but also as one who engages deeply in a spiritual practice–believe that our signs/ words actually create the phenomena we label; yet they impose conceptual boundaries that affect our interpretation and our mediated experience of these extra-states.
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Thanks for your inspiring reply.I can’t help bu entertain the notion that there is a play between language and what it invokes. Yes, it does function as a limiter, but perhaps too as a portal to that which, as yet, remains unexpressed, but through writing and other forms of exploration, comes into being as it is expressed through the expansion of life forms.
Ah! It is certainly true that words are portals of manifestation on this plane of ‘fictional’ worlds and character formations.”As above, so below” ?
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This is indeed a deep subject.. as a medium.. I have come across people suffering from these poltergeist experiences.. And these are real experiences..
At the other end of the spectrum I have sat within physical seance’s where Spirit have been able to manifest.. you can find these experiences amid my posts on My Life with Spirit and Trance Tags..
I was fortunate enough to shake hands with such a gentleman who had been in the spirit world for 80 years.. His hand was warm… and flesh like.. .. The book looks interesting to read 🙂
Many thanks for sharing. 🙂
Wow! How cool is that to have first-hand experienced the spirit world in such a personal way.
You’re right, the poltergeist experience was a bit disconcerting for my teenage self. I think too though, that it reflected my already troubled spirit, which was fearful and without the means to understand and get help.
Thanks for sharing your insights here. I will check your posts!
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Often when I was called into such situations, it was usually someone who was of a troubled Spirit…. for as you said about your own past troubled spirit.. Those lower enterties are then attracted into our Energy Space…It is often true Like attracts Like…
Yes I have been very privileged in my physical circle experiences in witnessing Ecotplasm materialisations of hands and voice boxes for loved ones to speak into.. 🙂 Your hair might curl LOL.. 🙂
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Great post involving paranormal phenomenas and their relationship to writing and reading, serving as bridges to the sacred and a superconscious realm. I prettty much agree with Jung’s ideas regarding a Collective Inconscious, and also second Paracelso’s discoveries … long time ago.
Thanks for the great reading!. Best wishes. Aquileana 😀
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I think, Debra, the growth of Superconsciousness, not so sure of the term, is not only affected by language and customs of culture, but also by psychological stages of development which obviously go hand in hand with language and culture. What fascinates me is the way consciousness grows and expands in the womb of these limited perceptual boundaries and then gradually liberates itself in to that wider expanse of knowing. There’s something profoundly mysterious here. I’m just deeply aware that there is something hidden in others and in me that works in spite of us. Thanks again for such a challenging post. I often find myself coming back to your post and reading again.
“I’m just deeply aware that there is something hidden in others and in me that works in spite of us.”
So well put Don! There is a mystery to this expansion that comes with time. I have no idea how I know some things. It sometimes makes me question what I think I know, and this is as it should be. Still, the intuitive sense is a wonderful gift and sharing our insights with each other as we do here is very much a gift to me.
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There is of course an obvious fascination with the hidden worlds embodied by occultism. To those unfamiliar with these things, they are very tantalizing and hint at states of awareness much more expansive than what we experience in our day-to-day lives.
But then, when one starts to encounter these inner worlds, their true nature slowly becomes revealed. On one hand, good things happen. The short of it is, one quits believing in materialistic ignorance. One’s mind expands and a new freedom from the bondage of physical existence take place.
On the other hand, it is gradually seen that the inner worlds are not that different from what we normally experience here in our seemingly mundane physical life.
We experience time, and movement, and incompleteness. There is always a horizon of our conscious experiences. There is therefore always the urge to pass over that horizon into something deeper and grander.
Then one finds a new world, grander, deeper, more awe inspiring than the last. But once the amazement fades and familiarity dawns, once again that horizon shows itself. And again the urge for transcendence is felt.
It is like a spider’s web or quicksand, these inner worlds. They are literally infinite, like the variety of stars and planets and snow-flakes of this world. Every variety of everything you can imagine is there. And there are realms beyond anything you can presently imagine.
All movement, all noise, all incompleteness.
It is all one huge symbol of something that does not move, for which time has no meaning, and which is complete.
That is the true value of exploring and understanding the inner worlds of occultism. It will point you to eternity. It will not give you eternity. Quite the opposite. By itself it gives only incompleteness and tension that never resolves.
It is by experiencing enough of this that one will eventually get sick of the whole loud noisy mess and turn to the root of this noisy mess. One will seek to make it stop, to have it finally be quiet once and for all.
For this reason, it is very important people know of the inner worlds, learn to explore them and hasten this process of becoming sick of what they have to offer, which is nothing.
Only when one becomes sick of the nothing, will one truly and steadfastly seek something.
Again, Debra, a very thought provoking post. Thank you for the opportunity to have my thoughts provoked!
Very best wishes,
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As you may already know, I took you up on your offer to reply to one of your posts. I think your thoughts here are very much related to what I wrote there.
It may seem ironic, but what the heck, I like to think that these conversations are important, but perhaps they are to me and it’s not for certain that they matter in some ultimate way.
I am especially interested in this:
“Only when one becomes sick of the nothing, will one truly and steadfastly seek something.”
Perhaps you could flesh out what this kind of seeking refers to a bit for me?
Endless seeking out of transcendence does seem to become an infinte regression or hall of mirrors after awhile.
Some sort of grounding seems appropriate to me. For one, it’s healthier to have a correspondence with the physical day to day existence of our lives, for another, it seems that a healthy aspect of desire is to give of ourselves to each other, the gifts that we each have. A disembodied spirit may not have the needs that we do for food, shelter and the comfort that comes from not feeling oneself alone, as we embodied ones do.
Thanks so much!
Hi Again, Debra!
In regard to fleshing it out, it is pretty much what the whole Experience essay is about! You definitely got the main point with the infinite regression/hall of mirrors ideas.
The Experience essay concludes there is no grounding at all in our experience. None whatsoever. Every way we turn we are floating in the middle of nothingness. It is all only arbitrary whatever one picks for a basis. That is, as long as one tries to find grounding in a vritti, no matter how seemingly grand.
But there is a tremendous irony to the whole enterprise. The one true source of grounding is with us all the time. It is not a vritti though. It is our being. Dismatrah is the (Hindu) word I use in Experience. It is with us always and we are indelibly it.
So, “the nothing” is everything you can see, sense, think, know, feel, emote, etc. The “something” is your being, which is pure consciousness.
That’s the short of it at least. In Experience, I blah, blah, blah it up.
Thank you so much too!
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It felt like Christmas Eve last night as I anticipated awaking this morning and spending time reading the rest of your posts on Experience.
Curiously, there was a synchronous moment to boot. I awoke early and abruptly, immediately with the thought, “it must be around 4:00 AM.” I looked over at the clock and it was exactly 4:00 AM according to my husband’s digital bedside clock.
I just had to laugh at the exactitude of the moment. Anyway, thanks for the note and I look forward to more conversation regarding your Experience posts.
So pleased I am to have met you and discovered your wonderful writings.
just nodded my head the whole way through this post. yes.
‘throughout our lives, we are writing and authoring, and at the same time we are being written and authored by glimpsing the imaginal, which in turn reveals through our creativity.’
‘…we are all occult novels composed by forces both entirely beyond us and well within us. As a One that is also Two, we author ourselves, and we are authored.”
Thanks so much for visiting and for your kind words. I’m glad you visited here because it prompted me to visit your wonderful blog.
I love the title and your writing. You also have enticed me to read Authors of the Impossible. However, if it’s not at my local library, I’m going to put it on my “one day when I get stuck on an island or inside a rustic cabin with no schoolwork and nothing to do but read” book reading list.
I just love that title, too, “Authors of the Impossible.” If I see the book title come up again and again from completely disconnected circles – I’ll probably read it sooner.
Thank you for the note. I am happy that you enjoyed the post. It’s a great title and such a fascinating idea. If you don’t get to the book, there are a couple of youtube lectures online, if you’re into that. Here are some links:
An hour long lecture, pretty much sums up his ideas:
A shorter TedTalk here:
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I wanted to thank you for sending me the video/audio link. I am touched that you thought of it, and included it here.
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You’re very welcome Ka!
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Hi Debra. Great post. You wrote:
“It may not be surprising that the scientific aim of finding the edge of the universe coincides with expansive explorations of the boundaries of awareness through dreaming, meditation, hallucinogens, music and art. Explorations of the physical nature of the cosmos seem to be reflected in explorations of the non-material, hidden or occult nature of the world.”
That’s a very good and interesting point. Ive not read that before though on one level its obvious. I guess many societies at different times have pursued this dual inner and outer orientation
As above so below,
I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Agreed, as above, so below. What I am fascinated with in Kripal’s ideas is the possibility that we are not only expressions of creation, but also creators through our expression. Kripal’s book examines the history of the paranormal for consdiering whether or not we do indeed create through the experience of seemingly paranormal aspects of reality what was previously non-existent. I think Jung consider a similar idea in his studies of ufology. Perhaps there is an element of this in ayahuasca too?
Thanks for the note!
Reblogged this on Stuff Jeff Reads and commented:
I don’t often reblog posts, but this one is worth posting. It’s a great analysis and I encourage you to follow Debra’s blog. She is a brilliant and enlightened writer. Cheers!
Love this!! Since I posted already today, I plan on reblogging this tomorrow, if that’s OK with you.
Sure Jeff. I am honored to have the post reblogged.
I am happy you enjoyed the post too.
This idea that throughout our lives, we are authoring a narrative – whether as it being novel or as being recovered – seems to me a given. This, by my lights, is the very means by which identity is constructed. It is attributed to an illusory self-construct which, through accessing cognition and so knowing this narrative, believes that it possesses this identity. The two together form an egoic identity – one that knows itself cognitively. And yet, as the self-entity is no more than a psychical construct, and therefore cannot “possess” anything, then the possibility arises that the narrative was already part of a bigger picture, one that is glimpsed periodically, or not.
“Even the marginalizing of the occult, for Kripal, serves a purpose by allowing irrationality to flourish off the cultural grid.” I can tell you my friend, that where I live here in Glastonbury, England, the occult is the cultural grid!
Many thanks for yet another insightful and illuminating article Debra.
I think Kripal is going beyond constructs of self and identity in this idea of occult though. Not that I disagree that there such things. 🙂 I would not however, go as far as to say that self-entities are no more than a psychical construct. I sense that there is a relationship between the givens of our physical nature and our psychical nature, each of which have more or less flexibility for change. As well, at some point, what we call psyche and physical breakdown and are indistinguishable, which is why our constructs matter and can bring physical joy and misery and perhaps, even lead to illness, both physical and mental.
What is important to Kripal though is looking at the paranormal as expressions that may in fact be creative beyond the merely psychological constructs. His question is whether or not occult experience does have a creative aspect that manifests in some physical way. Kripal’s view is perhaps more sociological too, although relies on individual experience and anecdote to see instances of what he refers to as unfolding.
There is an irrational element to his ideas that he is not afraid to allow for. I would guess too, that what becomes overtly occult, as in your neighborhood, ceases to be occult and may even become a defense against what is hidden by possessing it. Perhaps the best model for comparing Kripal’s idea of occult might be the evolution of the cosmos. There is a parade of expression from the big bang (and what is prior?) to the variety of life forms we know of, all of which might be understood as a coming to be through the interactions of the elements. The occult, or what is hidden, is what becomes unhidden, or created, through the ages and a process of evolution. But, if that is so, where does it stop? If we allow for the possibility that we are part of an expression that is both being authored by forces and elements of the cosmos and in turn, as elements and forces ourselves also authoring the creation, there may be all kinds of possibilities to our nature and the nature of the universe still unfolding.
I hope this helps. It’s a struggle to articulate an idea that is entirely new to me, but one that I consider interesting to consider.
Thank you, as always, for tending the fires of conversation here!
“At some point, what we call psyche and physical breakdown and are indistinguishable” Sort of; I would say they are identical and yet remain nonetheless distinguishable, though within that unified vision they remain categories of the mind itself (always allowing for such a thing as ‘mind’), or perhaps it’s better to say “within awareness” they remain as categories. The appearance of the body, otherness and conceptual mind remain, though are apprehended in the unified or non-dual vision – the point of ‘breakdown’ to which you refer (I think). So, are you saying Debra that the self-entity is an actual phenomenon that resides or obtains beyond either the mind or awareness? I cannot accept that the self-entity is synonymous with the body; it simply has no appeal to logic.
I will take a look at the videos you have posted above Debra, to get an initial feel for what Kripal is about. At this stage, and admittedly knowing nothing other than the few words you have written, it all sounds highly conjectural, with lots of ‘ifs’, ‘buts’ and ‘maybes’ to accommodate. I tend to hold to what can be known in direct experience, whilst balancing this with remaining open to the presentation of other possibilities. However, if those other possibilities can never become actual in my experience, then it feels to me as if I am merely dancing around in the world of ideas, and anything goes – interesting enough, but not something to hang my hat on.
Very interesting read, Debra.
My view or reality is closer to Bohm’s implicate order (I remember you posting about this) and Jung’s Unus Mundus. I think there are signs to be read everywhere, in plain sight, and not hidden or occult. I see all phenomena as semiotic, actually, so the first distinction he seems to be making eludes me.
Are occult phenomena “material”? Well, I have had some happenings involving ghosts. That felt very real to me, though they were probably non-material…
Thank you for another thought- provoking post.
Except for some terminology, I’m not sure that Kripal’s view is much different from Bohm’s or Jung’s. It may be something in the way I am presenting his idea of occult that is suggesting a difference? That was not my intention. Or, I may be missing a distinction you are seeing?
Although I agree that signs and symbols are in a sense in plain sight, especially for those of us looking, Kripal, and perhaps Myers too, are looking at paranormal phenomena as that which is deemed bizarre, weird, or unbelievable occurances according to a cultural’s agreed upon idea of reality. Kripal suggests that phenomena that the culture does not accept as part of what is real, to be expressions of a superconscious which are part of an unfolding of the universe through specifically human experience. The question he presents is whether or not our authoring of such things as UFOs, telepathy, channeling and such does not in fact bring about their reality. A fascinating idea!
I hope this helps. Thank you for the note.
I think it is all over my head. 🙂 But I have never had a good head for fine scientific distinctions.
I also wonder is super consciousness can be likened to the collective unconscious.
I am still grateful for being exposed to this tough (for me) material.
Ha ha…to be honest Monika I am going on intuition, and the graces of all others whose ideas I have been exposed to.
Yes, I can see that the collective unconscious, or any idea that embraces the totality of intelligence and forces of nature, are interchangable for me.
It’s fascinating to me think, or would be come to an understanding that we both come into being, but also participate in creation through an unfolding of what is hidden. This might be the gem of Kripal’s book for me, especially as it relates to writing and reading.
I’m guessing you have had the experience of sudden understanding that comes to you in the process of reading and writing? This tapping into some unseen source can not be fully accounted for, especially in writing. Kripal’s book suggests that the creative element also creates reality, and not merely on a subjective or psychological level, but at the level of and unfolding of the cosmos.
Perhaps what I think of as intuition is an aspect of a creative act, not just in my intuitions, but in everyone’s.
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Reblogged this on D. Blaine's Space.