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Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  237 ratings  ·  43 reviews
In many ways, twentieth-century America was the land of superheroes and science fiction. From Superman and Batman to the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, these pop-culture juggernauts, with their "powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men," thrilled readers and audiences—and simultaneously embodied a host of our dreams and fears about modern life and the onrushing f ...more
Hardcover, 376 pages
Published November 15th 2011 by University of Chicago Press
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Average rating 4.11  · 
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 ·  237 ratings  ·  43 reviews

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Ryan Scicluna
Jan 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Suggested Further Reading:

Supergods - Grant Morrison
Our Gods Wear Spandex - Christopher Knowles
The 7 Spiritual Laws of Superheros
A History of God
Etidorhpa - John Uri Lloyd
From India to the Planet Mars - Theodore Flournoy
Roads of Excess, Places of Wisdom: Eroticism and Reflexivity in the Study of Mysticism - Jeffrey J. Kripal
The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge - Jeremy Narby
Book of Lie: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult - Richard Metzger
Our Sentence is up: Seeing
Oct 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Jeff Kripal has written the introduction to my upcoming book Solving the Communion Enigma. I got to know him after he sent me the section of Mutants and Mystics that is about me. The book takes the whole issue of what things like alien abductions actually are to a new level. I wrote a blurb for the book:

"Mutants and Mystics chronicles the emergence of a complex and startlingly dangerous energy in our world. Because we don''t know what it is, we identify it as paranormal. But perhaps what it sho
Mark Oppenlander
Apr 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Dr. Jeffrey J. Kripal teaches philosophy and comparative religions at Rice University. He is also an avid fan of superhero comics, science fiction and stories of the paranormal. In this book he combines his sensibilities as a researcher with his interest in tales of the strange, alien and metaphysical to come up with one of the weirdest books I have ever read.

Kripal's premise is quite simple: Those who write science fiction, comic books and other tales of speculative fiction are often modern-day
David James
Oct 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
I'll admit that I generally loiter in the rationalist world and don't put much faith in the supernatural. But having delved back into the X-Men and the novels of Philip K. Dick in recent years, I opted to read this overly-long and decidedly unfocused book looking for insights that never seemed to happen.

Kripal is rooting around in the pop culture world looking for ties to the realms beyond, and he's proven that if you filter your way through enough dross, you'll find the connections you were lo
Jan 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
I just got a library copy of this book, and it is (so far) full of surprises. First, the book itself is quite beautiful. Much care has gone into every aspect of its manufacture and design. Second, I was delighted to discover that it includes many full-page, color reproductions of comic book covers and pulp magazine covers. I go crazy for that sort of thing! Third, this is really about how modern day mysticism and paranormal experiences have inspired the works of some very prominent popular write ...more
M Christopher
Jan 31, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
I've delayed posting a review of this book because I have such an ambiguous response to it. By the time I got around to reading it, I'd forgotten how it came to be on my list (it was on my shelf because my daughter gave it to me as a Father's Day present). As I began reading, I started thinking, "This reminds me of the bull**** sessions we used to have late at night at Rice University." Then I flipped to the author's bio on the cover and was reminded that Mr. Kripal is, in fact, the current chai ...more
Feb 19, 2013 rated it did not like it
I couldn't get past page 50 of this awful book. Yes, comics often illustrate, even beautifully, a wide range of human experience that some label "paranormal" (but which I think is simply experience on a 6th sense level, completely natural and normal, not at all "supernatural" and which simply can't yet be explained by science). However, to have had a gnostic experience does not qualify one to be smarmy, smug, self-righteous, or to hold out a New Age-y type belief that this proves that humanity a ...more
Bill Bridges
Oct 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book was written just for me. I swear Jeffrey Kripal telepathically scanned my mind and knew all the buttons to push to make me devour this book. For someone like me who has spent years reading and writing sci-fi and weird horror in pop culture mediums – comics and games -- it's a welcome relief to see an academic take it all seriously. Well, not so serious as to make it boring and stuffy. Kripal admits that it was his remembering his love of comics as a kid that called him to take a fresh ...more
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I don't know where to begin with this fascinating book. First, this is the quintessential non-ebook. The design elements, color plates, and the thick, creamy pages, sewn into a rich cloth-bound book makes this a pleasure to hold in the hand. If you read this on an ereader, I weep for you. As far as the topic goes, it jacked straight into the part of my brain that loves fortean phenomena, occult knowledge, and pop culture. If those topics appeal to you...if you were ever a member of Barbelith...i ...more
May 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every now and again, you go through your pile of unread books, chancing upon those that others bought for you--or that others recommended to you.

On occasion, when you read books others recommended, you ask yourself, "Huh, why was he so certain that this book would resonate for me? Why did she think I would enjoy this?"

And then there are those recommended books that knock your socks off--and you are so grateful for the recommendation. My Eighth Grade English teacher Miss Koschir suggested to my M
Jan 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Wonderful as an exploration of fantastic tropes in sci-fi, comic books, and paranormal literature and their roots in mysticism and gnostic spiritualities, but the author seems too credulous for my tastes. I love Grant Morrison and Alan Moore as much as the next comic book nerd, and wild ideas in weird sci-fi always spark my imagination, but uncritical treatment of Uri Geller and flawed remote viewing research projects caused my eyes, as if by some telekinesis, to roll uncontrollably. Skepticism ...more
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Best nonfiction books about the origins of Superhero comics being a sublimation of intense mystic experiences of a few writers, who decided to spin tall tales instead of getting up on a soapbox about the spiritual world, siddhis, and superpowers and being subsequently dragged off by the Men In White Coats. Keep in mind, this was the 1950s, early 60's, Kundalini awakenings and Yoga studios were not on every block at this point. So these guys just embedded the archetypes and mythologies into a new ...more
Seekers of Unity
Dec 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Fun shenanigans of a book. Takes you nice and deep into the world of comics, modern wizards, madmen and the fantastical. He plays a nice line between the psychological-critical and the psychical-just maybe, catching you off guard saying to yourself, just maybe, until he brings up ufo’s and grey men again. I would have liked to see him explore the archetype of the mage/wizard/storyteller/shaman deeper, as forming our stories, myths and words, that seems like fruitful ground for the sceptical enqu ...more
David Moore
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
By far one of the most important books I have read so far. It ties together so many of my obsessions into one book and generates a fascinating narrative linking both popular culture and the paranormal. From such authors own experiences such as: Philip K. Dick, Whitley Strieber, Alvin Schwartz and many others.
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely brilliant. Mind blowing.
Jamie Rosen
Sep 07, 2020 rated it liked it
I expected this to be something of a historiography tracing the effects of real-world paranormal beliefs and science fiction and superhero comics on one another. Unfortunately, it is more of an ideological text, focused on proselytizing in support of the author's particular worldview and backing it up with stories that, largely, just happen to have occurred to people in the science fiction and comics fields.

It is not a bad book, but it was not what I had hoped it would be.
Mar 17, 2020 rated it liked it
I love comic books. I love Forteana. I thought I'd love a book that combined the two.

The problem is that because I love both comics and Forteana, this book didn't offer anything new. If you're looking for the "real" events that shaped the zeitgeist of comic books, then this is for you. Otherwise, it's just okay
Jul 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mind Officially Blown

Kripal has penned an incredibly deep and powerful book on consciousness and its twisted history throughout our culture. He weaves an immense web of connections and synchronicity, that will amaze and shock you. A book that will leave you breathless and energized.
Feb 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
I don't feel the "narrative" goes anywhere, but it's a jam session of a lot of stuff I find interesting; Charles Fort, PKD, Comics by Grant Morrison and Alan Moore (and I got tuned into how weird some of Barry Windsor-Smiths comics are). ...more
Bill FromPA
Oct 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
Throughout this book, Kripal describes several paranormal experiences of his own and various writers and artists, which often feature a sense of being outside of time. In reading this book, I sometimes had the sensation of having left the 21st century and stepped into the drugstores and newsstands of my youth where for a few dollars you could walk out with an armful of superhero comic books, magazines about UFOs and the paranormal, and maybe an SF / fantasy paperback or two as well. But this is ...more
Jun 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: esoterica, religion
I picked up Authors of the Impossible a few months before reading this, and found Kripal's narrative and thought line in it to be compelling and touched on many things I have heard and read about the new myths and lores of the modern world. I liked it so much, I ended up suggesting a friend read this before I even had the chance to read it myself. I enjoyed this book almost as much as I enjoyed Authors, and felt it was lucid argument, not for the existence of the phenomenon, but for the existenc ...more
Feb 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
As a literary review and history of the dynamics of mutual influence between science-fiction trends and popular narratives pertaining to the supernatural, this book is a work of unparalleled erudition.

As a thesis on metaphysics and the malleable nature of reality, I'm afraid it did not succeed in convincing me. It is very likely I am not its intended audience; I am wary of the way that narrative conventions are sometimes essentialized. When we insist that our stories express a fundamental human
Mar 19, 2012 rated it liked it
I got this book to help bridge the gap between sci-fi and superheroes. There were some good connections made, but it was packed with a lot of new agey stuff that detracted from any real connection that I could see. The author seemed more interested in looking at how much occult/gnostic/mystical stuff there was in the lives of major players in science fiction and occasionally referred to how some of this might have been an influence on comics creators, though he never really convinces me there's ...more
Nov 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
You don't have to be a fan of comic book superheroes to appreciate Kripal's erudite discussion of how much mysticism has influenced Marvel, DC, and other graphic novelists, science-fiction artists and writers, including Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Ray Palmer, Jack Kirby, Alvin Schwartz, Barry Windsor-Smith, Philip K. Dick, Otto Binder, and Whitley Strieber. Kripal can talk authoritatively about Indian mysticism, Stan Lee, Charles Fort, UFOs and the Defense Department's remote viewing program. He ...more
Scottsdale Public Library
What do our stories tell us about our psyches? Kripal, a comparative religions scholar, explores modern myth in the making—in particular, how the mystical has crept into pop culture through superhero comics and science fiction. This book takes the reader on a fascinating tour of both amazing stories and the equally amazing real-life experiences of the authors of those stories. All of this leads the reader to two very interesting questions, “is reality a text we can read like a story?” and if so, ...more
Ron Record
Jul 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Wow. More than you ever thought possible to know about the relationships and characters involved in the evolution of consciousness from 19th Century mysticism to to origins of superhero comics and sci-fi to the nuclear age and UFO's - aliens, remote viewing, psychics, mystics, artists, Marvel/DC, et al. This book is large and packed. Well researched and easy to read. I would say my only quibble would be the academic tone at times - ok, ok, I get it ... no need to tell me what you are going to te ...more
I haven't decided what I think about Kripal's conclusions yet--his insistence that there is a third way between religious fundamentalism and scientific materialism. However, this book was thoroughly researched, densely argued, and beautifully designed. (It's not often that an academic book can be described as aesthetically pleasing!) His work is an important contribution to the study of mysticism in culture, and will be especially helpful to me as I continue to think about the study of religious ...more
Eugene Pustoshkin
Good book. A bit too much UFO.

I enjoyed about 2/3 of the book, especially the introduction, the history of comics and the occult, and the treatment of Philip K. Dick. In the last 1/3 I saw a bit too much UFO focus. In terms of Ken Wilber’s Integral framework the book represents, in my opinion, much of green meme’s indiscriminating pluralism. The author would benefit from learning more clinical psychology and getting a more integral (transdisciplinary) worldview.
William Ramsey
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best book yet written?

Kripal writes in a very engaging way about very cutting edge topics. Using themes from Science fiction and Super Hero comics, Kripal is able to get the reader to a new understanding about how we interact with the paranormal in everyday life, what ramifications that might have for humanity, and how religion (as the paranormal) should be studied in the academy. A fantastic read!
Jul 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If you've ever wondered what's been the inspiration behind some of the world's most iconic comics and mystical works, Mutants and Mystics gives you a look into the world behind the writing, the lives of the authors, and the mystical events they experienced that inspired their world views. Highly-recommended! ...more
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