Sunday, August 14, 2011

Blavatsky, Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal

University of Chicago Press has announced a new book from Jeffrey Kripal coming in November. Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal looks at how comic book heroes have helped their creators and fans alike explore and express a wealth of paranormal experiences ignored by mainstream science. Delving deeply into the work of major figures in the field—from Jack Kirby’s cosmic superhero sagas and Philip K. Dick’s futuristic head-trips to Alan Moore’s sex magic and Whitley Strieber’s communion with visitors—Kripal shows how creators turned to science fiction to convey the reality of the inexplicable and the paranormal they experienced in their lives. Expanded consciousness found its language in the metaphors of sci-fi—incredible powers, unprecedented mutations, time-loops and vast intergalactic intelligences—and the deeper influences of mythology and religion that these in turn drew from; the wildly creative work that followed caught the imaginations of millions.

Noting the work of Blavatsky and others, the author says: The Theosophical Society was founded in 1875 in New York City by an eccentric Russian woman named Helena P. Blavatsky, an American journalist who had been reporting on Spiritualism under the name of Henry Steel Olcott, and the Irish American occultist William Quan Judge. Through its many sectarian splits and cultural transformations, Theosophy played a key historical role in garnering public enthusiasm for the comparative study of religion, promoting the early study of “the powers latent in man,” and opening Western culture up to an early appreciation of “Eastern religions. In short, Theosophy was a major, maybe the major promoter of the mytheme of Orientation.

Kirpal gives a brief resumé of the theory of the seven races in The Secret Doctrine, focusing on the idea of Lemuria and its survival as a cultural influence. Along the way he covers many other tales derived from these sources as they emerge through the lens of the comic book. Blavatsky News covered his last book in a July 11, 2010 post.

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