Regular readers will remember Jeffrey J. Kripal, a professor of philosophy and religious thought at Rice University, because a few years ago he declared that a Renaissance painting depicted a genuine flying saucer, and more recently, because he held a UFO symposium. In a recent interview, Kripal has made a surprising new claim that finds further parallels with the pseudo-religious ramblings of latter-season Ancient Aliens. Kripal says that he believes the human imagination does not necessarily generate its own ideas but instead may be a conduit for receiving supernatural messages from the outside. This is surprisingly similar to the claim made on Ancient Aliens that geniuses do not have original insights but instead have their thoughts beamed into their heads by superior space aliens.
Kripal has also embraced Communion author Whitley Strieber, with whom he wrote a book on the supernatural, and has taken to describing the alien abductee as a “prophet,” though he does not believe that Strieber’s abduction occurred in the physical world.
I don’t know what’s going on with Kripal, but his ever-closer orbit to the Ancient Aliens school of quasi-spiritual speculation will only continue to give aid and succor to ancient astronaut theorists as they continue their quest to speculate their way to fame and fortune.
But what bothers me is this drifting toward a weird spirituality. It’s been a long time in coming, born of the failure of UFOs and space aliens to produce any tangible evidence of their reality. The recent versions, though, of paranormal spirituality are a far cry from the spiritual flying saucers of the 1950s, which imagined angels and demons riding in silvery discs. Now, the spirituality seems to orbit around New Age / Gnostic ideas of consciousness and false reality.
You will remember that Graham Hancock has taken consciousness as a major theme of his latter-day work and claims that hallucinogenic drugs provide a path toward communicating with cosmic entities. In this view, our minds become receivers for transmissions from other dimensions, much as Kripal imagines that imagination taps into supernatural forces. Similarly, Ancient Aliens continuously emphasizes Theosophy’s Akashic Record, the imaginary library of all wisdom in the sky that psychics can visit mentally to access hidden truths. And of course we can’t forget the UFO-poltergeist hypothesis pursued by Hal Puthoff, Robert Bigelow, and others, which imagines flying saucers to be manifestations of ghostly energy from other dimensions, seeping into ours through wormholes.
At the most ridiculous end of the spectrum, geologist Robert Schoch is also spiritualizing his claims and embracing a quasi-religious exploration of consciousness. Schoch is most famous for his radical re-dating of the Sphinx to thousands of years before dynastic Egypt, and last year when his colleague John Anthony West’s died, Schoch expressed his growing belief that the material world exists within a larger supernatural context, albeit one where the supernatural is some sort of unexplained inherent property of hydrogen:
However, what if our Sun and the stars are indeed conscious? What if, when we die our consciousness has the potential to literally become a star, or unite with the already existing consciousness of our Sun or perhaps some other star? This is something that Katie (my wife, she knew JAW well) has been developing, and JAW was certainly intrigued by her ideas. Stars are comprised largely of hydrogen, and it has been demonstrated that hydrogen can encode information. Are we on the brink of beginning to understand, in modern terms, the core of the sacred science? Is the essence of ourselves carried (perhaps via hydrogen or its components) to the heavens?
The claim apparently was first made in Schoch’s 2012 book Forgotten Civilization, though I have not read it and am not familiar with it.
I will go out on a limb and suggest that if we were to actually have a supernatural essence, it cannot be essentialized and physicalized as hydrogen. (If it could, imagine how many gods died when the Hindenburg exploded!) But I am fascinated by the idea that Schoch wants to take the mysticism of Wests, inherited from Schwaller de Lubicz, and turn it into something material.
Individually, all of these claims—and the related efforts of more mainstream figures, like Avi Loeb’s claims that accepting ancient astronauts can improve human morality—are so much noise. But taken together, they form a pattern and suggest that the underlying motive behind the exploration of ufology, fringe history, and the like isn’t scientific but rather religious, seeking a substitute for traditional faith in a postmodern age. We’ve been down this path many times in our discussions here, but the more examples are added to the list, the clearer the motivations become.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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