Jeff Kripal is a highly original, even maverick, historian of religion — a scholar who’s building a connection between the mystical and the paranormal. Kripal mines the backwaters and undercurrents of religion — collecting stories of precognitive dreams, near-death experiences, and alien abductions — experiences most people would not even consider calling “religious."
His view of Christianity is definitely unorthodox. He talks about the homoerotic and “very queer” roots of Catholicism; his interest in the erotic origins of religion launched (and later scuttled) his academic career as a scholar of Hindu mysticism. And then, he discovered the Esalen Institute, ground zero for the human potential movement and a launching pad for people who question the scientific paradigm for how we understand spiritual experiences. Kripal’s new book “Secret Body” weaves together these various strands of his work.
In this conversation — part of a collaboration with the LA Review of Books — Kripal takes Steve to where all the weird stuff we can’t explain lives ... or hides.