Jeffrey Kripal presents “The Superhumanities: Historical Precedents, Moral Objections, New Realities”

Since Jeffrey Kripal announced the imminent publication of his book on the superhumanities, I doubt I’ve been alone in being curious about just what he is proposing.

A quick web search will reveal, at least, a YouTube lecture he gave under the auspices of the Parapsychological Association, now viewable here. Interested parties can hear him present his ideas, again, at an upcoming lecture at University of British Columbia, which will be broadcast on Zoom 22 March 2021 4:00 p.m PST.

The abstract for the talk:

What would happen if we reimagined the humanities as the superhumanities? If we acknowledged and celebrated the undercurrent of the fantastic within our humanistic disciplines, entirely new cultural worlds and meanings would become possible. That is Jeffrey J. Kripal’s vision for the future—to revive the suppressed dimension of the superhumanities, which consists of rare but real altered states of knowledge that have driven the creative processes of many of our most revered authors, artists, and activists. In Kripal’s telling, the history of the humanities is filled with precognitive dreams, evolving superhumans, and doubled selves. The basic idea of the superhuman, for Kripal, is at the core of who and what the human species has tried to become over millennia and around the planet.

Kripal argues that we have to decolonize reality itself if we are going to take human diversity seriously. Toward this pluralist end, he engages psychoanalytic, Black critical, feminist, postcolonial, queer, and ecocritical theory to move beyond naysaying practices of critique toward a future that can embrace those critiques within a more holistic view that recognizes the human being as both a social-political animal as well as an evolved cosmic species that understands and experiences itself as something super.

I’ve made public my reservations, especially in regards to hints he’s dropped of his reading of Derrida in the book, and, from what what I heard in that YouTube lecture, his reading of Nietzsche is idiosyncratic if more defensible. Nevertheless, I, for one, will surely try to take this lecture in (and write about it, here!). And, of course, I look forward to reading his full treatment of the matter when his book appears in July…

You can read my response to the lecture, here.

2 thoughts on “Jeffrey Kripal presents “The Superhumanities: Historical Precedents, Moral Objections, New Realities”

  1. I know it’s wrong to judge a book or speaker by an awful buzzword-suffused social media announcement, but “who and what the human species has tried to become over millennia and around the planet” is just a disarmingly naïve combination of words that almost comically channels the previous century’s most offensive positivist cliches. Also, the clearly unregistered contradiction between “move beyond naysaying practices of critique” and the gushing reference to the “creative processes of many of our most revered authors, artists, and activists” (all of whom are likely to have been at their most creative in their naysaying and only of-their-time-and-place in their attempted yeasaying; Nietzsche being a case in point) is at best suspicious.
    Good luck making heads or tails of this stuff.


    1. I have been more reserved in voicing my misgiving than you, but I certainly share some of your pessimism. That being said, Kripal can be coherent, so I wouldn’t go as far as to say this talk or the forthcoming book it previews aren’t something one won’t be able to make heads or tails of. We’ll just have to wait for the talk and, more importantly, the book (from U of Chicago Press, no less) where he can develop his proposals and insights most fully!


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