The Impossible Talk Podcast

IMPOSSIBLE TALK is a podcast series dedicated to sophisticated, open discussions of and lectures on the paranormal and anomalous dimensions of American culture, particularly as these have orbited around the Human Potential Movement and its simultaneous embrace of cutting-edge science and the further reaches of mystical experience. Hosted by historian of religions, Jeff Kripal and film director Scott Hulan Jones.

For most of recorded history, human cultures have imagined, and encountered, the sacred as a power or presence that dwells "in the heavens". This began to change with Galileo and the Copernican Revolution, and has continued to change with advances of modern science. But perhaps no series of events inspired and catalyzed the cultural and religious imagination more than the cold war space race and the Apollo space program.

Jeff Kripal discusses how scholars of religion think about the relationship between the history of natural science and the religious imagination. He addresses some of the most difficult and "impossible" moments in these modern interactions, including the rise of the UFO phenomenon, which he discusses as a religious phenomenon. Finally, he illustrates his ideas with examples drawn from the autobiographies of a science fiction writer, an Apollo astronaut, a horror fiction writer, and a world-class scientist.

Delivered on October 27, 2011 as part of Rice University's SPACE FRONTIERS lecture series.

Erik Davis is an award-winning journalist and well-known cultural critic who covers alternative religion, technology and popular culture. He is the author of four books: Techgnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information, Led Zepplin IV, The Visionary State: A Journey Through California's Spiritual Landscape, and Nomad Codes: Adventures in Modern Esoterica. Erik has contributed articles and essays on music, media and spirituality to scores of publications, and has lectured widely. He is host of the radio show, Expanding Mind on the Progressive Radio Network, and regularly posts on his website,, where many of his articles and essays can be found.

NOTE: My apologies to Erik and our listeners for the sub-par quality of Erik's audio in this podcast. We used a new mic to record it and I got a setting wrong. As I've suspected for some time I am, alas, not perfect.

In this stimulating conversation, Jeff and Scott talk with Eric G. Wilson about his work, including his unique use of Romanticism and Gnosticism as an interpretive lens through which to view visionary film.  Eric is the Thomas H. Pritchard Professor of English at Wake Forest University.  He is the author of five books: Emerson's Sublime Science, The Spiritual History of Ice; Romanticism, Science and the Imagination, Secret Cinema: Gnostic Vision in Film, The Strange World of David Lynch: Transcendental Irony from Eraserhead to Mulholland Drive, and Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy.

Jeff Kripal's April 8, 2010 lecture at Southern Methodist University, entitled, "Beyond Reason, Beyond Belief: The Paranormal and the Sacred".  The lecture was preceded by the first public screening of a rough-cut of the introductory scenes of the Authors of the Impossible film, and was followed by a question and answer session.

Jeff and Scott talk with Stephen E. Braude, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, about his career as an analytic philosopher who writes about psychical and paranormal phenomena, including one particularly mind-boggling coffee table that "floats" through all of his books.  Prof. Braude is the author of five books, including his latest, The Gold Leaf Lady and Other Parapsychological Investigations (Chicago, 2008).

Jeff and Scott talk with parapsychologist Dean Radin, Laboratory Director of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, about his work and what it reveals about the nature of consciousness. Radin is the author of Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality, and The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena.

Co-host Scott Hulan Jones talks with Jeff Kripal about his work and what led to his interest in, and study of psychical phenomena.