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GRAY MATTERS TheRice professor whosaw cosmic consciousness
By Mark B. Ryan such as near-death experienc- CORRESPONDENT es,paranormal encounters — andflips. In hisshort, zestynew book The revisionarypotential of “The Flip:EpiphaniesofMind that turnofattentionshows in andthe FutureofKnowledge,” Kripal’ssuggestions about how RiceUniversity’s JeffreyJ.Kripal it could affectacademic and calls forarevolution in academ- intellectual life. Kripalisan ic cultureand, with it,inthe associate dean of humanities at general intellectuallifeofour Rice, andone of hisdeepest times. Kripal, aprofessorof concerns is therole of human- religion, asserts thatmind or itiesinuniversitiesand beyond. consciousnessisnot merely a If consciousness is basic in the product of the neurophysiology cosmos, human nature inevita- of the humanbrain but rather a blyis, as he puts it,“irrepress- fundamental dimensionofthe ibly spiritual.”Itcravesori- cosmos. entation,insome fashion, Undeniably, ourawareness is toward the largerwhole. correlatedwithbrain chem- But delving into the impene- istry,but consciousness itself, trable mysteriesofthatlarger he argues, is wholerequires the insights something far both of sciences and human- bigger,and more ities, theexactingprocedures basic. of scientific inquiry and the That,of imaginative and interpretive course, is acen- skills of humanistic thought. tral insightof The twoindeep conversation mysticalexperi- canleadtothe unchartedfu- Kripal encesfromwide- tureofknowledge. ly varying times Many of the ideas Kripal andmilieus. Butinmodern entertainsherehavebeen intellectual culture, the idea around forawhile; some are that consciousness exists apart ancient.But in modern West- from the brain fliesinthe face ernculture, particularly aca- of dominant assumptions not demicculture,theyhavebeen onlyinneuroscience,and in the pushed to the margins. Kripal, sciencesgenerally, but in social however, discerns theiremer- sciencesand even in schol- gent possibilities. “The Flip”is arship in humanities. George Peters /Getty grounded in hisprofound ex- Kripal, though, drawsona In “The Flip,” Jeffrey J. Kripal argues that consciousness is afundamental dimension of thecosmos. plorationsofreligious and mountingwealth of speculation relatedexperiences,and their in both the sciences andhu- ontologicalsignificance. It manities —and, most poignant- eventistrue to details of the viewpointsinthe philosophy of provides glimpses of epipha- ly,onpowerfulpersonal experi- actual occurrence. Anear-death mind —various approaches, that nies thatshowthe limitations encesofhighlycredible scien- experience convinces askeptic is,tothe mind-bodyproblem. of ouringrained habits of tistsand scholars. The “flip” of thatconsciousness canbeen- Drawing on some of the most mind, and it synthesizessome thetitle is aconversion experi- hanced as abrain shuts down. recent of thinkers, he portraysa of themostrecent speculations ence,arevelatory event that That aserious investigator universe thatinone wayor about the natureofthe cosmos instantlychanges the subject’s should entertain such thoughts another is panpsychic, pervad- andthe human,proposing a materialisticoutlook to acon- bears awhiff of academicscan- ed by consciousness. renewedmutualengagement of viction thatrealityisgreater dal.But thatispreciselyKripal’s To penetrate the netherrang- the sciences andhumanities. than materialisticassumptions point. It is notfacts andexperi- es of those realms, however, AllofthisKripaldoesina canexplain. ence thatrelegate such epipha- requires morethan the purely manifesto that is erudite Materialism—the belief that niestothe sidelines; it is,rath- rational mind —tied to con- enoughtobeabsorbed in so- matter is the primary constitu- er,the social dynamics of cepts, step-by-step logicand phisticatedacademic discourse entofreality,and thatmindcan knowledge—the grip of areign- material or quantitative evi- but succinctand engaging ultimately be explained by ingviewofreality and theso- dence—can provide. It requires enough to be takenupinan physical processes—shapes, ciallyenforced incredulitythat imaginationand visionary in- undergraduate seminar, and to oftenunconsciously,the lensby meets anydeviation from it. sight,statesofawareness that reach apublic beyond universi- whichthe scientificallyori- Kripal’s flippersinclude presti- arebeyond the workings of ties. With its visionarynotions ented, highbrow West views the gious andaccomplished scien- ‘The Flip: ordinary, conceptual thought. and revisionarypotential, “The world. tists,engineers,medical profes- Such states, andtheir intu- Flip” merits awide readership, Flips areusuallytriggered by sionals and secularintellectu- Epiphanies of Mind itive realizations, producea across the academyand out- confrontations with the para- als. and the Futureof differentlanguage;theygener- side it. normal,occurrencesthatthe Contemplating their experi- Knowledge’ ate symbolic expression,such as materialisticoutlook considers ence leadshim to morecosmic Jeffrey J. Kripal in art, poetry,dreams and reli- MarkB.Ryan is theauthor of “A impossible. Such encounters, ruminations. Counterintuitive gious visions. Kripalurges atten- Different Dimension: Reflections Bellevue Literary Press Kripalargues,are surprisingly concepts in modern physics— tion to subjective experiences on theHistoryofTranspersonal 240pages,$13.38 ubiquitousthroughout history the relativity of space and time, normallydismissed in academic Thought.“Ahistorian of and in ourtimes. Adream turns theequivalence of matter and discourse:tomystical visions, as American culture, he lives now outtobeprecognitive. An ap- energy,quantumentanglement embodiedinthe rich historical in Houston,after acareer parent apparition coincides andnonlocality, black holes is not simplydeadstuff. Kripal literature, andtothe profound teachingatYale Universityand withthe deathofalovedone.A andtime-reversals —make offers asuccinct and cogent insights thatemerge from ex- theUniversidad de lasAméricas spontaneous vision of adistant spacefor the notion thatmatter tourthrough contemporary traordinarysubjective events in Puebla,Mexico.
wanted my nets to be cast someone whogets it.” J-HYPE wide.” She even hosted aclass CopyrightFrompag eF12019 Olive SoftwareAll Jewish young pro- 9/22/2019 7:41:19 AM at herhouse. fessions in their 20sand “The classesare not Originally from Toron- 30s arewelcome to join intimidating, and they’re to,heisfromaFrench the group. Already,there not in aclassroom or Sephardic family, the arehundreds of mem- synagogue,”she said. eldest of six boys. bers, Ouzzan said. “They’re in people’s He pursued industrial Events rangefrom homes. The Rabbi brings engineering in college, happy hours and barbe- the food,and youjust but he made asea change cuestoPurim parties, a open your door.It’san when he decided to enroll men’s Scotch and Smooze intimate conversation in afull-time Yeshivain to awomen’s Challah about anything and every- Jerusalem known as Kol Bake. thing.” Torah. Somemembers popin Ouzzan often posts on He andhis wife, Dev- and out. Aregular core Facebook timesand orah, livedthe first few attends Shabbatdinners placeswhere he’llbe years of their married life at the Rabbi’shome. available forcoffee and in Israel, dedicating their Often, about 50 young casual discussion. “You time to Jewish education. professionals sit alongside cancome by and have a In 2013,Ouzzan took a the Ouzzans and their five-minuteconversation,” position in Houston as children. Tabachnicksaid. assistant rabbi forCon- Barbecuesare held Or amorein-depth gregation Beth Rambam, onceaquarter in amem- conversation will spring movedhis familytothe ber’s home. “Wehavelive up,and agroup will gath- southwest Fondren neigh- music and tons of food,” Elizabeth Conley /Staff photographer er. borhood and signed up to Ouzzan said. The J-HYPE gatherings include everythingfromtrips and social events to “The ease of it is really work with TORCH a The Rabbi also hosts educational initiatives. nice,”she said.“Religious month later. classesand home study organizations sound likea “I realizedearly on that sessions. He is willing to session called “Fellow- the benefits of Judaism.” studysessions in down- lot of structureand alot Iconnectedverywell travel to hismembers ships” on Thursday Ouzzan, however, said town, Midtown, Montrose of rigidity, but that’snot with young Jewish adults, insteadofasking them to nights. he seesthe benefits of his and the Heights. what thisisall about. sharing Jewish wisdom, show up at acertain loca- The rabbi wants to faith firsthand on adaily “In acityasvast as We’reall youngprofes- taking them to Israel, tion. appeal to young Jewish basis. Houston,whereyoung sionals, going through hostingthem at my home “I go to Montrose;Igo professionals from all “I want people to con- people areall over,I’m different lifeevents, and forShabbat, he said. to Midtown,”hesaid. “I walks of life—whether nectwith each other, trying my best to keep it’sareallynice groupof “Theyenjoyeditaswell.” bring dinner and some- theycome occasionallyto connectwith Judaism, Jews Jewish,toconnect people.” Ouzzan decided to take times aguest speaker. I an event or become more with Godand the Torah,” them with each other and Tabachnickhas already hisoutreachefforts to the comepreparedwith a active,regular partici- he said. “There’snothing with reading the Torah,” made anumber of friends next leveland starthis nice discussion, and Iget pants. in your life thatcannotbe he said. “You have to through the group. She ownorganization in Feb- everyone talkingand “Wehaveaproblem of positively enhanced by make it easy forthem to recommendsthatother ruary. interacting.” apathyinthe young Jew- the practice and studyof show up.” young Jewish profession- “I felt likeconsolidating Ouzzan partners with ishworld,”hesaid. “Our Judaism.” The Rabbi’saccessibil- als give it achance. my energy andfocus,”he the Kollel of Houston grandparents and our He alsohas noticed that ityand the welcoming “Whynot go to an said. “I wanted to do TorahCenter forweekly parents sweatedand bled in Houston, younger Jew- atmosphereatJ-HYPE event and try it out? more. There’sanexcite- sessions of Torahlearn- to keep Judaism relevant ishresidentsare moving makefor rewarding expe- You’re going to be sur- ment and energy that ing,and each year,the in their lives. Nowwe to variousneighborhoods riences, Tabachnicksaid. prised,”she said. “I’ve comeswith running my rabbi plans to take mem- have so much freedom, insteadofstayingcen- “He’ll meet us at our reallyenjoyedwhatIgot ownprogram.IknewI bers on atriptoIsrael. and there’slessofaneed teredaround Meyerland. level,”she said. “He’ll outofit, and the people wanted it to have anon- He’s also launching a to stay connected. We That’swhy he showsupto come to Agorafor coffee. have becomeabig partof denominationalfeel.I regular weeklylearning have ahardertime seeing happy hours and home It’s justhanging outwith my life.”