According to Jeffrey J. Kripal, the “flip” is “that moment of realization beyond all linear thought, beyond all language, beyond all belief.” The Flip introduces scientists, philosophers, and average-joes that have undergone some sort of “flip,” some “new real” that took them from point A to B—B typically being a state of consciousness, one in which it is blatantly clear that we are nothing more than stardust, and there are powers at work that we may never comprehend.
Each chapter is a thought experiment and starts by calling to attention these extraordinary tales that some might consider outlandish (many of them have to do with NDEs, or Near-Death Experiences) and then discussing how, when examined thoroughly enough, they actually aren’t as bizarre as one would assume. Kripal lays out the long history of “flips” and epiphanies, and shows that all over the world, people have broken out of their shells, and see the world for what it really is: one small part of an enormous “cosmic Mind.”
Kripal’s diction is big and bold (expect to come across words like “cosmotheism” and “panpsychism” on a regular basis), but, somehow, he makes the baffling notions of quantum mechanics and neuroscience digestible. In this respect, The Flip is similar to The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher by Lewis Thomas.
I love the fact that, throughout the book, the author aims to marry the sciences and the humanities to attain “the future of knowledge,” which, he claims, is also “the future of us.” Kripal suggests that, in order to reach this new plane of existence, we must practice “stepping away from our thoughts, emotions, and beliefs, even one’s sense of social, and becom[e] more and more conscious of consciousness itself.”
Kripal holds the J. Newton Rayzor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought at Rice University, and he has previously taught at Harvard Divinity school. That being said, sometimes The Flip reads almost as if listening to a sermon. For example: “May you not suffer like this any longer. May the present ‘you’ not survive this little book. May you be flipped in dramatic or quiet ways.” This may deter some, but those who enjoy reading self-help books would definitely appreciate this, especially considering that Kripal makes reference to the overall uncertainty of these abstract, superhuman concepts, as when he asks, “But am I right about any of this?”
He then goes into the right versus the left side of the brain, and the “extremely complex neurological correlates of language.” The left hemisphere generates the meaning of individual words, and the right side handles more wholistic meanings such as humor and narrative. This, I think, is one of the main ideas of the book: two sides creating one, functioning unit.
Kripal makes mention of American author and political activist, Barbara Ehrenreich, who underwent an epiphany of her own in which, “the world flamed into life,” and in her book Living with a Wild God, she contemplates: “the possibility of a being (or beings) that in some sense ‘feeds’ off of human consciousness, a being no more visible than microbes were to Aristotle.” Imagine all of the life in one microbe, and then imagine us as humans. And then, imagine us as microbes, and some much larger being, so large as to be unable to see us, but here we are, all moving separately, as one.
The research incorporated into the book is well thought out, and ranges from writer Philip K. Dick to mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. Kripal even discusses how Joni Mitchell came up with the idea that “we are stardust” ten years before Carl Sagan popularized it. There’s talk of Einstein and a “flip” related to Mark Twain. Kripal asks what one would do after a “flip”. After a sudden realization “beyond all linear thought, beyond all language, beyond all belief,” does one change for good, or ignore/forget the experience? When pondering this thought-experiment, I couldn’t help but picture Tony Soprano, who dealt with an NDE of his own, and, for a while, made it his new-life goal to live honestly, et cetera. Turns out, even after a “flip,” it’s rather difficult to abandon the person who had done said flipping.
Am I a completely different person after reading this book? No. Did the present “me” survive? Probably not, only because we’re dying all of the time; but I will say that The Flip did open my mind to the fact that there are leading experts in both the field of science and religion (Kripal himself) who are pushing toward unification and the extinction of out-dated knowledge. The universal “flip” may not have happened yet, but someday.