Mauna Kea Hawaii

Do you believe in the supernatural?

While there are many ways people arrive at the conclusions that form their worldview — many people determine what they believe to be true about the world based on how their life experience has led them to answer the question: “Do you believe in the supernatural?”  That is what I want to discuss today.

Mauna Kea Hawaii

For many, the word supernatural conjures up all sorts of uncomfortable, at times even embarrassing and confusing feelings.  It evokes fear and mystery in others.  Some dismiss its existence as irrational and superstitious.  Either way, most people associate the term with something mysterious — something they do not fully understand, and for those who do not believe in it at all, something silly.

But first, I want to bring the conversation down to its basic level.  Dictionary.com defines supernatural with eight definitions.  For the sake of time, we will go with the first one: of, pertaining to or being above or beyond what is natural.  This of course leads us to define what we mean by natural and nature.  Again, let’s go with the first definition listed for both.  By natural, I mean anything that exists inside nature, and by nature, I mean the material world.

Pinning down these definitions of supernatural, natural, nature, and material world, is necessary for the sake of this discussion due to their multiple meanings.  If, when we use the word supernatural, simply as “anything that is above or beyond what is natural (material)” then I believe the only logical explanation is that at least on some basic, very fundamental level, the supernatural must exist.

Painted Desert, ArizonaThe primary evidence rests in the fact that we have a consciousness — a non-corporeal element of our being that is not material, not tangible to our five senses, and is the source for our ability to exercise rationality — namely to think and to do so with reason.

Defining what comprises one’s consciousness in totality is for another blog entry.  The main point here is that this invisible element of our being that puts our thoughts and desires into material action, displays our character and personality, is not a natural (in this context more precisely defined as material) thing.  It, therefore, lies outside and beyond nature or what is natural, and therefore must be supernatural according to the definition mentioned above.

Strict materialists will disagree with me.  Materialismreferring to the second definition listed, is a philosophical theory that posits natural matter is the only “thing” which comprises the universe and its inhabitants and that it alone is responsible for actions and events.  A strict materialist would make no distinction between a person’s brain and his mind; in fact, he would deny the existence of the mind.  But I see this as illogical because to deny the existence of the mind, is to express a thought — something that is invisible, intangible, and lies outside the bounds of natural reality; it therefore must itself be supernatural.

I will conclude by taking a rather strong stand and saying it is illogical and irrational to deny the existence of the supernatural, at least on some level.  To argue otherwise is to implicitly give credibility to your opposing belief, or thought, and that thought itself is not material, lies outside the scope of the natural, and is therefore, supernatural.*  do you believe in the supernaturalIt would be like concluding: “Natural matter is all that exists , oh, except for the conclusion that ‘natural matter is all that exists, and the instruments I used to draw that conclusion (namely, my mind and reason).”’

Either way, I would say that although there are various different worldviews, most fall into two main camps — those who are strict materialists, who deny the existence of the supernatural, and those who believe in some type of supernatural element to our existence.  I will call these people supernaturalists from here on.

**This issue of the necessity of acknowledging the credibility of something not a part of nature, i.e. a person’s reasonable thoughts, as a requirement to make a reasonable claim about the universe, is explored in greater detail in chapters 3 and 4 the book Miracles by C.S. Lewis.

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  • Di

    Believing in the supernatural realm has greatly to do with ones cultural & religious worldview’s, thus making it a very touchy subject. I love this topic. Can’t wait to hear more.

    • rworldview

      Good point, Di. One’s cultural upbringing and where he or she is grows up has a tremendous impact on what a person believes about the supernatural. But, I think too often people, after they reach adulthood, do not question or test the validity of these beliefs. Or, they simply go through the motions of practicing a religion because it is such a pivotal part of their culture or upbringing while also claiming to hold contradictory beliefs, to that religion, that are based on, say, what they learn in their higher education.

  • Crystal

    To deny the existence of thought is well, unthinkable! The very act of it is the ultimate Homer-esque “DOH!” Rene Descarte’s philosophy of “I think, therefore I am”, was postulated as a basis for proving his material existence. In other words he believed first in his ability to think , and that became grounds to believe in the material world.

    Since Descarte, other existential philosophers like Kierkegaard held an even higher standard of proof of the material realm, holding that thought could exist outside of and independent of any material form to house it. It seems to me that thought has been more readily identified as reality by philosophers than the material world.

    What is helpful to note in this discussion is that all the facets of who I am as a human being are linked to each other. None stand alone. They all affect each other. So for example, when I read an article about a horrible disease with some vague and common symptoms, I may feel nervous and anxious if I identify those symptoms as something I may be currently experiencing. The more I think about it and wonder if indeed I have come down with this particular disease, the sicker I begin to feel. Here my thoughts and emotions have influenced my material body. Talk to someone with clinical depression and they will testify to how their material body influences their thoughts.

    To say that I am material and not supernatural is foolishness. To say that one is not linked to the other is also foolishness.

    • rworldview

      Thanks for your thoughtful contribution, Crystal. You bring up many great points. I agree that many renowned philosophers have put more emphasis on that which is not material as carrying more weight with regard to reality than the material world, but I wouldn’t say the same for all e.g. Freud, or for other intellectual experts in other academic fields, particularly the “hard sciences,” They seem to be held captive to the notion that scientific experimentation and proof is the only “real” source of knowledge, or at least the most credible source.

      As to your second point, I also concur. Both the natural, more specifically the material element of our being (namely the body) coexists with our non-corporeal or supernatural element of our being. They are both inextricably linked and directly affected by each other. Please continue to comment on future entries.

      • Crystal

        “Held captive” is a good way to put it!

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  • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan P. Cooper

    Belief in the supernatural requires having faith in the fact that what you may feel and see would in fact be real. That is not always the easiest thing for a person who is rooted in seeing, touching and feeling is believing. It takes a real leif experience to move that needle. I have had one of those.

    • rworldview

      Thanks so much for contributing, Susan! I agree that as human beings, we rely mainly on our senses to provide us necessary knowledge about the world. We are prone to shutting out the possibility that something beyond nature may exist, simply because we cannot perceive it with those senses. Believing in anything outside nature does require a willingness to recognize our shortcomings as finite beings and that our human limitations are not tantamount to the absence of what may exist. Please come back and feel free to comment again.

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