Supernatural is a kind of catchall term that includes superstition, fakery, general religious beliefs, and perhaps some phenomena which many of us either don’t recognize or have no provable explanation for. Some believe in it quite devoutly, others reject it entirely, while some are skeptical to one extent or another.
I tend to believe in the “supernatural”, as something we can’t ordinarily perceive, but which influences our lives and environment in ways not easy to trace. Some believe in it a lot more than I do, others deny that it exists entirely. I’m not sure just why I find ideas or claims believable, while I disregard others, but some seem like obvious fakes, or just coincidences. But to me, there are claims for the supernatural that seem more plausible.
Is it just that I’m gullible? I probably am, but am not sure that’s the case here. Did my religious background predispose me to such belief? That’s quite possible too. I became disenchanted with religion, but not because the faith I grew up in was a bad experience.
That said, I think I see why some dislike religion in some of the same ways I do myself. Some species of religion are very dogmatic and intolerant. Few if any philosophic systems take in all the phenomena of the universe, but fundamentalist religions (as well as other systems) exclude WAY too much. Remember Aldous Huxley’s description of the human mind as a “reducing valve”. There’s too much information coming at us. We can’t respond to it all, so our minds exclude a lot of our experience, and much of what it excludes is unimportant, but can we certainly say that ALL of it is? If we feel our lives are meaningless and boring, maybe we’re excluding information that we need.
So let me share some experiences personal to me. About fourteen years ago I woke up with a particular song in my head, one by The Band, which I had been familiar with for a couple of decades, but had never listened to closely. I decided to buy the CD it appeared on, and listened to it with great attention. A month or two later I met the woman who later became my wife. Did the song have anything to do with that? I wouldn’t definitively assert that it did, but it felt that way to me.
Two or three months ago I had a similar experience. I was washing my hands, and my wedding ring came off. As far as I can remember, the first time it had come off since I put it on. When it came off, purely by accident, as far as I could tell, my immediate thought was, “Maybe this is an omen”, though I didn’t take that thought very seriously. It was, however, only two or three weeks later that I met a woman with whom I entered into a relationship. So was that an omen? I don’t think that can be proven in any scientific sense.
There’s more to the story, though. My new lady friend told me that she had asked the “universe” for a male friend who was tall and intelligent. I’m taller than average, how intelligent I am is open to debate, and she just told me part of her original request was for a good kisser (which I don’t remember her mentioning before). In any case, when we met we immediately saw something in each other (I’m not sure either of us could put a finger on just what), and became intimate quite quickly. The first night we spent together was very enjoyable, but I think both of us had our doubts about a new relationship. One is inclined to question whether one is making a mistake or not in that situation.
As I was driving away I put on a Neil Young CD, and the first song I heard was one called I Believe in You. The chorus was, “Now that you’ve made yourself love me/Do you think I can change it in a day?/How can I place you above me? /Am I lying to you when I say/That I believe in you….” The message seemed very personal to me: that I had the choice of throwing myself into the relationship and believing in my partner, or withdrawing, and losing a potentially meaningful experience, which I have often done. I decided that pursuing the relationship was a chance I couldn’t pass up.
Can this series of experiences be classified as “supernatural”, are they just coincidental, or is it something else? Again, I don’t think that can be proven in any scientific way, but one event is coincidental, while a series of events may possibly be a pattern, even if one can’t define their relationship in any very clear way. Could they be called Jungian synchronicity? Or archetypal? The pattern I think I see may be merely delusion, but it doesn’t FEEL that way. When I listen to, or think about the song it packs a very deep emotional charge for me. But in scientific terms, I don’t think that proves anything. I don’t see how the experience could be replicated, for instance. Science, as we know it in the west, is oriented around material phenomena, and if the experiences described involve materialism, it is only in the very widest sense.
I don’t see these events as causal. Did my ring falling off cause me to meet the person I did? Doesn’t seem likely. Did meeting her cause my ring to fall off? That would mean a future event caused a past one. Our distant ancestors might have no problem believing this; I don’t think modern science would agree.
But do future events (or potential events) cast shadows into the past? Our distant ancestors believed in oracles, and if they did indeed work (even occasionally) I suppose this was how they did. Can I explain it in greater detail? No.
But if my perception and interpretation of this experience has any validity, I think it indicates that the science we know is unable, or finds it very difficult , to evaluate certain sorts of perception. The universe falls into patterns, some extremely complex. My friend and I agree, I think, that our mutual experience feels benevolent rather than random. Where this benevolence comes from, I am unable to explain. I could attribute it to God, but that would only be speculative on my part. To say that there is a realm of possibility that sometimes opens doors which we may happen to perceive, and which we can take advantage of, feels a bit more accurate, but remains a vague description, which I’m unable to clearly define. How does such a realm (if it exists) operate, and how is it possible for us to contact it? There may well be “spiritual” or “religious” practices or exercises that make this possible, but I am unaware of having practiced any.
Another somewhat similar experience came when I began my career as a nurse. I wasn’t at all sure that I could become competent, and had to concentrate very hard to do so. After some time I noticed that my perspective had changed. The process of concentration had removed my focus from my own petty problems, so I saw things differently. I didn’t continue that concentration, though, and slipped back into self-absorption. Old habits die hard, and it’s very possible to lose the ground one has gained.
The material world, which we all perceive in more or less similar ways, though our ideas about it may vary widely, is amazing enough. It’s incredibly complex. I see life, and especially conscious and intelligent life, as fantastically improbable, but it is omnipresent on this planet, and based on relatively simple forms which have diversified unbelievably. If there is a “supernatural” world that causes or complements it, that is still more amazing, and may be as “natural” as the world we ordinarily see, just more difficult to perceive. There are many “spiritual” conceptions that, if valid, indicate fully as much complication as the “natural” world.
What seems unfortunate to me is that humans seem compelled to argue about whose version of reality is true. Organized religion has been often used to support powerful people instead of those in unfortunate circumstances. Charlatans of all sorts have promised everyone the moon, on the theory that there’s one born every minute. Sadly, this is more often true than not. But that doesn’t prove that humans don’t have more possibilities for perception and achievement than we ordinarily think. Not everyone hungers for a life of meaning beyond simply making a living and taking care of one’s family, but some do. George Gurdjieff, about whom I’ve written elsewhere, said of the system of thought and practice he taught, that it was most attractive to people disappointed with life. Some of his own students were very successful in the world. A.R. Orage owned a literary journal in England, P.D. Ouspensky had been a successful journalist and author who had attracted hundreds to his lectures, J.G. Bennett had been in charge of Intelligence for Great Britain in Turkey and much of the Middle East after World War I, and employed his scientific training in the coal industry later. Margaret Anderson published James Joyce and other avant garde authors. Despite their success in the world, they were attracted to a teaching that promised a deeper experience and purpose. Whether they achieved that experience, only they could answer, though any of us can speculate as to whether they were deluded or not.
You can also decide for yourself whether I’m deluded in my interpretation of my own experience.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s