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Supernatural


The supernatural (Medieval Latin: supernātūrālis: supra "above" + naturalis "natural", first used: 1520–1530 AD) includes all that cannot be explained by science or the laws of nature, including things characteristic of or relating to ghosts, gods, or other supernatural beings, or to things beyond nature.

The metaphysical considerations of the existence of the supernatural can be difficult to approach as an exercise in philosophy or theology because any dependencies on its antithesis, the natural, will ultimately have to be inverted or rejected.

One complicating factor is that there is disagreement about the definition of "natural" and the limits of naturalism. Concepts in the supernatural domain are closely related to concepts in religious spirituality and occultism or spiritualism.

For sometimes we use the word nature for that Author of nature whom the schoolmen, harshly enough, call natura naturans, as when it is said that nature hath made man partly corporeal and partly immaterial. Sometimes we mean by the nature of a thing the essence, or that which the schoolmen scruple not to call the quiddity of a thing, namely, the attribute or attributes on whose score it is what it is, whether the thing be corporeal or not, as when we attempt to define the nature of an angle, or of a triangle, or of a fluid body, as such. Sometimes we take nature for an internal principle of motion, as when we say that a stone let fall in the air is by nature carried towards the centre of the earth, and, on the contrary, that fire or flame does naturally move upwards toward heaven. Sometimes we understand by nature the established course of things, as when we say that nature makes the night succeed the day, nature hath made respiration necessary to the life of men. Sometimes we take nature for an aggregate of powers belonging to a body, especially a living one, as when physicians say that nature is strong or weak or spent, or that in such or such diseases nature left to herself will do the cure. Sometimes we take nature for the universe, or system of the corporeal works of God, as when it is said of a phoenix, or a chimera, that there is no such thing in nature, i.e. in the world. And sometimes too, and that most commonly, we would express by nature a semi-deity or other strange kind of being, such as this discourse examines the notion of.

And besides these more absolute acceptions, if I may so call them, of the word nature, it has divers others (more relative), as nature is wont to be set or in opposition or contradistinction to other things, as when we say of a stone when it falls downwards that it does it by a natural motion, but that if it be thrown upwards its motion that way is violent. So chemists distinguish vitriol into natural and fictitious, or made by art, i.e. by the intervention of human power or skill; so it is said that water, kept suspended in a sucking pump, is not in its natural place, as that is which is stagnant in the well. We say also that wicked men are still in the state of nature, but the regenerate in a state of grace; that cures wrought by medicines are natural operations; but the miraculous ones wrought by Christ and his apostles were supernatural.



  • indistinct from nature. From this perspective, some events occur according to the laws of nature, and others occur according to a separate set of principles external to known nature. For example, in Scholasticism, it was believed that God was capable of performing any miracle so long as it didn't lead to a logical contradiction. Some religions posit immanent deities, however, and do not have a tradition analogous to the supernatural; some believe that everything anyone experiences occurs by the will (occasionalism), in the mind (neoplatonism), or as a part (nondualism) of a more fundamental divine reality (platonism).
  • incorrectly attributed to nature. Others believe that all events have natural and only natural causes. They believe that human beings ascribe supernatural attributes to purely natural events, such as lightning, rainbows, floods, and the origin of life.
  • Bouvet R, Bonnefon J. F. (2015). "Non-Reflective Thinkers Are Predisposed to Attribute Supernatural Causation to Uncanny Experiences". Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 41: 955–61. doi:10.1177/0146167215585728. PMID 25948700. 
  • McNamara P, Bulkeley K (2015). "Dreams as a Source of Supernatural Agent Concepts". Frontiers in Psychology. 6: 283. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00283. PMC 4365543Freely accessible. PMID 25852602. 
  • Riekki T, Lindeman M, Raij T. T. (2014). "Supernatural Believers Attribute More Intentions to Random Movement than Skeptics: An fMRI Study". Social Neuroscience. 9: 400–411. doi:10.1080/17470919.2014.906366. 
  • Purzycki Benjamin G (2013). "The Minds of Gods: A Comparative Study of Supernatural Agency". Cognition. 129: 163–179. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2013.06.010. 
  • Thomson P, Jaque S. V. (2014). "Unresolved Mourning, Supernatural Beliefs and Dissociation: A Mediation Analysis". Attachment and Human Development. 16: 499–514. doi:10.1080/14616734.2014.926945. 
  • Vail K. E, Arndt J, Addollahi A. (2012). "Exploring the Existential Function of Religion and Supernatural Agent Beliefs Among Christians, Muslims, Atheists, and Agnostics". Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 38: 1288–1300. doi:10.1177/0146167212449361. 
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