Some time ago, during a debate about God as creator, I found myself running into a wall with my atheist opponent who kept refusing to acknowledge anything “magical”. Funny thing was, I wasn’t even talking about anything magical. I was only suggesting the possibility that something intelligent may have created the universe. My friend kept insisting that the idea of something magical having created the universe was preposterous.
He was making the common mistake of equating higher intelligence with magic. He probably wouldn’t have resisted my suggestion as vehemently if I had said that an intelligent alien race created the universe. It was the word God that he wasn’t comfortable with.
But this disagreement pointed me in another direction. I realised that we tend to label a lot of concepts as ‘supernatural’ without a second thought. Things that science can’t explain are labeled supernatural. Ideas that are not reflected in scientific literature of the time are labeled supernatural. The God concept, of course, gets thrown into that pile as well.
Basically anything that isn’t part of the tangible, knowable, visible universe; is classified as supernatural. But it is not a valid classification, is it? The mistake we make in making such a classification is assuming that nature is only made up of things that we know. We mistake our view of the world to be the absolute world. We confuse the subjective with the objective.
A few centuries ago, the idea of man flying across continents in minutes may have been labeled supernatural. People recovering from utterly destroying injuries was supernatural some time ago. Now, thanks to advancements in medical science, such events are seen as perfectly natural. History has repeatedly rewritten our definitions of what is natural and what is supernatural. Our view of nature keeps expanding as time passes.
Religion, sadly, has often encouraged the facile divide between natural and supernatural. God has been put on a pedestal and his images have been lined with armies of priests specialising in incredibly complex rituals. What should have been man’s direct line with God has been turned into a veritable industry with all manner of middlemen telling you how to go about finding God. God has been taken from his rightful place – that is inside man – and imprisoned in an imposing “out there” and “up there” structure.
In The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell describes the nature of the killing idea that the modern world has come to refer to as the supernatural:
The idea of the supernatural as being something over and above the natural is a killing idea. In the Middle Ages this was the idea that finally turned the world into something like a wasteland, a land where people were living inauthentic lives, never doing a thing that they truly wanted because the supernatural laws required them to live as directed by their clergy. In a wasteland, people are fulfilling purposes that are not properly theirs but have been put upon them as inescapable laws. This is a killer.
I used to think of God as something beyond nature. But when you actually think about it, there is nothing magical or supernatural about God or the so-called miracles. They are only aspects of reality we haven’t been exposed to yet. Once you understand them, they simply melt into the natural, becoming parts of it.
The divide between what we call natural and what we consider supernatural roots from the tendency to see certain things as being “beyond this realm”. In truth, there is no realm other than this one realm. It is only our faulty and limited understanding of reality that causes such bogus divisions. At the end of the day, there is only one universe that contains it all.