Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Difference Between Paranormal And Supernatural

In supernatural beliefs and practices we always build both the good and bad "strangers" on what we already understand - our human frames. We are our own angels and demons. We are our own forms of God. How do we get past that? We accept the difference between the paranormal and normal worlds, and put the supernatural beliefs in a separate place.

Most people would probably think "paranormal" and "supernatural" mean the same things. But if you look at the topics closely, they don't. They are mistaken for each other.

Paranormal means beyond what we can understand scientifically: "Denoting events or phenomena such as telekinesis or clairvoyance that are beyond the scope of normal scientific understanding." This doesn't mean that all such events and phenomena will remain without understanding: already, there is scientific research into the circumstances of paranormal events, even if we can't yet explain how the events happen. Carl Sagan, who adamantly rejected what can't be proved, gave, in the video linked here, a plausible possibility for how some paranormal experiences occur. Time, technology, and experience will give us more and more of these explanations for what we can't understand now. The paranormal slowly evolves into normal things.
Supernatural means "beyond nature - relating to a deity or something of a miraculous nature." It has been stretched to include paranormal as a synonym, but it's important to remember how the concept of the supernatural evolved. It came out of the legends and myths that have been used to explain what could not be explained. In history, when paranormal events occurred and those who witnessed them could not explain them in any other way, we have created reasons, beautiful, even poetic reasons for why these things happened. These tales have continued to be so important to human societies many of them have been handed down to today: Angels and demons, sorcerers, fairies, trolls, banshees, vampires, werewolves - the list goes on and on. Even our different faces for God, in our different beliefs, are built on the tales of the supernatural. Some people still believe in these things utterly. More people understand that they are images of faith and still use them to express their faith - They are things of a supernatural language that people of the same or similar beliefs can understand, but the people know that are just symbols of what we can not know ourselves. Then, there are those who reject the supernatural completely, and throw the paranormal events, the actual experiences, out in the same bath water.

The luckiest of people are those in the middle, open both to the supernatural language and lore, and aware of the normal and paranormal reality. I love mythology, and supernatural traditions. I love, still, the Catholic practices that informed my childhood, and will still look to Catholic heroes for comfort, believing in them in my personal way. You can't dislodge the supernatural joys of Christmas or Halloween from my heart. In spite of dealing with the conscious energy of those who have died as part of my daily life, a good old supernatural ghost story will still scare me every time!

But if you don't believe in the paranormal possibilities at all you miss some amazing things. And, if you stay absolutely immersed in the supernatural "truths" of a rigid religious or superstitious mindset, you can do yourself, and others, harm. People don't understand that although it is possible to believe in the truth - truth that can be scientifically or legally or historically verified - belief itself is not the same as truth. Sometimes people's belief in the supernatural not only get in the way of understanding the paranormal, it also gets in the way of how they relate to the natural world.

I will write more about belief in other posts. Belief is the most fascinating and vexing quality of being human. But, for now, think about this: Your ability to deal with unexplained events is compromised if you favor supernatural ideas over your own common sense. One of my favorite psychics, Chip Coffey, relies on his beliefs as a Catholic, and uses supernatural language, but at the same time he tells people again and again to remember "we don't know." That ability to accept that there are things we don't know makes all the difference.

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