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Natural and Supernatural

Based on their attitude towards supernatural existence, we can divide all people
into three groups: those who believe the existence of supernatural power, those
who don’t believe the existence of supernatural power, and those who are not sure.
In this article I will examine the issues of whether there is supernatural existence,
what supernatural means, how to experience supernatural, as well as what is the
risk of doing so and what we should do.

1. Is there any Supernatural Existence?

While believers of supernatural existence are normally faith based, nonbelievers


would very often consider themselves as reason based or common sense based.
This is actually a misconception and a careful analysis would tell us that reason and
common sense cannot deny the existence of supernatural power at all.

Let’s first take a look at what kind of reasons people normally hold against the
existence of supernatural power. Very often we hear someone saying “since
everything is part of the Nature, there could not be any supernatural”, or “since
every object in the universe is material, there could not be any supernatural
existence”, or “everything is a form of physical mass or energy, so there is no any
supernatural”. Well, all these familiar statements are not right reasons because
they are just simply going from conclusion to conclusion without reasoning.
“Everything is part of the Nature”, “every object in the universe is material”, and
“everything is a form of physical mass or energy” are all equivalent statements to
“no supernatural existence”, and thus making above statements are just like saying
“because it is good, so it is good”, which might be a faith but not a right way of
reasoning.

A trickier reasoning against the existence of supernatural power might be


“everything could be explained by science sooner or later so that there could not be
any supernatural existence.” With a simple deconstruction of this sentence we can
see two severe defects behind it:

1) If this sentence could make sense then it must also be true that there is nothing
that could not be covered by science, which is definitely a baseless assertion. First
of all, no one could prove this theory to be true at all. Second, if we come to
examine what is science all about then we could easily find that the difference
between science and any other cultural discipline is that science requires
repeatability under controlled environment, which is what makes any science to be
a science. Therefore, the statement in question is equivalent to “there is nothing in
this world that could not be repeated under controlled environment”, which is
definitely wrong as we all know!
2) One hidden assumption behind that statement in question is that science is
based on material means, and thus if everything could be explained by science then
it means that everything is material so that there could not be any supernatural
existence. However, since no one could prove that science could explain the
supernatural, assuming the material based science could explain everything is
excluding supernatural existence as a priori, therefore, this statement is equivalent
to “everything is material so that there is no any supernatural”, which is wrong as I
discussed above.

Then let’s take a look at what common sense might have told those nonbelievers
about the supernatural existence. The most frequently heard reason from those
nonbelievers about why they don’t believe the existence of supernatural power is
that they never experienced any by themselves. Well, we all know that nobody
could experience everything in this world, but we still believe a lot of things that we
don’t personally experience ourselves because it is a common sense that we don’t
personally experience something does not necessarily mean that thing does not
exist.

Therefore, lack of personal experience should not be the most important reason for
people not to believe. There is actually some much more profound reason for
people to take the non-existence of supernatural as a common sense as I would
explain in next paragraph.

If we want to find two numbers that could best symbolize the difference between a
single person and a society, those two numbers would be 1 and 2. This is because 2
persons forms the smallest society and thus from 1 person to 2 persons there is a
fundamental change of the social meaning. But from 2 persons to hundreds of
persons, it is just a change of the scale of the society. This is not a simple number
game but has a very profound sociological and psychological significance. We may
call the number 2 as the “Social Threshold Number”. This is not only because 2
persons form a smallest society but also because people would DEMAND a larger-
than-2 number of persons to be recognized as of any social significance in many
circumstances.

When it comes to supernatural belief, a very important reason for nonbeliever not
to believe any supernatural existence is because normally any testimony of
supernatural experience has been provided by a single person, which means that
the testimonies normally could not meet the requirement of the “Social Threshold
Number” of 2 persons. This is the most important reason why everyone could
believe something that he/she never experienced personally but many people could
not believe the existence of supernatural power. However, no one could prove that
only those that meet the requirement of the “Social Threshold Number” could exist
in this world. Actually, with a simple mathematical logic, we should know that things
that meet the requirement of the “Social Threshold Number” only form a subset of
the grand set of all existence, and therefore, even though meeting the requirement
of the “Social Threshold Number” could make us feel more comfortable, not
meeting the requirement of the “Social Threshold Number” itself does not form a
solid reason against the testimonies of supernatural existence.

2. What does Supernatural Mean?

We might say supernatural means “out of the nature”. But then we might need to
define what the nature is. When people assumed that there is no supernatural it
was easy to define what the nature was because the nature was all in that case.
However, once the nature is not all any longer, then it is not easy to define what the
nature is and thus it is not easy to define supernatural either. In the past several
thousand years, what have made people sense supernatural has come mainly from
two sources: 1) life happenings that could be viewed as out of the reach of human
power; 2) religious teachings.

As human knowledge about the nature gets more and more advanced and hence
human ability of dealing with various conditions gets stronger and stronger, many
things that historically might have seemed to be out of human reach have become
doable for human beings. This actually is an important reason for many
nonbelievers to think that supernatural should be just an illusion for
underdeveloped human beings, and science could sooner or later explain
everything and solve every problem.

Much of religious teachings about supernatural have been based on the concept of
spiritual existence. It has been taught that the basic features of spiritual existence
should be: 1) much mightier than human beings; 2) much more intelligent than
human beings; 3) we cannot see spiritual beings but spiritual beings can see us.
From these basic features of spiritual power taught by different religions, we can
see that the best way for us to learn about spiritual power and thus the best way for
us to learn about supernatural is from some revelations given to us by spiritual
power.

Then since supernatural is out of our human reach, should we say that there is no
way to define supernatural clearly in our natural terms or in scientific language?
Personally I think we still could define supernatural quite scientifically in terms of
our natural knowledge. The key to define supernatural in terms of our natural
knowledge is the concept of “Probability”. We might say that Probability is the
boundary to divide natural and supernatural.

People with some general scientific knowledge would know that today’s postmodern
civilization is basically developed based on the statistical methods. Natural science
is constructed on top of the statistical physics which ignores possibilities with small
chances; medical and psychological diagnoses are all based on statistical data, and
pharmaceutical industry could not survive without statistical way of testing; people
who conduct polls and surveys are all assume that the laws of statistics rule. This is
because our nature is a statistically stabilized reality which follows natural laws. But
what makes supernatural different from our natural process is that supernatural
could make changes in our natural world in ways of small probabilities against our
known natural laws.

3. How to Experience Supernatural?

Actually any supernatural process that human beings could experience must occur
in a small probability. This is because if a supernatural process occurred in a large
probability, it would be explained by human beings as a natural process so that we
could not say that we experienced supernatural. Therefore, the basic way for
human beings to experience supernatural is to feel supernatural power from life
happenings with small probabilities. In order to do so, a very important pre-
condition is to believe supernatural existence.

In fact, as many people believe, supernatural have always been coexisting with our
natural world. Many nonbelievers have experienced the supernatural but they just
always tried to explain the supernatural process as natural no matter how
impossible it had appeared to be since they don’t believe supernatural. I would say
that it is self-deception or illusion to explain supernatural as natural.

Once you believe supernatural existence, then the next important way to
experience supernatural is to communicate to supernatural proactively. There is a
well known story that once someone asked Einstein what could be more powerful
than nuclear bomb, and the answer from Einstein was: the power of praying.
Praying is an important way of communicate to supernatural power.

4. What is the Risk of Experiencing Supernatural and What We Should Do?

All through human history, it has been a common knowledge among people who
believe supernatural existence that experiencing supernatural could be very risky or
dangerous. The reason is simple: supernatural is more powerful than human beings
in general and we cannot see supernatural from our natural positions. Therefore,
the most effective way and actually the only way to experience supernatural safely
is to get some protection from supernatural power. As a Christian, I have found that
the best supernatural protection we human beings could have is from Jesus Christ.