Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Supernatural Inside Us

An unremitting interest in the occult, the unexplained and the ghostly or supernatural never fails to provide an intense pull toward books and films we see everyday. What is it that drives this interest? Of course, people in mental health may, on many occasions, find that the most bizarre of interests are found in those with serious psychiatric disorders. Of course, there are those who take issue with this.  Some may even say that we wish to know more about the supernatural because it may help us explain life itself; what goes on after life ceases. It is a natural wish to want some semblance of calm and resolution once death comes.

Religions have provided many with a degree of comfort by espousing the idea that life does not cease, but goes on in another form or that there is an existence beyond earthly life. The prospect of once again being reunited with others who have gone on to this otherworldly existence provides comfort in a world that can be difficult to endure. People in some cultures or eras live(d) their lives striving to achieve the necessary access to this nether world and believed that all of life’s discomforts were worth it as it was the medium of exchange needed. Pain then became a contribution toward safe passage into this sphere. Hardship was yet another means of attaining entrance.

None of us, even the most astute scientists or theorists can offer either a negative or positive answer to the question of the existence of the supernatural. Yes, the word supernatural means above the natural and that presents philosophers with hours of interesting speculation, but no hard-and-fast answer to the question. So, if we cannot possibly know, how can we possibly dismiss the idea?

We are so primitive in so many ways and yet we deny it and rationalize that anyone who persists in supernatural beliefs can be rejected as somewhat curious and not curious in a positive manner.  The tool of the ersatz-intellectual or the true savant is to quickly explain away things they don’t wish to entertain for long because it may prove too problematic.

But what if we consider another aspect of the supernatural, one that resides in each of us? Is this too “out there” to be considered? Ask around and you will find friends, family, co-workers or people on the street who will tell you they’ve had a supernatural experience and they can’t explain it.

You, being an intelligent, educated person, will think there must be a logical explanation for this and will proceed to come up with one or more plausible scenarios. Perhaps you’ll say it was the way the light hit a certain object, or the person was in the throes of some highly emotional state or they were sleep deprived or had an undiagnosed illness or a reaction to a medication and the list goes on. Everything must be logical and you will seek that elusive answer. But are any of them truly the reason this person had that experience? How sure can you be? The point is that you can’t but you also cannot accept that there may be otherworldly forces at work here because, if you did, it might be upsetting or even frightening.

Suppose, for a moment, that there are forces that are not otherworldly but which lie within us in our brains like computer programs of which we are ignorant. How are memories formed? If you were living a hundred years ago, you might hear that there was a reverberating ring theory or one built on biological bits or, and this is really interesting, chemicals. These chemical configurations did their work by reinforcing connections to other bits of your brain biology and thus was born a memory which was then strengthened by use of that memory. One theorist posited that memories could be genetically passed down from generation to generation and he was seen as totally wrong. Now his idea is beginning to gain some traction again as more and more is discovered about the genes we inherit, process and pass on to others in our familial line.

How much of the past do we currently have but have no access to? People who believe in prior lives will tell you there’s no doubt in their minds that this exists.  But suppose we do have something like this and we haven’t yet give up a sufficient amount of our arrogance to consider it?  Have you ever sat and recalled experiences you had with people who passed on perhaps decades ago? Is this one way we give them a form of eternal life and how we access the supernatural? Scientists will just say we’re firing up old bits of brain neurons and that’s that. I don’t know and I don’t have the answer to the supernatural, either, but I’m willing to consider it and I’m also willing to consider even the concept of angels. Yes, you may be shaking your head, but what’s the harm of considering it?