Supernatural refers to phenomena or entities that are beyond the laws of nature (Medieval Latin: supernātūrālis: supra "above" + naturalis "nature", first used: 1520–30 AD).
The supernatural is featured in folklore and religious contexts, but can also feature as an explanation in more secular contexts, as in the cases of superstitions or belief in the paranormal. The term is attributed to non-physical entities, such as angels, demons, gods, and spirits. It also includes claimed abilities embodied in or provided by such beings, including magic, telekinesis, levitation, precognition, and extrasensory perception. The supernatural is a feature of the philosophical traditions of Neoplatonism and Scholasticism, and most religions and occultism include concepts of it.
- This article is about the philosophical concept; for other uses, see Supernatural (disambiguation).
- Alphabetically by author's name.
- I have never figured out why people want to believe in the supernatural. It’s as if they find the existence of the irrational somehow reassuring.
- Terry Bisson, Charlie’s Angels (2001), in David G. Hartwell (ed.) Year's Best SF 7, p. 58
- “Why are you so certain this is all a hoax?” Prang asked, as we slipped between the twisted bars.
“Ninety-seven percent of all supernatural events are crude hoaxes,” I said.
“What about the other three percent?”
“Clever hoaxes,” I said.
- Terry Bisson, Charlie’s Angels in David G. Hartwell (ed.) Year's Best SF 7, p. 59
- Man's need of self-esteem entails the need for a sense of control over reality – but no control is possible in a universe which, by one's own concession, contains the supernatural, the miraculous and the causeless, a universe in which one is at the mercy of ghosts and demons, in which one must deal, not with the unknown, but with the unknowable; no control is possible if man proposes, but a ghost disposes; no control is possible if the universe is a haunted house.
- Nathaniel Branden, "Mental Health versus Mysticism and Self-Sacrifice" (1963)
- I am too firm in my consciousness of the marvelous to be ever fascinated by the mere supernatural.
- Joseph Conrad, Author’s Note to The Shadow Line, in Hitchens ed., The Portable Atheist, p. 123
- The justification for naturalism is that it works: we have never understood anything about the universe by assuming the supernatural, while assuming naturalism as a working hypothesis has moved our understanding ever forward.
- Jerry Coyne at "Is atheism irrational? A philosopher says “yes”" October 15, 2014
- The practical track record of naturalistic science is available for all to evaluate, while supernatural science comes up empty handed. Indeed, the enterprise of science is to turn unknowns into knowns, while the business of supernaturalism is to make pronouncements concerning what cannot be known and which therefore requires magic. In other words, it is not unfair to accuse supernaturalists of “bias against the natural.”
- Ken Daniels, Why I Believed, chapter 6
- To explain the origin of the DNA/protein machine by invoking a supernatural Designer is to explain precisely nothing, for it leaves unexplained the origin of the Designer.
- Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, p. 141
- Those people who leap from personal bafflement at a natural phenomenon straight to a hasty invocation of the supernatural are no better than the fools who see a conjuror bending a spoon and leap to the conclusion that it is ‘paranormal’.
- Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 155
- All supernaturalism is simply a scheme to enable a class of magicians called priests to live without working.
- L. Sprague de Camp, The Great Fetish (1978), Chapter 11
- Twenty-six years ago knew and noted in writing what was unknown to any of those who had written on the subject in any language, in the seven centuries which have elapsed since the eclipse of this so-called heresy. All writers who mentioned the subject insisted that the robes of Cathar priests were inevitably black. For twenty-six years, including her six years of correspondence with me, she stubbornly maintained that they were dark blue. She was proved correct by Jean Duvernoy of Toulouse but only in the last four years. In editing the register of the Inquisition of Jacques Fournier, Monsieur Duvernoy revealed that Cathar priests wore sometimes dark blue or dark green. This book was published in 1965. She expressed it in writing more than a year before publication of Duvornoy's book.
- Arthur Guirdham in The Cathars and Reincarnation, p. 10-11 (1970)
- It is surprising how petty some of the “supernatural” miracles now seem.
- Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great, p. 140
- The most important of all ideas about the natural universe—that the world around us was something we could understand, rather than a magical place where events could have supernatural causes.
- Gordon Kane, The Particle Garden, p. 23
- To me, the benefit of discussing creationism is limited because my sense is that on this issue, there is little room for persuasion and therefore little value to continued discussion. People who adopt supernatural beliefs, it seems to me, tend to adopt them for reasons other than their evaluation of the relevant evidence and logic, so presenting evidence and logic has limited persuasive value. This debate really ended a century ago, when the Enlightenment teed up supernaturalism and Darwin spiked it. The discussion is, to my mind, over, and dissenters are simply history’s stragglers less interested in discovering truth than defending a worldview.
- Robert Kurzban at "Is Debating Creationists of the Mind Worthwhile?" July 29, 2013
- If we were to accept the supernatural or extranatural proposals of anti-evolutionists, it would provide little useful information to help us understand the history and diversity of life, and it would put an end to all research into the matter.
- Antonio Lazcano in Petto and Godfrey eds., Scientists Confront Creationism, p. 193
- I was a little dazed by this coincidence, but did not become terrified. It is only the inferior thinker who hastens to explain the singular and the complex by the primitive short cut of supernaturalism.
- H. P. Lovecraft, The Temple (1925)
- The rose’s fragrance, the garden’s lushness, and the night sky’s grandeur affect us because we are built to appreciate beauty and to experience awe. To leap to a supernatural source for these powerful but ordinary feelings is to indulge in wishful thinking, romantic embellishment, and metaphoric fantasizing.
- Eric Maisel, The Atheist's Way: Living Well Without Gods, pp. 96-97
- I think we’re yearning for something beyond the every day. And I will tell you that I don’t believe in the “supernatural,” I believe in the “supernormal.” To me there is nothing that goes against nature. If it seems incomprehensible, it’s because we haven’t been able to understand it yet.
- Richard Matheson, when asked, "In your estimation, what does the supernatural genre tell us about ourselves as human beings?" in "He Is Legend" interview at Cinemaspy (2007); also quoted in "Author Richard Matheson, 'I Am Legend' Writer, Dies At 87" at NPR (26 June 2013)
- The more science uncovers, the less places the ‘supernatural’ can hide.
Sadly, people still cling to 1st century mythology. We should be centuries past the point of supernatural explanations being the default assumption. We should be at the point of considering supernatural explanations as extraordinary explanations that require extraordinary evidence. But religion concocts its own version of science to keep their followers ignorant and under control and unwilling to ask critical questions.
- Mattapult at "Can science test the supernatural? Yes!!" June 27, 2012
- And they also overlook the fact that, in the entire history of the advancement of human knowledge, which has indeed (as Kuhn illustrates) meant abandoning earlier theories when new data falsifies them, there is not a single example of a naturalistic explanation having to be abandoned in favour of a supernatural one. Not once. Not ever.
- Megalonyx at "Denyse O’Leary — Bright New Discoveroid Star" May 27, 2014
- This vulgar misrepresentation—often deliberate—of A Brief History of Time reflects a very sad, profoundly disturbing aspect of American society: Science illiteracy is so ubiquitous, and religious dogma so firmly ingrained, that legions cannot read a well-written science book without hallucinating the supernatural on every page.
- David Mills, Atheist Universe, pp. 101-102
- No natural phenomenon, not one, has ever been shown to have a supernatural cause based on objective, material evidence.
- Barry Palevitz in Kurtz ed., Science and Religion: Are They Compatible?, p. 173
- Religion does not complement science but preempts and co-opts scientific discourse in support of supernaturalism.
- Jacob Pandian in Kurtz ed., Science and Religion: Are They Compatible?, p. 168
- “Man’s responsibility increases as that of the gods decreases” (quoting André Gide). Every step taken by science claims territory once occupied by the supernatural.
- Robert Park, Voodoo Science, p. 31
- So I had to face the fact that I was blessed with abilities that were considered symptoms of emotional abnormality or mental derangement by psychology, often thought of as demonic by religion, and whose very existence was denied altogether by science. So in my darker moments I used to think that my psychic initiation and subsequent experiences were a mixed bag, to say the least. But the fact is that I was very sensitive to criticism for the very good reason that often I shared many of the beliefs that stimulated it.
- Jane Roberts in The God of Jane: A Psychic Manifesto, p. 48 (1981)
- The most parsimonious explanation for why science has been unable to confirm anything supernatural is because the supernatural doesn’t exist.
- J. Quinton at "Must we assume naturalism to do science?" April 1, 2013
- The eventual development of a clear concept of the supernatural in Christian theology was promoted both by dialogues with heretics and by the influence of Neoplatonic philosophy.
- Benson Saler, "Supernatural as a Western Category", Ethos 5 (1977), p. 44.
- Saint Thomas’s important contribution to the emergence of a technical theology of the supernatural represents a special development of the concept of surpassing effects. Saint Thomas and others of the Scholastics have left us as one of their legacies a dichotomy between the natural and the supernatural that is theologically rooted in the distinction between the Order of Nature and the Order of Grace.
- Benson Saler, "Supernatural as a Western Category", Ethos 5 (1977), pp. 47–48.
- He couldn’t believe in ghosts or demons. He knew that supernatural happenings tended to break down, under detailed examination, into eminently natural events. The ones that didn’t break down—stopped. Ghosts just wouldn’t stand still and let a nonbeliever examine them. The phantom of the castle was invariably on vacation when a scientist showed up with cameras and tape recorders.
- Robert Sheckley, Ghost V, in David G. Hartwell (ed.) The World Treasury of Science Fiction, pp. 350-351. Originally published in Galaxy magazine (October 1954).
- If IDers eschew all attempts to provide a naturalistic explanation for life, they abandon science altogether.
There is no such thing as the supernatural or the paranormal. There is only the natural, the normal, and mysteries we have yet to explain.
- Scientific explanations are often complicated and require training and effort to work through. Superstition and belief in fate and the supernatural provide a simpler path through life’s complex maze.
- If you admit the supernatural into your calculations, anything goes. That is why a supernatural explanation is useless to a scientist, however pious he may be on Sundays. It provides no direction for research, suggests no testable hypotheses, and gives no reason to expect one result rather than another from any observation or experiment.
- David A. Shotwell in Kurtz ed., Science and Religion: Are They Compatible?, p. 49
- Catholic theologians sometimes call supernatural the miraculous way in which certain effects, in themselves natural, are produced, or certain endowments (like man's immunity from death, suffering, passion, and ignorance) that bring the lower class up to the higher though always within the limits of the created, but they are careful in qualifying the former as accidentally supernatural (supernaturale per accidens) and the latter as relatively supernatural (prœternaturale). For a concept of the substantially and absolutely supernatural, they start from a comprehensive view of the natural order taken, in its amplest acceptation, for the aggregate of all created entities and powers, including the highest natural endowments of which the rational creature is capable, and even such Divine operations as are demanded by the effective carrying out of the cosmic order. The supernatural order is then more than a miraculous way of producing natural effects, or a notion of relative superiority within the created world, or the necessary concurrence of God in the universe; it is an effect or series of effects substantially and absolutely above all nature and, as such, calls for an exceptional intervention and gratuitous bestowal of God and rises in a manner to the Divine order, the only one that transcends the whole created world... It is obvious also that this uplifting of the rational creature to the supernatural order cannot be by way of absorption of the created into the Divine or of fusion of both into a sort of monistic identity, but only by way of union or participation, the two terms remaining perfectly distinct.
- Joseph Sollier, "Supernatural Order", The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 14. (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912).
- Thought, as a subtle juggler, makes us deem
Things supernatural, which have cause
Common as sickness.
- John Webster, The White Devil, Act IV, scene i, lines 106-108a.