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The supernatural ("Medieval Latin: supernātūrālis: supra "above" + naturalis ""natural", first used: 1520–1530 AD)[1][2] is that which exists (or is claimed to exist), yet cannot be explained by "laws of nature. Examples often include characteristics of or relating to "ghosts, "angels, "gods, "souls and "spirits, "non-material beings, or anything else considered beyond nature like "magic, "miracles, or etc..[3]

Over time, things once thought to be supernatural such as "lightning, "seasons, and "human senses have been shown to have entirely naturalistic explanations and origins. Some believe that which is considered supernatural will someday be discovered to be completely physical and natural. Those who believe only the physical world exists are called "naturalists. Those who believe similarly often maintain skeptical attitudes and beliefs concerning supernatural concepts.



Supernaturalism, as opposed to "naturalism, is a belief in the supernatural in interpreting the world or attempting to control it. It can vary from those who believe that supernatural powers or entities are constantly or continuously intervening in the natural world to those who, like "Deists, believe that only the origins of the natural world and its laws should be sought in the supernatural.

The supernatural is a feature of the philosophical traditions of "Neoplatonism[4] and "Scholasticism.[5] In contrast, the philosophy of "Metaphysical naturalism argues for the conclusion that there are no supernatural entities, objects, or powers.


All "religions include elements of belief in the supernatural; from belief in the beyond natural abilities of "deities to beliefs in "spirits and other miracles such as for example "miraculous works by recognized Saints, the "Assumption of Mary, etc. All, or virtually all religions include "prophecies supposedly communicated to "prophets.

The supernatural is also often featuring prominently in the study of the "paranormal and "occultism.


A deity ("/ˈdəti/ (""About this sound listen) or "/ˈd.əti/ (""About this sound listen))[6] is a supernatural being considered "divine or "sacred.[7] The Oxford Dictionary of English defines deity as "a god or goddess (in a polytheistic religion)", or anything revered as divine.[8] "C. Scott Littleton defines a deity as "a being with powers greater than those of ordinary humans, but who interacts with humans, positively or negatively, in ways that carry humans to new "levels of consciousness, beyond the grounded preoccupations of ordinary life."[9] A male deity is a "god, while a female deity is a "goddess.

Religions can be categorized by how many deities they worship. "Monotheistic "religions accept only one deity (predominantly referred to as God),[10][11] "polytheistic religions accept multiple deities.[12] "Henotheistic religions accept one "supreme deity without denying other deities, considering them as equivalent aspects of the same divine principle;[13][14] and "nontheistic religions deny any supreme eternal "creator deity but accept a "pantheon of deities which live, die, and are reborn just like any other being.[15]:35-37[16]:357-358

Various cultures have conceptualized a deity differently than a "monotheistic God.[17][18] A deity need not be "omnipotent, "omnipresent, "omniscient, "omnibenevolent or "eternal,[17][18][19] The monotheistic God,however, does have these "attributes.[20][21][22] Monotheistic religions typically refer to God in masculine terms,[23][24]:96 while other religions refer to their deities in a variety of ways – masculine, feminine, androgynous and gender neutral.[25][26][27]

Historically, many ancient cultures – such as "Ancient Egyptian, "Ancient Greek, "Ancient Roman, "Nordic and "Asian culture – personified "natural phenomena, variously as either their conscious causes or simply their effects, respectively.[28][29][30] Some "Avestan and "Vedic deities were viewed as ethical concepts.[28][29] In "Indian religions, deities have been envisioned as manifesting within the temple of every living being's body, as sensory organs and mind.[31][32][33] Deities have also been envisioned as a form of existence ("Saṃsāra) after "rebirth, for human beings who gain merit through an ethical life, where they become "guardian deities and live blissfully in "heaven, but are also subject to death when their merit runs out.[15]:35-38[16]:356-359


The "Archangel Michael wears a late Roman military cloak and cuirass in this 17th-century depiction by "Guido Reni
Schutzengel (English: "Guardian Angel") by "Bernhard Plockhorst depicts a "guardian angel watching over two children.
The Harmony between Religion and Science, a ceiling "fresco of the Marble Hall at Seitenstetten Abbey (Lower Austria) by "Paul Troger, 1735
An allegory of poetry by "François Boucher

An angel is generally a supernatural being found in various "religions and "mythologies. In "Abrahamic religions and "Zoroastrianism, angels are often depicted as benevolent celestial beings who act as intermediaries between "God or "Heaven and "Earth.[34][35] Other roles of angels include protecting and guiding human beings, and carrying out God's tasks.[36] Within Abrahamic religions, angels are often organized into hierarchies, although such rankings may vary between sects in each religion, and are given specific names or titles, such as "Gabriel or ""Destroying angel". The term "angel" has also been expanded to various notions of spirits or figures found in other religious traditions. The theological study of angels is known as "angelology".

"In fine art, angels are usually depicted as having the shape of human beings of extraordinary beauty;[37][38] they are often identified using the "symbols of "bird wings,[39] "halos,[40] and "light.


Prophecy involves a process in which one or more messages are allegedly communicated by a god to a "prophet. Such messages typically involve inspiration, interpretation, or "revelation of divine will concerning the prophet's social world and events to come (compare "divine knowledge). Prophecy is not limited to any one culture. It is a common property to all known ancient societies around the world, some more than others. Many systems and rules about prophecy have been proposed over several millennia.


In "religion and "theology, revelation is the revealing or disclosing of some form of "truth or "knowledge through communication with a "deity or other supernatural entity or entities.

Some religions have "religious texts which they view as divinely or supernaturally revealed or inspired. For instance, "Orthodox Jews, "Christians and "Muslims believe that the "Torah was received from "Yahweh on "biblical Mount Sinai.[41][42] Most Christians believe that both the "Old Testament and the "New Testament were "inspired by God. Muslims believe the "Quran was revealed by God to "Muhammad word by word through the angel "Gabriel (Jibril).[43][44] In "Hinduism, some "Vedas are considered "apauruṣeya, "not human compositions", and are supposed to have been directly revealed, and thus are called "śruti, "what is heard". The 15,000 handwritten pages produced by the mystic "Maria Valtorta were represented as direct dictations from "Jesus, while she attributed "The Book of Azariah to her "guardian angel.[45] "Aleister Crowley stated that "The Book of the Law had been revealed to him through a higher being that called itself "Aiwass.

A revelation communicated by a supernatural entity reported as being present during the event is called a "vision. Direct conversations between the recipient and the supernatural entity,[46] or physical marks such as "stigmata, have been reported. In rare cases, such as that of Saint "Juan Diego, physical artifacts accompany the revelation.[47] The "Roman Catholic concept of "interior locution includes just an inner voice heard by the recipient.

In the "Abrahamic religions, the term is used to refer to the process by which "God reveals knowledge of himself, his "will, and his "divine providence to the world of human beings.[48] In secondary usage, revelation refers to the resulting human knowledge about God, "prophecy, and other "divine things. Revelation from a supernatural source plays a less important role in some other religious traditions such as "Buddhism, "Confucianism and "Taoism.

Christian theology[edit]

The "patron saint of air travelers, aviators, astronauts, people with a mental handicap, test takers, and poor students is "Saint Joseph of Cupertino, who is said to have been gifted with "supernatural flight.[49]

In "Catholic theology, the supernatural order is, according to "New Advent, defined as "the ensemble of effects exceeding the powers of the created universe and gratuitously produced by God for the purpose of raising the rational creature above its native sphere to a God-like life and destiny."[50] The Modern Catholic Dictionary defines it as "the sum total of heavenly destiny and all the divinely established means of reaching that destiny, which surpass the mere powers and capacities of human nature."[51]

Process theology[edit]

Process theology is a school of thought influenced by the metaphysical "process philosophy of "Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947) and further developed by "Charles Hartshorne(1897–2000).

It is not possible, in process metaphysics, to conceive divine activity as a “supernatural” intervention into the “natural” order of events. Process theists usually regard the distinction between the supernatural and the natural as a by-product of the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. In process thought, there is no such thing as a realm of the natural in contrast to that which is supernatural. On the other hand, if “the natural” is defined more neutrally as “what is in the nature of things,” then process metaphysics characterizes the natural as the creative activity of actual entities. In Whitehead's words, “It lies in the nature of things that the many enter into complex unity” (Whitehead 1978, 21). It is tempting to emphasize process theism's denial of the supernatural and thereby highlight that the processed God cannot do in comparison what the traditional God could do (that is, to bring something from nothing). In fairness, however, equal stress should be placed on process theism's denial of the natural (as traditionally conceived) so that one may highlight what the creatures cannot do, in traditional theism, in comparison to what they can do in process metaphysics (that is, to be part creators of the world with God).[52]

— Donald Viney, "Process Theism" in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


"Theodor von Holst, Bertalda, Assailed by Spirits, c. 1830

A spirit is a supernatural being, often but not exclusively a "non-physical entity; such as a "ghost, "fairy, or "angel.[53] The concepts of a person's spirit and "soul, often also overlap, as both are either "contrasted with or "given ontological priority over the "body and both are believed to survive bodily death in some religions,[54] and "spirit" can also have the sense of ""ghost", i.e. a manifestation of the spirit of a deceased person. In English "Bibles, "the Spirit" (with a capital "S"), specifically denotes the "Holy Spirit.

Spirit is often used "metaphysically to refer to the "consciousness or "personality.

Historically, it was also used to refer to a "subtle" as opposed to "gross" material substance, as in the famous last paragraph of "Sir Isaac Newton's "Principia Mathematica.[55]


Bronze statuette of the "Assyro-Babylonian demon king "Pazuzu, circa 800 BC –- circa 700 BC, "Louvre

A demon (from "Koine Greek δαιμόνιον daimónion) is a supernatural and often malevolent being prevalent in "religion, "occultism, "literature, "fiction, "mythology and "folklore.

In "Ancient Near Eastern religions as well as in the "Abrahamic traditions, including ancient and medieval "Christian demonology, a demon is considered a harmful spiritual entity, below the heavenly planes[56] which may cause "demonic possession, calling for an "exorcism. In Western "occultism and "Renaissance magic, which grew out of an amalgamation of "Greco-Roman magic, Jewish "Aggadah and "Christian demonology,[57] a demon is believed to be a spiritual entity that may be "conjured and controlled.


Part of a series on
"Anthropology of religion
""Circe Offering the Cup to Odysseus.jpg
"Social and "cultural anthropology

Magic or sorcery is the use of "rituals, "symbols, actions, "gestures, or "language with the aim of utilizing supernatural forces.[58][59]:6–7[60][61]:24 Belief in and practice of magic has been present since the earliest human cultures and continues to have an important spiritual, religious, and medicinal role in many cultures today. The term magic has a variety of meanings, and there is no widely agreed upon definition of what it is.

Scholars of religion have defined magic in different ways. One approach, associated with the "anthropologists "Edward Tylor and "James G. Frazer, suggests that magic and "science are opposites. An alternative approach, associated with the "sociologists "Marcel Mauss and "Emile Durkheim, argues that magic takes place in private, while "religion is a communal and organised activity. Many scholars of religion have rejected the utility of the term magic and it has become increasingly unpopular within scholarship since the 1990s.

The term magic comes from the "Old Persian magu, a word that applied to a form of religious functionary about which little is known. During the late sixth and early fifth centuries BCE, this term was adopted into "Ancient Greek, where it was used with negative connotations, to apply to religious rites that were regarded as fraudulent, unconventional, and dangerous. This meaning of the term was then adopted by "Latin in the first century BCE. The concept was then incorporated into "Christian theology during the first century CE, where magic was associated with "demons and thus defined against religion. This concept was pervasive throughout the Middle Ages, although in the early modern period Italian "humanists reinterpreted the term in a positive sense to establish the idea of "natural magic. Both negative and positive understandings of the term were retained in Western culture over the following centuries, with the former largely influencing early academic usages of the word.

Throughout history, there have been examples of individuals who practiced magic and referred to themselves as magicians. This trend has proliferated in the modern period, with a growing number of magicians appearing within the "esoteric milieu.["not verified in body] British esotericist "Aleister Crowley described magic as the art of effecting change in accordance with will.


A miracle is an event not explicable by natural or scientific laws.[62] Such an event may be attributed to a supernatural being (a "deity), "magic, a "miracle worker, a "saint or a religious leader.

Informally, the word "miracle" is often used to characterise any beneficial event that is statistically unlikely but not contrary to the laws of nature, such as surviving a natural disaster, or simply a "wonderful" occurrence, regardless of likelihood, such as a birth. Other such miracles might be: survival of an illness diagnosed as terminal, escaping a life-threatening situation or 'beating the odds'. Some "coincidences may be seen as miracles.[63]

A true miracle would, by definition, be a non-natural phenomenon, leading many rational and scientific thinkers to dismiss them as physically impossible (that is, requiring violation of established laws of physics within their domain of validity) or impossible to confirm by their nature (because all possible physical mechanisms can never be ruled out). The former position is expressed for instance by "Thomas Jefferson and the latter by "David Hume. "Theologians typically say that, with "divine providence, God regularly works through nature yet, as a creator, is free to work without, above, or against it as well. The possibility and probability of miracles are then equal to the possibility and probability of the "existence of God.[64]


Skepticism ("American English) or scepticism ("British English; "see spelling differences) is generally any questioning attitude or "doubt towards one or more items of putative knowledge or belief.[65][66] It is often directed at domains such as the supernatural, morality ("moral skepticism), religion (skepticism about the existence of God), or knowledge (skepticism about the possibility of knowledge, or of certainty).[67] Formally, skepticism as a topic occurs in the context of philosophy, particularly "epistemology, although it can be applied to any topic such as politics, religion, and pseudoscience.

Epistemology and metaphysics[edit]

The "metaphysical considerations of the existence of the supernatural can be difficult to approach as an exercise in philosophy or theology because any dependencies on its antithesis, the "natural, will ultimately have to be inverted or rejected.

One complicating factor is that there is disagreement about the definition of "natural" and the limits of "naturalism. Concepts in the supernatural domain are closely related to concepts in "religious "spirituality and "occultism or "spiritualism.

For sometimes we use the word "nature for that Author of nature whom the "schoolmen, harshly enough, call "natura naturans, as when it is said that nature hath made man partly corporeal and "partly immaterial. Sometimes we mean by the nature of a thing the "essence, or that which the schoolmen scruple not to call the "quiddity of a thing, namely, the "attribute or attributes on whose score it is what it is, whether the thing be "corporeal or not, as when we attempt to define the nature of an "angle, or of a "triangle, or of a "fluid body, as such. Sometimes we take nature for an internal principle of "motion, as when we say that a stone let fall in the "air is by nature carried towards the centre of the "earth, and, on the contrary, that "fire or flame does naturally move upwards toward "heaven. Sometimes we understand by nature the established course of things, as when we say that nature makes the "night succeed the "day, nature hath made "respiration necessary to the "life of men. Sometimes we take nature for an "aggregate of powers belonging to a body, especially a living one, as when "physicians say that nature is strong or weak or spent, or that in such or such "diseases nature left to herself "will do the cure. Sometimes we take nature for the "universe, or system of the corporeal works of "God, as when it is said of a "phoenix, or a "chimera, that there is no such thing in nature, i.e. in the world. And sometimes too, and that most commonly, we would express by nature a "semi-deity or other strange kind of being, such as this discourse examines the notion of.

And besides these more absolute acceptions, if I may so call them, of the word nature, it has divers others (more relative), as nature is wont to be set or in "opposition or contradistinction to other things, as when we say of a stone when it falls downwards that it does it by a "natural motion, but that if it be thrown upwards its motion that way is violent. So chemists distinguish "vitriol into natural and fictitious, or made by art, i.e. by the intervention of human power or skill; so it is said that "water, kept suspended in a sucking pump, is not in its natural place, as that is which is stagnant in the well. We say also that wicked men are still in the state of nature, but the regenerate in a state of "grace; that cures wrought by "medicines are natural operations; but the "miraculous ones wrought by "Christ and his "apostles were supernatural.[68]

— "Robert Boyle, A Free Enquiry into the Vulgarly Received Notion of Nature

The term "supernatural" is often used interchangeably with "paranormal or "preternatural — the latter typically limited to an adjective for describing abilities which appear to exceed what is possible within the boundaries of the laws of physics.[69] "Epistemologically, the relationship between the supernatural and the natural is indistinct in terms of natural phenomena that, ex hypothesi, violate the laws of nature, in so far as such laws are "realistically accountable.

Parapsychologists use the term psi to refer to an assumed unitary force underlying the phenomena they study. Psi is defined in the Journal of Parapsychology as “personal factors or processes in nature which transcend accepted laws” (1948: 311) and “which are "non-physical in nature” (1962:310), and it is used to cover both extrasensory perception (ESP), an “awareness of or response to an external event or influence not apprehended by sensory means” (1962:309) or inferred from sensory knowledge, and psychokinesis (PK), “the direct influence exerted on a physical system by a subject without any known intermediate energy or instrumentation” (1945:305).[70]

— Michael Winkelman, Current Anthropology

Many supporters of supernatural explanations believe that past, present, and future complexities and mysteries of the "universe cannot be explained solely by naturalistic means and argue that it is reasonable to assume that a non-natural entity or entities resolve the unexplained.

Views on the "supernatural" vary, for example it may be seen as:

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Etymonline.com. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  3. ^ "Supernatural | Define Supernatural at Merriam-Webster.com". 
  4. ^ "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): 44
  5. ^ "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): 47–48
  6. ^ The American Heritage Book of English Usage: A Practical and Authoritative Guide to Contemporary English. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1996. p. 219. "ISBN "0395767857. 
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  8. ^ Stevenson, Angus (2010). Oxford Dictionary of English (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. p. 461. "ISBN "9780199571123. Retrieved June 28, 2017. 
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  10. ^ Becking, Bob; Dijkstra, Meindert; Korpel, Marjo; Vriezen, Karel (2001). Only One God?: Monotheism in Ancient Israel and the Veneration of the Goddess Asherah. London: New York. p. 189. "ISBN "9780567232120. Retrieved June 28, 2017. The Christian tradition is, in imitation of Judaism, a monotheistic religion. This implies that believers accept the existence of only one God. Other deities either do not exist, are seen as the product of human imagination or are dismissed as remanents of a persistent paganism 
  11. ^ Korte, Anne-Marie; Haardt, Maaike De (2009). The Boundaries of Monotheism: Interdisciplinary Explorations Into the Foundations of Western Monotheism. BRILL. p. 9. "ISBN "9004173161. Retrieved June 28, 2017. 
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  17. ^ a b Hood, Robert E. (1990). Must God Remain Greek?: Afro Cultures and God-talk. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. pp. 128–129. "ISBN "9780800624491. African people may describe their deities as strong, but not omnipotent; wise but not omniscient; old but not eternal; great but not omnipresent (...) 
  18. ^ a b Trigger, Bruce G. (2003). Understanding Early Civilizations: A Comparative Study (1st ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 441–442. "ISBN "9780521822459. [Historically...] people perceived far fewer differences between themselves and the gods than the adherents of modern monotheistic religions. Deities were not thought to be omniscient or omnipotent and were rarely believed to be changeless or eternal 
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  53. ^ François 2008, p.187-197.
  54. ^ OED "spirit 2.a.: The soul of a person, as commended to God, or passing out of the body, in the moment of death."
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