Compendium of Horror, Fear, and the Grotesque

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The Supernatural

The word "supernatural" means above or beyond nature. It has become a general term for anything that we cannot explain rationally or logically. Many topics and subjects fall under this category. Some of the more familiar ones are disembodied entities, like ghosts, spirits, hauntings, angels, apparitions, or poltergeists; unusual abilities, like telepathy, telekinesis, psychic energy, prophesies, or ESP; unnatural powers, such as spells, healing prayers, magic, sorcery, witchcraft, santerÍa, or voodoo; there are even unexplained phenomena that appear to suggest the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life, like UFO sightings and alien abductions.

As with most controversial subjects, the supernatural has both believers and skeptics. The most popular argument by proponents for believing in any aspect of the supernatural is that the "scientific method" is somehow lacking when faced with questions concerning subjects like the existence of an afterlife or the ability to employ extrasensory perception. Believers feel that their way of discerning what we currently call the supernatural is sometimes a gift or a curse that works in spite of how they feel about the situation. Many "sensitives" claim that they were born with this special ability and have been perceiving the supernatural world ever since they can remember. They are convinced, for example, that ghosts or spirits are real because they have seen them, felt them, or communicated with them. Other believers in the supernatural consider themselves lacking any special innate ability and simply employ whatever scientific tools are available for investigating the paranormal. Professional ghost hunters fit into this category of believers.

Those who are skeptical about the existence of the supernatural usually base their objections on the failure of psychics, sensitives, and telepathics to recreate their experiences through repeatable scientific proofs. Their complaint is that the believers present only "anecdotal" evidence, which they consider no proof at all. They generally reject the existence of a supernatural world based on their own belief that there is only one way to prove the existence of the supernatural; via the scientific method. The problem this position poses for those of us who are neither believers nor skeptics is that the skeptics tend to sit back and place the entire burden of proof on the believers; those most unlikely to be adept at following a scientific method. Rather than working directly with believers, the skeptics prefer to pose challenges in the form of million dollar rewards for anyone who can prove that the supernatural exists.

The real problem is that the believers and the skeptics are arguing about a belief system. Curiously enough, the argument usually turns out to be a semantic one. Because if any subject related to the supernatural were suddenly proven to exist, the skeptics would then claim victory on the grounds that the subject was never supernatural at all; it was natural. The believers would claim victory on the grounds that their perceptions were correct all along. History is full of instances where the science of the day failed and had to wait for technological advances before the truth could be known: cases in point are the earth revolving around the sun, the spheroid shape of the earth, the existence of microscopic organisms, or even the existence of dinosaurs. Believers should be arguing that their methods for apprehending the complexities of the "unknown" are not yet discernable by current science and logic. They should be asking the skeptics this question: "Do you believe that pigeons exist?" And follow it up with this question: "Have you ever seen a baby pigeon?" Unfortunately until science makes some serious advancements we won't be able to know definitively which, if any, supernatural phenomena are real. And the truth will have to wait to set us free. In the meantime we are all free to believe in whatever we choose.

ScepticThomas is interested in exploring this subject and following it wherever it might take us. We will begin by investigating the world of ghosts and related phenomena; eventually we will address other supernatural topics.