How many times have I seen the word – supernatural – in association with the strange things I write about? A newscaster, discussing a spooky story, speaks of the “supposed supernatural occurrences” that occurred in a location. A paranormal investigator makes his or her point about a site by stating that the team tried to debunk a haunting or monster sighting and was left with only a “supernatural” explanation. A noted UFO investigator wonders if there is not a “supernatural” explanation for the sector of phenomena that he or she explores, rather than the old tried and true extraterrestrial hypothesis. I even see this term in the magical world where an author may attribute the result of a magical working to spirits or other “supernatural” causes.
The word supernatural derives from the Latin: super meaning above and natura meaning nature. So, if something is supernatural, it is by definition, above nature. In the 15th century, something was supernatural if it was of divine origin since only God was, in the opinion of the Church, above nature. I am here to tell you, dear readers, that the use of the term “supernatural” is, in my view, highly suspect.
In the magical traditions and, in fact, in the indigenous beliefs of people ranging from Australia to North America and even into Africa, the world that we live in is but one of what can be many realms. In the ancient ways of the Norse, there can be as many as nine worlds draped from the branches of the World Tree, Ygdrassil. The poto mitan, the central pillar of a Vodou temple, reaches into the world of Ginen and provides a passage for the Lwa to cross the Great Waters and enter our world. Harner style neo-shamanism teaches its students that there are basically three worlds which can be accessed by trance work. Students of the Kaballah access ten different spheres or worlds on their journeys on the Tree of Life. Even Christianity teaches a version of the multiple worlds – heaven, this world and hell (and purgatory if one happens to be Catholic).
The numbers may vary but almost all traditions agree that this physical realm that we live in is but one world of a number and almost all traditions teach that all of those worlds are inhabited by beings of one sort or the other. I think that the question that we have to ask ourselves is: are those other worlds and their inhabitants supernatural? That is, are these places above nature?
I would argue that the other world and the beings that live in them are not supernatural at all but that, in fact, those other worlds are a part of our universe and are, in their way, just as natural as the physical place in which we live.
Last year, around this time, I had the pleasure of walking the streets of the New Orleans French Quarter. I noted, in my journal:
As you walk the streets in the French Quarter, you can feel the layers of history accreted, one on top of the other. On the surface, you have the modern day with people dressed in jeans and sweat shirts (t has been pretty cold here) but, if you shift your gaze just a little, it is not hard to imagine the streets teeming with river men moving their wares to market nor is it difficult to see the quaint mule drawn carriages that give tours in the area morphing into 18th century carriages drawing the wealthy to their places of business. The occasional brazen daylight streetwalker becomes one of NOLA’s famous ladies of the evening, beckoning customers off the street and into one of the many busy bordellos . . .
Now, granted, I was not necessarily experiencing entry into other worlds but this idea of layers is critical to my thoughts. So often, we think of the other worlds (and I am guilty of this as well) as being ‘over there’, somewhere else, in their own little hanging globe on the Tree of Life. The actuality is that those worlds are more like layers that touch and interface with our own world even when we are not conscious of it. That interface is, in my view, critically necessary for the continued existence of this world and for the unfolding of events in this world. In other words, the interface between the worlds and the interplay of energies through the multitudinous interfaces shapes our world. The other worlds are a part of us just as we are a part of the other worlds. You have only to look at your experience of vivid dreaming with an unjaundiced eye to see that you walk in other worlds all the time.
How then, can we say that the interface with these worlds is ‘supernatural’, above nature? Strange? Sometimes. Frightening? It certainly can be, but the interface with the other worlds is as natural as the breath you are taking right now. Without that interface, our world would likely not exist and, if it did, it would be a drab and lifeless place. The other worlds and their residents work together with this realm as what I see as a symbiotic whole and what could be more natural than symbiosis?
Now, before my readers think I have made the jump into New Age lala land, let me remind you that every complex eco-system has its predators. My argument, though, is that they are not supernatural either. They simply belong to a realm that we have difficulty perceiving with the five senses.