Saturday, July 20, 2013

Paranormal and Supernatural

Many years ago I read a graphic description of the meaning of the words "paranormal" and "supernatural".

In the middle of a piece of blank paper, draw a dot. This dot represents all of mankind. Now draw a circle around the dot. (The size doesn't matter.) Everything within that circle is what mankind knows and understands. We are familiar with this world within the circle. That's the 'normal' and 'natural'. But outside the circle is all the stuff we don't understand. That's the paranormal and supernatural.

The thing is—the circle keeps growing as mankind figures out how things work. From biblical times to the middle ages, the circle expanded slowly. Gathering momentum, it grew more rapidly. Draw another, larger circle around mankind and the smaller circle. Mankind observed the stars and how the earth moves around the sun. Others studied gravity, while still other men worked out geometry and other higher math that supports today's inventions. Most of those people were vilified for their opinions.  Today we can hardly keep up with the expanding circle. Maybe it's bigger than the piece of paper. What was once 'supernatural' is now commonplace.

Even if you haven't read any commentary from the 1800s about the possibility of inventions we take for granted, you can imagine the skepticism and ridicule heaped on those who might have dared suggest vehicles that carried people from America to Europe in less than a day's time, immediate communication with people all around the earth, instant photography, and all the other things we take for granted. Man would walk on the moon and come back to tell about it? Foolish dreams and foolish people to believe these things might come true. But they did begin to understand eclipses, electricity, and photography. These things were no longer paranormal events.

For a humorous look at what medieval mankind might have thought about what we consider completely understandable events and inventions, read Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. You'll get a good laugh.

But as quickly as we see the circle growing, we still keep many subjects firmly outside our circle—out there in the realm of the supernatural/paranormal. Coincidences that have purpose and meaning. Ghosts. UFOs. Miracles. Auras. Telepathy. Out of body experiences. Precognition.   People who believe these happen are often made fun of, or worse.

I once had a friend who was a retired Air Force navigator. He told me it was not uncommon for Air Force pilots and navigators to experience being followed or circled by UFOs, particularly on the Alaska to Japan flights. They no longer reported the experience. Why? Because anyone reporting a UFO was going to end up labeled a mental case and banned from flying. So they just forget it—pretend to anyone not in the plane at the time that they never saw a thing.

The whole world operates on cycles, patterns, sequences, spirals. Scientists can explain why petals grow in sets of three or five, spring follows winter, chemicals in our bodies can affect us in profound ways, sound waves we can't hear can do damage.

Remember the old TV program Beverly Hillbillies? Whenever they heard a chiming bell, someone appeared at their front door. Doorbells were outside their particular circle. It was magic to them.

Will we ever know why coincidences happen in threes? Not in my lifetime, I'll bet. Will someone figure out why some places are haunted? Maybe—maybe not. Will we discover where the UFOs come from? Yes. Someday.

The circle is getting bigger.


  1. Insightful article, Nancy. You make good points. I posted to FB and tweeted. :)

  2. What happens between childhood when everything is new and wonderful (in the true sense of the word) and adulthood when everything new and wonder-full is viewed with suspicion or rejected outright?