How do you define "Supernatural?"

I have a question I don’t think has been asked in this forum before—if it has, I can only say in my defense that i have not gone through the search engine here. I have not had time. Sorry. :smiley:

The question is:

Is there such a thing in this Universe as “Supernatural?” I would say “Phenomenon-wise.”

Back in my New Age/Pagan days, I held the position that there was NO SUCH THING as “Supernatural,” only NATURAL LAWS that had not been EXPLAINED yet.

Now that I am in the Bosom of the Church and love Christ and God above everything else, I do not know whether

  1. I should believe that anymore;

  2. Whether Heaven should be considered “Supernatural” or simply part of the “Natural Forces/Order of Things/The Universe.”

  3. Whether Anything can be ABOVE or WITHIN the “Natural Forces/Order of Things/The Universe.”
    Like—let’s say—Angels.
    Or Ghosts.

  4. How do I, as a Good Christian Eastern Catholic in Communion in Rome, be able to believe what “Supernatural” is?

  5. How do YOU define "Supernatural?’

Any thoughts? Answers? Condemnations? Hymns and Homilies? :stuck_out_tongue:

I welcome discussion. :thumbsup::thumbsup:

Nobody? :confused:


Tough crowd. :frowning:

This article from the Catholic Encyclopedia may shed some light on your questions.

Supernatural Order

It is best to offer one question at a time.

Thank you so much for the link. And I will follow your advice next time. One Question. Get it. :thumbsup:

(While you’re at it, maybe you can figure out what subnatural means.) I can’t see what a distinction between supernatural and natural can do for us other than to point out that there are some things that we don’t yet understand and perhaps there are things that we will never understand no matter how long or how well we inquire. Since we don’t know in advance what the limits of knowledge are for specific cases, there is no practical value in labeling some phenomena “supernatural.” It would just be to say, “don’t bother inquiring further.” But time and again through history people have made fruitful inquiries into phenomenon that others have said are supernatural and just can’t be understood.

I have never come across a clear definition of “natural”, let alone “supernatural”. Nature is generally associated with physical reality but even the idea of “physical reality” is elusive. How do we determine its limits? Certainly not by observation with our senses. Even everyday phenomena like magnetism take us into the realm of scientific theories. The boundary between the “natural” and “supernatural” is so obscure that “naturalists” have rejected it as fictitious. They regard miracles as events that will eventually be explained scientifically but that amounts to an act of faith in science.

In spite of all our discoveries and inventions reality remains a mystery. We don’t know why there should be something rather than nothing. What we do know is that we know something!If anything is supernatural that is - considering that we seem to be the only ones who are aware of the universe. :slight_smile:

I’m still trying to figure out what “NORMAL” is? :slight_smile:

FIRST and foremost we have to determine if we are defining “Supernatural” as a Noun, or a Adjective?

Nothing is another term which first must be placed in context to begin to comprehend. Noun, Adjective, Adverb or Idiom?


There are those among us who deal with the supernatural as a career and daily job-function. Right here in the Catholic Faith. Did you ever “google” the Vatican and see just how many exorcisms are performed yearly?

Check out “you-tube” and listen to Fr Malichi Martins lectures. Baptism is a supernaturally imposed virtue.

Magnitism isn’t theory, its a proven fact which relates directly to the “Law of Charges” its “law”, its clearly understood. Electro magnitism is also a fact. When we say “theory” we have to be very careful because there is “fringe theory” which is not a proven fact. And then we have Theory which does prove out in mathmatics and reality. Such as E=MC squared.

You still haven’t defined “supernatural”…:slight_smile:

Any dictionary will give the text book definition. And the point is?


1 Of or relating to existence outside the natural world.
2 Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces.
3 Of or relating to a deity.
4 Of or relating to the immediate exercise of divine power; miraculous.
5 Of or relating to the miraculous.


1 That which is supernatural.

As Bishop Berkeley mischievously point out almost three hundred years ago. that thing we call “matter.” is not what --pace Dr. Johnson–what we can kick with the toe of our boot. My wife in her retirement serves as a teacher;s aide in a science class, and for the first time has been exposed to atomic physics. The presentation does not in fact get much beyond Niels Bohr. How get much beyond his planetary model without descending into mystery. I did find a site that had a fascinating look at the situation. The electron shells were depicted as a “cloud” around the core. Now of course the Nucleus is still represented as a “core,” No one is going further to burden her/8th graders with the news that that “solid” could is better depicted not as" protons" and “neutrons.” but as a complex of “smaller” “things.” That all of this stuff must always be thought of in terms of “waves.” analagous to the ripples on the surface of water, or --at a further remove-- to the invisible radio waves from an antenna. We have light waves with “mass,” and “particles,” without mass. All so confusing because these are in the end, not much more than visualizations of what mathematics tells us.

The thing that is difficult with this term is that there are so many definitions floating around. Here are three that I have encountered:

  1. Atheistic supernaturalism: This is the idea that what we call supernatural is really just stuff about the natural universe that we haven’t figured out yet. Nonetheless it is all natural and obeys physical laws and is of the same kind. As we learn more we transfer what was supernatural into the realm of natural knowledge.

  2. Thesitic supernaturalism: The created universe is what we call natural, and only God is supernatural. God can cause supernatural events in nature, but in our current state we cannot comprehend Him because He is infinitely far beyond our understanding.

  3. Christian supernaturalism: This borrows from the first two definitions, but introduces the event of the hypostatic union, i.e. Christ becoming fully man and remaining fully God. In Christ the supernatural participates in His creation (the natural world) in an extraordinary fashion. It is this participation that makes Christianity so profoundly different from other theologies.

I find it is important to figure out what version of “supernatural” a person is using before you can discuss cosmology. If it is #3, great. If it is #1 or #2, you can ask questions that may lead them to #3.

The point is that text book definitions leave you none the wiser.


1 Of or relating to existence outside the natural world.
2 Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces.

This presupposes a definition of “natural” - which is still not forthcoming.

3 Of or relating to a deity.

The supernatural is not generally restricted to a deity.

4 Of or relating to the immediate exercise of divine power; miraculous.
5 Of or relating to the miraculous.

Sceptics ascribe miraculous events to unknown scientific causes.


1 That which is supernatural.

That is not a definition but a repetition!

All of which tells us that our definitions simply reveal our ignorance of what constitutes reality! :slight_smile:

Brilliant. Thanks. I tend to go with #3.:thumbsup:

The only thing we know is that we know nothing.

As to the Good Bishop-------

Samuel Johnson had a great retort to Berkeley’s philosophy. when told about Berkely’s Philosophy, Johnson kicked a over a Rock, saying “I refute it thus!” :smiley:

I always like the quote from Einstein - there are two ways to live, one as if there are no miracles and the other is if everything is a miracle.

I think a tree or a car or a cloud are all miraculous and therefore supernatural (adjective) in that the ‘elementary particles’ that make them up are a projection from a reality beyond our 3 dimensional space.

Current science suggests a similar thing by positing the String Theory and 14 dimensions to describe all reality.

So i would see everything as supernatural. I would also make the distinction between matter behaving due to given laws (autopilot) and matter behaving through the expressed will and personal choice of God, but as we have seen in Quantum physics, at the smallest level, because of our limitations to only 3 dimensions, we cannot know for sure (in a scientific way) when the second has trumped the first.


Also, I believe it is a heavy-metal band…

I agree, and it is important to maintain that Einsteinian sense of wonder about life. What is ruled out in he above quote is the notion of a miracle as being an occasionaly divine intervention. I wonder why religious people cite this quote so often when it opposes the traditional view of miracles and the theistic conception of God as a super intelligence existing entirely separate from the world who chooses to intervene in the world once in a while.

Hello and Welcome home my friend,

There is not only the natural but also the praeternatural and the supernatural.

The natural obviously pertains to our realm here in the physical universe, with it natural laws.
The praeternatural is of the heavenly hosts. Angels & Saints.
The supernatural is God’s realm. Only He is above all natures.

Angels can communicate suggestions to our mind and thus influence how we decide to act. Whether we make a right or wrong decision is still ours to make.

God however can communicate supernatural grace to our deepest being and affect changes in our soul.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit