The True Christian concept of the Supernatural part 3

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Empirical experience of The Supernatural

The Trace of God,  by Joseph Hinman. This book proves the truth of mystical experience. The article you are about to read is part 3 in an article that proves that the Christian concept of the SN is mystical experience, not ghosts and demons and psychic powers. Thus atheists are attacking the srong concept.

Scheeben deals with the distinction between natural and supernatural faith. Throughout his writings we see this typified in terms of the tendency of the power of God to elevate humanity to a higher spiritual level. This means consciousness as well as habit. He speaks of “supernatural effects,” the effect that the pull of the supernatural has upon the natural. This is why it’s valid to think of the supernatural as an ontology, it’s a description of reality, or what is. Empirically that description tends toward the realization of human consciousness reaching to a higher level as a result of certain kinds of experiences. Scheeben expresses this in terms of “higher nature.” Super nature is the higher nature to which human nature is being elevated.
If the lower nature is raised in all of these respects to the level of a higher nature, and especially if this nature modifies the lower nature so deeply and affects it so powerfully that the limits of possibility are reached; if God, purest light and mightiest fire, wishes thoroughly to permeate his creature with his energy, to flood it with brightness and warmth to transform it into his own splendor, to make the creature like the father of spirits and impart to it the fullness of his own divine life, if I say, the entire being of the soul is altered in the deepest recesses and in all its ramifications to the very last, not by annihilation, but by exaltation and transfiguration, then we can affirm that a new higher nature has come to the lower nature, because it has been granted a participation in the essence of him to whom the higher nature properly belongs.[27]

 He seeks in one point of his work to resolve a fine point of difficulty between the Thomist-Molinist dichotomy. Scheeben didn’t like dichotomies and thus seeks a third way. His solution is to see the natural as a mirror of the divine. The dichotomy deals with predestination, grace and free will. That’s not the issue I want to get off into. For Scheeben the authority of God is the sole formal object of faith. Thus faith is divine both in its source and object.[28] According to this position faith is neither the result of rational self interest nor a consequence of the human spirit. We must not mistake the manifestation in experience for the motive of faith. Faith is the result of obedience to the drawing power and call of God.[29] Nature (Greek Physis, Latin natura) is the realm of life from life, according to Scheeben. Super nature is the overarching principle toward which nature strives:

The whole point is that the life of the children of God is directed to such specific objects and ends as cannot be striven for or attained, at least in a way that corresponds to their loftiness, except by acts of a supernatural perfection, that is, of a perfection unattainable by nature, —in other words, by acts which are kindred and similar to the proper life of God in its loftiness.[30]

We can see in his answers to the Thoamsit/Molinist issue the basis of the claim that Super nature is the power of God to rise us to a higher level. This is how Schebeen construed it. In summarizing Murry speaks of “power which flows from the new nature,” 

That is his starting point(16). One conclusion follows immediately: the new powers which flow from the new nature must themselves be “an image of the divine vital powers”(17), i.e. the specific perfection of the divine vital powers must reflect itself in their working. That is Scheeben’s “Grundanschauung”, on which rests all his theorizing about supernatural acts. In a word, to the divinization of man’s nature corresponds a divinization of his activity(18). And Scheeben is occupied wholly in drawing out the nature of this divinization and its consequences. The immediate consequence, in which I am here interested, is that man’s divinized activity must be directed to objects of the specifically divine order. The essence of Scheeben’s thought is revealed in this sufficiently characteristic passage:[31]
 The passage in Scheeben to which he refers:

If we have truly become partakers in the divine nature, and by this supernature have become most intimately akin to the divine nature.... then we are taken up into the sphere of its life; then the Godhead itself in its immediacy and in its own proper essence as it is in itself becomes the object of our activity. Then we shall know God Himself, illuminated by His light, without the mirror of creatures; then we shall love God immediately in Himself, no longer as the Creator of our nature, but as One Who communicates His own nature to us, —penetrated as we are by His fire, and made akin to Him in His divine eminence . . . In a word, if we become partakers of the divine nature, our life and our activity must be specifically similar to the divine. To this end it must’ have the same specific, formal, characteristic object as the divine activity has.[32

 Murray summarizes again:

This one passage, out of many(20), is sufficient to show how the theory of the supernatural object enters into Scheeben’s system, namely as a consequence of (or if you wish, as a postulate for the completion of) his favorite parallelism between the divine life of God Himself and the life of grace in His creature(21). That parallelism suggests the formula that man’s supernatural activity is “an image of the divine activity”, and this formula in turn commands on the one hand the introduction of a supernatural object (i.e. “God as He is in Himself”), and on the other hand dictates the consistent use of the term “immediate” to characterize the nature of the union with God that is effected by supernatural knowledge and love(22). In this last detail, — that supernatural activity unites the soul immediately to God, — Scheeben’s theory culminates. The idea appealed immensely to him, though practically speaking it merely means that “God as He is in Himself” is the immediate object of supernatural activity. Its contrary is that natural activity effects no immediate union with God, since it reaches God only through the medium of creatures, and not “as He is in Himself”[33]

In all of these descriptions we see one standard concept: that supernature is a life, an experience, an inner relation between the divine and human nature. He says supernture is that which we partake of divine life. Human nature is elevated to the higher level by supernature and this primarily the way Scheeben speaks of supernature. This is what supernature is, the power of God to elevate to a higher level. There is an indication form what is said that “the supernatural” is a level of being above the realm of the natural. That must be the case because the power of God to elevate would surely be centered upon a higher level than the natural. That doesn’t mean that we are free to associate the supernatural with psychic powers and ghosts and unexplained phenomena and anything “x-files” like. The sense that the supernatural is above the nature is an implication of the ontology; the ground and end of the natural would sure be on some higher level in a sense. The more important aspect that all of these writers speak of is “participation” in divine life. Shceeben speaks directly of supernature just that, the divine life in which we are elevated to participate.

The important aspect of all of this in relation to science is that super nature is not some juxtaposed belief in the unseen that has no analogy in the empirical. The experience of being raised to a higher level through contact with the divine life is clearly empirical. It may be a matter of interpretation as to the cause of the effects, but the effects of what is called “religious experience” are certainly empirical. It’s not hard to link those experiences with the divine; the content of them is that of God and the divine in relation to the world. This is what most of those who experiences these things think they experienced.

Atheists segregate reality into realms of natural and supernatural. They so construct the situation as to screen out any sort of evidence for supernatural on the basis that such evidence would have to be supernatural. Pod cast: “Richard Dawkins and AC Grayling discuss whether there can ever be evidence for the supernatural in an unmoderated, unrehearsed armchair discussion. The event was sponsored by the British Humanist Association, and organized as a part of Oxford Think Week by the Oxford Atheists, Secularists and Humanists (OxASH) in conjunction with Oxford Humanists, Oxford Skeptics in the Pub and Oxford Sea of Faith.[34] The major idea expressed is that any evidence for supernatural must be natural therefore can’t really be of any value. The point being that no evidence for supernatural could ever exist because it would have to be supernatural but it can’t be so because we have no evidence to prove that it exists. That’s actually circular reasoning, any evidence that would count against my view is automatically wrong because it counts against my view, therefore, the other sides is wrong because they have no evidence; if it’s not possible to have evidence then why demand any? The assumption here is that supernatural is an unwelcome visitor crashing into a party given by nature at which it’s not welcome. In reality, however, the experiences of which Dawkins writes so fondly, a strange love for nature growing though a child’s fascination with bugs in the grass, is actually a certain type of supernatural.

Richard Dawkins writes about quasi religious experiences of scientists and an extrovertive mystical experience of a Priest who was once one of his teachers, he then builds upon this in undertaking to explain the nature of religion:

An Anglican clergyman, one of my teachers of whom I was fond, told me of the never-forgotten instant that triggered his own calling. As a boy, he was lying prone in a field, his face buried in the grass. He suddenly became preternaturally aware of the tangled stems and roots as a whole new world, the world of ants and beetles and, though he may not have been aware of them, soil bacteria and other micro-organisms by the billions. At that moment the micro-world of the soil seemed to swell and become one with the universe as a whole, and with the soul of the boy contemplating them. He interpreted the experience in religious terms and it eventually led him to the priesthood.[35]
 This is actually a supernatural experience. He identified it as a mystical experience “Much the same mystic feeling is common among scientists…” Yet he places the mystical on the naturalistic side of the dichotomy. In Dichotomizing between what he calls “Einsteinian religion” and “supernatural” religion he consistently identifies quasi mystical aspects with the “Einsteninian.” That’s because we in modern times are led to think of SN as magical thinking, irrational “lala land,” while become more accepting of mystical experience as a naturalistic aspect of consciousness. He shows this in his dichotomy:

 Much unfortunate misunderstanding is caused by failure to distinguish what might be called Einsteinian religion from supernatural religion. The last words of Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, "For then we should know the mind of God", are notoriously misunderstood. Ursula Goodenough's The Sacred Depths of Nature clearly shows that she is just as much of an atheist as I am. Yet she goes to church regularly, and there are numerous passages in her book which seem to be almost begging to be taken out of context and used as ammunition for supernaturalist religion. The present Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees, goes to church as an 'unbelieving Anglican', 'out of loyalty to the tribe'. He does not have any supernatural beliefs, but shares exactly the sense of wonder which the universe provokes in the other scientists I have mentioned. There are many intellectual atheists who proudly call themselves Jews, and observe Jewish rites, mostly out of loyalty to an ancient tradition but also because of a confusing (in my view) willingness to label as 'religion' the pantheistic sense of wonder which many of us share.[36]

The proper term for what he calls “Einstein religion” is “extrovertive mystical experience.” “When any experience includes sense-perceptual, somatosensory, or introspective content, we may say it is an extrovertive experience. There are, then, mystical extrovertive experiences, as in one's mystical consciousness of the unity of nature overlaid onto one's sense perception of the world, as well as non-unitive numinous extrovertive experiences, as when experiencing God's presence when gazing at a snowflake.”[37] It is just as supernatural as any other kind. He is assuming that it's “naturalistic” because he assumes that SN is only other worldly and only involved with a higher realm. He has no data and no empirical basis in study of religious experience to set up this dichotomy.

So my argument is that supernature is God's transformative power, and “the supernatural” (of or pertaining to supernature) is the experience of that power. Since this can be studied empirically. The actual transformative power has been studied in a huge body of empirical scienjti9fic work that focuses upon religious experience.

The Trace of God, by Joseph Hinman, on Amazon. The 200 studies in this book prove that Mystical experience is real, this article just proved that the original concept of SN is mystical experiemce. Therefore, SN is real.

[27] Maithias Jospeh Scheeben quoted in Fairweather (239-240). Fairwether fn Scheeben the version he uses. M.J. Scheeben, Nature and Grace, St. Lewis: Herder, 1954, 30.

[28] Avery Dulles, S.J. An Assurance of Things Hoped for: A Theology of Christian Faith. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1994, 90.


 [30]Scheeben, quoted in Works by John Courtney Murray Chapter II “Natural and supernatural Faith.” Website, Woodstock Theological Center Library. P100 URL: visited August 14, 2012
Mathias Joseph Scheeben on faith, Doctoral Dissertation of John Courtney Murry
Woodstock Theological Center Library.
This volume in the Toronto Studies in Theology reproduces the doctoral dissertation John Courtney Murray, S.J. (1904-1967) completed in the spring of 1937 at the Gregorian University in Rome. From then until now, the Gregorian University archives contained the original typescript of “Matthias Joseph Scheeben’s Doctrine on Supernatural, Divine Faith: A Critical Exposition”. A carbon-copy was incorporated into the Murray Archives housed by the Woodstock Theological Library in the Special Collections Room of the Joseph Mark Lauinger Library at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. John Courtney Murray eventually published the third chapter, modified and disengaged from its original context (1). The complete, original text is published here for the first time.

[3] John Courtney Murray summarizing Scheeben, ibid.

[32] Scheeben quoted in Muarry, ibid, p101

[33] Murray, ibid.

[34] James O’Malley, The Pod Delusion “Richard Dawkins and AC Grayling Discuss Evidence for the Supernatural This week At Oxford. 2/23/2011.URL http://poddelusion.c visited 1/23/2012

[35] Richard Dawkins, “Einsteinian or Supernatural” The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, 5/15/2006. on line source URL: visited 1/23/2012.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Jerome Gellman, "Mysticism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = < />. (accessed 1.25/2016)