Do you believe in Angels, Aliens, Demons, or Ghosts? What about the existence of Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster? Learn how our cultural narrative affects our beliefs on supernatural and paranormal experiences.
Exploring All Things Paranormal Supernatural
We take polls of those who attend our meetings, which helps us determine their readiness to learn. One of the questions most asked is, is paranormal and supernatural the same thing? Well, yes, if you look at the definition of each word.
Para means apart from or abnormal. So, paranormal means some apart from the normal. Supernatural is similar; it can mean above and beyond. So, Supernatural is something above and beyond what is natural.
Popular culture tends to place a slightly different meaning on these terms. Supernatural is associated with the spirit world of demons, vampires, etc. In comparison, the paranormal is more closely related to alien folklore and cryptozoology (things like Bigfoot). These associations also differ regionally.
In our process for determining readiness to learn, we find nearly half believe in the existence of a God or Gods. A significant proportion of those who believe in God also believes in Angels. But this belief does not correlate precisely with those who also believe in Demons or Ghosts.
Some people base their beliefs on their experience with supernatural or paranormal activity. Those with encounters with UFOs make up a considerable portion. Those who experience other types of spirit apparitions are the second largest group. These people make their personal experiences the crucial element of their belief system. We learned that their experience aligned with their beliefs before the encounter. Their experience validated what they already believed, which is an exciting finding.
Some experiences are outside the norm, like seeing shadow people in your peripheral vision. We find this is a growing trend for which there isn’t any clear causation. But, this is a topic for another discussion.
The Continuum of Belief
Our studies show there isn’t a correlation between beliefs in Aliens and things like Bigfoot. Nor is there a correlation between those who believe in an imaginary friend like God and Aliens. Our research shows that the paranormal and supernatural fall into four major groups.
1) Religious Superstition. This group believes in spirits like gods, angels, demons, and ghosts.
2) Aliens, UFOs, and Cryptozoology. The second group believes in Aliens, UFOs, and Cryptozoology. Cryptozoology is a pseudoscience that studies unproven living things.
4) Fringe Believers/Thinkers. These people share some elements of all four groups. As strange as this seems, there are several people in this group. They typically come from highly religious family backgrounds but have become fringe believers. They maintain their religion to keep family and social ties intact even if they do not believe in religion’s superstition.
We care about what people believe because their beliefs shape their world. Their collective ideas create a subculture. And subcultures are a barometer of the culture. During times of great stress, paranormal and supernatural occurrences increase.
During a pandemic, reports of supernatural activity increase. Perhaps there is more activity, but it’s more than likely a symptom of stress. Does the rise in anxiety enable us to see more of this activity? Or, do people fabricate the paranormal experience to take the mind off of what is causing the stress?
Personal Beliefs About Paranormal Activity
The line between religious superstition and pseudoscience is hazy. And some feel that angels and demons also fall into the category of pseudoscience. Aren’t spirits living things? What about you? Do you believe in both spirit entities or just one? What about the existence of other entities, like fairies or ghosts? How do these differ from belief in other things like aliens, Bigfoot, or the Loch Ness monster?
Many people believe in the existence of aliens and unidentified flying objects. What does the belief in Aliens have in common with the concepts of spirit apparitions like angels and demons? On the surface, it would seem that they are two different things. If you look at the subculture terminology, you see it is merely different ways to describe and classify paranormal activity.
How we identify and categorize an experience depends upon our worldview or paradigm. Our worldview acts like a filter. It tells how to classify things we encounter. It’s essential to understand that these judgments are not reality. We label and categorize our perceptions on the boundaries of our worldview. We automatically filter the experience to fit in our worldview.
Our beliefs are often a reflection of a particular subculture. Each subculture has its cultural narrative, which becomes a significant part of our worldview. If we examine our beliefs, we can explore our cultural narrative’s various elements.
Paranormal Activity and The Cultural Narrative
There are two primary sources for our cultural narrative. These two sources are folklore and scientifically verifiable evidence. We learn to see the world through our dominant cultural mythology. Whatever dominates this programming will dictate our interpretation of experience.
1) Scientifically verifiable evidence is the first source of our opinion about reality. It comes from scientifically sound sources such as archeology, astronomy, and biology. Science uses evidence and logical reasoning to develop theories that explain things. For example, science validated the theories of gravity from Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. New data enables researchers to revise their views.
2) Folklore is the second primary source of our beliefs about reality. Our ideas about angels, aliens, demons, and other unknown apparitions come from a folklore subculture. It contains stories that attempt to explain paranormal and supernatural phenomena. These stories and beliefs come from mythologies and superstitions. And, this is where we get our ideas about spirit apparitions, angels, demons, etc.
The paranormal activity experience runs on a spectrum from folklore to scientific evidence. However, most incidents of unknown activity fall into the realm of legend. It becomes factual, verifiable proof when we can scientifically verify a phenomenon.
For example, in the 1930s, there were reports of living prehistoric fish called the Coelacanth. Scientists considered these reports as unsubstantiated pseudoscience. The fossil record records placed them extinct in the Late Cretaceous period 60 million years ago. Then fisherman off the coast of South Africa in 1938 brought in recently caught samples of this rare prehistoric relic. Many people are waiting for this discovery with Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. Until we have verifiable evidence, their existence remains folklore.
Facts can become part of folklore. It happens when the cultural narrative mixes superstitions with facts. The factual element adds validity to the substance of the superstition. Some cultures used their knowledge of the sun’s eclipse to validate their mythology. An eclipse is a factual celestial event that can be tracked and predicted. Ancient calendars accurately predict when these events would occur. So, they combined their knowledge of these events with folklore. It gave them the power to use these events to manipulate.
So the experience of paranormal or supernatural events gets labeled depending upon our worldview. If we believe in angels or other spirit apparitions, we will see them when encountering unknown phenomena. If you believe in UFOs, the same light becomes an alien spacecraft. Both interpretations of the phenomena are accurate in the eyes of the beholder. But neither could be correct.
These two elements become traditions that shape our cultural narrative. There is tension between these two opposing sources. The values of these superstitions are often illogical and promote bias and prejudice. For instance, the belief that a black cat crossing your path brings bad luck is a superstition. In turn, this superstition becomes the justification for killing black cats.
A freethinker is someone who understands their cultural narrative. They care about the difference between folklore and facts. This distinction helps them see beyond the bias and prejudice of folklore and superstition. Understanding the source of our beliefs allows us to examine them and decide whether they make sense. Let’s look at an example.
Beliefs in Angels, Aliens, and Demons
We can trace the origins of these spirit apparitions to earlier religions. Our ideas about these entities come from Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, and Assyrian mystery religions. Then through one of the most significant rebranding efforts in history, these mythologies became the Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
These ancient mythologies have no factual basis. The texts often used to substantiate their divine origins are stories from the ancient mystery religions. The Rosetta stones discovered in Egypt in 1799 enabled us to decipher Akkadian and Sumerian cuneiform languages. By the 1850s, the mythology of the Abrahamic faiths came to light, and this revelation was not discounted but explained away as follows:
“Symbolism in a greater or lesser degree is essential to every kind of external worship, and we need not shrink from the conclusion that in the matter of baptisms and washings, of genuflection’s and other acts of reverence, of lights and sweet-smelling incense, of flowers and white vestitures, of spiritual unction’s and the imposing of hands, of sacrifice and the rite of the Communion banquet, the Church has borrowed without hesitation from the common stock of significant actions known to all periods and to all nations. In such matters as these, Christianity claims no monopoly or originality.” ― The Catholic Encyclopedia and International Work, Vol. 14 (1907).
“Angel, from the root meaning, one sent: messenger. The Hebrew word used to denote indifferently either divine or human messenger. The Septuagint renders it with both significations. The Latin version however distinguishes the divine spirit from the human… The Angels in the Bible generally appear in the role of God’s messengers to mankind… The Semitic belief in “genii” and in spirits that cause good or evil is well known… Good and Bad Angels. The distinction of good and bad angels constantly appears in the Bible, but it is instructive to note that there is no sign of dualism or conflict between two equal principles. The conflict depicted is rather that waged on earth between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the evil one, but the latter’s inferiority is always supposed.” ― The Catholic Encyclopedia and International Work, Vol. 14 (1907). (1)
The above quote shows that the concept of Angels pre-dates Christianity. They admit that Angels are but one classification of an apparition adopted from Semitic folklore (Genii and Spirits).
It also shows how they (try to) explain the apparent conflict of the two God systems found in the mystery religions. The argument is that the lesser God is assumed to be inferior and does the superior’s bidding. The angels and demons are agents of the superior God and carry out both good and evil.
Interestingly, the Church talks about the Septuagint as a document that needs translating? The Church presents the Septuagint as their version of the Tanakh. But, the Septuagint is not a direct or accurate translation. It is a collection of works based on the Tanakh, with many additions and changes. The Septuagint contains entire chapters that are not in the Hebrew source text. It also omits complete sections. It mistranslates areas that tie and provide textual authority to the New Testament.
The Danger of Folklore
The danger of folklore is when it supersedes logic and science as a basis to establish public policy, laws, and regulations. When people prioritize superstition over evidence, it is possible to maintain any paradox. Thus, it enables people to justify genocide, prejudice, and discrimination.
The downward spiral of negative magical thinking begins with the belief in spirit apparitions like God. Once you place faith in an imaginary friend over logic and rational thought, then you can accept almost anything.
“You believe in a book that has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, burning bushes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water, and all sorts of magical, absurd and primitive stories, and you say that we are the ones that need help?” ― Mark Twain
Your level of exposure to negative programming determines the level of indoctrination. The more you expose yourself, the more susceptible you are to the influence of those to control the programming.
Different Categories of Western Religion Devotees
We can divide those involved in organized religion into categories. These groups range on a continuum from fringe believers to extremists. Where someone falls on this continuum depends on the level of exposure to the programming. Self-hypnosis and group hypnosis manipulation programming depend on continual indoctrination. The more you expose yourself to propaganda, the more susceptible to radical ideas and ideologies.
1) The fringe believer gives the outward appearance of allegiance to the religion. They attend meetings at special celebrations and festivals. These people are the most likely to have investigated their religion’s origins.
Family or cultural tradition holds the fringe believer captive to the belief system. However, they see inconsistencies. Unfortunately, they will go along with many of the negative social biases. They submit to the discriminatory practices even though they understand they are harmful.
People in this group are one step away from becoming freethinkers. All it takes is someone to help them find a way out. A process like Comparative Analysis is one way. This investigative process is structured to examine concepts across different belief systems. It will help them leave behind negative stereotypes and prejudiced thinking.
2) The moderate believer attends religious services regularly. They know facts that contradict their beliefs, but they do not investigate them. These people often have family and business relationships intertwined with their religion. It cements the religious devotee to the system, making them more susceptible to extremist ideas and ideologies.
This group is also apt to follow religious TV and radio programming. However, they can also advocate for truth if you can turn their passion away from religious bigotry.
3) The hardline believer is the person who sees their religion as their identity. They attend more than one meeting a week and take advanced courses in the sect. Because of their passion and devotion to the cult, they become middle-management. They lead small groups and help enforce the boundaries of the belief system. As semi-leaders, they are influential in pushing extremist agenda items. They can use self-hypnosis and group hypnosis to affect the beliefs of others.
4) The extremist often becomes one of the sect’s key leaders or cult. They are always charismatic and know how to use groupthink manipulation tactics to their benefit. They seek ways to spark controversy, fear, and anger. They trigger primal emotions to motivate members to act on their behalf.
They typically attend several meetings a month. They also listen to radio and TV programs, further reinforcing this programming. Their religion becomes their identity.
The “need to believe” overrides any argument or fact that threatens their worldview, their religion programs them to reject any idea that threatens their worldview. You will waste your time trying to point out factual and logical errors. All this does is create conflict. There’s a better way to win them over.
“Religious people claim that it’s just the fundamentalists of each religion that cause problems. But, there’s got to be something wrong with the religion itself if those who strictly adhere to its most fundamental principles are violent bigots and sexists.” — David G. Mcafee
Studying the cultural narrative is crucial because it is often the hardline believers and extremists that control it. The level of religious indoctrination has a significant influence on the thinking of the religious devotee. In turn, this influences society in harmful ways. They cannot engage in critical thinking skills to help them see the truth.
Is the experience of supernatural or paranormal activity a mind game, or are they real? The phenomena may be an actual occurrence, but how we see and label them will depend upon our worldview.
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(1) The Catholic Encyclopedia and International Work, Vol. 14 (1907)
(2) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia