The Supernatural is Not Transcendent!

The supernatural is not transcendent. The supernatural is immanent but has a special dependence upon transcendence.

An effort to explain rather than prove my thesis about the immanence of the supernatural, provides the opportunity to review two of my main objectives. I want to show that there can be objective conditions for the correctness of our religious and moral judgments. I focus on religious judgments.

By “objective” I mean conditions in reality apart from our thinking but on the basis of which our thinking about what is the case is true or false and thinking about what ought to be is a proper response. Reality includes all human thought and what is thought about*. I have called reality the immanent and that on which it all depends the Transcendent.

In this post, I assume a realism which holds that conditions exist beyond our thought which provide at least truth conditions for the truth claims of natural science. I accept the scientific picture of reality with its vast universe spread out spatially and temporally. As a realist, then, I accept that there are truth conditions apart from the scientific picture which the developers of the scientific picture try to represent accurately. Since we never have acquaintance with truth conditions as they are apart from our representations, we must be satisfied with getting closer and closer to truth.

Truth is representing the truth condition exactly as it is. I have no quarrel with saying that the test for being warranted to assert a proposition as true is being warranted as correct by careful investigators. I want only to emphasize that the goal of testing is to represent as accurately as possible the conditions apart from our representing.

In this twenty first century we can and should concede the term “nature” to secular reductionist stance frequently called scientism. Scientism holds that there is nothing but what can be discovered by the methods of natural science. We can make this concession because education for the past hundred years or so has led many people to understand nature this way. It is sometimes said that reality has been disenchanted.

We should make this concession because it opens a place for the supernatural along side the natural within the realty dependent upon the Transcendent.

In the immanent, then, we have truth conditions for the scientific representation and, of course, the scientific representation itself. In the immanent there could also be truth conditions for propositions about what transcends scientific representations. There could also be truth conditions for propositions founded in existential concern, usually implicit, about the purpose of human life.

What beyond anything we can represent gives purpose to human living? Such propositions would express attempts to tell the truth about what is totally transcendent – what I have called the Transcendent. The Transcendent could sustain in existence conditions for propositions which hopefully tell the truth about human relations to it. We would not know what these conditions are apart from our representations. But that is the case with any truth condition. We would, as with natural science, most likely always have only approximations to exact representations.

These truth conditions along side the natural ones constitute the supernatural.

Consider this conjecture about reality pictorially. Picture reality – the immanent- as a huge ellipse. Closely scattered throughout the ellipse there are green and red dots. Red and green can never overlap. The order and connection of the green are truth conditions for the natural. The order and connection of the red dots provide truth conditions for religious propositions. The green is the natural. The red is the supernatural. Both are immanent and dependent upon the Transcendent for existence and order.

This picture does not replace the difficult philosophical work of clarifying my proposal about the immanence of the supernatural. But it does suggest the strength of what I would like to clarify and justify.

*Philosophical thought about what cannot be thought, viz., the Transcendent and things in themselves, is about the limits of thought and not that beyond the limits.