12 Miracles

CHAPTER 12

Miracles

Having established the general nature of the various kinds of information that are received by the human organism through the facilities that are available for reception, our next undertaking will be to examine those features of the organism’s equipment and processes for handling that information which are relevant to the primary objective of this work: the exploration of metaphysical existence and its effect on human life. However, there is one special item that needs some consideration before we take up the new subject matter, as it has a significant bearing on all of the conclusions that will be reached in the pages that follow. This is the question as to whether the laws and principles that govern the physical universe are inviolable, or whether they are subject to modification or abrogation by influences from the metaphysical region.

From the earliest times of which we have knowledge, religions, both organized and unorganized, have placed a great deal of reliance upon miracles as evidence supporting their claims as to the existence of supernatural beings or powers.

For religion, “miracle” is a responsible and natural feature of the world-view, meaning by miracle a special suspension of the usual physical order or law by a higher and spiritual control for a significant purpose.196 (W. E. Hocking)

Scientists, on the other hand, are inclined to believe in the inviolability of natural laws, and this belief has been strongly reinforced by the fact that the advance of knowledge through the centuries has provided purely natural explanations for one after another of the phenomena that were previously thought to be manifestations of supernatural power. As a result, the general tendency in scientific circles today is to deny the possibility of miracles, and to assert that those phenomena claimed to be miraculous are either wholly fictitious or are susceptible to explanation on the basis of the laws of nature.

The findings of this present work are that both scientists and non-scientists have been wrong in classifying metaphysical phenomena as supernatural; that is, in restricting the term “natural” to phenomena of the physical universe. The metaphysical region, we find, is governed by laws analogous to those of the physical universe, and these are “natural” laws in the same sense as the physical laws. Thus, even though a phenomenon may be inexplicable on the basis of the physical laws alone, it may still have a perfectly rational explanation in terms of other natural laws. The remarkable instances of scientific insight, ESP, and other phenomena of a similar nature that were discussed in previous chapters are examples.

This is the background against which a scientific appraisal of the possibility of miracles should take place. It is apparent, to begin with, that our knowledge of the laws and principles of the metaphysical region is still too meager to justify taking a definite and positive stand on either side of the miracle question. The most that can be done is to draw some conclusions as to the probability of various types of allegedly miraculous occurrences. Here we must recognize that the probability of any “special suspension” of physical laws has been greatly reduced by the discovery in the course of development of the Reciprocal System of theory that the physical universe is constructed and governed by a mere handful of general principles. Suspension of any one of these for the purpose of accomplishing a miracle would not be merely a local event; it would have wide repercussions. While this does not necessarily rule out such a suspension, it does make it much less likely, and it undermines the credibility of the reports of minor miracles. We will have to conclude that the probability of the occurrence of physical miracles is very low. The available information suggests that the metaphysical agencies either cannot transcend the physical laws or do not choose to do so. It will be difficult for a scientist to place any credence in unsubstantiated reports to the contrary. Many of those who look at the situation from the religious point of view agree. John Hick, for example, says unequivocally, “If miracle is defined as a breach of natural law, one can declare a priori that there are no miracles.”197

It should be noted, however, that there are at least two avenues by which a modification of physical relationships through metaphysical action could take place without violating the physical laws. The physical system contains no mechanism whereby the total amount of motion in the universe can be altered. Individual units of motion may combine or separate, and one kind of motion may be transformed into another, but motion cannot be created or destroyed by any means within the physical universe. A change in the total amount of motion can take place only if motion is injected into the system or withdrawn from it by some metaphysical agency. The possibility of such an occurrence is not precluded by anything that we now know, but if something of this kind does happen, it is almost certain that the motion enters or leaves in a very simple form—radiation, perhaps—and although we cannot rule it out altogether, we must be very skeptical with respect to the possibility that anything resembling a miracle may be produced by this means.

Another possibility that cannot be excluded on the basis of present knowledge is that, as suggested in Chapter 11, there may be some intervention in those processes where the result is normally determined by pure chance. For example, when light is emitted from a source, the direction of emission of each individual photon is indeterminate. From the standpoint of pure chance, all directions are equally probable, and in our ordinary experience, the operation of the probability principles results in a uniform three-dimensional distribution of the light. But it is conceivable that an outside influence might overrule the effect of chance and cause the light to be emitted preferentially in certain directions. This would not violate any physical law or principle. It would conflict with the mathematical laws of probability, but in view of the somewhat anomalous position of chance in the physical picture, we are not justified in asserting that intervention of this kind is impossible. Here, again, however, such intervention, if it exists at all, would seem to be limited to relatively simple physical processes.

No doubt some will contend that the negative conclusion with respect to the possibility of physical miracles is inconsistent with the previous findings as to the reality of the ESP phenomena, inasmuch as psychokinesis (PK), the direct action of mind upon matter, is commonly regarded, both by the workers in the field of parapsychology and by those who are most critical of the results that are produced in this field, as a closely allied subject. But there is no adequate justification for thus bracketing the two phenomena together. ESP is a communication process, as the theoretical development in the preceding pages demonstrates, and as most observers have recognized. “Fundamentally, extrasensory perception may be viewed as a form of communication,”198 says John Mann. PK, on the other hand, has no communication aspect at all. We cannot communicate with non-living matter. Aside from the fact that, if PK exists, it (like ESP) is non-physical, ESP and PK are totally different processes. The available experimental and observational evidence should therefore be appraised separately, with each of the alleged phenomena standing on its own feet.

As brought out in the discussion of ESP in Chapter 8, most of the evidence that has been produced by those who have investigated this phenomenon is of a rather dubious character. The dramatic episodes which would be conclusive in themselves if they could be authenticated occur spontaneously and unexpectedly, and cannot be subjected to critical examination or to experimental controls, while the general run of results from controlled experimental work deviates from chance by such a small amount that there is a question as to whether these results are actually significant. But a few of the experimental subjects respond in an unequivocal manner, and it is these unusual individuals who establish the reality of the ESP phenomena.

The most noteworthy psychic phenomenon has been the ESP “star” who performs at a high level of improbability over a long period of time. At the present time these extra-ordinary individuals provide the best evidence for the existence of ESP since the probabilities associated with their performance are so astronomical as to defy refutation.156 (John Mann)

When we turn to PK, we find that here, too, there are reports of spontaneous occurrences. These reports, however, are neither as numerous nor as well supported by testimony and circumstantial evidence as the analogous ESP reports. Furthermore, they do not have the same significance. Many of the alleged ESP occurrences are of such a nature that they would constitute conclusive verification of the ESP phenomenon if all of the features of the events, as reported, could be substantiated beyond question. If it could be definitely shown, for instance, that an individual acquired a detailed knowledge of a far distant event at or before the time that event occurred, under such conditions that transmission of the information by means of any physical communication medium is definitely precluded—probably the most commonly reported type of spontaneous ESP occurrence—there could no longer be any doubt as to the reality of ESP, even though this would not answer the question as to the nature of the phenomenon. But this is not at all true of the alleged PK events. The general nature of the spontaneous events attributed to PK is described by Mrs. Rhine as follows:

Clocks stopped, started, chimed, or chimed aberrantly, and like pictures, fell from walls or shelves. Dishes fell and broke. Doors opened, shut, locked, unlocked, lights came on or went off, chairs rocked or moved.199

A typical instance cited by Mrs. Rhine is “that of a clock that stopped in the home of a devout Catholic family at the very time of the death of Pope John.”200 But there is nothing here that is physically inexplicable; nothing at all comparable to the spontaneous ESP events. We cannot produce a physical explanation of how anyone could know what was happening in a location thousands of miles distant, in the absence of any physical means of communicating with that location. We cannot produce a physical explanation of how anyone could know what was going to happen anywhere or at any time. But we can easily produce a physical explanation of how a clock might stop or a picture might fall off a wall. Unlike the ESP occurrences, these alleged PK events would not constitute evidence in favor of the reality of the PK phenomenon even if all of the reported facts were positively verified.

The results of the PK experiments in the laboratories are similar to those produced by the general run of ESP experiments; that is, the deviations of the results from the chance expectation are so small that their significance is doubtful. The important point to be noted is that the PK experiments have not developed the equivalent of the extraordinary performances that are the most striking and most conclusive feature of the ESP tests. Again quoting from John Mann, “In general, it does not appear that”stars“as in the ESP experiments, exist in relation to PK with the same degree of clarity and predictability.”201 We thus find that PK, which has no theoretical support, also lacks both of the kinds of evidence that constitute the principal empirical support for ESP.

It is unfortunate that these two phenomena have been tied together so closely in current thought, as the very obvious weaknesses in the case for PK tend to be charged against ESP as well. As noted in Chapter 8, one of the items that has considerable influence on the attitude of scientists is that the PK experimenters rely almost entirely on very crude methods in a field where highly sophisticated equipment capable of measuring extremely small effects with a high degree of precision is readily available. The fact that this criticism is not at all applicable to ESP is very commonly overlooked.

The existence of ESP is definitely in conflict with some of the theories and concepts of present-day physics, particularly the widespread belief that the subjects currently within the purview of science constitute the whole of reality. As Dobzhansky puts it, “A common foible of scientists is to suppose that the little truths which they discover explain everything rather than only something.”202 But contrary to the oft-repeated assertions of the critics, there is no conflict between the ESP phenomena and the established physical laws. When an individual suddenly becomes aware of another’s thought, as in telepathy, or of some fact or event, as in clairvoyance, there is no physical action involved, and physical laws cannot be violated unless there is physical action. These laws are simply statements as to what will happen in the event that certain kinds of actions take place. On the other hand, PK, if it exists on a macroscopic scale, does involve physical action, and produces that action in violation of the conservation laws.

Some experiments designed to utilize modern sophisticated equipment to overcome the criticisms directed against previous PK investigations because of the crude nature of the investigative tools that have been utilized were carried out by Helmut Schmidt, who reported some significant deviations from chance results.203 Schmidt concedes, however, that the results attributed to PK could have been due to precognition instead. Consequently, they cannot be regarded as firm evidence in support of the existence of PK. Furthermore, the objective at which the experimental subjects were aiming was to influence the results of certain theoretically unpredictable subatomic (radioactive) processes. Unlike the macroscopic “mind over matter” PK effects, modification of the results of these microscopic processes would not necessarily require the application of energy. The PK influence might simply interfere with the operation of the normal laws of chance, a possibility that, as noted earlier, is not excluded by anything that we now know. Thus, even if Schmidt’s results are actually attributable to PK, they do not constitute evidence of a PK capability of exerting a force on a physical object.

While we cannot completely exclude the possibility that the Sector 3 existences can intervene in physical events, and must rely to a large extent on evidence indicating that they do not intervene, at least in macroscopic events, the situation in reverse is clear. Purely physical objects or existences cannot exert metaphysical influences, as they have no Sector 3 components and there is no direct connection between the inanimate physical world and the metaphysical region. The belief that some objects, numbers, or days are “lucky,” whereas others are “unlucky,” has no basis in fact. A rabbit’s foot is equally as ineffective in the dark of the moon as in broad daylight. The events of Friday the 13th are no different from those of any other day, nor will these events be modified by the discovery of a four-leaf clover, or by nailing a horseshoe above one’s door.

The idea that the stars can influence human life, a concept held over from the days when the “celestial” was thought to be a totally different order of existence from the “terrestrial,” is likewise groundless. As expressed by Harlow Shapley, the astrology column carried by many newspapers is “one of the most remarkably persistent frauds to be perpetrated on a rather intelligent and partly-educated society.”204 We may hope, however, that most of those who read these columns will recognize them for what they are—nonsense dressed up in entertaining form—and will class the astrological predictions where they belong, with reading tea leaves, numerology, magic, and other amusements fashioned from the fabric of ancient superstitions and occult beliefs. Shapley takes the sting out of his criticism by conceding the entertainment value. He goes on to say:

This can be taken all in fun. “Nonsense” is here the right word, not non-science; and this world of ours is so grim at times that we should welcome a bit of nonsense now and then.205

No physical object, religious or secular, celestial or terrestrial, common or unique, has any metaphysical power or influence. The kind of “luck” attributed to a horseshoe or a rabbit’s foot is essentially equivalent to a miracle—a miracle, junior grade, we may say—and like any other miracle that involves a deviation from the physical laws, it is ruled out by our findings. However, the term “luck” is not only applied to influencing the course of physical events, the objective of a talisman, which we find impossible. It is also applied to success in anticipating the course of events, particularly where these events are determined by chance, as in gambling. This is precognition, one of the forms of ESP, and the considerations applicable to the ESP phenomena in general, as detailed in Chapter 8, are also applicable to this form of “luck.”

Even though metaphysical intervention in purely physical situations does not take place, if the conclusions of the foregoing analysis are correct, intervention in human thought and action is not only possible, but clearly occurs. As brought out in the previous discussion, human behavior, to the extent that it has been emancipated from the animal type of control, is subject to a control of metaphysical origin, and there is direct contact between the metaphysical region and the control unit. Where conditions are such that the human individual is receptive to the metaphysical influences, these influences may well constitute the decisive factor in determining the course of action which he will take. The religious concept of the metaphysical existence as a source from which human beings can obtain assistance and guidance is therefore entirely in accord with our findings. However, most religions also regard the metaphysical region as an actual or potential source of harmful influences. N. F. S. Ferre, for instance, incorporates this idea into his definition of religion:

By religion I mean the conviction that there are realities and powers beyond ordinary experience that can help and harm man.206

When viewed in the perspective of human life, this dual concept of good and evil metaphysical influences seems quite logical. Here on earth, those who possess power have the option of using it for good or for evil, and it is natural to assume that the same would be true of any outside agencies that are capable of exerting some influence on human affairs. But the application of this concept to relations between man and the metaphysical region encounters some serious difficulties, and the trend of thinking on this subject has followed a strange and tortuous path.

Primitive man found no problem here. He applied the original concept of the supernatural, the same idea expressed by Ferre, in a straightforward way by expecting his gods to protect and assist him and the members of his tribe, and at the same time to inflict hardship on their enemies. The development of the “universal” religions erased this distinction between “we” and “they” in religious thinking and led to a new concept in which the separation between good and evil is at the source rather than at the receiving end. Instead of a single power, or a single group of powers, dealing out benefits to some and harm to others, these more advanced religions envisioned a spirit of good and a spirit of evil contending for mastery over the affairs of men.

But the human race has too much pride and self-esteem to be content with a doctrine of this nature which reduces it to the status of a pawn in the game of life, and there has been a gradual reinterpretation of the original ideas that has reduced the once powerful Spirit of Evil to a mere shadow of his former self. Ahriman, Prince of Darkness, who once contended on even terms with Ahura Mazda, Prince of the Light, has become nothing more than a vague and even somewhat ludicrous Devil, who no longer acts on his own authority and for his own ends, but exists merely for some obscure reason connected with the long range purposes of the Powers of Good. Even the status of Warden of the Celestial Penitentiary, which has been traditionally assigned to him, is becoming meaningless as the doctrine of eternal punishment for the evildoer becomes less and less acceptable to the modern mind. If the present trend continues, as seems altogether probable, it will not be so very long before the whole concept of a metaphysical Spirit of Evil has disappeared from human thinking.

What this development will accomplish will simply be to bring the general thinking on the subject into harmony with the findings of this present study. As will be brought out in more detail later, our conclusion, derived from a logical analysis based on factual premises, is that the external metaphysical region, Sector 3, is “good” by definition, inasmuch as it is in conformity with the laws and principles of Sector 3 that constitute “good” behavior. Hence there cannot be any evil in Sector 3, and whatever influences may originate in that sector are good influences. We get only help, not harm, from this metaphysical source.

Evil, as we know it, is a product of our physical universe. It is action in accord with the governing principles of that universe in those cases where these principles are in conflict with the principles of Sector 3, and it is confined to that physical universe. If there are other universes similar to ours, as our findings indicate that there are, then these other universes also have their evils, analogous to ours, confined to their particular universes. If there are still other universes of a different kind—multidimensional, perhaps—as our findings also indicate, these universes may or may not have evils, so far as our present information is able to tell us. But Sector 3, the general metaphysical region, is the home of good, not evil.

At this point, it may be asked whether it might not be possible for influences, evil or otherwise, originating in these foreign universes to have an effect on our own. This question must be answered in the negative. Sector 3, existence as a whole, can have an influence on human life because every location in the physical universe is also a location in existence as a whole, but it is not a location in any other universe, and consequently there is no point of contact through which an influence could be exerted.

On the basis of the findings of this work, all assertions concerning evil or harmful influences exerted by metaphysical agencies will have to be identified as superstition, even when they emanate from religious sources of the highest standing. There are no “evil spirits” to be exorcised; no “powers of darkness” to be defied or placated. Whatever evil there may be in an individual’s thoughts or action comes from the inside—from his inheritance as a biological organism—not from the outside. Strangely enough, most Christian denominations regard the present state of the human race, with its still sizeable remnant of the ancient evils, as the result of a fall, rather than in its true light as a state in a long upward climb. “Biblical symbolism describes this crucial event of evolutionary development [the emergence of human characteristics] as the Fall.”207 (T. Dobzhansky)

The effects of strong religious beliefs and firm philosophical convictions in aiding individuals to meet the crises of life, and in sustaining them through periods of adversity, are commonly recognized. As expressed by William James, “something ideal, which in one sense is part of ourselves, and in another sense is not ourselves, actually exerts an influence, raises our centre of personal energy, and produces regenerative effects unattainable in other ways.”208 Ordinarily, such effects are not called miracles, inasmuch as that term is reserved for identifiable events, but the difference is only a matter of degree. In either case, Sector 3 influences which, we find, play no part in purely physical phenomena, do intervene, through the Sector 3 component of the human personality, in human affairs.

Throughout the ages, one of the important functions of religion has been to assist human beings in obtaining the benefit of this metaphysical power. Even those who deny the reality of metaphysical existence, and who therefore cannot admit that the help which is received is metaphysical, generally concede that religion does, in fact, meet a definite human need for support that is not available elsewhere. “A religion,” says Julian Huxley, “is an organ of man in society which helps him cope with the problems of nature and his destiny—his place and role in the universe.”209 Most of the effects of this religious influence are subjective and difficult to identify, but there is one area in which events that meet the present-day religious definition of miracles—“unusual and striking events which have religious significance”197—are not uncommon. This is the so-called “ministry of healing.”

Healing has been an accompaniment of religion throughout all religious history. But the religious communities have never been quite sure just how the healing mission fits in with other religious objectives, an uncertainty that has been accentuated by the existence of non-religious or quasi-religious agencies devoted primarily to healing. Even before the establishment of religions in the present-day sense there were witch doctors, medicine men, and practitioners of magic who occasionally achieved notable results, and the modern scene is full of “healers” of all kinds, ranging from the equivalent of the witch doctors to full-fledged religions of healing. Because of their disapproval of the methods of some of these more aggressive healers, the established religious organizations have vacillated between active participation in the healing activities and rejection of the whole faith-healing concept.

The witch doctors interpreted sickness as the result of demons, or evil spirits, prompted in their malevolent activities by enemies, human or other, and the objective of the remedial procedures was to get rid of the demons. The early religions took over both the theory and the practice. “The basis for healings was generally a demonological interpretation of sickness; healing was frequently carried out as an exorcism.”210 The concept of evil spirits has little attraction for the modern mind, even though the rites of exorcism are still part of the official doctrine of some of the world’s largest religious bodies. Nor does the alternative hypothesis, favored by the medieval churches, that sickness is a punishment, strike any responsive chord today. Since most of the Western religious organizations have abandoned these outmoded doctrines without providing any substitute, they have left the door wide open to the professional faith healers, organized and unorganized. A realization of this fact has been growing, and within the last few years a number of the leading Protestant denominations have initiated studies aimed at determining the extent to which faith healing is compatible with their religious beliefs.

After the basic connection between healing of the body and healing of the soul and the psychogenic origin of many illnesses was acknowledged theologically and medically, different older churches… have re-instituted healing services.210 (Ernst W. Benz)

The metaphysical aspects of faith healing are relevant to the subject matter of this present work. It is evident, however, from the findings described in the preceding pages, that faith healing is not inherently a metaphysical process. Evolution has not only produced bacteria, viruses, and other parasites to attack the human body; it has also produced defense mechanisms that are capable of repelling these invaders if the mechanisms are operating properly. Furthermore, even though some of the regenerative powers of the lower animals have been lost as the biological structure of the organisms has become more complex, so that man cannot, like the starfish, grow a new limb to replace one that he has lost, nevertheless the ability of the human (or animal) body to heal its wounds and cure its ailments, when that ability is employed to its fullest extent, is so remarkable that describing its results as “miraculous” is not very much of an exaggeration. These healing processes are purely physical, and no intervention by metaphysical agencies is necessary. All of the healing that is accomplished, including those spectacular instances that are classified as miracles, could be accomplished without any kind of outside assistance, metaphysical or otherwise, if the individual were able to mobilize his full powers for the task.

However, the mere existence of a curable affliction is definite evidence that the afflicted individual is not capable of applying his full powers to the healing task as long as he is left to his own resources. It is commonly recognized among the members of the medical profession that a patient’s state of mind has a significant effect on the course of his illness. One of the functions of that mind is the control over the bodily activities, and it is not unlikely that a weakening or loss of control over certain cells plays an important part in many diseases. In fact, the available information indicates that this loss of control is the most significant feature of cancer, one of the diseases against which modern medicine has made relatively little headway. A recent (1978) research report is an example of the kind of evidence that is emerging:

Based on a study of 117 randomly selected college students, Boston University researcher Steven Locke reports that persons who cope poorly with stress appear to suffer deficits in cell-mediated immunity against certain diseases. Those who cope well with stress display comparatively active Natural Killer Cell Activity (NKCA) when the body is threatened by disease or by abnormal cells.211

Inability to cope with stress is, of course, a symptom of lack of full control over the biological system; that is, it is a type of mental illness. Such illness is not at all uncommon. “Mental disease,” says F. M. Berger, “is more common than other illnesses… . It has been estimated that more than 50 percent of patients who visit a doctor suffer from mental disturbances.”212 This is the background of individual weakness that makes faith healing possible. The inner strength, the power of control, that the afflicted person cannot generate for himself can be attained with the help of someone in whom, or even some idea in which, he has confidence.

Whether or not that confidence has any solid basis is immaterial. There is a great deal of chicanery in the faith healing field, but since the essential element is the confidence, it makes no significant difference whether the credentials of the healer are imaginary, or whether the saint ever came within a hundred miles of the shrine from which his healing powers are supposed to emanate. The distrust and antagonism that faith healing has often generated have not been due to any lack of validity in the faith healing idea itself, or to a lack of competence on the part of the healers, generally speaking. Rather it has resulted from a failure on the part of those healers to recognize, or at least to admit, the limitations to which this type of healing is subject. Obviously, there are many kinds of physical difficulties that the mechanism of the body is not capable of dealing with, even when all of its processes are operating normally and under full control. As expressed by Weatherhead, “No amount of love, or positive-thinking, or denial of the existence of evil will take a splinter out of an eye.”213 Furthermore, there are equally definite, even though less visible, limitations on the extent to which outside assistance can compensate for internal deficiencies. The tendency on the part of the faith healers to overestimate the capabilities of their technique has therefore led to a high percentage of failures that has had a tendency to discredit the entire undertaking.

As some of the religious organizations are now beginning to realize, medicine, psychiatry, and faith healing all have their places in the total picture, and the best results will be obtained when each is used where it is appropriate. The contribution that religion can make is to help enlist the aid of the metaphysical influences, those sources of support to which the human individual has access because there is an aspect of his personality which transcends the limitations of the physical universe. Even though the objective to be accomplished is purely physical, and therefore, in principle, within the capability of purely physical agencies, the help that can be obtained from metaphysical sources is often essential for establishment of the control that makes full use of those physical agencies possible. With the benefit of this assistance, healing “miracles” can take place, whether or not they are recognized as such. To this extent, therefore, the present study confirms the religious assertions as to the existence of biological (healing) miracles. It does not agree, however, that these so-called “miracles” involve any suspension of the laws of nature. The healing processes, including those features that depend on “faith” of some kind, are wholly natural.

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