People vary as to what they understand by the term ‘miracle’. For many, miracles smack of things caused by the supernatural, like a magical or mythical power. The term has religious connotations and the secular mind may be sceptical about miraculous phenomena seeing them as possibly due to superstitious perception. Others may be open-minded as to the possibility of a miraculous side to life.
Whatever your take on miracles. you, nevertheless, may be astonished and impressed by what is extraordinary and inexplicable in the world. Here are a few examples for your consideration. But are they miracles?
Are miracles shown by extremely gifted people?
Unbelievably extreme mathematical, musical, artistic, and mechanical abilities have been among the talents demonstrated by a tiny number of individuals. Examples include performing rapid mental calculations of huge sums, playing lengthy compositions from memory after a single hearing, and repairing complex mechanisms without training. They seem something like miracles.
Kim Peek was below average intelligence yet could speed read through a book in about an hour and remember almost everything he had read. Furthermore, according to an article in The Times newspaper, he could accurately recall the contents of at least 12,000 books. Peek enjoyed approaching strangers and if told their date of birth would tell them on which day of the week they were born and what news items were on the front page of major newspapers that day.
Orlando Serrell did not possess any special skills until he was struck by a baseball on the left side of his head in 1979 when he was ten years old. He can recall the weather, as well as (to a varying degree) where he was and what he has done for every day for a period of nearly 40 years since the accident.
Daniel Tammet recited pi correctly from memory to 22,514 digits. It took him five hours and nine minutes. He knows ten languages. He learned conversational Icelandic in a week and then appeared on an interview on Kastljós on RÚV speaking the language.
Are there miracles due to a life force in nature?
We see living growth throughout nature. From the simplest fern to the most perfect tree and from the unicellular protozoa to the highest mammalian structure. In them organic cells multiply and the sexes unite from a spontaneous impulse.
Nature preserves what she has procreated. Seeds are surrounded by husks. Animals have protective colours for camouflage and birds build nests for their young. A love of offspring is found everywhere. Also there are other animal instincts such as the ability of salmons to return across thousands of miles of ocean to the same rivers and streams in which they hatched. The gift of eels in recognising a thimbleful of rose scent diluted in a lake covering fourteen thousand square miles. And the talent of male moths in detecting the presence of a female of their species as much as thirty miles away.
Is human consciousness a miracle?
There is nothing more natural and ordinary than human consciousness. Yet it baffles science. How can a piece of mere biological tissue such as the human brain – albeit an incredibly complex one – have consciousness? How can something physical have a subjective sense of redness, or sourness, or feel pain or pleasure, or experience ideas and fantasies?
There is much neuroscience to show how different networks of neurons become active when a person experiences certain thoughts and feelings. But this work fails to explain the possibility of consciousness, only that the physical brain somehow reflects and modifies it.
Scientists found evidence that when we remember something, the brain makes new proteins. These form locally at the connection between nerve cells. It seems like this increases the strength of the connection and reinforces the memory. But if physical matter of itself hasn’t conscious awareness, where does consciousness come from?
Ordinary not seen as natural
Not everyone assumes what is abnormal and unusual has a magical or mythical explanation. Hindus and Buddhists believe miraculous powers are the “natural” result of ascetic practice and spiritual realization.
Miracles happen everyday, change your perception of what a miracle is and you’ll see them all around you. (Jon Bon Jovi, American singer/song-writer)
You may see ordinary as well as extraordinary things with awe and wonder sensing them to be due to an, as yet, unexplained force or energy that perhaps natural science can never discover. One that transcends the material world and is beyond the limitations of human beings. Also one that reveals itself as a design in nature (in comparison with the Darwinian account of accidental mutation).
An idea of what causes miracles
Spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg wrote about a non-material reality he called ‘the spiritual world’. As a result, he had a concept of a general inspiration of divine life from this transcendent realm.
Animals are … controlled through a general inflow from the spiritual world because they are in the pattern proper to their life, a pattern that they can neither distort nor destroy. (Emanuel Swedenborg)
According to this view, we humans, alongside the rest of nature, are like vessels receiving a life force from beyond ourselves. Therefore he believed this general spiritual inflow comes from a non-physical realm: and results in our natural growth, healing, bodily functioning, consciousness, abilities, and instincts etc. He attributed its source as the Goodness of infinite Compassion transcending yet permeating all existence, with creative design and providential preservation.
I believe that miracles happen every day. Every person is a miracle. Every moment is a miracle. If only we can open our eyes, we’ll see God’s love everywhere. (Bo Sanchez, Catholic author & preacher)
Copyright 2018 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems