The ‘Natural’—‘Supernatural’ Dichotomy

  • T. R. Miles
Part of the New Studies in the Philosophy of Religion book series (NSPR)


The discussion so far has been concerned in particular with the issues of ‘dualism’ and ‘materialism’. My argument has been that in many contexts the alleged contrast between ‘material’ and ‘non-material’ makes no sense and that the notion of ‘two kinds of reality’ (or indeed of any other number of ‘kinds of reality’) is often misleading. In this chapter, I shall try to show the absurdity of asking whether religious experiences have a ‘natural’ or a ‘supernatural’ origin, and I shall suggest that the ‘natural’—‘supernatural’ dichotomy is open to precisely the same objections as the ‘material’—‘non-material’ dichotomy.


Causal Explanation Religious Experience Literal Sense Christian Tradition Guilt Feeling 
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Notes and References

  1. 4.
    For an attack on the notion of a ‘God of the gaps’, see C. A. Coulson, Science and Christian Belief (Fontana Books, London, 1958) pp. 32–3. Cf. also D. M. MacKay, ‘Mentality in Machines’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, suppl. vol. xxvi (1952) p. 86.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    Quoted by E. D. Adrian in The Physical Basis of Mind, ed. Peter Laslett (Blackwell, Oxford, 1950) p. 69.Google Scholar
  3. 11.
    See, for instance, H. D. Lewis’s account of an Indian text which tells of a pupil ‘who pleads with his teacher to expound to him the nature of the Absolute Self understood religiously as Brahman. To each request tht teacher turns a deaf ear until at last he answers the insistent “Teach me, Sir”, with the words “I am teaching you but you do not follow, the Self is silence”.’ From H. D. Lewis, ‘The Cognitive Factor in Religious Experience’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, supp. vol. xxix (1955) p. 73. I should like to express my gratitude to Professor Lewis for what I have learned from him over a period of many years.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© T. R. Miles 1972

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. R. Miles
    • 1
  1. 1.Professor of PsychologyUniversity College of North WalesBangorUK

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