Saturday, November 04, 2006

Supernatural or preternatural?

Following up on a halloween coversation about ghosts, most people don't know the word preternatural--often incorrectly using the word supernatural ("above nature") when they mean preternatural ("beyond nature"). Basically, the former applies to God, the latter applies to creation--even the spiritual parts.

"Supernatural" would apply to God and to grace, the sacraments, the gifts of the Spirit, virtues infused at baptism, the absolution of sins, our heavenly destiny, etc.

"Preternatural" would refer to that which is beyond the ordinary or natural, but which is not strictly supernatural. It is preternatural because natural forces are used by God to create effects beyond their native capacity, or because above human forces (angelic or demonic) are active in the world of space and time. Thus, "preternatural" would apply to things like ghosts or hauntings, ESP, possessions, visions, etc.

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