Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary says:
“A supernatural event regarded as due to divine action; an extremely remarkable achievement or event; e.g. “it was a miracle he wasn’t hurt.”
Anyone possessing even a passing familiarity with religious ideas has probably heard of what holy books have described as miracles—turning water into wine, healing the sick, and other such events—and they are typically attributed to divine intervention. When stories about miracles are encountered, there are generally two schools of thought. We tend to consider extraordinary events that defy explanation as “miraculous,” even though it often simply has no clearly defined cause, and while it may be astoundingly rare or dramatically outside of accepted norms, it isn’t necessarily urgent to immediately invoke any sort of deity as the agent of the event.
On the other side of the coin, are those events which exceed even the most skeptical view of what might be possible, and the unusual circumstances under which they take place clearly suggest the possibility of some supernatural origin. The Catholic Church has a fairly rigorous standard for evaluating these extraordinary events, and there needs to be some sort of corroboration that meets the standards set by the church, which generally includes deliberately requesting an intercession from a specific revered and deceased person or established saint. According to the church, only after all possible other causes have been eliminated, can divine intervention be invoked.
According to Wikipedia, one such divine miracle is:
“The Miracle of the Sun,” which is said to have occurred near Fatima, Portugal on October 13, 1917. According to the legend, between 70,000 and 100,000 people, who were gathered at a cove near Fatima, witnessed the sunlight dim and change colors, and the Sun spin, dance about in the sky, and appear to plummet towards Earth, radiating great heat in the process. After the ten-minute event, the ground and the people’s clothing, which had been drenched by a previous rainstorm, were both dry.”
Our own personal spiritual beliefs might allow for the possibility of such miracles, but even if a lifelong exposure to a religious faith proved sufficient to land in favor of belief in miracles and divine interventions, as modern 21st century humans, with the advantage of not having been raised in a medieval epoch, we recognize that many of the superstitions of the past were eventually dissolved by the discoveries of logical and rational scientific inquiry, and that it may simply be that we haven’t yet discovered the cause for events which may now seem to us to be miraculous. In spite of all the progress made over the millennia in this regard, there are still many mysteries which continue to defy explanation, and all of our efforts to unravel them still fall short of any real certainty.
An example of what some have described as a modern-day miracle comes in the story of Navy Seal Sr. Chief Mike Day. An account of his miraculous survival on a mission in Iraq appears on the website, “taskandpurpose.com”
“Day was nearing the end of a deployment to the Anbar province of Iraq, and leading his SEAL platoon on a raid against an al Qaeda cell in the city of Fallujah… Day breached the door of a room and was immediately struck with multiple bullets, knocking his rifle out of his hands… Falling to the ground, Day transitioned to his pistol and shot one of the four terrorists in the room. As a second man pulled the pin on a grenade and began running towards the hallway, Day killed him as well. The grenade fell to the ground and detonated, wounding Day with the shrapnel. He briefly lost consciousness, but when he awoke he continued engaging the other men in the room, shooting them with his pistol even as he was struck yet again multiple times from less than 10 feet away with AK-47 fire… Though improbable, Day was still alive… It was only then that Day realized the extent of his injuries. Sixteen bullets had torn through his abdomen, arms, legs, groin, and buttocks. Another 11 had been stopped by his body armor… Day was soon evacuated from the battlefield, walking to the MEDEVAC helicopter without assistance.”
(Visit taskandpurpose.com for the complete story.)
Sadly, in the news this week, it was reported that Day took his own life.
“Day’s death is a painful reminder of the toll that combat and trauma can take on even the strongest and bravest warriors. (His story) highlights the urgent need for improved assistance and care for veterans struggling with mental health issues. Day will be remembered as a remarkable person and a great hero…”
Reputable scientists, medical experts, scholars, philosophers and theologians alike all have thresholds that cannot as yet be crossed in service of explaining miraculous events, and it seems unlikely that we may ever resolve every conundrum posed by the inexplicable events we witness in the world today. Our spiritual well-being doesn’t depend on solving the medical miracles or the mystery of near-death experiences, out-of-the-body experiences, incidents of extraordinary psychical events, and a host of paranormal phenomena, but regardless of whether these activities are valid as described or attributable to some sort of hocus pocus or other explainable phenomena, humans in every culture and population on the Earth from the beginning of modern human existence have reported extraordinary events, and acknowledged the sense of something existing beyond the limits and confines of ordinary reality.
Over the last several hundred years, some of the most respected and prominent individuals, from a variety of specialized fields, have reported experiences which continue to confound the best minds, and suffer from an absence of any means to provide valid scientific confirmation, but which are said by them to be “objectively real.” Modern physics is leading the charge in this regard, with some of the most perplexing but unavoidable conclusions to account for the mysterious way the fabric of the universe appears to operate. Multiple dimensions which we cannot perceive directly but which must exist; multiple versions of our universe, inaccessible to us currently, which may never be possible to reach, but which seem to be the only explanation that makes any sense; and a host of other even stranger concepts and theories, all make the idea of miracles seem almost quaint.
What we must not do is lose sight of our spiritual capacities and each of the components of our human inheritance. Evolution is still an active process in our lives here on Earth, and encountering miracles may simply be due to as-yet-to-be discovered aspects of our very human nature. In the centuries to come, studies of all of these extraordinary phenomena may eventually lead us to posit a panpsychist view, which considers consciousness to be a fundamental feature of our existence, like electromagnetism and gravity. What a miracle that would be!
“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived. Follow the path that is no path, follow your bliss!”—Joseph Campbell
2 thoughts on “The Mystery of Miracles – Divine Intervention or Just Impossible To Explain?”
What other things might be bliss?
Whatever one might consider bliss is clearly a subjective judgment as a rule, and it generally involves doing what brings you joy and making it an integral part of your life. What Campbell is suggesting is a bit more profound, in my view, and following your bliss must necessarily include the travelers on that path aligning themselves with their truest nature. This could include any number of choices.
Campbell himself wrote: “If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living.” It’s an enormous challenge to find a way to live such a life, in my view, but Campbell insists that if you pursue the path that is no path, “doors will open that you never knew existed,” and the universe will somehow rise up to meet you.