Why are we attracted to mysteries, why are we searching for miracles, and why are we fascinated by secrets? In several other episodes about the paranormal and the occult, I explained the reasons specifically, but here I’d like to give you a general overview of why this happens. In fact, there are various biological, psychological and spiritual reasons for believing in religious and supernatural occurences.
Just like any other animal, our main biological motivation in this life is survival. We can’t survive without the help of our environment, because we need food, water and shelter, and we also need to protect ourselves from outside attacks. Thus, we perceive the outside world with our senses, and then subconsciously and automatically create meaning out of the raw information.
For example, if we see a shape of an apple, we know that it means food and we can eat it. If we can recognize the face and read the emotions of another human being, we can quickly decide whether we are safe or we should fight or run for cover. The same process happens in evolved animals, but the over-evolved human brain sometimes takes things too far.
That’s why we tend to see things and connections that are not really there. For example, we automatically recognize faces in random lines and shapes, and only later does our brain realize that it was just a random pattern. This is called false pattern recognition, or apophenia. It’s telling that the psychiatrist who coined the term wrote about it in his publication on the beginning stages of schizophrenia.
When this false pattern recognition happens specifically in images and sounds, we refer to it as pareidolia. This phenomenon alone is sometimes enough to explain divination, ghost sightings, hearing hidden messages in recordings, seeing the shape of God in a cloud, and even such childish claims as seeing the face of Mother Teresa on a cinnamon bun.
The other important form of apophenia is seeing causal relationships between unrelated things. This is also called magical thinking, and serves as a basis for a myriad of religious and paranormal superstitions. This logical bias also plays a huge role in conspiracy theories, gambling and the misinterpretation of statistical and scientific data.
For the sake of our survival, it is certainly beneficial to explore certain cause and effect relationships between events. For example, we discovered that if we plant seeds, we can grow our own food, and won’t die of hunger. However, the brain is not perfect, and sometimes makes mistakes when trying to decipher the inner workings of the world around us.
The reason why we’re attracted to mysteries and secrets, and why we tend to fabricate supernatural beliefs is mostly due to psychological causes. This is again connected to survival, but this kind of tendency is exclusive to the human race. We live in an uncertain world, and for our minds, uncertainty is equal to danger.
Knowledge is power, and we’re more afraid of the unknown than anything else, because we feel powerless. When we meet with something we don’t know or can’t explain, we feel stressed. We think we have it all figured out, but when we suddenly bump into a knowledge gap, we fear that we’ll fall into it and die.
The mind is unable to endure the uncertain, the inexplainable and the unknown for a long period of time. It needs answers as fast as possible, even if those answers are false. Symbolically, we put a cover on the knowledge gap so that we don’t see it, and it doesn’t bother us. We cover up what we don’t know with beliefs, so that we can feel in control once again.
But this gives us only superficial knowledge and a false sense of control. This cover-up makes us closed-minded, dogmatic and takes away our curiosity. Instead, I want you to remove this cover and climb down into the abyss because the real answers can only be found deep down. I want you to remain open, to start questioning, and to admit to yourself what you don’t know. Become comfortable in the state of uncertainty, in the state of not knowing, in the state of innocence, and soon enough, you’ll find the real answers.
And lastly, the spiritual reason for seeking mysteries is that you’re leading a dead life, and you’re bored with it. This has a two-sided, internal and external reason. You’re bored with the outside world, because you have a mechanistical and materialistic worldview. You fell into the trap of naive realism, thinking that the universe is filled with separate objects and beings, where your only task is to somehow survive until your inevitable death.
You are living in your mind, filled with fixed concepts and ideas about the nature of reality. When you’re unable to fit something into your preconceived worldview, you label it as a mystery. But you’re unable to grasp the real mystery: the nature of life itself. Only if you throw away your concepts and ideologies, can you get in contact with the mystery I’m speaking about.
The internal reason why your life seems to be dead, is that you have similar fixed and fake concepts about yourself. You are unable to face your own mortality, and deny death in every possible way. But this hidden fear is the very thing that makes you dead and inhibits you from feeling truly alive. The hidden desire for immortality creates all kinds of fantasies about ghosts, afterlife and reincarnation.
You want to believe in something beyond this life, because the way it is now seems meaningless. But only when you drop your beliefs can you discover the true meaning, the ultimate mystery, the real miracle of life. True life is a wonder in itself, and there’s no need to search for any other mystery beyond it.
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