In our age of techno-wizardry, belief in miracles has fallen out of fashion. We talk freely of the miracles of science and (why not?) to describe an amazing play in football or the heavenly fragrance of your lover. But the idea of a miracle as something beyond mainstream science is mostly rejected by today’s educated society.
Miracles are verboten in rational, consumer-driven, materialist societies. The Protestant Reformation that made capitalism into a religion declared the age of miracles was caput. Miracles were for Biblical times; modern times celebrate the work ethic and the magic of money.
So there are forces determined to remove miracles from existence; in effect, to disenchant the world, and of course to repress facts at odds with the materialist worldview. But behind this iron curtain of willed ignorance, some researchers carry on, undeterred.
Scanning the spectrum of extraordinary phenomena I’ve researched, I’m struck by one big idea. I see a picture emerging of a possible new human, perhaps the next step in our evolution. The picture has three levels that point toward a more advanced version of our future selves.
First of all, we see signs of major physical change. A little active imagination might help here. Imagine, for example, all the annoying obstacles we have to endure traveling from one place to another. Many documented miracles I’ve studied involve supernormal modes of transportation: levitation, bilocation, apports, teleportation. We can also anticipate resistance from the transportation industries. The tobacco industry did their best to conceal the cancerous truth about their product; the bottom line was more important than life itself. Our new human will not be welcome everywhere.
We are not all going to evolve at the same rate, so the next quantum leap of human evolution is bound to stir up resistance. Biologically, much fascinating evidence allows us to imagine ourselves evolving toward perfect health; our predatory health-industry moguls won’t like that. Or, imagine yourself as a perfectly content inediac, a person capable of living and flourishing without food, drink, or elimination; once again, a challenge to the food industries. Inediacs are nourished by sacred perceptions in all the senses. I can imagine future industries that specialize in producing subtle forms of psychophysical nourishment. There might be less torture and exploitation of fellow creatures of the natural world.
The data tells us that evolved persons often emit exquisite fragrances, this time a challenge to the perfume industries. Step aside Yves Saint Laurent! In future, we will rely more on our own creative spirit to fashion our own aesthetic atmospheres, and therefore be less at the mercy of outer climate and capitalist manipulation.
Now ponder this gem. The data allow us to imagine that we become invulnerable to pain and fire—like those kids in the Book of Daniel who blew the mind of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. In light of these prospects, we are slated to become more audacious and risk-friendly. Over all, the facts imply that we possess super-hero potentials. The truth is we can never predict when or what circumstances will jolt us into discovering powers we never dreamed we had.
Drawing on the empirical treasure-trove, we can clearly picture ourselves evolving in physical and biological ways. This in turn will change our perception and our conception of reality. It will also transform our ability to negotiate physical reality, and in ways we can only call magical. People who prefer that nature were more controllable and predictable might get nervous about this.
Miraculous phenomena suggest another big idea: the continuity of consciousness after death. Evidence for personal survival occurs in various forms. Physical miracles heighten the credibility of the survival hypothesis. If indeed, there is something in our inner life that can defy gravity; drive matter through matter; materialize food, blood and tears; cause milk and people to disappear; and heal diseased bodies, our minds would seem causally powerful enough to survive bodily death. The new consciousness will be fearless in the face of death, as were Socrates, Joan of Arc, and Giordano Bruno.
Now to the third tier of the portrait I’m trying sketch. Again, based on the kind of data that I cover in my book on miracles (Smile of the Universe), the new human we may imagine will be psychologically different from us. Highly developed paranormal powers are linked to ecstatic, mystical states of consciousness. But no less important for our map of future humanity, the mystical state is known for its sense of union, rapport, love, empathy, joy and compassion. This would be the socially all-important third tier. To the degree that we imagine the mystical state displacing our usual ego-bound outlook, we might be optimistic about the future.
Each of us, even in our everyday mental life with all its struggles, is adjacent to, and connected with, the ultimate wellspring of our enlightened consciousness. Being so close, why not cross over? What’s holding us back? Something is obstructing us—perhaps a worldview that works more like a barrier than an open road.
Tracking down tales of the miraculous, I keep wondering how they happen. Any hints that might help us tune into these mysterious powers? Two things I can say, and the first is that miracle recipients seem in the main to be unpredictable. It seems to me more like a lottery than some higher plan. Anybody is liable to be blasted open by some miraculous encounter. On the other hand, there are people that miracles like to hang around, like mediums, shamans, artists, mystics, sleepwalkers, meditators, mountain-climbers, the mentally ill, and so on.
A few things I’ve noticed about miracle-prone people. They spend more time than most paying attention to their inner states--moods, dreams, feelings, images and ideas. But they are also activists of consciousness--confident, trusting, hopeful. These in turn enable you to be spontaneous, another miracle-conducive marker. Being guarded and obsessively skeptical inhibit responsiveness to any signal of transcendence trying to get through. One last key variable. Aiming, desiring, focusing on goals do make a difference. The example comes to mind of Joseph of Copertino, always aspiring with ecstatic love to reach toward heaven, and from time to time taking to the air in flights of levitation. Imagine that!