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When I was a child, my parents taught me about the many invisible beings that occasionally left their secret realm to pay us a visit. Mom and Dad taught me that those beings could interact with us, but you had to be very perceptive to know they were even there. When they stopped by our house, their visits were so brief that we never became aware that they had been there. Like many other children, that was my introduction to the mysteries of invisible and imaginary beings.
Looking back on those carefree days, I wonder if life would have been even more carefree for us kids if we’d never heard of those beings at all. Adults may think it’s cute to see kids believe in imaginary beings, but is it fair to the children? Does it enhance the trusting bond with their parents, or does it undermine it? I know that many people can slough as innocent fun—just allowing kids to experience fantasy. And maybe that’s all it is. But possibly there is more to it than that.
The usual suspects
Santa Claus was the prime imaginary being that we kids were taught about. He supposedly watched us all year to make sure we were not being problems for our parents. Kind of a stalker, I guess. I was told that I could interact with Santa by writing notes and letters to him, or by leaving cookies for him and lettuce for his reindeers on Christmas Eve. I guess that was kind of a relationship, but nothing special because every other kid in the country seemed to have the same relationship.
All the Santa Clauses at the department stores and in the Thanksgiving parades only confused me. First, there were too many of them, and secondly they appeared to be physical beings. They didn’t come across as someone who “knows when you’ve been bad or good” like an eye in the sky, or someone who could easily slip down our chimney. Believing in an all-knowing Santa was a little too much for me, and I was always suspicious of that guy.
The other visitors
Then, there was the Easter Bunny. That character hid baskets full of colored eggs and candy for me and my siblings to find. The Bunny knew every nook and cranny in our house and sometimes it took us hours to find everything “it” hid. But, the idea of a large rabbit sneaking around our house at night was not original. It was very Santa Claus-ish. After the Bunny was done with us, we guessed it headed off to millions of other houses, and always finished its work before sunrise.
The third being of our imaginary trio was the Tooth Fairy. That one didn’t visit on a regular schedule—only when we lost a tooth. How the Fairy knew that we had one less tooth was beyond my understanding, but the trade of a used, rotten tooth for money seemed like a good deal to me. It was always welcome in my bedroom at night if he left cash.
Beside those well-known visitors, many children have invisible, imaginary, or pretend companions that only they can experience. Those are the relationships many children need in order to understand their environment in a way their parents can’t relate to. Surprisingly, those imaginary relationships can continue into adolescence, and even adulthood. Studies have found that those kinds of relationships are most common with first-born children. That’s not hard to understand since they have no siblings to relate to.
This is quite a fascinating subject and can include children treating inanimate objects or toys as living friends. It’s kind of like Wilson, the volleyball in the movie Cast Away.
Other invisible beings
As people grow older, invisible beings can also take the form of muses, or creative goddesses. Some people believe in spirit guides which they understand as spirits of ancestors or friends who have volunteered to return to the physical world and serve as guides and protectors.
There are also those not-so-pleasant invisible (or partially invisible) visitors from the spirit world such as ghosts, apparitions, phantoms, wraiths, and ghouls. Then, there’s fictional characters like the Invisible Man .There are also invisible spirits that people meet on Ouija boards or when they intentionally channel spirits. Few of these entities add to the quality of our lives. They mostly create a sense of paranoia about the unknown.
That’s by no means the end of the invisible forces. Until the nineteenth century, even educated people believed invisible vapors caused illnesses. And churches taught that diseases were God’s punishment for sin. Those who believed that also believed the only way to get well again was to repent of those sins. It wasn’t until relatively recent times that scientists discovered that “physical” microbes like bacteria, fungi, and viruses were the causes of most illnesses.
We are still living in the infancy of modern medicine thanks to the fifth-century Christian establishment. They were the ones that shut down pagan (Greek and Roman) medical advances that were based on science rather than God.
Even more invisibility or semi-invisibility
We’re still not finished. In addition to all of those unseen entities mentioned above, we’ve had to be warned about pixies, gnomes, leprecauns, gremlins, elves, aliens, fairies, the illuminati, and government conspirators. There are long lists of invisible beings in the mythology of almost every culture. Invisible being sneaking around us is a universally believed phenomena.
The invisible realm of religion
Gradually most of us kids figured out that Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and imaginary friends and Tinker Bell aren’t real. Next we had to contend with the invisible beings of Christianity.
They, of course were Jesus, the Holy Ghost, and God. In Sunday School we learned that Jesus didn’t really die two thousand years ago. He returned to life and still exists as a spiritual guide and maybe even a god. Why wouldn’t we kids believe this? We had already been taught to believe in so many other invisible characters, what’s one more?
This realm of Christian spirituality doesn’t just include the Trinity of Jesus, God, and the Holy Ghost. It also includes Mary and other saints, angels and archangels, satan and his demons, and other beings like cherubs. Some of these beings are good and some are evil, but we were taught they were all real.
The results of maturation
Most of us realized that our parents or guardians played all the imaginary roles during our childhood. Those were like elaborate April Fool jokes. But kids have an innate capacity to discover truth. It’s known as “critical thinking” or “skepticism”. After they’ve been manipulated into believing in something that doesn’t exist and they realize they’ve been tricked, some children can never completely trust the person that fooled them.
It can be expected that eventually most youngsters would dismiss every invisible being mentioned in this post as imaginary because I’m guessing they’ve never encountered any of them. The one exception is religion. If their adult role models still believe in the spiritual beings of Christianity, chances are the child will also. Adults may admit that Santa and those other home-invaders aren’t real, but still hold onto a belief in God and its various spiritual attendants and enemies.
Since kids trust their role models to guide them in the right direction, they’ll probably follow along in any supernatural beliefs that their parents have. Eventually, if continually reinforced, these beliefs become “hard wired” into their brains, accepted as normal, and passed down to their descendants.
Deconversion from hard-wired religious programming is extremely difficult. That’s why adults gang up on children while they’re young to coerce them into believing what they tell them. Kids that may already somewhat distrust their role models may also subconsciously distrust their mentor’s views on religion.
Deconverting from a religion is different than shedding belief in other invisible beings because people are warned that it can lead to the most awful eternal consequences.
When you go through a deconversion or deprogramming process, you can end up arguing against your own brain. The rational part of your brain comes into conflict with the part that’s been forced to conform to cultural expectations.
Stepping into the spiritual world
Some people say they can view into the spiritual or invisible world, or that they may even have been there. Mind altering drugs may have made them believe that and experiences like that were probably the origin of all religions. Today we understand this portal between two existences through near death experiences and divine revelations. Unfortunately, those “travelers to the beyond” never seem to be able to show irrefutable proof of their journeys. Belief in their stories comes down to how convincingly they tell them and how open their listeners are to believing them.
So, to the average person made of atoms and molecules, who has weight, and takes up space, it seems impossible to view into an immaterial world. If that can’t be done, spiritual beings would have to visit our material world to convince us of their existence. Can they do that? Many thousands of people throughout history have said this has happened to them.
Does supernatuality exist at all?
Back to my main line of thinking—stop and think about this. What if not as single supernatural being really exists. What if everything we’ve been taught about them is cultural folklore? Ancient people may have created them as ways to understand their world.
To many people, all those supernatural beings have joined the ranks of other fictional characters like invisible men, vampires, werewolves, resurrected mummies, and whatever else a fertile mind could come up with to explain the unexplainable.
If the supernatural doesn’t exist, and If we could jettison all our beliefs in it, think about how enriched our lives would be. We could direct all our precious life’s energy into dealing with the important problems we face in our physical world. So, my way of thinking is that if we have no proof of super-nature, why don’t we just live our lives in the physical world until we do have proof. That sounds logical, but psychologists know many people will always believe in the supernatural.
That leaves us where we began. Do any of these imaginary entities exist or are they all products of human imagination? Adding another important question to the mix. Do we really have a soul or life force that outlives our bodies? If we do, how about squirrels? frogs? hummingbirds? spiders? If we have souls, do those souls really go to heavenly and hellish places after we die or is that just another April fool prank? As usual, I can’t stop myself from asking more questions than I can answer.