The alternative freethinking of supernatural artistic designs

Photograph by Angélica Vargas

After approximately five years during which we regularly published articles linked to musical undertakings of public interest, yet close to honouring our sixth anniversary, I am thrilled to observe our constant expansion toward other cultural fields, while holding in reasoning that we withdrew grand part of our shortcomings and allowed a meaningful amount of articles associated with the supernatural and subcultural deviations of gothic frights to partake their scope within our pages.

In the past eight months, we matured as a peer-reviewed, digital press media taking a closer examination at everything gothic and somehow underhanded, a freethinking publication with an alternative coil and glamour that recently further encompassed the uncanny and the ominous, hybridising folkloric and mythological topics alongside with modern tendencies manifested on books, films, games, events and other forms of art, visuals and manifestations that somehow intertwine with music, most specifically, heavy metal as the sole core of sinful entertainment.

As it occurs with journalists like myself, the process in which photographers, writers, musicians, filmmakers and other creative practitioners perceive, sail and represent their work through press media — be it digital or printed — is a remarkably complex and indeed, a multifaceted errand. Furthermore, the sense of communal engagement is based upon contingencies that also determine the ways in which creative activity occurs in many particular domains.

Verifiable is that the supernatural encompasses a vast array of phenomena, experiences, fictions and histories – this not to mention as creatives decide to express themselves — so it is unsurprising that notions about what accurately is ‘supernatural’ are diverse, recurring and shifting. Whilst I do not usually use dictionary definitions, the phrasing in the University of Oxford dictionary is of importance. Here the supernatural is said to be that which is ‘beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature.’ The use of the word ‘beyond’ is sustained as the supernatural is not reversed to science nor the laws of nature rather it is further than these matters. The supernatural is the ‘über,’ ‘in excess of’ or ‘beyond,’ yet it is not wholly separate from either science or nature.

The word ‘super-natural’ of course introduces the ‘natural’ and in many historical and contemporary studies the supernatural is understood not as divided from nature but as an integral part of it; as Timothy Morton has termed it, ‘Extra Nature’ (2010). This concept of the supernatural being a part of nature has been around for hundreds of years. In 1848 the prominent chronicler of supernatural phenomena, Catherine Crowe, wrote in her compendium of people’s “real” experiences of the paranormal, ‘The Night Side of Nature,’ which was originally published in 1847 revealing the phenomena in question.

I do not propose to consider them as supernatural; on the contrary, I am persuaded that the time will come, when they will be reduced strictly within the bounds of science. Catherine Crowe was not solely in her belief either then or now. The Society for Psychical Research, founded in 1882 is still engaged in investigations, the University of York has an Anomalous Experience Research Unit and the Parapsychological Association is a tough and thriving organisation with many university affiliations.

On its official website, the Parapsychological Association states that “the primary objective of the Parapsychological Association is to achieve a scientific understanding of these experiences.” Whilst I do not require our readers to believe in the supernatural or even necessarily to keep an open mind, the historical questioning or exploration of the veracity of numerous unexplained phenomena is extraordinary. In fiction, in personal accounts, in ‘reality,’ the truth of what is seen or felt is always one of the most crucial issues.

The Society for Psychical Research, University of York’s Anomalous Experience Research Unit and the Parapsychological Association all employ, at least in part, science and scientific methodologies in their explorations of supernatural, paranormal or psychical phenomena or occurrences. Science pushes the boundaries of the well-known and so do the mythological and the fantastical, tales and statements of the supernatural. There is a wonder in science besides discussions of the supernatural that oftentimes coincide with those of science (although this rarely occurs the other way around). Science has discovered quarks, leptons and gluons and it theorises about ‘dark matter.’

In quantum physics particles exist-and-not at the same time; they appear and disappear; light can be both a wave and a particle — as many photographers might be aware — and science brings sightings of strange new worlds such as Pluto and its moon-that-may-not-be-a-moon controversial approach. It gives names to these worlds such as Charon, Titan, Io, Ganymede and Callisto; supernatural figures from mythology, legend and folklore.

Explorations of ‘extra nature’ are found in science, fictional representations and, for some creatives, a personal experience. For Catherine Crowe, the experience of the supernatural, the unexplained and the ‘extra’ of nature has always been apparent. Besides the numerous instances of such phenomena alluded to in history, which have been treated as fables by those who profess to believe the rest of the narratives, though the whole rests on the same foundation, that is, tradition and hearsay; besides these, there exists in one form or another, hundreds and hundreds of recorded cases in all countries, and in all languages, exhibiting that degree of similarity which marks them as belonging to a class of facts.

Throughout human history, from all across the world, the supernatural has always been reported, lately discussed and earlier mythologized. Catherine Crowe debates that it is an integral part of human culture and supernatural occurrences (or at least a testimony of them) are far more prevalent than we might think. Whether we believe or not, whether we are uncertain, sceptical or downright cynical, supernatural phenomena, fictionalised or reported, are an essential part of all cultures, arts and forms of expressionism. The very fact that the actual ‘other worlds’ of space have been colonised by mythological naming attests to the reach of the supernatural — it has literally gone beyond our world, pushing the limits of what we can endure and what we can see or capture into writing, lenses or even canvas.

Nonetheless, it manifests that the supernatural requires study; and humanly speaking, it does affect us. ‘Theories of Affect’ come from cultural geography, yet I want to promote the usefulness of the concept of affect for examining the supernatural. Effect of theory looks at the bodily immersion in and response to landscape, place and space, which Patricia Clough cites as “a substrate of potential bodily responses, often automatic responses, in excess of consciousness.” The idea of an experience being “in excess of consciousness” resonates deeply with the experience of haunting or a skirmish with the supernatural be it “real” or from fictional texts.

The body itself responds to horror, terror and wonder. Through our publishings, we have heightened readers are unprepared, stigmatised or merely consider part of our topics to be unexplored taboos, which counterparts with others that are fascinated and keen for more publishing of the genre. There is an immanence of experience whether one is watching a film, reading a book, examining a photograph or experiencing something unexplainable, uncanny or eerie. For it to be acknowledged, the supernatural phenomena need a witness, some form of human liaison to attest to its presence or being. Without an interpretive presence, why might it be classed as “super” natural at all? Without a witness, the supernatural might, in the end, just be the natural. For a house or a ghost ship to be designated as haunted there has to be someone to recognise it as such, otherwise, it merely exists as it is; neither haunted or not. The supernatural needs human intervention in order for it to be supernatural. Human presence and the human body itself in its response to the supernatural must always be implicated. The supernatural is a human phenomenon captured into artistic impressionism, the role of appetitive consumption in modern representations of the Gothic.

This is all a small part of an ongoing project, and we will definitely tap into the deep wells of human experience, creativity, scientific endeavour and thought about the supernatural while welcoming both critical, scholarly material and creative work that will make us expand and enrich the discussion of the supernatural. From this day forward, and in those years to come, will explore how the supernatural is always deeply implicated in society, history, creativity, science and diversified cultures.

Meanwhile, some regalement should be in order; My deepest gratitude to all our existing and past authors and contributors, to our present-day dedicated content editors, marketing aficionados, our in-house professional photographer, live reporters and to our reviewers.

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