I am looking for a word that captures the Voltaire quote “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”

There is the id, ego, and superego from Freud to describe the three tendencies in humans for different behaviors.

Then there is Plato with his reason, spirit, and appetite.

But is there a word that describes the human tendency towards religions and the supernatural.

I can only find phrases such as, need for self-maintenance (“How do we survive as individuals and as a species?”) and self-transcendence (“How do we continue to evolve and change ourselves as people?”)


Consider superstitious:

Having or showing a belief in superstitions.
‘many superstitious beliefs and practices are connected with sneezing’

There have been some research that argues the tendency toward superstition is a survival trait, which argues that superstitions may have been rooted in pragmatism rather than philosophy:

The tendency to falsely link cause to effect – a superstition – is occasionally beneficial, says Kevin Foster, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University.

For instance, a prehistoric human might associate rustling grass with the approach of a predator and hide. Most of the time, the wind will have caused the sound, but “if a group of lions is coming there’s a huge benefit to not being around,” Foster says.
New Scientist

  • How is superstitious different from spritual?
    – OrigamiEye
    Aug 17 at 10:26
  • From what I have found, spiritual is mostly regarding what affects the human spirit, and so is introspective. Whereas, superstitious is mostly attempts to explain what affects the observable world.
    – jxh
    Aug 17 at 19:16

In generic terms, metaphysical works. The term is often used to describe states of spirituality, as both suggest notions of looking above or beyond the physical world for truth.

For instance, here are the first few definitions of metaphysical in Merriam-Webster. Note the emphasis on the transcendent or the supernatural:

1 : of or relating to metaphysics

metaphysical truth / metaphysical speculation

2a : of or relating to the transcendent (see transcendent sense 1) or to a reality beyond what is perceptible to the senses

fleeing from experience to a metaphysical realm— John Dewey

b : supernatural fate

and metaphysical aid doth seem to have thee crown'd— William Shakespeare

For your use case, metaphysical can be used either to describe people who fall outside the mainstream Western religions but profess spirituality (see this article on "metaphysical shops" catering to pagans, Wiccans, Buddhists, and others) or it can describe the inclination to belief in general. Here are a couple of more examples of the term applied to people's inclinations to belief:

S Mariátegui argued that people are metaphysical animals who are moved to action by the spiritual and ethical dimensions of a myth . “ Without a myth , " Mariátegui argued , " the existence of man does not have any historical meaning . (Marc Becker, Mariategui and Latin American Marxist Theory, 1993).

Metaphysical people attempt, through various means, to better understand the world that lies beyond the reach of our five senses. (Rebecca Tripp, Secrets of a Metaphysical Flight Attendant, 2014).

  • While the word metaphysical is often used in the ways described in this answer, it should be noted that it is not how it typically functions as a technical term in philosophy.
    – jsw29
    Aug 6 at 14:59

The unseen

Meaning 'that which is not perceived by the 4 senses'. Sensed by feeling, knowing or by intuition.

It's a funny answer and it might be a philosophical one but I hope it will be helpful. I'm coming from 25 years of deep study in this subject.

I posit that there are four main different parts of the self. I call these:

The inner masculine - doing, thinking acting The inner feminine - feeling, relating, wishing, dreaming The inner child - creating, playing The higher self - being, spiritual, meditating, yoga

Each if these parts is like 4 separate people, inside each person. Each has its own completely separate belief system with its own wishes, desires, perceptions, issues, neuroses, goals, and so on.

This internal separation is functional - these four parts are supposed to work together as a team - however in most people, because of ancient trauma in the human race, held in collective consciousness, they don't really work together at all.

Many people are aware only of the 'inner masculine' (Freud's 'ego') and value only that part of the self. This is part of the dysfunction that has caused humanity so much grief.

You may conceive of the other three parts of the self - the child, the feminine, and the higher self - as being 'metaphysical and non-real'.

They are - and they are also the poor relations within most people - the integration and connection with these parts would bring the wholeness that most people are seeking in their lives.

So in answer to your question I suggest 'the un-seen'.

And I offer my own book, which explores the 4 parts of self I have discovered, as a reference. It is a 25 year deep study into healing through integrating these 4 parts, written in a simple way.


The Unseen: https://supernaturaldiscernment.com/2014/10/12/how-to-see-the-unseen-realm/

I love that you have asked this question.

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