Why Do We Suffer from the Invisible Man Syndrome?

“Tell people there's an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority will believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure.” 
― George Carlin

I was born with a vivid imagination. It was both a blessing and a curse. As a child, I wrote plays, stories, poems, songs and loved to pretend. Role playing was my favorite pastime. I could get into character better than any other child I knew.  Until quite late in life, well past preteen, I dreaded growing up. The real world didn't hold the same allure and fascination of my pretend world. Unlike many of my peers, "adulting" didn't seem all that appealing to me. Whereas they were anxious, even excited, to date, get their first jobs and mimic the grownups in their lives, I was skeptical. The real world looked a bit grim and the faces of most of the adults that I knew were often work worn, worried, anxious or depressed.

I didn't witness a lot of happy grownups, romantic longterm marriages or carefree smiles. There may have been a few of those around, but I didn't meet them. Everything was serious in my family, even more so than the average family. Growing up in a genuine American cult didn't allow for much else but dire predictions and the ever present knowledge that there were two invisible men watching me at all times. 

Enter stage left: The devil was  an evil angel that was so objectionable that god threw him out of heaven. He was lurking in the shadows at all times, however. Why? His main objective was to snare my little heart into doing something sinful. 

Enter stage right: God. Not just any god but the one true god. He was a total enigma to me. Like the devil, god was also always present. He watched my every move, even monitored my thoughts. Why? His main objective was to find out if I would choose to follow him instead of the devil.

As if that wasn't enough, there were demons on the loose, too. They weren't necessarily in the room with me at all times like god or the devil, however. Sometimes, they just dropped by to see if they could create a little extra havoc in my life. They could even possess my body. How they chose their victims I have no idea, but if one of these vile critters got into a person, only god could cast it out. 

Talk about a magical world. 

This was the world my parents and the brethren occupied.  I was the child in the group. The one who liked to play rather than grow up. But that time in my life was quickly coming to an end.  Around age ten, my dad began to encourage me to put my childish ways behind me. 

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, i thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
— 1 Corinthians 13:11

The above verse was used to terrorize me on more than one occasion.  Sometimes at bedtime,  I would find a little slip of paper on my pillow with this verse written on it. I now find it completely ironic, even cruel, that I was being told to grow up, get serious and stop living in my pretend world but at the same time to accept the above cast of invisible characters as the real deal. 

God nor the devil for that matter were willing to make things any easier for me. Neither one ever made an appearance. Not even my father who was the leader of the cult, the great prophet of the last days if you will, had ever seen god. 

There are only a few accounts of  a human seeing god. 

Once was when Moses begged to see god's face while on the mount. God told him that no one had ever looked upon his face. I guess it was so glorious that it would overwhelm, even kill a mere mortal. God must've had a thing for Moses, however, because he was allowed to see his back side. Not his face mind you. Just his hind quarters. If true, that puts Moses in a very exclusive club.  

Many years later god showed up and even hung around for about thirty years. 

Everyone called him Jesus. Oddly enough, he mostly did the things that ordinary people do. Of course, at that time, we are told, that HE wasn't even allowed to see god's face even though god and Jesus were one and the same and thus looking in a mirror or even a still pond of water would have made it possible for him to see his own face which was the face of god. That little puzzle of the trinity always confused me as a child. 

Fortunately, I matured and realized it was just a story. Once Jesus was resurrected no one has ever seen him again.

My mother claims to have seen the devil once on her way to the laundry room in our basement. She was terrified and immediately began to call on god to protect her. Lucifer and the many demons that occupy his sphere largely remain invisible, too.  My mother's claim to have seen the devil out of the corner of her  eye puts her in a special class just like Moses. When I was a child, her story terrified me. I was reluctant to go to the basement thereafter. 

Who are all of these invisible creatures? 

They're all voyeurs it appears living in a parallel universe watching us, trying to get into our heads and bodies but unwilling or unable to be anything other than invisible. Humans have longed to catch even a tiny glimpse of these supernatural beings but without any luck for centuries. 

Why are humans so determined to believe that invisible creatures are moving among us? Why do they seem to need to have these creatures watching them at all times? 

As a child I preferred my make believe world to the real world most of the time. Could it be that grownups also have trouble dealing with reality? Do some of us of require invisible friends in order to feel safe? Just the mere act of being alive is so full of risk as to cause the vast majority of humans to develop one form of neurosis or another. The anxiety that we feel just trying to survive Mother Nature's antics is enough to keep us from easily falling asleep at night. Add to that constant worry the fact that our own species can be as ruthless and conniving as any evil devil or demon and it's no surprise that as we mature, the very thought of going it alone can be too daunting.  

I left the cult and all invisible super heroes behind many years ago. 

I was forced to grow up and have been "adulting" fairly successfully for a long time. My son, however, adored Dungeons and Dragons. I allowed him to play that game for many years. He and his friends had a great time inventing mystical characters with super powers. When he was ready to grow up, I didn't ask him to replace these imaginary creatures with demons, the devil or god. In fact, I was morally opposed to the very idea of telling him that invisible creatures were hovering nearby at all  times laying bets on who would get his soul. I realized that such indoctrination of my child was abusive. Thankfully, my son grew up to be a responsible grownup without being infected with the invisible man syndrome. He was able to enjoy his childhood at a leisurely pace, but thankfully knows the difference between fantasy and reality. 

In a world beset by thousands of different strains of the god virus, I consider the fact that he grew up virus free one of my greatest accomplishments.   

Teresa Roberts is a myth buster. Her recently published book - Have We Been Screwed? Trading Freedom for Fairy Tales - can be purchased on Amazon.