Those that had evidence of elephants knew they existed. Those that had no evidence didn't imagine them.
We know that man imagined gods to explain things that weren't explicable at the time. That's why there are so many disgarded gods.
Don't you think this is a contradiction? How did the early humans imagine something they had no experience with? I see this as very advanced thinking on the part of the early humans. Other animals don't appear to recognize the sun or moon as supernatural beings, but just as facts of nature. Their activities are regulated by them, but how do they imagine a supernatural existence of which they have no experience?
People imagine non-existent animals that have properties they dream of, horses with wings, dragons, sea monsters, unicorns (I don't know why.)
Right. We construct reality based on our experiences. Yes, we imagine things that aren't there. Yes, our imaginations are powerful and can create powerful images that can frighten and control, but these images are based on our experiences; they don't materialize out of nothing.
It's fun to imagine super poweful things to 'explain' things we don't have answers to yet - but it's not rational.
Maybe this is true in modern man, but I don't think it explains how the idea of a supernatural being came to be in the first place.
Wouldn't it make more sense that early humans had experience with the supernatural. Then when they tried to pass on that experience to subsequent generations they could only build on images and experiences that they had. For example, lets say a human has an encounter with a supernatural being and he tries to describe that encounter to another human, say in a different tribe. He tells them "Unga, brite light, hurts eyes, can't look at, me scared!" Now those that he is relating the story to can imagine the sun, so they make that connection and begin to think of the sun as the thing responsible for the encounter.
Subsequent generations began to imagine this encounter in even different ways, like giving them anthropomorphic qualities, making them human like, etc...
Why can't your statement read: "Those that had evidence of the supernatural knew they existed. Those that had no evidence didn't imagine them." And then once they imagined them, they could imagine all kinds of crazy things about them. But don't you think that at least the first imaginations needed some kind of foundation for their imagination?
So is it possible that the supernatural is both based on human experience and a product of human imagination? Obviously gods like Thor and Zeus are products of human imagination, but the concept of the supernatural would seem to have its origins in human experience.
Whoever calls me ignorant shares my own opinion. Sorrowfully and tacitly I recognize my ignorance, when I consider how much I lack of what my mind in its craving for knowledge is sighing for. But until the end of the present exile has come and terminated this our imperfection by which "we know in part," I console myself with the consideration that this belongs to our common nature. - Francesco Petrarca
"Nothing is easier than to persuade people who want to be persuaded and already believe." - another Petrarca gem.