Dear Fr. Fortea, how do the natural, preternatural, and supernatural realms relate to demons?
The natural deals with the laws of the physical world, i.e., the workings of nature, whereas the preternatural concerns things or events which appear outside or apart from (Latin praeter) the laws of the physical world. The supernatural concerns things or events beyond or above (Latin super) any created nature; it is proper only to God Himself.
Demons can engage in preternatural activities such as making an object levitate or transforming something instantly. They can do things that go beyond the material world, but they cannot act beyond their angelic nature. Their powers are limited, even in the physical world. God can create something from nothing; a demon cannot.
We can see these realms operating in our souls. For example, beautiful scenery can remind us of the beauty of God, and this is something natural. Meanwhile, an angel or a demon can send inspirations directly into one’s mind. God can go further than that–He can send spiritual graces (of repentance, of thanksgiving, etc.) to the deepest depths of one’s spirit, causing radical changes in a second. All working of grace is supernatural; grace is always sent directly by God.
To learn more about spiritual warfare and demonology, Catholic Spiritual Direction recommends Fr. Fortea’s excellent book Interview With An Exorcist – An Insider’s Look at the Devil, Demonic Possession, and the Path to Deliverance.
Art for this post on the relation of demons to the natural, preternatural and supernatural: Detail of Padre José Antonio Fortea 2017, photographed by Elgatoconbotaselgatoconbotas, 5 May 2017 own work, CCA-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons. Cover of “Interview with an Exorcist” used with permission, all rights reserved.