by mr maple
A few years ago, I went out to eat Chinese food before a big organic chemistry exam. I hadn't done too well on previous exams, so before opening the fortune cookie I thought to myself, "Let's see if this fortune applies to my test; I could use some luck."
The fortune read, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket."
The incident comes to mind every time I think about superstition. Curiously enough, the English word for superstition finds its roots in religious practices. Wikipedia says,The earliest English uses of the word in the modern era refer critically to Catholic practices such as censing, rosaries, holy water and other practices that Protestants believed went beyond - or were set up above - their own interpretation of the New Testament practices of Christianity. From there the uses of the term expanded to include non-Christian religious practices, and beliefs that seemed unfounded or primitive in the light of modern knowledge.
This entry is not meant as a criticism of Catholic practices. From my own experiences with Catholicism, I see in their symbols - rosaries, genuflection, holy water - many rich reminders of the presence of the divine through ordinary means. In commenting on superstition, I only mean to say that when I am superstitious, I am relying on a particular action, ritual, or incident to bless me with good fortune. I pray before an exam for good results, I prepare my heart for communion so that I am not struck dead, and I read my Bible so that it will make me into a better person. In the end, superstition becomes a way through which I can manipulate
Contrast superstition to the Wikipedian definition of mysticism:Mysticism is the pursuit of achieving communion, identity with, or conscious awareness of ultimate reality, divinity, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, or insight. Traditions may include a belief in the literal existence of dimensional realities beyond empirical perception, or a belief that a true human perception of the world goes beyond current logical reasoning or intellectual comprehension. A person delving in these areas may be called a Mystic.
I believe that God is fearsome precisely because he is unpredictable. I believe that we are at the whim and will of a God who is untouchable, un-seeable, and often unknowable. I believe that he intends to, perhaps even delights in, tearing apart our sad and pathetic attempts to categorize and manipulate him... to move us away from superstition and towards mysticism. I believe his best and favorite tool for this is suffering.
This is made abundantly clear whenever massive tragedy strikes, whether it be a terrorist attack, a tsunami in Southeast Asia, a hurricane in New Orleans, or an earthquake or forest fire in California. So-called prophets will raise themselves up and declare, "This was an act of divine justice that serves as punishment for [insert sin]
But will they be able to tell you when the next round of justice will come, as Daniel or Jonah or the angels at Sodom & Gomorrah did? Can they explain to you the divine mechanics that determine why the innocent suffer and the wicked go free? The answer is a resounding, "No!" In Luke 13, Jesus himself said, "Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish
Are you superstitious about anything? Have you ever had a mystical experience?