The message of the good nuns in grade school about avoiding superstition has always stuck with me. I know that at different times in my life I have made concerted efforts to ignore popular phobias like crossing paths with a black cat, or walking under a ladder, etc. But, looking back, I can also recall many times when I have succumbed to a belief that certain outcomes would not materialize without certain postures on my part. This often still applies, notably to things for which I pray. It denotes a greater trust in myself than in You. If examined, most superstitions hinge upon the belief that outcomes are facilitated by extraneous “do’s and don’ts” attended by us. Such superstitions both warn us and empower us to control the influences of our desired ends; and, I think these are the kinds of superstitions the nuns were talking about.
The proclivity for this kind of superstition is evident all too often in my spiritual life. I find myself strongly influenced by beliefs that not finishing or missing certain prayers and/or spiritual practices negates them entirely. But this means that I see myself in control – not You!Allmy practices of completing things in certain ways or posturing myself in certain ways are nothing more than superstitions of high order when viewed against the trust that should be a hallmark of my love for You.
Somehow the order we create in our own lives becomes the fertile ground for the growth of superstitious practices, making us think that deviations throw our cosmic revolutions into malevolent orbits. But again, what’s basically happening is a mistrust of You. The workings of Your Spirit are replaced by some kind of confidence in the efficacy of the ways in which we ourselves do or don’t do certain things. Believing that shattering a mirror will bring years of bad luck, or that breaking the link in a chain-letter will bring about a publicized consequence is superstitious because it is based on the fear of losing control – control we never really had to begin with.