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SUPERSTITION AND OCCULTISM


Page Contents:
  1. Superstition defined.
  2. Occultism defined.

SUPERSTITION

A superstition is an irrational belief about the relation between certain actions (often behaviors) and other actions. The practitioner believes that the future, or the outcome of certain events can be influenced by certain specified behaviors. Not only do notions of "good luck" and "bad luck" give rise to many superstitions, such as the belief that it is "bad luck" to wear gold and silver together, the whole notion of "luck" is itself a superstition.

Superstition may be expressed in the terminology of religion, giving rise to skeptical thinkers' opinion that all religion is superstition. Greek and Roman pagans, who modeled their relations with the gods on political and social terms scorned the man who constantly trembled with fear at the thought of the gods, as a slave feared a cruel and capricious master. "Such fear of the gods (deisidaimonia) was what the Romans meant by 'superstition' (Veyne 1987, p 211). For Christians just such fears might be worn proudly as a name: Desdemona.

By its definition superstition is not based on reason. Many superstitions can be prompted by misunderstandings of causality or statistics. Others spring from fears, which may be expressed in religious beliefs or practice, or to belief in extraordinary events, supernatural interventions, apparitions or in the efficacy of charms, incantations, the meaningfulness of omens and prognostications.

Any of the above can lead to unfounded fears, or excessive scrupulosity in outward observances.

Fanaticism, some argue, arises from this same displaced religious feeling, in a state of high-wrought and self-confident excitement. Such unquestioning loyalty can apply to politics, work, and ideologies as well as religion; indeed, it can even be focused on sports teams and celebrities. See Baseball superstition for a series of such examples.

Whatever the cause, superstition can lead to a disregard of reason under the false assumption of a divine or paranormal form of control over the universe. A gambler might credit a winning streak in poker to a "lucky rabbit's foot" or to sitting in a certain chair, rather than to skill or to the law of averages.

An airline passenger might believe that it is a medal of St Christopher (traditional patron saint of travellers) that keeps him safe in the air, rather than the fact that airplanes statistically crash very rarely.

Superstition is also used to refer to folkloric belief systems, usually as juxtaposed to another religion's idea of the spiritual world, or as juxtaposed to science.




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