Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ
I do not believe in sorcery, magic spells, curses, charmed amulets and the like. I see, however that even some educated people believe in such things in this age of science and internet communications. Some people practice devil worship while some others tie charmed thread round their neck or on the hand. This is also true about some people in Europe and America.
Similarly, some people believe that sneezing is an ill omen and that seeing a cow is a good omen. Some people believe that they successed in their work if they start it at the right auspicious time. Some others believe that it is an ill omen when a cat crosses their path.
In the past I did not know many of these things. But now after hearing about these beliefs and practices of some people, I am glad that I got the answer to a question which many people ask me. People often ask me, “What is the secret of your success?”
The secret of my success is neither my disciplined study nor my reading of Indian and foreign literature. My hard work is also not the secret of my success. The secret of my success is also not the guidance from experts and friends. But the secret of my success is that I see a good omen everyday on my way to my office. I see cows tied along the road at a place close to the houses of cowherds on the way from my house to my office. Every morning I have the ‘good omen’ of seeing cows while going to my office!
But I have a difficulty. I am able to easily convince some people about the secret of my success; but I am not able to convince myself that this is the secret of my success! My intellect mind protests in believing in the good omen of seeing a cow!
My intellect mind proclaims that believing in a good omen of any kind, even in a cow, is ignorance. It is nothing else than prejudice and blind faith. My intellect mind shouts in the crowded market place that, be it sorcery, be it a charmed amulet, be it a good omen – they are all ignorance, superstition and blind belief.
But what about the people who really believe that the secret of my success is due to the good omen of seeing a cow every morning? What to do about my elderly friend who believes that his neighbour has destroyed his family life by sorcery? What about the people who believe in curses, an amulets, enchanted ashes and magic spells? What do their experiences tell?
There is no intrinsic power in any amulet, sorcery, black magic, curse and enchanted ashes. But if you believe that there is power in them, then there is the power of your belief. This power of your belief may show in your life. So we call it ‘blind faith’. Like faith, blind faith can have also an effect on your life!
The Naked Truth
But the naked truth is that any of these things in themselves do not possess any power. For instance, if a young man casts a magic spell on a young girl with the intention of trapping her, but if she does not believe in it; then, the magic spell will not have any effect on her. Similarly, a young man may know that a young woman has resorted to black magic on him, but he does not believe in it, it will have no effect on him. In such situations it is good that young man and that woman avoid meeting each other.
Some people believe that they should go to answer an exam, an interview or begin a journey only at the auspicious time. But if the auspicious time can assure a person’s success in an examination or in an interview for a job, then there is no need to make any preparation or to work hard to attain such goals.
I believe that experts in human resources and educationists do not pay any attention to these things. Otherwise, they could have easily tied a cow close to the gates of colleges and schools on examination days and the students could go to the examination hall after seeing a good omen of a cow and then, they would come out of examination hall with flying colours, and also bring name and fame to their alma mater.
But fortunately, intelligent people believe in working hard instead of looking for a ‘good omen’. They achieve their aim by the sweat of their brow. Only lazy people spend their time in loitering and going after sorcerers and magicians. Hard working youth shape their life with effort and attain their goal.
All Times Auspicious
All times are auspicious for the people who keep abreast with the times. All times are good times. For those who believe in God, all times are created by God. All things created by God are good. There is no division of auspicious and inauspicious, good and bad times in God’s creation. Only suspicious minded people believe in inauspicious times or ill omens. There is nothing in them excepting their prejudice, ignorance and blind faith.
Some people cannot easily give up their superstitions and their belief in ill omens, which are rooted deeply in their minds. This is explained by rationalist writer Mr. Ashwin Kariya with an example. In his Gujarati book, “You are obstructed not by heavenly bodies but by your superstitions,” he writes,
“It is difficult to be free when one is possessed by superstitions. One can quote here a story from Kutch. Two shepherds were grazing their sheep on the bank of a stream. It was the rainy season. Suddenly the dark clouds covered the heavens and heavy rain began to pour down. The water started to rise in the stream. Shepherds usually keep a black blanket on their shoulders. Both the shepards took shelter under a tree and waited for the rain to subside. Meanwhile, something black was seen floating in the stream. A shepherd thought, somebody’s blanket is floating. ‘Let me get it.’ One of the shepherds told to the other and jumped into the water and caught hold of the dark thing. For sometime, the shepherd did not come out of the water. So, the shepherd under the tree shouted: ‘Leave it… leave it…!’ But the shepherd in the water replied, ‘I have already left it. But it is not leaving me!’ In fact, it was a bear.”
As rationalist Kariya states that one cannot easily get rid of the superstition, blind faith and false beliefs. However, it is not impossible; it is possible, because, God has given us, human beings, freedom and intelligence. We can freely examine and discern everything. We can examine all things to find out the relation of cause and effect. Then with the power of discernment we can accept good things and do away with things like sorcery, black magic and ill omen, amulet and charmed thread, from our lives. God has created us free. Let us be cautious that we do not loose our freedom and the power of discernment by the influence of ignorance, blind faith and superstition.