What do we really have control over in this life? Maybe we’re not sure, so we invent things to control and behaviors which exert influence over our circumstances. This gives rise to superstition over the ages, and eventually, these beliefs control us.
Sacred numbers in various belief systems are an instant tip-off that religious practice is obsessive and neurotic. Prescribed recitations of the rosary, praying toward Mecca five times a day offering the stipulated number of genuflections, chanting and reciting Buddhist sutras a number of times in the morning and evening, and the importance of doing things in fours is practiced among the Lakota and other Native American tribes.
Adherents engage in these behaviors as a way to ease anxiety or to prevent something bad from happening. Obsessive checking, washing, touching, counting, picking, or other actions are irrational attempts to control our environment and circumstances.
Why is it so hard to just let life happen? Why do we have such difficulty letting go? The liturgy of every spiritual system encourages faith, but the espoused practices contradict, and even supersede the power of faith.
I work with healthcare practitioners who use energy medicine in their practices. It is customary for practitioners to wash their hands after administering a treatment. Not because there may be an exchange of fluids or bacteria, but because of energy contamination. I gave one of them a little back rub one day, and she said, “Make sure you wash your hands,”. I told her, “that’s ok. I have my own OCD repertoire that I’ve cultivated over my lifetime. I’m not ready to add another ritual right now.”
I’m a self-admitted counter, toucher, and hair-puller. I used to count things off in threes, from the time I was 10 until I was in my early 30s. I don’t remember when I stopped. I used to practice Nichiren’s Buddhism, and was instructed to chant the title of the Lotus sutra three times each time I left the house or something bad would happen. If I didn’t chant the prescribed amount of daimoku and perform gongyo exactly as I was instructed, I felt vulnerable, guilty, and at the mercy of the universe. So much for enlightenment. Awakening isn’t possible when one is infatuated with the fear around an irrational behavior. When one knows the action is irrational, then the continued practice is indeed a choice, and fear is preferred over liberation.
The problem isn’t with religion or spiritual process. All teachings have a kernel of truth at their centers, that speaks of liberation, awakening, surrender, trusting life/God/Spirit. But over the ages, the truth becomes enfolded in layers of neurotic dogma, because the truth is never enough for a society who, in spite of evolution, embrace the loftiest thoughts with reptillian brains.
Bryan Flemming states in his eye-opening documentary, “The God Who Wasn’t There,” that the biggest sin in Christendom is thinking, because thinking leads to questioning and doubt, and as he was taught, doubting or denying the Holy Spirit is the one unforgivable sin. Ironically, doubt is at the center of religious based fear, and is handed to us by our religious teachers. We doubt that internalizing the message is satisfactory, so we invent rituals to fill in the gap between our fleeting faith and salvation/liberation.
I’ve wondered about the washing after energy work. If we’re all expressions of the same energy source, then how can I become contaminated by something that I’m already connected to? It is not possible, to a rational mind.
Of course, I’m not superstitious. It’s bad luck to be superstitious.