By MARIAF. de LAGUNA, MA. (Land.) IT must be considerably disconcerting to many 'socalled rationalists to find that one of their chief battle-cries. " Superstition." seems to be losing much of the value it was supposed to have.
There are numerous absurd beliefs that are obviously superstitious. Others were originally not superstitions at all, such as " Don't walk under a ladder." The origin was fear of being harmed by some falling paint or tool. Al] such cases have no place in this article.
Belief in genuine miracles, such as those of Lourdes, declared by doctors as having no medical explanation. can only be classed as faith in the power of God and in Our Lady's intercession.
The difficulty is to determine the boundaries between credulity and faith and between superstition
and science. Many " superstitions " of yesterday are now scientific facts or " true psycho logically." Certain superstitions of today may be the subject of scientific study tomorrow.
The purely materialistic school of thought appears to be losing ground. The non-materialistic school, though not committed to any specific religious belief. admits on scientific grounds the existence of a non-material world and of non-material forces.
BELIEF in apparitions has
long been scoffed at as superstitious by the rationalists. However, in July 1955, at a Conference of Modern Churchmen at Oxford, Prof. Henry Price (Oxford) made certain statements called " epoch-making " by the Rev. E. Pierce Higgins, chairman of a new psychical re
search group. For us Catholics who have " known these things all along " it was heartening to read that as a result of his research work Prof. Price believes not only in apparitions but in survival after death, and in haunted houses.
" Apparitions of the dead in terms of telepathy were either the effect of thoughts and emotions of a human personality surviving death or were caused by the influence of past thoughts and emotions which the late Mr. X had when alive." (Daily Telegraph. 29.7.55.) One does not need to be a psychologist, let alone a spiritist, to realise that the material universe is only one aspect of Reality. Leading physicists acknowledge, at least implicitly, the existence of a Creator. They are laboriously coming to the conclusion that the universe could not have created itself out of nothing. (See the essay "Physics and Philosophy" by Prof. Temple. F.R.S., in " Catholic Approaches." 1955.)
Depth-psychology has '' discovered " images of the Spirit of Good and the spirit of evil, in the human psyche. Jung does not, however acknowledge God and Satan in metaphysical terms, for such is not his field of study. But because psychology shows that their " images " exist in the psyche, metaphysics and theology can now link up with his basic ideas.
Post-Freudian psychology has indirectly strengthened the grounds for Catholic belief. It is to be hoped that Prof. Jung, whose earlier works favoured Catholicism (though chiefly on therapeutic grounds) will alter his recent disquieting trend. Since his influence is great. we must pray that his later writings may not detract from the spiritual good he has achieved.
OUR Catholic Catechism says
(No. 182): " The first Commandment forbids all dealing with the Devil and superstitious practices, such as consulting spiritualists and fortune-tellers, and trusting to charms, omens and suchlike fooleries."
Nevertheless, the Church teaches that blessed medals and the like, if worn or carried with the necessary faith in Christ, His holy Mother and the saints represented thereon, can help to protect us from spiritual and physical harm.
Moreover. the Church says that there are dreams—and dreams. Besides those recorded in the Bible, above all in the New Testament, many other dreams have proved to be messages, visions or signs experienced by perfectly " normal " saints and other holy people. (I once heard a broadcast talk by a psychologist who said that " the completely normal person is a freak."
MANY of us who are ob
servant and who like to put two and two together have often noticed that connected with or synchronising with a time of crisis, great joy or sorrow, there appeared or occurred some outstanding sign or symbol, as a " leit-motif." And that each time the " leit-motif " recurred, it heralded-in the same kind of event, crisis, joy or sorrow, with Wagnerian Inevitability. Here is a true example.
A person known to the writer had for years had a rainbow as her special "leit-motif." After several
mouths of intense strain and anxiety, she dreamed one early morning of a double rainbow, both arches clearly visible in all their curved length and beauty. This in itself was a remarkable dream. That same day from her window she saw a complete double rainbow showing up vividly against the cloudy sky. (If the dream had followed the sight, it would have had less significance. Photographic dreams are fairly common.)
The important point is that this Strange sign (synehronicity, as Prof. Jung would call it) did indeed herald-in better times. (The reader will remember the rainbow in the Old Testament.) In his autobiography " Pillar of Fire " the well-known psychologist and convert Dr. Karl Stern, says:
" When I first lay down on that couch [for psychological experimen(s] I was a convinced dialectical materialist. When I arose from that couch for the last time, I was absolutely convinced of the primacy of the spirit." On the same page he recalls how Dr. Laudenheimer (with whom he studied) asked him to write down all his dreams each day for scientific analysis.
Great interest is shown by Prof. Jung in " runs of coincidences and synchronicity. He describes a case of synchronieity (a term he himself has coined) eventually producing healing results. After hearing a patient relate a dream of a scarab, the Egyptian symbol of rebirth, Dr. Jung heard knocking at the window. He opened the latch, and " let in the nearest European equivalent of a scarab— a rose beetle." (Review of "The Interpretation of Psyche," by C. J. Jung and W. Pauli.) If synchronicity with even a pagan symbol can be taken so seriously by the scientific mind, bow much more effective can be Bible signs and symbols.
A PAMPHLET THE lives of the saints provide
many cases of divinely-sent signs. But they are not sent only to saints. Even sinners can, through humble prayer, receive signs and interpret them correctly. The following is a case in point.
had long been seeking in various towns a house near a Catholic church and in a locality where I could start my small Aquinas Lending Library (a freeof-charge apostolic work) with some chance of success. At last I found the very thing. Nevertheless, I dejectedly gave up all thought of returning on the date of the auction, because I was convinced that the house would fetch more than I was prepared to pay.
On the morning of the auction, the only itern in my mail was a Catholic Truth Society pamphletbiography of St. Thomas Aquinas, just out. by Fr. Hilary Carpenter, O.P. My library has several books on St. Thomas, but this tiamphlet, on that precise morning. worried as I was about the house, struck me as having perhaps some significance. Praying for guidance therefore, I packed my suitcase and returned to the town of X with the pamphlet.
That same evening. at the auction, the house was mine and at exactly my own price-limit. But for the sign, I should not have come to the auction.
As this was not the only sign I had experienced, I can only conclude, from logical observation, that such signs really are sent to us in times of crisis or need. It is for us to interpret them correctly, without falling into the " post hoc, ergo propter hoc " fallacy, or reading extraordinary significance into ordinary coincidences.
THEN too, some signs and symbols are significant for some people, but not for others.
It is a scientific fact that the full moon influences. amongst other things, the mighty ocean tides, draws shoals of fish to the surface, quickens the sap in plants and affects both sane and deranged persons (not to mention lovers 1). Is it therefore a superstition to hold, as so many people have from time immemorial, that a new venture should be started with a new moon ? Or that, as God works through nature, a long-term enterprise should be begun when nature is being reborn ?
Two of the most usual superstitions are fearing to admit enjoying good health and crossing fingers when rejoicing over some piece of good fortune. On the surface, these and similar cases do smack of superstition. But at bottom there is the very reasonable need (alas ! not always recognised) to avoid boasting or taking anything for granted. Since God is the Source of all good, we must receive it humbly and gratefully. Too much self-confidence and pride are sooner or later punished. as experience proves. The Catholic way. of course, when rejoicing or satisfied, is to say "Thank God."
BLACK MAGIC IT is generally said that to
believe in the possible effects of a solemn curse on a person or thing is superstition. But Christ Himself told of the power of Satan. Missionaries can vouch for the mysterious effects of Black Magic and dealings with the Devil.
Over all is the power of God. as has been proved by exorcism or even raising a crucifix with unflinching faith.
Satan, for long soft-pedalled in the non-Catholic pulpit and banished from the Press, is now considered a force to be reckoned with.
When we think of all that psychology has brought to light, the more remarkable seem Christ's divine knowledge and powers in the Gospel miracles. Whatever sins the deranged may have cornmitted. He did not call them sinners. He healed them immediately with His compassionate, penetrating look and authoritative word.
I end this article by echoing a plea that is fast gaining supporters. Could we not petition our Hierarchy to ask the Holy Father to establish a Feast of Christ the Divine Psychologist ?