Superstition and Personal Development

Superstition and Personal Development

Monday, August 28, 2023 12:02 am

Professor Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha


Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

There is a predominance of superstitious beliefs in Nigeria. We find it in all strata of society. Adherents of the major religions are as guilty of this irrational way of comprehending objective reality as animists who attribute supernatural forces to everything that happens to them or their loved ones. Men and women who have been exposed to the theory and practice of rational inquiry ultimately slip into ancestral methods of dealing with daily occurrences. Sadly, this arcane narrative is vigorously promoted by our brothers and sisters in the Pentecostal movement! In this understanding of the cosmos, a kick or a misstep is an attack from enemies. It is true that universally, there are stock superstitious beliefs. The thirteenth floor. Touching the crucifix for luck. Waking up from the right side of bed. A first customer for the day must buy goods from the seller. Left foot for bad luck, right foot for good luck, and many more.

Superstition refers to a ‘widely held but irrational belief in supernatural influences, especially as leading to good or bad luck, or a practice based on such a belief’. It is further defined as ‘a belief or way of behaving that is based on fear of the unknown and faith in magic or luck’. Fear of the unknown drives some people crazy. Yet this world is a region of a billion unknowns! In the past, our ancestors would have slaughtered virgin girls to appease the flood that ravaged certain parts of the country. To sum it up, superstition incorrectly establishes cause and effect and sticks to it without reservation.

To be sure, there are matters natural and matters spiritual, matters sacred and matters profane. For the well-developed mind, there is a dividing line, a divergence, a difference. The undeveloped mind sees supernatural elements in every experience. Superstition is grounded on fear and poor understanding. Spirituality is based on faith and the power of a Divine force. A society that wants to develop must expressly understand where faith ends and where superstition begins. This penchant for the superstitious has become an impediment to development and growth. A nuclear physicist who spends mote time praying in a church operated by a so-called ‘powerful prophet’ than in the laboratory is a superstitious soul. God will ultimately ask him some hard questions.

One aspect of our lives where there is insane superstition is when a family member or friend is ill. For some they keep the fact that there is illness secret. The nature of the illness is out of bounds. There seems to be the fear that evil forces would increase the intensity of attack if they knew about the ailment. Of course, most people prefer to nurse their ailment without making it public. There is something about self-preservation that makes non-disclosure a reality. Privacy seems to reduce undue attention. Public officials should not hide their health status. The late President Yar Adua’s example is part of the national memory. Ex-president Buhari epitomized secrecy when he stayed away from the country for months receiving treatment without disclosing the nature of the disease to the public! Sadly, some religious leaders also refuse to disclose their health challenges even when they are flown abroad for treatment.

A child’s temperature refuses to subside after routine treatment. The parents and sometimes the doctors attribute it to a spiritual attack. The so-called pastor joins the bandwagon and calls for fasting and prayer. A senior doctor steps in and orders a different course of treatment. The temperature drops immediately. The engine of brand-new car self-ignites at a particular hour and the superstitious mind of the owner attributes it a spiritual attack from ‘unfriendly friends. A woman’s pregnancy aborts suddenly in the sixth or seventh month and the witches in the family or the area are believed to be at work. A family loses its male children at forty years of age and the family concludes that there is an ancestral yoke that must be broken. This belief subsists until one of the sons who practices medicine abroad discovers a genetic or hereditary defect as causatory factor. He cuts down his weight, tackles diabetes and lives to be ninety. This is after pastor and after pastors have afflicted the family with bogus claims of spiritual attacks from the pit of hell.

A Head of State or a Minister or a military general or a Vice Chancellor who buries live cows at junctions at midnight to ward off spiritual attacks from enemies is as inane as the yahoo-yahoo boy who believes that access to a girl’s underpants or her breasts will give him stupendous wealth. Where did this stupid apprehension of the world come from? Why is it so pervasive among the elite? Some run from one so-called pastor to an imam or a babalawo to invoke spirits to enable them to keep their jobs or gain promotion. I remember Chukwuemeka Ike’s The Naked Gods!

A superstitious person cannot develop their God-given skills and competence. This is because they would rather concentrate on their superstitious perception or dimensions of challenges. Not everything which we do not understand is an attack from the devil or a witch. The killing of twins or albinos by some communities was the result of ignorance and superstition. Superstition also made parents whose kids died before the age of five believe that some evil spirits were taking the babies away. With modern science, we know it was sickle cell anemia.

A Head of State or a Minister or a military general or a Vice Chancellor who buries live cows at junctions at midnight to ward off spiritual attacks from enemies is as inane as the yahoo-yahoo boy who believes that access to a girl’s underpants or her breasts will give him stupendous wealth. Where did this stupid apprehension of the world come from? Why is it so pervasive among the elite?

Superstitious beliefs must not guide our lives. The Owner of the Universe has revealed enough for mankind to live in courage, hope, and faith. Christ talked about ‘men of little faith’ and ‘hearts of men failing them for fear! Evil forces are not as powerful as some impostors make them to be. They do exist. Yes. But they do not govern our lives, except we sell ourselves to them. The devil is active, active like a roaring lion. But the Master of the universe says we should not be afraid. Some of the so-called pastors who thrive on superstition and fear, who ask gullible people to sow a seed with their funds, are insane charlatans. Some of them use dark powers and so drive the spirit of the dark into the children of men! Of such men and women, we must beware. Such apostates prey on the gullible people of the world. True religion is not synonymous with, does not thrive on magic. It is superstitious to believe that without reading, prayers will make you pass an emanation. The bible encourages us to work out our salvation’, saying that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

It is this penchant for the magical, the superstitious that make us believe that God will come down from heaven and install good leaders. The free will given to man is not an exercise in futility. That free will to act justly and fairly is imbued. We have no one to blame but ourselves if we revel in ignorance, timidity, and infinite stupidity. A superstitious mind will always miss the core of objective reality. For example, while one region of the world worshipped the moon as a god, another region opted to travel there and explore it.

Finally, superstition has no place in the 21st century where AI has made that which appears impossible an everyday reality. Whoever thought we could video conferencing on our phones two decades ago from the comfort of our bedrooms? Would a superstitious imagination accommodate telemedicine?


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