Essay on Superstition:
The civilization of today has passed through many stages. Primitive men lived in jungles and caves. They had to live with fearful animals and fight against them all the time so that they might live. Also, they had to face thunder, lightning, flood, earthquake, and such other things of nature. They could fight the beasts but not these forces of nature, and they were very much afraid of them. They thought that some unseen powers visited these evils upon them to punish them. So they began to form some ideas about some unknown gods or spirits. And they began to believe in many things as the good or evil gifts of these gods and did not know how to explain them. They had no knowledge of science; so they could not explain thunder or a flood or an earthquake. Thus, they formed many silly and unreasonable ideas which controlled their lives very largely. These were the beginnings of superstitions or ideas that had no basis in reason.
As days passed, these superstitions began to spread in every field of man’s life. They began to look for signs and omens and auguries. Almost every action of men began to be guided by those signs and superstitions. A black crow was a bad sign if it flew above a man’s head or sat on the roof of a man’s house. The ticking of a lizard came to be looked upon as a bad sign for the starting of any good work. If someone sneezed it meant some evil on the way up. In Europe, the number 13 began to be looked upon as something very bad, and a man would not rent or buy a house with No. 13 on it. On the other hand, the people of the West look upon a black cat as a good sign, if it crosses their way. In India, a black cat is an evil omen.
When a man surrounds himself with so many signs and superstitions, he cannot really take one single step forward without thinking a number of times whether the sign is good or not. Naturally, a great deal of time and energy is lost in the way and the sole result is that a man’s mind remains upset for a pretty long time. This means more or less depending upon unsee powers, and this really makes a man depend on fate. And when a man depends more upon fate than upon his power of action, he begins to lose his manhood and very soon stops being a useful man. He becomes a mere fatalist.
In ancient Greece and Rome omens and auguries were a fashion, nay, they were like unseen commands for men to obey. A king going to a battle must look for some augury. If it was gold, he started at once; or he stayed behind for some time if it was evil. In the meantime, the enemy had his own way. The same thing happened against and again in India, too. Augurs and soothsayers were in great demand and were very powerful. But the East is more ready to believe in superstitions than the West. And astrology or palmistry has strengthened this faith in superstition.
A nation is made of the individual members of the country. So as the individuals are either slaves of superstition or free from superstition, so also will the nation be either static or struck-up or mobile or free to move ahead. Now we are in the midst of an age of science, and science has torn off almost all the mystery from the face of nature. Therefore, today we explain almost all superstitions of the olden days with the help of science. But there are still people who would not believe in the miracles of science. Such a condition of the mind can still be seen among the people in the countries of the East. Naturally, their progress is limited; a hundred superstitions block their way to progress. Their society is hedged in by wrong notions and superstitions. India is an instance in point.
But the time is not far off when superstitions will die a natural death, and the new generations will be able to explain everything by means of reason and science. The obstacles that are put in the way of man’s action by superstition will not be there anymore. Nothing will hinder mankind from marching along the path of reason and progress.