Today, lets toss around some thoughts on the difference between being “spiritual” and being “superstitious.”
There’s a fine line between the two, and it’s up to each of us to keep checking in with ourselves to keep our beliefs and intuitions in a healthy state of balance.
In this episode of the Alchemy of Affluence Podcast, I’ll share a fun rule of thumb: a test to run your beliefs through in order to maintain that balance!
I’ll also share a little story about how I came to be conscious of the way spirituality and superstition are two sides of the same coin… Read on or listen to this recording and enjoy some old pictures of my early spiritual altars as you scroll down this post!
Some years ago, my roommate had a guest over to visit our apartment. He noticed my (then very tiny and primitive) spiritual altar, and became curious about it. He asked me to explain what some of the items were for. All I had were a few candles and a porcelain dinner plate with some tumbled stones and a smudge stick on it. I explained that crystals are used for grounding and centering energy during meditation, and for balancing the energy in a space, and that the smudge stick was burned to cleanse and bring consciousness into the space (or something along those lines). The guest asked, “are you, like, really superstitious?” I replied, “no, not superstitious at all, but spiritual.”
That incident took place fairly early in my post-awakening spiritual journey, and I’m glad it came up at that time! It raised this subject in my mind, allowing me to remain conscious of that thin line between spirituality and superstition as I’ve developed along my path. It got me thinking more about what the difference actually is…
To get a better understanding of what superstition means to me, I’ve had to ask myself, when did I initially learn what superstition was, and what was the context? It makes me think of something my mom told me about people she grew up with. She recalled that a family she was close with as a young girl were very “superstitious,” and believed that if someone swept over your feet with a broom, you would never get married. There was no explanation provided as to why or how this was the case, but the girls were all super careful to move out of the way when someone was cleaning the floor!
So, as a kid I guess I must have figured that superstition was an irrational belief with no grounding in reality…
But as I began to grow older and wiser, I came to question my own religion. Just because some things were written in an old book, did that validate what Abrahamists (Muslims, Christians and Jews) believed as “grounded in reality”? Perhaps not…
Of course it was questions like these (among many others) that eventually led me to wash myself clean of my old religious beliefs and accepted values and start totally fresh in my early 20s.
I began to question everything, and opened my eyes to new potentials. I decided that nothing I thought I knew from one moment to the next was written in stone, and I allowed myself to explore practices and ideas from all across the spectrum of spiritual paths. Some of those things I began exploring included the crystals and smudging herbs that went on to become a topic of discussion in the above story…
Often times, along my journey since then, I’ll try a practice and find that it feels extremely authentic to me for some time, only to discover that it outlives its usefulness, or gets challenged in some way eventually. Have you experienced this phenomenon in which something feels so real and so true, but over time, it loses its potency for you, or you find yourself overusing it until it doesn’t even seem like a healthy dialogue with your intuition anymore? Sometimes, it comes in ebbs and flows, helping you to grow only at the right times. For example, this happens with numerology signs, like seeing 11:11.
Early along my path, 11:11 was really speaking to me… Like to a point where it was almost “scary accurate” in turning up to guide me when I was about to make an important life decision… But after the initial excitement of discovering this spiritual tool wore off, I found myself intentionally glancing at the clock around 11AM or 11PM, hoping to see 11:11 and experience it as a sign; trying to force a meaning out of it every time I did see it. That was when I started to feel like it had downgraded into a sort of superstition for me, and I took a step back from it. Now, I have a much healthier practice that I do whenever I see 11:11, but it had to go through a major evolution after losing it’s initial meaning.
Spirituality VS. Superstition
So lets have a look at the dictionary definitions, shall we!
The most simple and all-encompassing definition I found for spiritual is: of or relating to the spirit or soul, as distinguished from the physical nature.
And for superstition: a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge, in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, or occurrence.
Or, an irrational fear of what is unknown or mysterious, especially in connection with religion. Any blindly accepted belief or notion.
So… this presents an interesting question: If matters relating to the spirit or soul are not scientifically proven, does that make all forms of spirituality and religion superstition?
By this definition, it certainly could appear that way! So now what? Have we just rendered ourselves superstitious dummies? Well, it really depends. Here’s my spin on it:
Belief as a Tool
What I’ve learned over the years of exploring spirituality eclectically is that belief is a tool.
I believe that, humans are actually unable to comprehend the full truth of existence.
We simply don’t have all of the perceptive skills necessary to know everything… And that’s probably for a reason. I feel that we enter this life with one main purpose: to experience what life as to offer. Each of our paths will be different, as each lifetime can only fit so many experiences into its time span. Therefore, each of our perspectives is different based on what we’ve experienced and how we choose to “make sense” out of it. Some choose religion, some choose intuition, some choose science, some choose history, and some of us choose to explore all of these avenues.
I question my beliefs regularly, observing how they have served my expansion, and keeping them in check if they become too dogmatic. If I find that a belief is causing more harm than good, I pick it apart to see how it works, and explore alternatives. I approach other people’s beliefs and experiences with an open ear, curious to see how others perceive the world, whether it happens to work in my model of reality or not.
If you believe in something, and have never questioned why, or have never explored the possibility of an alternative truth, chances are you might have a superstition on your hands.
As of right now, one belief that seems to hold true for me is the concept that you will experience things based on how you perceive life. Like looking at the world through “rose colored glasses,” so to speak. If you believe that having had your feet swept over with a broom will prevent you from getting married, you will hold fear within you which will subconsciously infiltrate your thoughts, deeds, actions and habits, and will likely lead to relationship trouble. Whether you “believe” in the Law of Attraction or not, even psychologically, this model seems to make sense. At least it does to me right now (lol).
In my experience, I’ve come up with a useful rule of thumb:
If anything about your spiritual practice or belief system is dis-empowering you more than it is empowering you, and you haven’t attempted to see outside of it, it probably fits into the “superstition” category.
To illustrate this point, lets go back to the original example of the house guest who saw my smudge stick and asked if I was superstitious. The reason I answered, “no,” is because I use the smudge stick to focus on my blessings and empower myself, not to “ward off impending evil.” If I burned the herbs and walked all through my house saying “keep evil spirits out of my home,” my mind would be on the possibility of evil spirits, thereby inviting the potential to perceive an experience of evil spirits in my home. I would be believing that if I didn’t do this precautionary measure of burning the smudge stick, bad things would happen. To me, that would be dis-empowering, because it focuses on fear, creating a conflict where there doesn’t need to be one. I’d be a slave to that belief system, and that’s just not my cup of tea!
On the other hand, when I burn the smudge stick and walk all through my house saying, “I consciously bless and consecrate this space as a happy and healthy dwelling place for me,” I am empowering myself by focusing my intention on the potential for a happy time in that home. In this example, whether or not the herbs have any scientific or spiritual power to bless a space, I am psychologically conditioning myself to be happy, healthy, and thankful in my dwelling place, and my subconscious mind will cause me to think and act on that notion, thus creating potential for a happy home. If at any point smudging begins to feel forced, or if I begin to feel that I’m having to do it to “prevent bad things from happening,” that belief will have outlived its usefulness as a tool.
I hope this article raised some questions for you, if not provided answers. Take a good look at your life, habits, beliefs and spiritual practice, and run it through the “superstition” test. Is it empowering you to move forward, as you’re aware that it is simply a psychological tool that helps you to be happy, healthy, fulfilled and productive? Or are any of your beliefs creating fear and burden in your heart and in your life? It would certainly make a fun topic to journal about!
So, what is your personal definition of “superstition,” and how does it differ from being spiritual? Got any fun stories about superstitions or practices that have been useful/not useful along your path? Tell us all about it in the comments!
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11 thoughts on “How to tell if You Are Spiritual or Superstitious: Put Your Beliefs to the Test! (Podcast Episode 76)”
Thank you Afura for a very clear explanation of where the fine line is between these two concepts. I do agree with you on the example of smudging for blessings, not as a prevention technique. I have found over the years, as you have done, that some practices appear to lack the zing of the original impact on me and find myself doing as you do, going into the whys and wherefores, often dropping the practice and going back to basics. Mindfulness about what I practise often helps me see when things are going pear-shaped.
I like the act of smudging as an uplifting episode for myself also – the scent from the smudge stick seems to provide me with a sense of renewal. Thank you again, cheers
Thanks so much for stopping by to share your thoughts! Looks like we’re on the same wavelength on this subject!
The only thing I would add about smudgingor the conceit is evil is that I do believe that the smudge is used for cleansing before blessing. Cleansing of what? Perhaps spiritual dust bunnies, places where things have built up a bit but are getting a bit old, forgotten, no longer needed, or just plain no longer server your goals. Or nasty habe snuck through the defenses. These things aren’t evil but they do tend to clog things up so to speak and they can build up over time and make things wacky. So when I do cleansing before blessing I just like to start with a fresh slate. I would never consider not cleansing the dishes before company arrives any more than I would come to my lover’s bed because I desperately need a shower after a day of packing my home to move (what I’m doing now). Is my sweat evil? Not in the least but it does include some toxins I may be releasing through my pores, it doesn’t smell great, and I feel dirty and sticky. In fact, that is how old corners in my room or house can feel without a regular cleansing.
Do some of my practices look superstitious to others? Undoubtedly sometimes. I’m not really interested in what they think because after years of practice, while I like to remain teachable, I also like to think that I can feel and are things I can’t explain. I know a few things work better than others. Cleansing, and sometimes banishing, is a must before creating my sacred space.
I remember one new gal to an open circle I attended. We were discussing the need for constraining the elements. She really disliked the idea of forcing the elements to do her will and to simply invite them in to the circle fyi be ego they are. I shared that elements are neither negative or positive but they were a bit wild. I wasn’t trying to hold them to my will so much as to ask them to restrain theirs and for them to use their energy for the purpose intended by that nights ritual. Oh no no no. If we invite them in a friendly way, all will be well, and they wills never create havoc because we unhurried them in with love. But no boundaries. That’s when the lightbulb above our table snapped, sparks flew, and we all jumped and made little noises of surprise as soars showered down. I laughed. She remained unconvinced. Fire especially is basically neutral but it can light your candle or hearth, help your food become palatable, and it can burn down yore house. Water can nourish your body or create a tsunami. Etc. It wasn’t being evil, it just got out of your control. So i do invite the elements or the elemental into the circle but they are there to guard and protect us for that brief time and I make that clear. I too am harnessing and controlling my energetic power and I ask all who enter the circle to do the same.
I clean the space is any residual energy that may have come inn attracted like a moth to a flame to the pretty light to emit.
Evil no. A wilful being definitely. So while I’m all over love and beauty and I certainly don’t want to manifest negativity in my life or my circle, the truth is evil and wacko do exist. Accidents do happen. All the steps are necessary. IMO. Not because I’m thinking negatively but it’s kind of like inviting a bull into the china shop. It’s going to be very hard to stop him from destroying half your inventory simply because he doesn’t know how to get out. And much as I love Ferdinand, the last place I want him is in my circle unless asked and invited with parameters. He had horns and a big and there’s going to be loss.
I’m pretty sure I’m not superstitious but I’ve seen some things in my days and better safe than sorry. The spiritualality remains but I’m pretty sure a bull is still a bull so I make sure the china is clean and put away before inviting flower loving Ferdinand in.
Just my 2 cents worth
Wow! Thanks for the detailed description. I agree with you that elements must be worked with carefully, and it’s great to do cleansings in a space. I guess the only point of differentiation is that I tend to look at everything as a psychological construct which we attract the experience of via the law of attraction. I don’t particularly think of energies as being personified or good or evil. To me, everything is about our perception of an energy. I’m glad you shared your perspective. I’m sure a lot of people will agree with you whole heartedly!
It was way longer than I meant. I know I’m preaching to the choir. 😉
And sorry for the typos, my phone, like elementals, has a mind of it’s own
For some reason, I have one very particular superstition that I have no idea where I picked up but I have done it for as long as I can remember, the obligation to “Knock on wood” in order to avoid pitfalls [If someone says that nothing bad has happened ever or yet, you knock on wood to keep it that way/make sure the bad doesn’t happen out of Universal spite]. I definitely do not consider myself superstitious but yet this habit lingers! If there is no wood, I knock on my head! It makes me laugh as I do it, but the urge is so strong, it’s comically perplexing.
I knock on wood to this day. Don’t know why, it didn’t come from my family (I’m adopted).
Haha that’s kind of funny! That was always the example my parents gave me of what a superstition is. My sister took it a step further and told me the reason people knocked on wood was because they believed there were little men who lived in wood who would grant them wishes… I, of course, took an even more ridiculous turn and went on to write a graphic novel about the little men who lived in the wood… Needless to say, we were not allowed to believe in magick as kids, but we made up for it by being very creative hahaha!
Where can I get a copy of that graphic novel?? 😀
hahaha! Its buried in my pile of old artwork somewhere… and its ridiculous lol!