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This may indeed be interpreted as a reaction against Materialism ; but it is none the less, at bottom, an evidence of man's restless desire to penetrate, by any and every means, the mystery that lies beyond death.
While it is easy to condemn Spiritism as superstitious and vain, the condemnation does not do away with the fact that Spiritism has become widespread in this age of enlightenment.
[From supersisto , "to stand in terror of the deity " (Cicero, "De Nat.
deorum", I, 42, 117); or from superstes , "surviving": "Qui totos dies precabantur et immolabant, ut sibi sui liberi superstites essent, superstitiosi sunt appellati", i.e.
"Those who for whole days prayed and offered sacrifice that their children might survive them, were called superstitious" (Cicero, ibid., II, 28, 72).
These causes explain the origin and spread of superstition in the pagan world.
Under the head of vain observances come all those beliefs and practices which, at least by implication, attribute supernatural or preternatural powers for good or for evil to causes evidently incapable of producing the expected effects.
The number and variety of superstitions appear from the following list of those most in vogue at different periods of history: The source of superstition is, in the first place, subjective.
Worship becomes indebitus cultus when incongruous, meaningless, improper elements are added to the proper and approved performance; it becomes idolatrous when it is offered to creatures set up as divinities or endowed with divine attributes.
Divination consists in the attempt to extract from creatures, by means of religious rites, a knowledge of future events or of things known to God alone.