Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Evil Eye

Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.”

Sarah looks upon her servant Hagar, who, like her, has born a child to Sarah's husband Abraham, with envy. This type of envy has long been seen as a powerful malevolent spiritual force, and in many cultures it is referred to as "the evil eye."  These glass talismans, known as "evil eyes," are believed by some to offer protection against the spiritual force of this kind of envy. I don't know about you, but I find them both beautiful and creepy looking. I've been seeing them more and more lately. Michael's crafts currently has an entire section devoted to charms, beads and pendants featuring the evil eye. Do I believe that someone can look on another with envy and, without even intending to, cause harm, but that a piece of glass can prevent such injury? No, of course not. And I think most modern people who wear them do so less because they believe that they offer spiritual protection and more as a fashion statement. Still, there is a lot of ancient wisdom behind the concept of the evil eye. One of the ideas about envy is that it poisons both parties--both the envied and the one who envies. 

I don't think it is possible to go through life without feeling at least a few twinges of envy. I do think that how we respond to our own feelings of envy, and to being envied by others, can help us to improve the quality of our own lives. Giving in to envy can lead to a kind of insanity. In extreme cases it even leads to murder. Learning to be happy with our own lives and decisions and not trying to become an object of envy or to envy others takes real spiritual work. I think churches should help members learn spiritual practices from our own traditions that can help protect us from the very real harmful behaviors that result from giving in to envy and other powerful negative emotions. 

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