Strange attraction of the supernatural
Many of us are believers in supernatural phenomena even though they defy all rational and scientific explanations. Tales abound of possession, hexes and special amulets to make desires, both good and evil, come true. The Jakarta Post's team delves into the world of the supernatural.
JAKARTA (JP): Some of us want it all -- success, wealth and security -- but we are not willing to pay the high cost for attaining our dreams through hard work.
We look for a shortcut, with some turning to the supernatural in the hope of making it all come true.
From the high and mighty to the man in the street, use of the supernatural is a way to overcome life's troubles -- or it can be a means for people to get their own back.
A business executive in the capital, Gunawan, said he relied on supernatural power for protection.
"Once I was attacked by dozens of people, but they were all bounced off me. Another time, a man came to me and asked for my forgiveness because he said he had tried to hurt me. I presume he tried to use black magic, but it failed and he realized I was 'protected'".
Former president Soeharto is said to have strong beliefs in traditional Javanese mysticism, and President Abdurrahman Wahid reportedly often visits ancient grave sites.
"Abdurrahman is well-known for his conviction is Islamic mysticism ... he believes in particular ulama and kyai, either dead or still living, who he regards as wali, the venerated propagators of Islam," historian Azyumardi Azra wrote in the book Understanding Gus Dur.
Human existence has always been closely tied to the puzzling sphere of the supernatural; many religions, including Christianity, Islam and Judaism, have affiliations in which mysticism is recognized.
There are also the people recognized for being gifted with extraordinary powers, such as Ki Singalodra who claims he can help people attain their goals.
He said there was no pat description of the supernatural.
"There are so many answers for it. But I just want to distinguish it from black magic," he said.
Soothsayer M. Sukma Dipura agreed that a description of supernatural powers could not be adequately put into words.
"This is about frequencies and energies. Everything, everyone has the energy and frequencies. We can calculate or see the combination or the balance in the frequency and energy."
Muslim teacher Hamba Al-Faqir Syahbudin, who is also a paranormal, classified the supernatural in a metaphysical context.
"In metaphysics, there are (aspects) about godliness which includes religion, and about naturalism, which includes everything beyond godliness such as magic, witchcraft or genies," he said.
"Most societies in Indonesia have myths. Sometimes, people do believe and are sure that the legends are fact."
An entrepreneur, Yerry, who claims to possess supernatural powers, said the phenomena was nothing new in the country.
"In Indonesia, to use a simple example, we know that some traditional cultural activities use supernatural powers, such as when men eat glass in the Jaran Kepang ceremony," said the man from Purworejo, Central Java.
Singalodra, 49, a paranormal practicing at Mangga Dua Mall, West Jakarta, said that many people were interested in exploring the supernatural to attain greater self-confidence, security and success in their private lives and business.
"Most of those who come to see me want to have better careers and love lives. I can help by implanting susuk (shards of metal believed to give people special powers) in them.
"Susuk is merely something like people wearing watches. There's no danger. There's too many myths about susuk, but they're safe."
He claimed to have been able to help people who had received medical diagnoses of serious illnesses.
"There are two possibilities in this case -- they are really medically ill because of complex diseases, or it's because of black magic."
Although he attested to the safety of the susuk, there is a common belief that they must be removed eventually or else the user will suffer a painful death.
Sukma, 53, who has been a psychic for over 20 years, said he served everyone who came to him with help from God.
He said he was able to balance the energy in patients to improve their appearance and actions -- and even help them unload hard-to-sell real estate.
"Most of them want to create harmony in their family, get back their spouses or to win someone's heart."
Yerry said he possessed psychic powers to communicate with the dead and conduct exorcisms.
"I usually communicate with the spirits before I exorcise them. In most cases, they ask for something as compensation or offerings."
Islam has its own mystic tradition of Sufism. Mohammad Luqman Hakiem, who called himself a "Sufilog", emphasized that all practices related to the supernatural could not be justified unless their ultimate intent was to worship God. "Otherwise, they are shortcuts to achieving men's desires."
Yerry, who is a Buddhist, said the goal of his religion was enlightenment. Those who have already passed a series of stages in the enlightenment process have their eyes and ears "opened", he added, and therefore could deal with supernatural power.
He believes everyone can tap into their own psychic powers.
Syahbudin, 30, acknowledged that every person possessed haq, a kind of inner power.
He said all people could awaken their haq, which was useful for achieving invulnerability, in order to enter the realm of the supernatural.
They would then possess better strength and power to anticipate negative elements around them, he added.
Syahbudin, who conducts empowering courses in Pondok Pinang, South Jakarta, and runs the Babussalam Foundation in Bekasi, said he received many visitors.
"People visit me for various reasons. I think this is because some of them are confused about what to do to solve their problems. Some see me because they believe I can help them. Some are fond of spirituality."
He realized that some of the people were seeking a psychological crutch.
"Some people come to me to ask for help as they have problems with their bosses, staff or colleagues at the office. I understand that up to 40 percent of those consulting with me are only suffering from psychological problems. But they think they need assistance from the supernatural way. I just give them a glass of water and ask them to drink it. Usually they will tell me later that everything is OK."
Religion may frown on the practices and scientists scoff, but many continue to put faith in the supernatural.
Soldier Tono, 25, once allowed an old woman to implant a susuk in his lower right forearm, "because she said it would help me in my life".
Although a Muslim, he believes in the power of the supernatural. "There are things we cannot explain, but the reality is that they happen."