The Mumu in the Mirror


Some time ago, I was at a person’s house. I don’t know the person that well— more of a friend of a friend. That person, I will call “Deb” for the purpose of this story, took me to a mirror in her house and asked me to pray. She had seen a “mumu” (one of the Philippine terms for ghost) in the mirror, and wanted me to pray that whatever is in the mirror, or is being seen in the mirror would go away. (Talking later to some others, two more people had noted seeing something similar in that mirror.)

I am rather agnostic when it comes to things like this. There are people who believe in ghosts and people who do not believe in ghosts. Trying to sound smart, perhaps, I like to say that I believe “phenomenologically” in ghosts. That is, I believe people see or experience something that they describe as ghosts… but I don’t know what that phenomenon really points to. I am not convinced that praying against a mirror would change that phenomenon.

This situation reminded me of a conversation I had with a colleague in the area of pastoral counseling. I was asked whether I would ever recommend a form of therapy that I did not believe in. My answer at the was a bit convoluted. However, if I wanted to simplify it a bit, I would say the following:

  • I would not recommend a therapy that I believe is inappropriate or unhelpful.
  • However… I would not try to prevent a person from using a therapy that he/she thinks would be valuable, UNLESS I believe that the therapy is clearly harmful

This second point is based on the realization that of the four primary indicators of a successful therapeutic treatment, only one of the four is the general effectiveness of the the therapeutic method itself. The others (I am doing this by memory right now… I will double-check later) are the competence of the therapist in the treatment, the relationship between the client and therapist, and the faith the client has in the treatment process (the “placebo effect”).

So, bringing it back to the mirror. I don’t know what Deb and the others saw, and I don’t know what needs to be done to make sure that they don’t see it again. I am not going to gainsay a method based on my own ignorance. I also know that Deb places a fair bit of trust in me as a religious practitioner to be of help. Further, I am pretty sure that whatever I do, it is unlikely that my actions would make things worse (although I cannot guarantee this).

So what did I do? Actually, a friend of mine was with me with more experience in these types of prayers. I asked him to pray. However, I did not simply ask him to pray that no one sees a mumu in the mirror. I asked my friend with me, a pastor, to pray a blessing on the house (including the issue of the mirror and the mumu). Some day, I should ask if the problem is now gone.

I think this answer fits into the category “do no harm.” That being said, one goal is to get the client not to rely on the religious professional, but to understand that she has access to God. I want God to be her God, and the God of her house.

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