Seeing Virgin Mary or Christ In Stains
They call it pareidolia. It is all right if you never heard of it — you have probably experienced it. We don’t just love stories. Our brain seems to need them. We take what is inanimate and give it an identity, a spirit, a character, a story. In 1944 a couple of psychological researchers at Smith college showed an unimaginatively dull and insipid movie of black triangles and lines and such moving about to 34 “subjects,” probably unpaid Smith students (who may also have been emotionally or even sexually frustrated) when all but one of them described this 2 1/2 minute movie with amazing “humanity.” They saw scenarios like two male triangles keeping a female circle prisoner.
Of course this phenomenon sounds familiar. You can guess (as I did) how it presents most often today. Hint: a lot of the world is a Christian theocracy. That’s right. Maybe you just see a man in the moon or a face in the clouds. That doesn’t change you — or the world — very much.
But when you see an apparition of the Virgin in the bottom of a pot of stew, or the face of Christ in a piece of French toast, we are talking about a sacred relic that may be auctioned off for a small fortune, or something people may make a pilgrimage to visit. The sensory messages that make it to your brain are more aggressively shaped by what is already in your brain than I could have ever imagined