Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Vision of Pope John Paul II appears in Polish bonfire

Images of Jesus are regularly seen on parking garage walls and spaghetti billboards. Visions of Mary used bring thousands of believers to suburban meadows near Atlanta. One devout Catholic woman struck a goldmine charging five dollars per person to view an image of Mary in some frozen food she found in her freezer. And Popes Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II have all voiced their acceptance of the Marian visitations to three children in Fatima, Portugal, 90 years ago.

And now, the Vatican News Service, a Rome television station specializing in news about the Vatican, is showing non-stop a photo of a flame supposedly in the shape of Pope John Paul II.

In a flame? What's a beloved, dead pope's spirit doing in a flame, a Christian symbol of Hell?

The Polish man who took the photograph, Gregorz Lukasik, told the press, "It was only afterwards when I got home and looked at the pictures that I realized I had something."

Director of the news service and close friend of the deceased pope, Polish priest Jarek Cielecki, went to Poland from Italy (on a Vatican expense account, I bet) to see the photograph for himself. "You can see the image of a person in the flames and I think it is the servant of God, Pope John Paul II," he said.

Religious websites across the world have crashed because of the increased traffic by devout and/or gullible believers wanting to see this photo.

Why, in our 21st-century scientific and technological world, are so many people so eager to believe something so ridiculous? What does that say about humanity? Do we constantly need supernatural reassurance that there is life beyond this one? Do Jesus, Mary, and the Pope need to make regular interdimensional stops to keep us on the Path, or to keep the Sheep in the Fold?

The schedule is unpredictable, but it's still a form of brand marketing. Every once in a while, it seems, the Catholics need a good "manifestation" to keep people believing.

How long has it been going on? How long have people who want to believe in Things Beyond been seeing their favorite Biblical or religious character in random oil blobs, frozen drippings, and flames? And why?

To me, this Christian phenomena calls into question all visions and supernatural sightings, including the one that started the whole thing. Did people really see a risen, living Jesus Christ two days after he was crucified? Or did someone imagine they saw him, and then the madness swept the countryside, and then the world for the past 2,000 years, all based on one person's "belief" that they saw something in a flame, a Pizza Hut billboard, or, in the early morning fog at that tomb outside Jerusalem? What better way to capitalize on people's need for something cosmic in their lives, than to repeatedly create manifestations where there are none, and then, if you'll pardon the pun, fan the flames?

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  1. W.S.
    As a big fan of your blog I have too say that this post seems a little petty and very unmasonic. I have to question your answer to the first question you were asked when you entered your lodge as an E.A. "In whom do you put your trust?" because from the sound of this post how could anyone
    "in our 21st-century scientific and technological world"
    put their trust in God nowadays? Your post comes off as extremely anti-catholic and very unreligious.
    Remember that the compasses teach us to circumscribe and keep us within due bounds toward all mankind.
    Our fraternity welcomes all who believe in a supreme power whether that be Christ, Buddha, Mohammed or a talking oil spot. What power does an obligation have to someone who does not believe that there is a greater good that pervades all existence? If you are without that belief you are in the wrong Fraternity.
    If by believing that that flame was an incarnation of a beloved Pope reminds just one person on this planet to be a better person or to remember the divine, than it has done much more than you can imagine.
    Belief is a strong thing, that as a Mason I hold very dear to my heart and feel bad for those who have nothing to believe in than themselves.

  2. That's funny--I think the flame is shaped like a dog biscuit. Maybe it's the incarnation of a beloved dog biscuit.

  3. You mention in your blog entry that incidents like the flame image call into question the original Christian revelation. I would point out that the two types of revelation are extremely different, in highly relevant ways.

    The accounts in the New Testament of the resurrected Jesus are very specific in the way that they emphasize the unmistakable physicality of the being whom the witnesses thought they saw as the resurrected Jesus. This being ate broiled fish and honeycomb in front of the witnesses. This being invited the witnesses to put their fingers into the nail holes in his hands and feet, to put their hands into the large cut in his side made by the spear when he hung on the cross. The whole point of this, apparently, was to make clear that this appearance of the resurrected Jesus was not wishful thinking, not some kind of mass hallucination induced by grief or desire, not something that was a product of the mind.

    I administered dozens if not hundreds of Rorschach inkblot tests during the period 1986 through 1999, when I served as a psychology extern, a psychology intern, and a psychotherapist in private practice. I understand the projective hypothesis, the idea that people see, in ambiguous stimuli, things that reflect their wishes and fears.

    Whether such projection is at work in the bonfire you mentioned is a matter for debate. However, this is most definitely not a reasonable interpretation of the narratives of the appearances of the resurrected Jesus, as given in the New Testament.

  4. Brother from the Northeast:

    You're certainly welcome to your own opinion, regarding my trust in God as well as in your faith that dead popes appear in photographs of fire.

    I am, as you note, "very unreligious." I wouldn't say I'm anti-Catholic — I just haven't seen anything the Roman Catholic Church has done in the past 1,700 years that I'm particularly impressed by, other than build some magnificent cathedrals and manage to plunder much of the world's greatest artifacts and knowledge and hide them in their basement.

    You have no idea how I interpret "God." I don't especially think the mascot God the Christians, Muslims or Jews all claim as their own is all there is to God. And what I answered during my E.A. degree is between me and my God, and is of no concern to you.

    I did not say "in our 21st-century world..." how could someone put their trust in God. I asked, how could they have the ridiculous belief that a momentary shape in a flame could be more than what it is: a momentary shape of a flame, caught, from one specific vantage point at one particular moment.

    I can lie on my back and imagine I see recognizable shapes in the passing clouds. Oh, that one looks like a rabbit! But that doesn't mean the rabbit is going to come down to earth and eat the carrots out of my garden.

    If Pope John Paul II has the ability to visit earth to remind, as you say, just one person to be a better person or to remember the divine, I'm guessing he'd come back in a slightly more corporeal form than as a flicker from a fire. If as a nanosecond-flash in a combusting woodpile is the best he can do, I think we should just let him rest in peace.

    — W.S.

  5. As I've said many times, I'm a Catholic (baptized as a youth) and a Mason. I'm not particularly a strong believer in anything other than the power of human science to define truth and the power of human nature to deny it, whether for religious reasons or because a person is just a blithering idiot.

    WS makes some valid points. This cultish fascination with stupid imagery is absurd. These fanatics should just shut the Hell up or do the world a favor and commit suicide, thus raising the average collective IQ of the rest of the world.

    Fraternally yours,
    The Libertarian

  6. The Libertarian said...

    "This cultish facination with stupid imagery is absurd."

    I add; It's as if these fanatics seek validation for their beliefs in the mold they find in the bottom of their refrigerators!!!

    Then certain Christian factions want to remove Masonic imagery from historic buildings. Go figure!!!


  7. "For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong." (H. L. Mencken)

    Whoever believes in evolution (I do) understands and accepts the concept that being able to aggregate information from reality, correlating data by finding patterns, and extrapolating the conclusions by applying them in future similar situations, is a strong survival factor.

    So, seeing patterns where there are none is an artifact of that ability that we got from our ancestors, and it sometimes leads to neat - but wrong - answers.

    People who scratch their itch for knowledge with simple answers like "it's a miracle" will never try to understand the world as it really is by taking the time to study things like quantum physics - which, by the way, lead to more questions than they provide answers...

    The God I believe in does not "play tricks" on us, by doing things like "creating fossils to confuse the unbelievers" - or bending physics rules just to "show off". The world was given to us - but so was our brain. If I were God, I'd feel insulted to see this precious gift gathering dust in so many heads...

    Simple Aureole


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