The Holy Light: Legend or Reality? (Fr. George Tetsis, Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, 2006)

NOTE: The following article is taken from the newspaper Vema, April 21, 2006. The article is followed by quotes from contemporary Greek Orthodox clergymen and theologians who openly admit that the Sleepless Lantern (i.e. the sanctuary oil lamp, which is supposed to be extinguished on Good Saturday) is in fact left lit! These quotes are followed by an English translation of the Patriarch’s Prayer.

  • “The Patriarch doesn’t pray to conduct the miracle.”
  • “The Holy Light from heaven is nothing but a legend.”
  • “The Patriarch lights his candle from the unsleeping oil lamp.”

The forthcoming feast of Pascha brought the issue of the Holy Light’s touch back to the limelight…

The happenings in Jerusalem and the risk of politicizing a basic liturgical act of our faith now gives the Church a unique opportunity to lift the veil of mystery that covers the Holy Light’s touch to this day; to enlighten the faithful regarding the theological background and symbolism of this beautiful an d delightful ceremony.

I will explain myself. For centuries now, there has been a widespread conviction among the pious, yet theologically and liturgically uneducated, orthodox faithful who search for “miracles” to fill a spiritual void: during the ceremony, the Holy Light descends miraculously “from heaven” to light the Patriarch’s candle.

However, as the eminent professor Constantine Kalokyres relates in his erudite book, The Architectural Complex of the Temple of the Resurrection in Jerusalem and the Subject of the Holy Light, concerns a legend that has been cultivated in the Holy Land after the Crusaders’ invasion and within the framework of the Orthodox-Latin-Armenian conflict in which each one claimed the privilege of “receiving the eternal light from heaven” for themselves.

The prayer that the Patriarch offers inside the Holy Sepulcher is clear and not open to any misinterpretation. The Patriarch does not pray to conduct the miracle. He simply “recalls” Christ’s sacrifice and Resurrection on the 3rd day and addresses Him, saying: “We piously take from the light that diligently and eternally burns on Your light-bearing Sepulcher, we spread it among those who believe in You, who are the true light, and we pray and plead with You, oh Holiest Despota, so that You will elevate [the light] into a gift of sanctification and fill it with Your divine grace…” This means that the Patriarch lights the candle from the unsleeping oil lamp located in the Holy Sepulcher. Every Patriarch and cleric does precisely that on the day of Pascha when he takes Christ’s Light from the unsleeping oil lamp located upon the Holy Table symbolizing the Lord’s Tomb.

However, the mystery that has been cultivated around the Holy Light ritual and the vulgar perceptions about it nowadays contributed to the appropriation and exploitation of this highly symbolic and compunctionate liturgical practice of our Church from external religious circles. The reason for the mockery of the Holy Light’s organized air transportation to Greece—escorted by governmental actors, honorary detachments, lightly-armed infantrymen, and boy scouts (and, of course, TV crews!)—is the Modern Greek celebrates “the authentic Greek Pascha.” As if our ancestors did not celebrate Christ’s Resurrection before the airplane was invented! Or, as if the Orthodox from the ends of the earth didn’t celebrate the Lord’s Pascha since the Olympic didn’t “fly” in their countries!

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Protpresbyter George Metallinos

Fr. George publicly admitted his reservations about the Holy Light phenomenon on [Greek] national television: “When a specific Patriarch has faith and the grace of God, then the miracle takes place. When faith is lacking, the lamp may be used…” Of course, if the Patriarch can use the sanctuary lamp in case he’s not worthy, that means it has not been extinguished! Fr. George was severely criticized after this revelation.

In his book, Φωτομαχικά-Αντιφωτομαχικά, Fr. George writes that the key to understanding the ceremony and the nature of the light (“natural or supernatural”) we must see what the prayer says and the unforced conclusion is that the light is lit in a perfectly natural manner, its purpose is purely symbolic and its sanctity is derived from the fact that it comes from the Holy Sepulchre!

In the prayer recited by the Patriarch, “[…] there is not even a mention (not even a hint) about an immaterial light descending from above at that moment, but it is implied that the light is only natural and is lit in memory of the Risen Christ” (p. 33).

Fr. George distanced himself from the logic of the purposeful cover-up by the Church, characteristically stating that he prefers ‘the atheists’ who downright reject any possibility of a miracle, concerning the Holy Light to the concealment of the truth, […] for any reason. A truth indirectly confessed by the church through the prayer read during the Good Saturday ceremony.

Metallinos

Constantine Kalokyris

In his book, The Architectural Complex of the Temple of the Resurrection in Jerusalem and the Subject of the Holy Light, Constantine quotes and analyzes the Patriarch’s prayer in depth. He reaches the same conclusion that Fr. George Metallinos himself accepted in his 2001 study; i.e., that the light is lit in a perfectly natural manner, its purpose is purely symbolic and its sanctity is derived from the fact that it comes from the Holy Sepulcher!

Το αρχιτεκτονικό συγκρότημα τού Ναού της Αναστάσεως Ιεροσολύμων και το θέμα του Αγίου Φωτός

As Mr. Kalokyres notes “the prayer is very illuminating.” Indeed, there is no mention of a miraculously appearing light, but “it is implied that the light is natural and lit in remembrance of the Risen Christ, the only true light of the World.” So the Patriarch himself produces the light, in remembrance of that miracle, symbolically reproducing Christ’s Theophany. “And the Prayer […] goes on to explain where the light used to light the candles and then passed on to the faithful comes from. And the place is the Holy Sepulcher and the source of the light, which the Patriarch piously receives, is the holy lantern that CONTINUOUSLY burns and is always kept lit there.”

Completing his analysis, Mr. Kalokyres particularly stresses the word “elevate” (ἀναδείξῃς) which “clearly states that the light (not only isn’t being sent down from heaven, but) hasn’t yet been turned into a special ‘gift of sanctification’ […] However, if the light had been sent from heaven, then the Patriarch wouldn’t be asking for it to be elevated. And how will this elevation become possible? The prayer explains it: Through the grace of the Holy Sepulcher.”

In support of his interpretation Mr. Kalokyres points to the blessings of the Great Sanctification of the Waters during Theophany (which prays for the water to become ‘an apotropaic gift of sanctification’ (‘‘ὕδωρ ἁγιασμοῦ δῶρον καί … ἀναδειχθῆναι αὐτό ἀποτρόπαιον…”), and the transubstantiation prayer offered during the St. Basil’s Eucharist [the priest requests that God ‘bless, sanctify and elevate’ (‘‘εὐλογῆσαι, ἁγιάσαι και ἀναδεῖξαι”) the Holy Gifts. In both these prayers we have ‘sanctification’ and ‘elevation,’ just like in the Holy Light prayer.

On the matter of the body search that the Patriarch is (supposedly) subjected to, Mr. Kalokyres says that it is “a legend, the product of the lower, pious naivety of the people […] which degrades [the Patriarch’s] honest and flawless behavior and renders him as an accomplice to the production of a false miracle […].” For, “the removal of the vestments and his appearance with the sticharion alone is part of this ceremony of the Church. The process is meant to signify that the Patriarch, expressing humility and deep piety, before even approaching and crossing into the Most Holy Inner Sanctum is disrobed of all vestments that reveal his rank as a bishop” remaining with “the sticharium alone (the simplest and common vestment of all ranks of the clergy)!” There is a large gap between the process of voluntarily disrobing of all external vestments and an ‘exhaustive body search!’

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Constantine Kalokyres

Mr. Kalokyres  gently ‘chastises’ the Church for its choice to “silently bypass the underlying religious enthusiasm and holy fervor” of the faithful (“perhaps not willing to shake the beliefs of the simple folk”). In the end he declares the Church free of any responsibility, since “the Church of Jerusalem has officially, with a special ceremony (i.e. the special prayer) expressed the whole truth about the Holy Light and its nature.” (Κ. Δ. Καλοκύρης, Το αρχιτεκτονικό συγκρότημα τού Ναού της Αναστάσεως Ιεροσολύμων και το θέμα του Αγίου Φωτός, University Studio Press, 1999, pp.164-165; 218-220)

Demetrios Kokoris

Even though this theologian clearly wrote in his book, The Holy Light (Άγιο Φως), that all flames are extinguished, during a talk show on Good Thursday he repeatedly claimed that there is a flame in the Chamber, but it just is not used!

Cornelius, Metropolitan of Petra, twice the locum tenens of the Jerusalem Patriarchal Throne

“The prayers have the power to sanctify the natural light and here we’re speaking about a natural light. But the prayers that are read by the Patriarch also consecrate the natural light and therefore it has the grace of the holy light. The invocation or prayer of the priest is the miracle and the light is sanctified. It is the natural light that is lit from the sleepless oil lamp which is kept in the sacristy of the Church of the Resurrection” Watch the 6:50 mark of the following video:

One of the biggest religious lies is—as it seems—the ‘miracle’ of the Holy Light, which every Pascha ‘miraculously’ illuminates the Holy Sepulcher Church in Jerusalem. I. Kardasis, a correspondent of the newspaper “Orthodox Press” (01/05/25), wrote on the subject of ‘Holy Fire’ and raised major questions that should be asked and answered by every sincere Christian. Let us pay attention to what he writes about the non-miraculous elements of the ‘Holy Fire’:

  1. On Great Wednesday (04.11.2001), Metropolitan Cornelius was interviewed about the Holy Fire on the “Mega” channel show “Grey Zones.” If the four of us heard and understood well, the above Prelate, who will be given the Holy Light in three days, said among other things, the following:
  2. a) The Patriarch divests himself of every stole and remains in his white esoraso not to check for any flammable materials, but to remain in the white robe symbolizing the angels’ robe.
  3. b) The Patriarch enters the Tomb with candle and prays saying a special prayer and lights up the Light from the light Sleepless Oil Lamp. The natural light of the oil lamp is transformed into Holy Light with this special prayer. So natural light is sanctified and transformed into the Holy Light. Then he exits the tomb and delivers the Holy Light to the crowd in the Holy Church and thereby to the whole world. (…)

MEGA Channel on 11/4/2001 http://www.tyxikos.gr/01-78-6.html

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Makarios III (Mouskos), Archbishop of Cyprus (1950-1977)

“These days we host the sacred archbishopric echelon by the metropolitans from the Jerusalem Patriarchate. One night after supper, Archbishop Makarios proposed we take our coffee in the great Synodicon. So we were discussing various issues there. Makarios asked the visiting Metropolitans: ‘Holy brothers, now that you’re here, it is an opportunity for you to solve a question I have.’ They told him, ‘we are at your disposal Makarios if we can, why not’. And Makarios said to them: ‘Holy brothers, please tell me what happens with the miracle of the Holy Fire. Is it indeed a miracle?’

“The Metropolitans from Jerusalem smirked and told him: ‘Makarios, we’re fooling the people, it is our shame to fool you also.’ Makarios said: ‘Are you saying that it’s not a miracle?’ They replied, ‘No, it is not a miracle!’ Makarios asked, ‘Well, what is it, then?’ They responded, ‘Beatitude, it is a ceremony that takes place every Great Saturday in the Church of the Resurrection.’ Makarios aksed them: ‘Why don’t you tell people the truth?’ And they replied: ‘Beatitude who would dare to tell the truth to the people? They would lynch us!’ This was the Archpriest’s story” (Told by a Cypriot Hieromonk; see video below)

Benedict, Patriarch of Jersualem (1957-1980)

“Once the pilgrim sets foot in Jerusalem, there is a clique, a gang, which is authorized by the Patriarchate to receive pilgrims upon their arrival. Indeed, they have a way to pester, daze, and blind them, to se and not to see…The Patriarchate’s clappers tell them, ‘Now we will give you the so-called indulgence…and they pay a pound!’ All these things occurred under Patriarch Benedict.” (Told by Haralmabos Katenidis, Archdeacon of the Jerusalem Patriarchate)

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“Absolution Certificate” of Patriarch Benedict of Jerusalem, issued in 1957.

Haralmabos Katenidis, Archdeacon of the Jerusalem Patriarchate

In a video documentary interview with ecclesiastical writer, Stylianos Charlampakis, the Archdeacon reveals the Holy Light fraud! (September 7, 1965)
“Details about the so-called miracle of the holy light cannot be communicated because of scandal. But happily, since you asked me, I will tell you in summary how the ceremony happens and how you receive the ‘holy’ light. On Great Friday, after the procession of the Epitaph around the Holy Sepulchre, the Patriarch puts the Epitaph on the Tomb. After this, they extinguish all the oil lamps inside and outside the Tomb. The following day, Great Saturday, the Sacristan carries a special lit oil lamp—veiled with silver cover—which is placed in the Holy Sepulchre. Then the governor of Jerusalem seals the Sepulchre. While all the lights and oil lamps are always extinguished, the special oil lamp within the tomb remains lit. At the 10th hour, after the relative litanies around the Holy Sepulchre during which they chant the “O Joyous Light” (φως ιλαρόν), the gates of the Temple of the Holy Sepulchre are opened and the people enter. Simultaneously, the gate of the Kouvouklion where the tomb is located opens and the Patriarch enters, after typically he removes his sacerdotal vestments and remains only with sticharion. After a relative typical prayer, he takes the ‘holy’ light, certainly not miraculously, to be honest, but he lights his torch from the lit special oil lamp that the sacristan had previously transferred. This, in short, is the procedure for the ‘holy’ light.”

NOTE: There is also a second way to get this fake light. Spread the Tomb plate with phosphorus the day before and then the Patriarch rubs the plate with cotton and the light emerges.

Archbishop Nikeforos Theotokes

In 1880, the Archbishop stated that the light doesn’t miraculously descend from heaven, but is rather lit by the Patriarch and then distributed sanctified to the faithful, with the church being unable to cure ‘the people’s vulgar perception’ (Φωτομαχικά-Αντιφωτομαχικά, pp. 29-30)

“The Patriarch produces fire over the Life-giving Sepulchre by striking a flint”

Spyros Karatheodoris

In his unpublished work, Objection (Αντίρρησις 1832-1836),  Spyros criticizes Koraes for his polemic against the Jerusalem Patriarchs but leaves no margin for misinterpretation on the matter of the ‘Holy Light:’

  • “[…]it became customary to ignite light over the Holy Sepulchre and from that other festive lights[…]””
  • Concerning the Holy Light of Jerusalem, none of the patriarchs, bishops, priests and those with [decent] ecclesiastical background believe it to be miraculous […]”
  • “But why do they call it ‘Holy Light’? Yes! Holy Light! Because it is lit on the Holy Sepulchre and the faithful piously receive it, but this piety has degenerated into superstition, because of the ignorance of the many, and made stronger amongst the naivest of our brothers the belief, which the papal priests always spread, that the light is lit miraculously.”
  • “Therefore, the light is blessed for no other reason than for the fact that it is lit on the Lord’s Sepulchre, on the day the great mystery of the resurrection transpired […]”

(Φωτομαχικά-Αντιφωτομαχικά, pp.350-351)

Archimandrite Prokopios Dendrinos of Mount Athos

In his unpublished treatise On the Holy Light (Τα περί του Αγίου φωτός) [ca. 1833], Fr. Prokopios  heavily criticizes all the secrecy surrounding the ‘miracle,’ calling it directly suspicious and misleading. He even directs an incredible challenge to the Fraternity of the Holy Sepulcher:

“Let them leave the lanterns of the Temple unprepared, without oil and wicks, the Chamber doors open, so anyone can see the plaque over the tomb, so everything is visible, as was the case with prophet Elijah. Let the doormen step away, or even better, conduct a diligent search of the Tomb and clean the entire plaque with clear water and then pour an entire amphorae over it. Have them even restrict entry even to the representative of the Patriarch from Good Thursday morning till Sunday morning. And then let the “light-producer” enter and receive the Light! All this secrecy is suspicious and is not meant to prevent the introduction of man-made light -since this is impossible- but so that the preparations, i.e. the fraud, won’t become obvious. For, the candles are prepared by the Patriarchal Warden and not the laymen who do the temple chores as usual. The candles are covered with a flammable material and no one else is allowed to receive the light; not even the most prestigious clerics and pilgrims. Everything suggests that this is a downright human fabrication and this is even whispered among the Sepulcher Fraternity.” (Φωτομαχικά-Αντιφωτομαχικά, pp. 128, 361)

Bishop Porphyrius Uspensky (1804-1885)

In his diaries, the Bishop wrote that the clergy in Jerusalem knew that the Holy Fire was fraudulent.

First, Bishop Porphyrius quotes a certain Hierodeacon Gregory, who “upon entering the chapel of the Sepulcher at the time when, according to common belief, the Holy Fire descends, saw with horror that the fire was being lit simply from a lampada which is always [kept] burning; and so the Holy Fire is not a miracle. He himself [Hierodeacon Gregory] told me about it today.”

Second is the following story, which he says he heard directly from Metropol­itan Dionysius:

In the same year that the famous Ibrahim, Pasha of Egypt and lord of Syria and Palestine, was in Jerusalem, it was found to be that the fire received at the Lord’s Sepulcher on Holy Saturday is a ‘not-holy fire’ [lit.: not grace-filled] but is kindled in the way that all flames are kindled. How? The Pasha wanted to see for himself if the fire really does suddenly and miraculously appear on the roof of the Sepulcher of Christ or if it is lit by an ordinary sulfur match. What did he do? He announced to the Patriarch’s representative hierarchs that it would be his pleasure to sit in the chapel itself during the receiving of the fire and watch vigilantly to see how it appears; and he added that if the miracle proved to be true, he would give [to the Church] 5000 poungs (2.5 million piasters); and if it turned out to be a lie, then they would [be forced to] give him all the money collected from the deceived worshippers, and he would print about the dirty fraud in all the newspapers of Europe. The Patriarchal representatives—Archbishop Misail of Petroaravisk, Metropolitan Daniel of Nazareth and Bishop Dion­ysius then of Philadelphia [in Asia Minor], now of Bethlehem—gathered to decide what to do. During the meet­ing, Misail admitted that in the inner-chapel he lights the fire from a lampa­da concealed behind the marble icon of the Resurrection of Christ located near the very Sepulcher. After this admission, it was deci­ded to humble request Ibrahim not to meddle with religious affairs; and to the Pasha was sent the dragoman [interpreter] of the Holy Sepul­cher Monastery, who informed the Pasha that there would be no benefit for His Radiance to get to know the sacraments and mysteries of Christian church-services and that the Russian Emperor Nicholas [I] would be greatly displeased if he started learning about these sacraments. Pasha Ibra­him heard the dragoman out, made a giving-up-the-idea gesture with his hand, and fell silent. But from that time on, the Holy-Sepulcher clerics no longer believe in the miraculous app­ear­ance of the fire. Having said all this, the metropolitan added that only from God can be expected the discontinuance of (our) pious lie. As He knows and is able, he soothes the people, who believe now in the miraculous fire of Holy Saturday. And for us is forbidden even to consider such a revolutionary act [of revealing the lie]; they would tear us pieces at the very chapel of the Holy Sepulcher.”

The Book of My Life: Diaries and Notes of Bishop Porphyrius Uspensky, St Petersburg, 1894 Part 1, p.671 and The Book of My Life, St Petersburg, 1896 Part 3, pp.299-301.

Ephraim II, Patriarch of Jerusalem (1766-1771)

This absurdity and supernatural perception of churchmen and theologians who claim the ‘holy light’ is not only a miracle but God-given (θεόδοτο) is unacceptable. The Patriarch of Jerusalem, Efraim, who died in 1771, recounts his personal experience and describes the whole ceremony, characterizing it as “handmade engineering” and those involved as “light-makers.”

Γ. Καμπούρογλου, Μνημεία της ιστορίας των Αθηναίων

Hierodeacon Neophytos of Kavsokalyvia (1713-1784)

The author of The 1777 Anonymous Manual on Continuous Reception of the Holy Communion, made statements about a “sleight of hand” regarding the Holy Fire.

Νικηφόρου Θεοτόκη, στὸ Κ.᾿Ι. Δυοβουνιώτου, «Περὶ τοῦ ἐν ῾Ιεροσολύμοις ῾Αγίου Φωτός», «᾿Επετηρὶς ῾Εταιρείας Βυζαντινῶν Σπουδῶν», ἔτος ΙΒʹ, ᾿Αθῆναι 1936, σελ. 5.

From the official Website of the Jerusalem Patriarchate:

At 12pm, midday…It is necessary for us to stress that the heterodox have in advance searched the entire interior of the Holy Sepulcher, in order to certify that there is no lit vigil lamp or some other source of light” [They don’t mention that the monk Metrophanes hid twice in the Sepulcher without anyone seeing him! http://www.holyfire.org/eng/AchileousISawHolyLight.htm ]

At 12am…the lamp/candlestick [They don’t mention if it is extinguished or lit], if it becomes useful [they don’t mention what its use is] in the holy ceremony, is transferred…to the Holy Sepulcher for a prompter path.

The important thing is that the holy light for a few minutes [it doesn’t mention how much] does not have fire. Namely, if you rest the holy light on your hands, it will not burn [They don’t mention any time span whatsoever for non-burning, nor let it be for 30 seconds in a motionless hand!]

http://web.archive.org/web/20130529151340/http:/www.jerusalem-patriarchate.info/gr/agion_fos.htm

The ‘Secret Prayer’ of the Patriarch

Wondrous myths and legends have been woven around the special prayer chanted by the Greek-Orthodox Patriarch; the common denominator being that it is a special prayer that only he knows! This is in no way true. The prayer was first published in 1933 by Archimandrite Kallistos Meliaras (professor of the University of Athens) and published again in 1967 in the “New Zion” (Νέα Σιών) magazine, official publication of the Jerusalem Patriarchate. It is obvious that we’re not talking about a big secret, to which no one has access other than the Greek-Orthodox Patriarch, but a text that has been in circulation for more than 80 years! (π. Γ. Δ. Μεταλληνός, Φωτομαχικά-Αντιφωτομαχικά, εκδ. Κάτοπτρο-Ιστορητής, 2001, p.33)

https://onthewaytoithaca.wordpress.com/2011/07/15/on-the-mistranslation-of-the-patriarchal-prayer-of-the-holy-light/ 

Despota Lord Jesus Christ, the originally shining wisdom of the without beginning Father. You who dwells in the unapproachable Light;* You who commanded that Light shine forth from the darkness, who said let it be Light and there was Light. Oh Lord provider of Light who took us out of the delusion of darkness and led us to the miraculous Light of Your awareness. You filled with light and joy the earth through Your incarnate presence and the underworld through Your descent to Hades and after these through Your Apostles You announced the light to all nations.

We thank You because through pious faith, you brought us from darkness to light and we became sons through holy baptism, seeing your glory full of grace and truth. However, oh light-giver Lord, oh great light, who said the people living in darkness.* Despota, Lord, the true light that illumines every man who comes in the world. The only light of the world and light of the lives of people, through whose glory the universe was filled, you brought the light to the world through Your economy of incarnation even though people loved the darkness rather than the light.

You Lord, giver of light, listen to us sinners and unworthy servants who, at this moment stand by this Your Most Holy and light bearing Tomb, and accept us who honour Your Holy Passion, Your most holy Crucifixion, Your voluntary death, the laying of Your divine body in this holy tomb, Your burial and Your resurrection after three days, which we joyfully have already started celebrating, remembering Your descent to Hades, through which the souls of the righteous You freed in a kingly manner with the lightning of Your divine light filling the underworld.

So with happy heart and spiritual joy, on this most blessed Saturday, Your most salvific mysteries which You divinely executed on earth and under the earth we celebrate, and remembering You, the exhilarating and appealing light which You divinely shone in the underworld, we produce this light, as an icon of Your congenial divine appearance to us.Because during the salvific and bright night everything was filled with light, the heaven, the earth and the underworld through the supernatural mystery of Your descent to Hades and Your resurrection from the tomb after three days.

For this reason, we piously take from the light that diligently and eternally burns on Your light-bearing Sepulchre, we spread it among those who believe in You, who are the true light, and we pray and plead with You, oh Holiest Despota, so that You will elevate [the light] into a gift of sanctification and fill it with Your divine grace, through the grace of Your Most holy and light-bearing Sepulchre. And those who touch it with piety, bless and sanctify them, free them from the darkness of passions and make them worthy of Your brightest dwellings, where the unsetting light of Your divinity shines. Lord, grant them health and good life and fill their homes with everything good.

Yes, Lord, the Light-giver, listen to me the sinner at this moment, and grant to me and to them to walk in Your light and remain in it as long as we have the light of this temporary life. Lord grant us that the light of our good works shine in front of the people together with Your without beginning Father and the Holy Spirit. You appointed us to be the light to the nations that we shine to those walking in the darkness. But we have loved the darkness rather than the light, committing evil works.

Anyone who does evil works hates the light according to Your faultless word. For this we stumble every day due to our sinning because we walk in the darkness. But make us worthy to live the rest of our life with the eyes of our minds enlightened. Grant us to live as sons of light and walk in the light of Your commandments. The bright garment of our baptism which we have blackened by our evil works, whiten it like the light, you who wears the light like a garment. Grant us to dress ourselves with the weapons of light, that we may overcome the lord of darkness, who transforms himself into an angel of light.

Yes, Lord, as You shone the light to those who are in darkness and under the shadow of death, likewise, today, shine in our hearts with Your pure light, so that becoming illumined and warmed up in faith, glorify You the one and only originally shining light, exhilarating light to everlasting ages. Amen.

https://onthewaytoithaca.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/the-holy-light-of-jerusalem-debunked/#contents01

From the Greek Wikipedia Page

There is a viewpoint that the Holy Light is an occult implementation organized by the Jerusalem Patriarchate clergy for centuries. One version proposes that the candles are previously immersed in phosphorus, which has the property of self-ignition after some time. Phosphorus as a chemical element was discovered in the 17th century and is not found free in nature. For the proponents of this view, some “miracle substances” or “fountains” (sources) exhibiting such phenomena were nevertheless known long before in the Middle East. This in turn can mean that either the entire Holy Sepulchre is located in such an area that either used such an ancient “miracle substance” (compound) whose name and composition are preserved today as a “closely guarded” sacerdotal secret. However, the view supported by the faithful is the flame from the Holy Light is brought to illuminate but not to cause combustion within the first 33 minutes, in contrast to the natural action of the fire. Of course, in this case it is obvious that the comparison is made ​​with reference not to the light, but the fire.

The author Michael Kalopoulos has published research indicating that the self-igniting materials and religious pyrotechnics that were known in ancient times are sufficient to produce the effect described as the “holy light.” Of course this estimate ignores the fact that the candles not self-ignite unexpectedly, although the supply is made ​​by open spaces or stores, which have the goods exposed to air, and even the supply of candles, often several days before the Resurrection, while in other cases, the faithful remain in the Church of the Resurrection of the evening of Great Friday.
Note: There are many narratives from Jerusalem about candles self-igniting completely unexpectedly. But there is a way to ignite after a long time.

https://el.wikipedia.org/wiki/%CE%86%CE%B3%CE%B9%CE%BF_%CE%A6%CF%89%CF%82

From the English Wikipedia Page

In 2005, in a live demonstration on Greek television, Michael Kalopoulos, author and historian of religion, dipped three candles in white phosphorus. The candles spontaneously ignited after approximately 20 minutes due to the self-ignition properties of white phosphorus when in contact with air. According to Kalopoulos’ website:

If phosphorus is dissolved in an appropriate organic solvent, self-ignition is delayed until the solvent has almost completely evaporated. Repeated experiments showed that the ignition can be delayed for half an hour or more, depending on the density of the solution and the solvent employed.

Kalopoulos also points out that chemical reactions of this nature were well known in ancient times, quoting Strabo, who states: “In Babylon there are two kinds of naphtha springs, a white and a black. The white naphtha is the one that ignites with fire.” (Strabon Geographica 16.1.15.1-24) He further states that phosphorus was used by Chaldean magicians in the early fifth century BC, and by the ancient Greeks, in a way similar to its supposed use today by the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Fire

Adamantis Korais

The famous Greek intellectual of the Age of Enlightenment, Adamantios Korais (1748-1833), denounced the ‘Holy Light’ as a fraud and urged the Eastern Orthodox Church to discontinue the practice, arguing that “no true religion is in need of such false miracles.” In his treatise On the Holy Light of Jerusalem, Korais was adamant against religious fraud and theurgy. He referred to the recurring ‘miracle’ as “machinations of fraudulent priests” and to the unholy light of Jerusalem as “a profiteers’ miracle.” With deep sorrow, the Greek sage contemplated in his writings that “while Greeks are content to have the ‘Holy Light,’ people in Europe of his time are living among people of objective knowledge, surrounded by Academies, and Lyceums, and schools of every kind of art and science. Europeans have open, splendid public libraries, and their print presses buzz with activity daily and without pause.”

One can read his entire treatise in the Greek language here: http://greatlie.com/index.php/el/xristianismos/agio-fos/790-adamantiou-korai-qperi-tou-en-ierousolumis-agiou-fotosq-olokliro-to-biblio

 

 

 

 

 

The Confidence Game: What Con Artists Reveal About the Psychology of Trust and Why Even the Most Rational of Us Are Susceptible to Deception

NOTE: The following article was written by Maria Popova and was taken from https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/01/12/the-confidence-game-maria-konnikova/

“It’s the oldest story ever told. The story of belief — of the basic, irresistible, universal human need to believe in something that gives life meaning, something that reaffirms our view of ourselves, the world, and our place in it.”

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“Reality is what we take to be true,” physicist David Bohm observed in a 1977 lecture. “What we take to be true is what we believe… What we believe determines what we take to be true.” That’s why nothing is more reality-warping than the shock of having come to believe something untrue — an experience so disorienting yet so universal that it doesn’t spare even the most intelligent and self-aware of us, for it springs from the most elemental tendencies of human psychology. “The confidence people have in their beliefs is not a measure of the quality of evidence,” Nobel-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman asserted in examining how our minds mislead us, “but of the coherence of the story that the mind has managed to construct.”

The machinery of that construction is what New Yorker columnist and science writer extraordinaire Maria Konnikova explores in The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It … Every Time (public library) — a thrilling psychological detective story investigating how con artists, the supreme masterminds of malevolent reality-manipulation, prey on our propensity for believing what we wish were true and how this illuminates the inner workings of trust and deception in our everyday lives.

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Art by Edward Gorey for a special edition of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales.

“Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours,” Carl Sagan urged in his excellent Baloney Detection Kit — and yet our tendency is to do just that, becoming increasingly attached to what we’ve come to believe because the belief has sprung from our own glorious, brilliant, fool-proof minds. Through a tapestry of riveting real-life con artist profiles interwoven with decades of psychology experiments, Konnikova demonstrates that a con artist simply takes advantage of this hubris by finding the beliefs in which we are most confident — those we’re least likely to question — and enlisting them in advancing his or her agenda.

To be sure, we all perform micro-cons on a daily basis. White lies are the ink of the social contract — the insincere compliment to a friend who needs a confidence boost, the unaddressed email that “somehow went to spam,” the affinity fib that gives you common ground with a stranger at a party even though you aren’t really a “huge Leonard Cohen fan too.”

We even con ourselves. Every act of falling in love requires a necessary self-con — as Adam Phillips has written in his terrific piece on the paradox of romance, “the person you fall in love with really is the man or woman of your dreams”; we dream the lover up, we construct a fantasy of who she is based on the paltry morsels of information seeded by early impressions, we fall for that fantasy and then, as we immerse ourselves in a real relationship with a real person, we must convince ourselves that the reality corresponds to enough of the fantasy to feel satisfying.

But what sets the con artist apart from the mundane white-liar is the nefarious intent and the deliberate deftness with which he or she goes about executing that reality-manipulation.

Konnikova begins with the story of a lifelong impostor named Ferdinand Waldo Demara, who successfully passed himself off as a psychologist, a professor, a monk, a surgeon, a prison warden, the founder of a religious college, and even his own biographer.

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Ferdinand Waldo Demara (Photograph: Corbis)

Considering the perplexity of his astonishing ability to deceive, Konnikova — whose previous book examined the positive counterpart to the con, the psychology of thinking like Sherlock Holmes — writes:

“How was he so effective? Was it that he preyed on particularly soft, credulous targets? I’m not sure the Texas prison system, one of the toughest in the United States, could be described as such. Was it that he presented an especially compelling, trustworthy figure? Not likely, at six foot one and over 250 pounds, square linebacker’s jaw framed by small eyes that seemed to sit on the border between amusement and chicanery, an expression that made [his] four-year-old daughter Sarah cry and shrink in fear the first time she ever saw it. Or was it something else, something deeper and more fundamental — something that says more about ourselves and how we see the world?

It’s the oldest story ever told. The story of belief — of the basic, irresistible, universal human need to believe in something that gives life meaning, something that reaffirms our view of ourselves, the world, and our place in it… For our minds are built for stories. We crave them, and, when there aren’t ready ones available, we create them. Stories about our origins. Our purpose. The reasons the world is the way it is. Human beings don’t like to exist in a state of uncertainty or ambiguity. When something doesn’t make sense, we want to supply the missing link. When we don’t understand what or why or how something happened, we want to find the explanation. A confidence artist is only too happy to comply — and the well-crafted narrative is his absolute forte.”

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Art by Lisbeth Zwerger for a special edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Konnikova describes the basic elements of the con and the psychological susceptibility into which each of them plays:

“The confidence game starts with basic human psychology. From the artist’s perspective, it’s a question of identifying the victim (the put-up): who is he, what does he want, and how can I play on that desire to achieve what I want? It requires the creation of empathy and rapport (the play): an emotional foundation must be laid before any scheme is proposed, any game set in motion. Only then does it move to logic and persuasion (the rope): the scheme (the tale), the evidence and the way it will work to your benefit (the convincer), the show of actual profits. And like a fly caught in a spider’s web, the more we struggle, the less able to extricate ourselves we become (the breakdown). By the time things begin to look dicey, we tend to be so invested, emotionally and often physically, that we do most of the persuasion ourselves. We may even choose to up our involvement ourselves, even as things turn south (the send), so that by the time we’re completely fleeced (the touch), we don’t quite know what hit us. The con artist may not even need to convince us to stay quiet (the blow-off and fix); we are more likely than not to do so ourselves. We are, after all, the best deceivers of our own minds. At each step of the game, con artists draw from a seemingly endless toolbox of ways to manipulate our belief. And as we become more committed, with every step we give them more psychological material to work with.”

What makes the book especially pleasurable is that Konnikova’s intellectual rigor comes with a side of warm wit. She writes:

“Religion,” Voltaire is said to have remarked, “began when the first scoundrel met the first fool.” It certainly sounds like something he would have said. Voltaire was no fan of the religious establishment. But versions of the exact same words have been attributed to Mark Twain, to Carl Sagan, to Geoffrey Chaucer. It seems so accurate that someone, somewhere, sometime, must certainly have said it.

The invocation of Mark Twain is especially apt — one of America’s first great national celebrities, he was the recipient of some outrageous con attempts. That, in fact, is one of Konnikova’s most disquieting yet strangely assuring points — that although our technologies of deception have changed, the technologies of thought undergirding the art of the con are perennially bound to our basic humanity. She writes:

“The con is the oldest game there is. But it’s also one that is remarkably well suited to the modern age. If anything, the whirlwind advance of technology heralds a new golden age of the grift. Cons thrive in times of transition and fast change, when new things are happening and old ways of looking at the world no longer suffice. That’s why they flourished during the gold rush and spread with manic fury in the days of westward expansion. That’s why they thrive during revolutions, wars, and political upheavals. Transition is the confidence game’s great ally, because transition breeds uncertainty. There’s nothing a con artist likes better than exploiting the sense of unease we feel when it appears that the world as we know it is about to change. We may cling cautiously to the past, but we also find ourselves open to things that are new and not quite expected.

[…]

No amount of technological sophistication or growing scientific knowledge or other markers we like to point to as signs of societal progress will — or can — make cons any less likely. The same schemes that were playing out in the big stores of the Wild West are now being run via your in-box; the same demands that were being made over the wire are hitting your cell phone. A text from a family member. A frantic call from the hospital. A Facebook message from a cousin who seems to have been stranded in a foreign country.

[…]

Technology doesn’t make us more worldly or knowledgeable. It doesn’t protect us. It’s just a change of venue for the same old principles of confidence. What are you confident in? The con artist will find those things where your belief is unshakeable and will build on that foundation to subtly change the world around you. But you will be so confident in the starting point that you won’t even notice what’s happened.”

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Art by Maurice Sendak for The Green Book by Robert Graves.

In a sense, the con is a more extreme and elaborate version of the principles of persuasion that Blaise Pascal outlined half a millennium ago — it is ultimately an art not of coercion but of complicity. Konnikova writes:

“The confidence game — the con — is an exercise in soft skills. Trust, sympathy, persuasion. The true con artist doesn’t force us to do anything; he makes us complicit in our own undoing. He doesn’t steal. We give. He doesn’t have to threaten us. We supply the story ourselves. We believe because we want to, not because anyone made us. And so we offer up whatever they want — money, reputation, trust, fame, legitimacy, support — and we don’t realize what is happening until it is too late. Our need to believe, to embrace things that explain our world, is as pervasive as it is strong. Given the right cues, we’re willing to go along with just about anything and put our confidence in just about anyone.”

So what makes you more susceptible to the confidence game? Not necessarily what you might expect:

“When it comes to predicting who will fall, personality generalities tend to go out the window. Instead, one of the factors that emerges is circumstance: it’s not who you are, but where you happen to be at this particular moment in your life.”

People whose willpower and emotional resilience resources are strained — the lonely, the financially downtrodden, those dealing with the trauma of divorce, injury, or job loss, those undergoing major life changes — are particularly vulnerable. But these, Konnikova reminds us, are states rather than character qualities, circumstances that might and likely will befall each one of us at different points in life for reasons largely outside our control. (One is reminded of philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s excellent work on agency and victimhood: “The victim shows us something about our own lives: we see that we too are vulnerable to misfortune, that we are not any different from the people whose fate we are watching…”) Konnikova writes:

“The more you look, the more you realize that, even with certain markers, like life changes, and certain tendencies in tow, a reliably stable overarching victim profile is simply not there. Marks vary as much as, and perhaps even more than, the grifters who fool them.”

Therein lies the book’s most sobering point — Konnikova demonstrates over and over again, through historical anecdotes and decades of studies, that no one is immune to the art of the con. And yet there is something wonderfully optimistic in this. Konnikova writes:

“The simple truth is that most people aren’t out to get you. We are so bad at spotting deception because it’s better for us to be more trusting. Trust, and not adeptness at spotting deception, is the more evolutionarily beneficial path. People are trusting by nature. We have to be. As infants, we need to trust that the big person holding us will take care of our needs and desires until we’re old enough to do it ourselves. And we never quite let go of that expectation.”

Trust, it turns out, is advantageous in the grand scheme of things. Konnikova cites a number of studies indicating that people who score higher on generalized trust tend to be healthier physically, more psychoemotionally content, likelier to be entrepreneurs, and likelier to volunteer. (The most generous woman I know, who is also a tremendously successful self-made entrepreneur, once reflected: “I’ve never once regretted being generous, I’ve only ever regretted holding back generosity.”) But the greater risk-tolerance necessary for reaping greater rewards also comes with the inevitable downside of greater potential for exploitation — the most trusting among us are also the perfect marks for the player of the confidence game.

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Art by Maurice Sendak for The Green Book by Robert Graves.

But the paradox of trust, Konnikova argues, is only part of our susceptibility to being conned. Another major factor is our sheer human solipsism. She explains:

“We are our own prototype of being, of motivation, of behavior. People, however, are far from being a homogeneous mass. And so, when we depart from our own perspective, as we inevitably must, we often make errors, sometimes significant ones. [Psychologists call this] “egocentric anchoring”: we are our own point of departure. We assume that others know what we know, believe what we believe, and like what we like.”

She cites an extensive study, the results of which were published in a paper cleverly titled “How to Seem Telepathic.” (One ought to appreciate the scientists’ wry sarcasm in poking fun at our clickbait culture.) Konnikova writes:

“Many of our errors, the researchers found, stem from a basic mismatch between how we analyze ourselves and how we analyze others. When it comes to ourselves, we employ a fine-grained, highly contextualized level of detail. When we think about others, however, we operate at a much higher, more generalized and abstract level. For instance, when answering the same question about ourselves or others — how attractive are you? — we use very different cues. For our own appearance, we think about how our hair is looking that morning, whether we got enough sleep, how well that shirt matches our complexion. For that of others, we form a surface judgment based on overall gist. So, there are two mismatches: we aren’t quite sure how others are seeing us, and we are incorrectly judging how they see themselves.”

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Art by Maurice Sendak for a special edition of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales.

The skilled con artist, Konnikova points out, mediates for this mismatch by making an active effort to discern which cues the other person is using to form judgments and which don’t register at all. The result is a practical, non-paranormal exercise in mind-reading, which creates an illusion of greater affinity, which in turn becomes the foundation of greater trust — we tend to trust those similar to us more than the dissimilar, for we intuit that the habits and preferences we have in common stem from shared values.

And yet, once again, we are reminded that the tricks of the con artist’s exploitive game are different only by degree rather than kind from the everyday micro-deceptions of which our social fabric is woven. Konnikova writes:

“Both similarity and familiarity can be faked, as the con artist can easily tell you — and the more you can fake it, the more real information will be forthcoming. Similarity is easy enough. When we like someone or feel an affinity for them, we tend to mimic their behavior, facial expressions, and gestures, a phenomenon known as the chameleon effect. But the effect works the other way, too. If we mimic someone else, they will feel closer and more similar to us; we can fake the natural liking process quite well. We perpetuate minor cons every day, often without realizing it, and sometimes knowing what we do all too well, when we mirror back someone’s words or interests, feign a shared affinity for a sports team or a mutual hatred of a brand. The signs that usually serve us reliably can easily be massaged, especially in the short term — all a good con artist needs.”

In the remainder of the thoroughly fascinating The Confidence Game, Konnikova goes on to explore the role of storytelling in reality-manipulation, what various psychological models reveal about the art of persuasion, and how the two dramatically different systems that govern our perception of reality — emotion and the intellect — conspire in the machinery of trust. Complement it with Adrienne Rich on lying and what “truth” really means, David deSteno on the psychology of trust in work and love, and Alice Walker on what her father taught her about the love-expanding capacity of truth-telling.

 

Orthodox Monks Don’t Experience Rigor Mortis?

“A Monk’s Funeral: 30 hrs after death, the corpse retains its flexibility” [Athonite Moments, p. 200]
Pilgrims to Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries are taught about a “Miracle exclusive to Orthodoxy”—i.e., monks do not experience rigor mortis when they die. Typical of the other “exclusive miracles” which are taught at the monasteries, this one also has some grey areas. Depending on the monastic giving the sermon, it is either all orthodox monastics throughout the world, or just Athonite monastics. In some cases, the monastic giving the sermon will grab the book Athonite Moments and show the pilgrims a photograph of a monk being lowered into a grave with signs of flexibility and no rigor mortis.

Of course, if you question the monastic giving the sermon, they only have a cursory understanding of what rigor mortis is—which usually amounts to “all corpses are stiff after they die and any flexibility in a corpse is scientifically impossible.” What “proof” do they offer to validate their erroneous understanding of corpses, decomposition and rigor mortis?  A photograph from a book and their “authority” validates this “scientifically impossible” phenomenon.

“Black, white, red: An atmosphere of mournful quietness” [Athonite Moments, p. 201]
Similar to their erroneous claim of Persistent Frontal Suture being an “exclusive orthodox miracle,” the claim that a corpse without rigor mortis is an “exclusive orthodox miracle” is also scientifically and biologically erroneous. In both cases, “science is not needed to validate these miracles” because they are an Athonite oral tradition and “monks who speak to God know more than a worldly scientist.” Science is not always rejected by the monastics—if science validates something in orthodoxy, or if science cannot explain phenomenon which for the monastics validates a divine origin, then it is accepted. When science conflicts with orthodoxy, then it is dismissed as idle, vain, worldly knowledge that is incompatible with spiritual knowledge.

SOME OBSERVABLE AND PROVEN FACTS ABOUT RIGOR MORTIS

First of all, rigor mortis is easily “broken” by bending and moving the joints about. A common question people have for morticians is whether they need to break a corpse’s legs if the body doesn’t fit into the coffin properly. The answer is, of course, no. The legs bend quite easily even after death.

''Remember the day of death, but also the day of resurrection & judgment'' [Athonite Moments, p. 201]
”Remember the day of death, but also the day of resurrection & judgment” [Athonite Moments, p. 201]
Second of all, rigor mortis is basically a stiffening of the limbs. The joints become difficult to bend, but this does not happen with all bodies. There is a technique morticians use to get rid of it called “breaking the rigor mortise.” Basically, you bend the limbs back and forth a few times and the joints will loosen up. This “breaks” the stiffness and the body is back to normal.

The Athonite monks are aware of corpse manipulation because some of them have stated that Fr. Seraphim Rose’s corpse was manipulated by his disciples to smile, etc., to give the appearance that he had a saintly death.

http://theothersideoffunerals.blogspot.com.au/p/misconceptions-questions-collection-of.html

http://theothersideoffunerals.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/ask-undertaker.html

WHAT IS RIGOR MORTIS?

Rigor Mortis is the stiffening of the body after death because of a loss of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) from the body’s muscles. ATP is the substance that allows energy to flow to the muscles and help them work and without this the muscles become stiff and inflexible.

Rigor Mortis begins throughout the body at the same time but the body’s smaller muscles – such as those in the face, neck, arms and shoulders – are affected first and then the subsequent muscles throughout the rest of the body; those which are larger in size, are affected later.

gerontissa efpraxia

Rigor normally appears within the body around two hours after the deceased has passed away with – as we have already mentioned – the facial and upper neck and shoulder muscles first to visibly suffer from its effects. Many Scenes of Crime Officers (SOCO) have reported that upon discovering the deceased that their face might have taken on what looks to be a grimace; this is because the facial muscles have contracted as ATP drains from them.

Once the contracting of all the body’s muscles has taken place this state of Rigor – technically referred to as the Rigid Stage – normally lasts anywhere from eight to twelve hours after which time the body is completely stiff; this fixed state can last up to another eighteen hours.

Contrary to common perception the process of Rigor Mortis actually does reverse and the body returns to a flaccid state; the muscles losing their tightness in the reverse of how they gained it: i.e.: those larger muscles that contracted last will lose their stiffness first and return to their pre-Rigor condition.

http://www.exploreforensics.co.uk/rigor-mortis-and-lividity.html

 INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT RIGOR MORTIS

Rigor mortis can be used to help estimate time of death. The onset of rigor mortis may range from 10 minutes to several hours, depending on factors including temperature (rapid cooling of a body can inhibit rigor mortis, but it occurs upon thawing). Maximum stiffness is reached around 12-24 hours post mortem. Facial muscles are affected first, with the rigor then spreading to other parts of the body. The joints are stiff for 1-3 days, but after this time general tissue decay and leaking of lysosomal intracellular digestive enzymes will cause the muscles to relax.

A Funeral Procession, Filotheou Monastery, Mt. Athos
A Funeral Procession, Filotheou Monastery, Mt. Athos

During rigor mortis, another process called autolysis takes place. This is the self-digestion of the body’s cells. The walls of the cells give way, and their contents flow out. Rigor mortis ends not because the muscles relax, but because autolysis takes over. The muscles break down and become soft on their way to further decomposition.

Thus, contrary to the misconceptions disseminated by the monastics, the flexibility witnessed in some monastic corpses during their funeral—which occur 24-48+ hours after their repose—is not “a scientifically impossible miracle which scientists cannot explain.” Rather, it is a natural process that is quite common and has been observed in corpses throughout the world, both orthodox and non-orthodox, lay people and monastics. Once again, the monastics misrepresent a natural phenomenon as an “exclusive miracle to Orthodoxy.” As stated above, in Greek-American orthodox monasteries, the “secular sciences” are generally not considered a “valid” source of information when it comes to understanding or interpreting natural phenomena and processes.

MONASTIC FUNERALS

Schema Monk Constantine Cavranos
Schema Monk Constantine Cavranos

The monastic funerals here in North America are unlike those in Mount Athos: the body is not flung into a hole, but rather it is placed in a coffin and lowered into the hole. Thus, there isn’t much contact with the body before burial other than the last kiss. So witnessing such “miracles” of corpses without rigor mortis here is uncommon. Of course, if the superior tells the monastics that the body is warm and without rigor mortis, then they will believe it is so, and will also transmit this “miracle” to the pilgrims who visit.

Constantine2

Each monastery has its own process of preparing the body for burial, again giving opportunity for manipulation. The body is then placed in the middle of the Church, usually under the polyeleos, and the monastics have to read the entire Psalter continually until the next day. Then the funeral service occurs in the church ending with the procession to burial. Depending on time and circumstance, this process can take from 24-36 hours or more. Thus, photographs of monks without rigor mortis after such a time period cannot be considered a “miracle exclusive to orthodoxy” as this can happen to any corpse; i.e. the natural return to the pre-rigor condition.

Schema Monk Constantine Cavarnos' funeral procession at St. Anthony's Monastery
Schema Monk Constantine Cavarnos’ funeral procession at St. Anthony’s Monastery

Cold Reading: How to Convince Strangers That You Know All About Them (Ray Hyman, 1977)

NOTE: Cold reading is a set of techniques used by elders, mentalists, psychics, fortune-tellers, mediums and illusionists to determine or express details about another person, often to imply that the reader knows much more about the person than the reader actually does. Without prior knowledge, a practiced cold-reader can quickly obtain a great deal of information by analyzing the person’s body language, age, clothing or fashion, hairstyle, gender, sexual orientation, religion, race or ethnicity, level of education, manner of speech, place of origin, etc. Cold readings commonly employ high-probability guesses, quickly picking up on signals as to whether their guesses are in the right direction or not, then emphasizing and reinforcing chance connections and quickly moving on from missed guesses.

The more a Geronda confesses people, the more developed this practice becomes. The longer a Geronda confesses an individual, the more easier they become to read [not to mention some father confessors keep files of notes on individuals which they briefly scan before they visit the monastery]. Monastics also develop this technique over time, though it will never become as perfected as an elder’s because they do not hear the intimate details of an individual’s private life and secret sins through the sacrament of confession.

The following article is taken from Paranormal Borderlands of Science:

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Over twenty years ago I taught a course at Harvard University called “Applications of Social Psychology.”  The sort of applications that I covered were the various ways in which people were manipulated. I invited various manipulators to demonstrate their techniques– pitchmen, encyclopedia salesmen, hypnotists, advertising experts, evangelists, confidence men, and a variety of individuals who dealt with personal problems. The techniques which we discussed, especially those concerned with helping people with their personal problems, seem to involve the client’s tendency to find more meaning in any situation than is actually there. Students readily accepted this explanation when it was pointed out to them. But I did not feel that they fully realized just how pervasive and powerful this human tendency to make sense out of nonsense really is.

Consequently, in 1955 I wrote a paper entitled “The Psychological Reading: An Infallible Technique For Winning Admiration and Popularity.” Over the years I have distributed copies of this paper to my students. The paper begins as follows:

So you want to be admired! You want people to seek your company, to talk about you, to praise your talents. This manuscript tells you how to satisfy that want.  Herein you will find a sure-fire gimmick for the achievement of fame and popularity.  Just follow the advice that I give you, and, even if you are the most incompetent social bungler, you cannot fail to become the life of the party. What is the secret that underlies this infallible system! The secret, my friend, is a simple and obvious one.  It has been tried and proven by practitioners since the beginnings of mankind. Here is the gist of the secret: To be popular with your fellow man, tell him what he wants to hear. He wants to hear about himself. So tell him about himself. But [do not tell him] what you know to be true about him.

Oh, no! Never tell him the truth. Rather, tell him what he would like to hear about himself.  And there you have it. Simple and obvious, yet so powerful.  This manuscript details the way in which you can exploit this golden rule by assuming the role of a character reader.

I will include essentially the same recipe for character reading in this paper that I give to my students. In addition I will bring the material up to date, describe some relevant research, and indicate some theoretical reasons why the technique “works.” My purpose is not to enable you to enhance your personal magnetism, nor is it to increase the number of character readers. I give you these rules for reading character because I want you to experience how the method works. I want you to see what a powerful technique the psychological reading is, how convincing it is to the psychologist and layman alike.

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When you see how easy it is to convince a person that you can read his character on sight, you will better appreciate why fortune tellers and psychologists are frequently lulled into placing credence in techniques which have not been validated by acceptable scientific methods. The recent controversy in The Humanist magazine and The Zetetic over the scientific status of astrology probably is irrelevant to the reasons that individuals believe in astrology. Almost without exception. the defenders of astrology with whom I have contact do not refer to the evidence relating to the underlying theory. They are convinced of astrology’s value because it “works.” By this they mean that it supplies them with feedback that “feels right”–that convinces them that the horoscope provides a basis for understanding themselves and ordering their lives. It has personal meaning for them.

Some philosophers distinguish between “persuasion” and “conviction.” The distinction is subtle. But for our purposes we can think of subjective experiences that persuade us that something is so and of logical and scientific procedures that convince, or ought to convince, us that something is or is not so. Quite frequently a scientist commits time and resources toward generating scientific evidence for a proposition because he has already been persuaded, on nonscientific grounds, that the proposition is true. Such intuitive persuasion plays an important motivational role in science as well as in the arts. Pathological science and false beliefs come about when such intuitive persuasion overrides or colors the evidence from objective procedures for establishing conviction.

The field of personality assessment has always been plagued by this confusion between persuasion and conviction. In contrast to intelligence and aptitude tests the scientific validation of personality tests, even under ideal conditions, rarely results in unequivocal or satisfactory results. In fact some of the most widely used personality inventories have repeatedly failed to pass validity checks. One of the reasons for this messy state of affairs is the lack of reliable and objective criteria against which to check the results of an assessment.

But the lack of adequate validation has not prevented the use of, and reliance on, such instruments. Assessment psychologists have always placed more reliance on their instruments than is warranted by the scientific evidence. Both psychologist and client are invariably persuaded by the results that the assessment “works.”

Geronda Paisios, Geronda Ephraim & Bishop Panteleimon of Verroias.

This state of affairs, of course, is even more true when we consider divination systems beyond those of the academic and professional psychologist. Every system be it based on the position of the stars, the pattern of lines in the hand, the shape of the face or skull, the fall of the cards or the dice, the accidents of nature, or the intuitions of a “psychic”–claims its quota of satisfied customers. The client invariably feels satisfied with the results. He is convinced that the reader and the system have penetrated to the core of his “true” self. Such satisfaction on the part of the client also feeds back upon the reader. Even if the reader began his career with little belief in his method, the inevitable reinforcement of persuaded clients increases his confidence in himself and his system. In this way a “vicious circle” is established. The reader and his clients become more and more persuaded that they have hold of a direct pipeline to the “truth.”

The state of affairs in which the evaluation of an assessment instrument depends upon the satisfaction of the client is known as “personal validation.” Personal validation is, for all practical purposes, the major reason for the persistence of divinatory and assessment procedures. If the client is not persuaded, then the system will not survive. Personal validation, of course, is the basis for the acceptance of more than just assessment instruments. The widespread acceptance of myths about Bigfoot, the Bermuda Triangle, ancient astronauts, ghosts, the validity of meditation and consciousness-raising schemes, and a host of other beliefs are based on persuasion through personal validation rather than scientific conviction.

COLD READING

“People have always confused us with them, but we have no connection,” Geronda Dositheos

“Cold reading” is a procedure by which a “reader” is able to persuade a client, whom he has never before met, that he knows all about the client’s personality and problems. At one extreme this can be accomplished by delivering a stock spiel, or “psychological reading,” that consists of highly general statements that can fit any individual. A reader who relies on psychological readings will usually have memorized a set of stock spiels. He then can select a reading to deliver which is relatively more appropriate in the general category that the client fits- a young unmarried girl, a senior citizen, and so on. Such an attempt to fit the reading to the client makes the psychological reading a closer approximation to the true cold reading.

The cold reading, at its best, provides the client with a character assessment that is uniquely tailored to fit him or her. The reader begins with the same assumptions that guide the psychological reader who relies on the stock spiel. These assumptions are (1) that we all are basically more alike than different; (2) that our problems are generated by the same major transitions of birth, puberty, work, marriage, children, old age, and death; (3) that, with the exception of curiosity seekers and troublemakers, people come to a character reader because they need someone to listen to their conflicts involving love, money, and health.

The cold reader goes beyond these common denominators by gathering as much additional information about the client as possible. Sometimes such information is obtained in advance of the reading.  If the reading is through appointment, the reader can use directories and other sources to gather information. When the client enters the consulting room, an assistant can examine the coat left behind (and often the purse as well) for papers, notes, labels, and other such cues about socioeconomic status, and so on. Most cold readers, however do not need such advance information. Geronda Joseph (formerly Ioannis Voutsas, now Abbot and father-Confessor at St. Nektarios Monastery, Roscoe, NY).

The cold reader basically relies on a good memory and acute observation. The client is carefully studied. The clothing- for example, style, neatness, cost, age- provides a host of cues for helping the reader make shrewd guesses about socioeconomic level, conservatism or extroversion, and other characteristics. The client’s physical features–weight, posture, looks, eyes, and hands provide further cues. The hands are especially revealing to the good reader. The manner of speech, use of grammar, gestures, and eye contact are also good sources. To the good reader the huge amount of information coming from an initial sizing-up of the client greatly narrows the possible categories into which he classifies clients. His knowledge of actual and statistical data about various subcultures in the population already provides him the basis for making an uncanny and strikingly accurate assessment of the client.

But the skilled reader can go much further in particularizing his reading.  He wants to zero in as quickly as possible on the precise problem that is bothering the client. On the basis of his initial assessment he makes some tentative hypotheses. He tests these out by beginning his assessment in general terms, touching upon general categories of problems and watching the reaction of the client.  If he is on the wrong track the client’s reactions, eye movements, pupillary dilation, other bodily mannerisms—will warn him. When he is on the right track other reactions will tell him so. By watching the client’s reactions as he tests out different hypotheses during his spiel, the good reader quickly hits upon what is bothering the customer and begins to adjust the reading to the situation. By this time, the client has usually been persuaded that the reader, by some uncanny means, has gained insights into the client’s innermost thoughts. His guard is now down. Often he opens up and actually tells the reader, who is also a good listener, the details of his situation. The reader, after a suitable interval, will usually feedback the information that the client has given him in such a way that the client will be further amazed at how much the reader “knows” about him. Invariably the client leaves the reader without realizing that everything he has been told is simply what he himself has unwittingly revealed to the reader.

THE STOCK SPIEL

Geronda Joseph Mammis, Abbot of Holy Trinity monastery, Michigan.

The preceding paragraphs indicate that the cold reader is a highly skilled and talented individual. And this is true. But what is amazing about this area of human assessment is how successfully even an unskilled and incompetent reader can persuade a client that he has fathomed the client’s true nature.  It is probably a tribute to the creativeness of the human mind that a client can, under the right circumstances, make sense out of almost any reading and manage to fit it to his own unique situation. All that is necessary is that the reader make out a plausible case for why the reading ought to fit. The client will do the rest.

You can achieve a surprisingly high degree of success as a character reader even if you merely use a stock spiel which you give to every client. Sundberg (1955), for example, found that if you deliver the following character sketch to a college male, he will usually accept it as a reasonably accurate description of himself:

“You are a person who is very normal in his attitudes, behavior and relationships with people. You get along well without effort. People naturally like you, and you are not overly critical of them or yourself. You are neither overly conventional nor overly individualistic. Your prevailing mood is one of optimism and constructive effort, and you are not troubled by periods of depression, psychosomatic illness or nervous symptoms.”

Sundberg found that the college female will respond with even more pleasure to the following sketch:

“You appear to be a cheerful, well-balanced person. You may have some alternation of happy and unhappy moods, but they are not extreme now. You have few or no problems with your health. You are sociable and mix well with others. You are adaptable to social situations. You tend to be adventurous. Your interests are wide. You are fairly self-confident and usually think clearly.”

Sundberg conducted his study over 20 years ago. But the sketches still work well today. Either will tend to work well with both sexes. More recently, several laboratory studies have had excellent success with the following stock spiel (Snyder and Shenkel 1975)

Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic. At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary and resented. You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. You pride yourself on being an independent thinker and do nor accept others’ opinions without satisfactory proof.  You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing.  Disciplined and controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the inside.

Your sexual adjustment has presented some problems for you. While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them. You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself.  You have a strong need for other people to like you and for them to admire you.

IL Papa Pavlos (2013) Synthronon

Interestingly enough, the statements in this stock spiel were first used in 1943 by Bertram Forer (1948) in a classroom demonstration of personal validation. He obtained most of them from a newsstand astrology book. Forer’s students, who thought the sketch was uniquely intended for them as a result of a personality test, gave the sketch an average rating of 4.26 on a scale of O (poor) to 5 (perfect). As many as 16 our of his 39 students (41 percent) rated it as a perfect fit to their personality. Only five gave it a rating below 4 (the worst being a rating of 2, meaning “average”). Almost 30 years later students give the same sketch an almost identical rating as a unique description of themselves.

THE TECHNIQUE IN ACTION

 

Geronda Ephraim and Geronda Nektarios

The acceptability of the stock spiel depends upon the method and circumstances of its delivery. As we shall later see, laboratory studies have isolated many of the factors that contribute to persuading clients that the sketch is a unique description of themselves. A great deal of the success of the spiel depends upon “setting the stage.”  The reader tries to persuade the client that the sketch is tailored especially for him or her. The reader also creates the impression that it is based on a reliable and proven assessment procedure. The way the sketch is delivered and dramatized also helps. And many of the rules that I give for the cold reading also apply to the delivery of the stock spiel.

The stock spiel, when properly delivered, can be quite effective. In fact, with the right combination of circumstances the stock spiel is often accepted as a perfect and unique description by the client. But, in general, one can achieve even greater success as a character analyst if one uses the more flexible technique of the cold reader. In this method one plays a sort of detective role in which one takes on the role of a Sherlock Holmes. (See the “Case of the Cardboard Box” for an excellent example of cold reading.)  One observes the jewelry, prices the clothing, evaluates the speech mannerisms, and studies the reactions of the subject. Then whatever information these observations provide is pieced together into a character reading which is aimed more specifically at the particular client.

A good illustration of the cold reader in action occurs in a story told by the well-known magician John Mulholland. The incident took place in the 1930s. A young lady in her late twenties or early thirties visited a character reader. She was wearing expensive jewelry, a wedding band, and a black dress of cheap material. The observant reader noted that she was wearing shoes which were currently being advertised for people with foot trouble. (Pause at this point and imagine that you are the reader; see what you would make of these clues.)

By means of just these observations the reader proceeded to amaze his client with his insights. He assumed that this client came to see him, as did most of his female customers, because of a love or financial problem. The black dress and the wedding band led him to reason that her husband had died recently. The expensive jewelry suggested that she had been financially comfortable during marriage, but the cheap dress indicated that her husband’s death had left her penniless. The therapeutic shoes signified that she was now standing on her feet more than she was used to, implying that she was working to support herself since her husband’s death.

The reader’s shrewdness led him to the following conclusion, which turned out to be correct: The lady had met a man who had proposed to her. She wanted to marry the man to end her economic hardship. But she felt guilty about marrying so soon after her husband’s death. The reader told her what she had come to hear–  that it was all right to marry without further delay.

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 NOTE: The remainder of the 15 page article can be read here:

http://skepdic.com/Hyman_cold_reading.htm

Filotheou Monastery Fruit Harvest

15 Dead People Who Came Back To Life (1650-2014)

From people waking up at their own funeral to others trapped in a morgue freezer after getting pronounced dead, 15 cases of clinically dead people somehow rising back from the grave:

1 Val Thomas (2008)

1. Val Thomas

  • A woman from West Virginia who suffered multiple heart attacks and didn’t even register brain waves for over 17 hours
  • She had no heartbeat, no pulse and yet after all the cables had been pulled she miraculously woke up and started talking
  • She was then taken to a special clinic and checked, but she was perfectly fine

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2008/05/23/woman-wakes-after-heart-stopped-rigor-mortis-set-in/

https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/womans-waking-after-brain-death-raises-many-questions-about-organ-donation

2 Li Xiufeng (2012)

Woman Climbs Out of Coffin After Being 'Dead' for 6 Days, Liulou Village, Beiliu, Guangxi Province, China - 26 Feb 2012

  • A 95 year old woman found lying dead in her home by a neighbour – they placed her in a coffin with the tradition of waiting days before burial
  • This worked in Li’s favour though, since she climbed out of the coffin not too long after and went about her day cooking dinner as if nothing had happened
  • Unluckily though, they also burned pretty much all her possessions – this, she was not so thrilled about

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2109719/Chinese-woman-95-comes-life-climbing-coffin-days-died.html

3 Anne Green (1650)

Woodcut from A Wonder of Wonders (1651) depicting the hanging of Anne Greene.
Woodcut from A Wonder of Wonders (1651) depicting the hanging of Anne Greene.
  • Another story from long ago, 1650, about a woman convicted of murdering her bastard child and hiding the body
  • She was sentenced to death by hanging, and was even held down by a group of people to speed up the choking process, but when they cut her down and prepared to perform an autopsy, she’d somehow managed to survive
  • Her would-be murderers were so impressed that they let her live, and she did so even bearing three more children as years went by

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19190198

4 Fagilyu Mukhametzyanov (2011)

You Only Love Twice

  • A 49 year old woman from Russia who was mistakenly pronounced dead and, while she was at her own funeral surrounded by sobbing relatives, woke up
  • The shock and horror of waking up at her own funeral caused a heart attack, and once she was taken back to hospital she was declared deceased once again
  • Pretty much a bad day all around

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/24/woman-dies-at-her-own-funeral_n_883907.html

5 MaNdlo (2013)

1. MaNdlo

  • This is the story of a prostitute from Zimbabwe who, while engaging in her select field of trade with a client, she suddenly collapsed on him and died
  • He scarpered out the hotel when the cops arrived, and they sealed her up in a steel coffin, but then the prostitute woke up and shouted, “You want to kill me”
  • A bunch of gawkers were so shocked that they sprinted away as fast as they could run

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/27/dead-prostitute-comes-back-to-life_n_2965110.html

6 Erica Nigrelli (2013)

1. Erica Nigrelli

  • This is a horrifying story that ends quite happily – Erica was an English teacher from Missouri, pregnant with her child when, one day, she passed out
  • Her husband called 911 and soon she was taken to hospital – but her heart stopped and they had to deliver the baby from her corpse before it too, died
  • After the delivery, her heart began beating again and she was put into a medically-induced coma for five days
  • It turns out all she needed was a pacemaker, so now both her and her daughter are alive to this day

http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/24/health/mom-revived-baby-born/

7 Carlos Camejo (2007)

1. Carlos Camejo

  • A man from Venezuela who woke up during his own autopsy – declared dead in a highway accident in 2007, he was taken away by medical examiners before his wife could even identify the corpse
  • In the midst of his autopsy, when they were cutting into his face, they noted the absurdly high amount of fresh blood falling out, and then Carlos woke up screaming and hollering, with the surgeons falling over themselves to stitch up the wound
  • Carlos later noted “I woke up because the pain was unbearable”

http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/09/17/us-autopsy-idUSN149975820070917

8 Saudi Woman (2009)

1. saudi

  • O It was 2009 when a Caesarean gone wrong happened to a woman in labour, and she died
  • The husband was given the birth-defected baby and a dead certificate for his late wife, and her body was hauled away to the morgue
  • Two hours later though, she awoke in the freezer and started screaming and banging the door until a worker came to rescue her
  • The husband was forced to return her death certificate since, despite his hope, he couldn’t keep it as a souvenir

9 Luz Milagros Veron (2012)

1. Luz Milagros Veron

  • This baby was born three months premature, and quickly sent off to the morgue
  • Luckily though, her parents insisted they be allowed to see her one last time, and it was inside the coffin sealed for 12 hours they heard a faint cry – it was opened and there was baby Luz cold and weak but very much alive
  • Originally the babies name was to be Lucia, but they changed it because her new name means “Miracle Light”

http://www.latinospost.com/articles/22061/20130624/argentina-miracle-baby-luz-milagros-dies.htm  

10 Walter Williams (2014)

1. walter williams

  • A 78 year old man from Mississippi who was accurately described as dead by one of the nurses who looked after him in 2014
  • A coroner was informed, and he too verified that Walter was dead, but just as he was getting shoved in a body bag, it was noticed that Walter seemed to be kicking his legs, so they listened to his chest and noticed a heart beat
  • It was later theorised that his heart had been later jump-started by a defibrillator embedded in his chest

http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/28/us/dead-man-comes-back-life/

http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/13/us/mississippi-walter-williams-dead/

11 A Man from Johannesburg (2011)

1. south africa

  • It was July 2011 when an 80 year old man was hauled into a morgue and placed in one of the freezers
  • Not even 24 hours later, the morgue’s owner, Ayanda Maqolo, heard screaming coming from the fridges – he actually thought it was a ghost come to attack him, so he called police to come and handle it for him
  • The frozen man was thawed and sent to a hospital, making a full recovery – well, as recovered as you can be frozen, left for dead and then rescued by armed police officers

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/jul/25/south-african-man-wakes-morgue

12 Kelvin Santos

1. Kelvin Santos

  • A two year old child that died of pneumonia – but just before his funeral was about to begin, he sat up in the open coffin and asked “Daddy, can I have some water?”
  • Everyone present started screaming and making a fuss, and both parents thought it was a miracle, but then he laid back down and stopped breathing again
  • The family filed for medical malpractice, but they never could revive poor Kelvin

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/07/brazilian-boy-comes-back-to-life_n_1578283.html

13 Margorie McCall (18th century)

1. Marjorjie McCall

  • An old Irish story that changes details with each retelling, but believed to have been based on 18th century fact
  • It goes that a rich woman called Marjorie died from a fever, and her husband tried to take off her golden wedding ring but her finger was too swollen
  • She was hastily buried in the nearby cemetery, but some grave robbers came to unbury her and take off the ring, which they planned to cut off with her finger
  • Mid-cut, she awoke and screamed, still alive, scaring off the robbers – she then ran back to her husband all creepy, covered in dirt and blood, scaring him so much that he dropped dead on the spot – and he was then buried in her shallow grave

http://www.bbc.co.uk/northernireland/yourplaceandmine/armagh/mccall_grave.shtml

14 Lyudmila Steblitskaya (2012)

download (9)

  • This woman has died several times, and on no less than 2 occasions she was moments from getting cut open for the autopsy before she sprung back to life
  • And one time she even spent 3 days lying in a freezing cold morgue before doctors realised she was still alive
  • In fact she was so cold that her skin had begun to peel off, and her family had organised an expensive funeral which went to waste
  • She’s had a history of heart problems and only 2 years ago she ended up dead again, only to be revived hours later

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2254595/Grandmother-dead-spending-days-morgue.html

http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/dead-russian-grandmother-comes-back-to-life-for-second-time/1052437/

15 Hamdi Hafez al-Nubi

  • A 28-year-old waiter from Egypt who suffered a heart attack while working, and promptly declared dead
  • As his death certificate was being written, the doctor noticed his body was still warm and, after checking his vital signs, realised he’d been clinging to life
  • He was then revived and his mother, who was in early mourning, fainted upon hearing he was still alive
  • The funeral was quickly turned into a celebration at the miraculous resurrection

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2143513/Hamdi-Hafez-al-Nubi-Dead-waiter-28-wakes-FUNERAL.html

The “Holy” Light of Jerusalem (Michael Kalopoulos)

The “Miracle” of the Holy Light of Jerusalem, is a recurring ‘miracle’ happening each year with clockwork precision, in the Holy Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem, to the delight of a large congregation of Christians of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Many pilgrims travel to Jerusalem repeatedly for the occasion.

The ‘Miracle’ takes place on Saturday no on preceding Easter Sunday. The substance of the ‘miracle’ is the appearance of a supernatural fire in a crypt, thoroughly searched and secured beforehand to exclude any source of fire. The ‘Miracle’ takes place in the Hands of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, who is ceremoniously searched before entering the crypt. These searches are witnessed by representatives of other creeds, especially of the Armenian Church, who also have certain traditional rights in the specific Church, as well as representatives of local authorities, and the police superintendent of Jerusalem.

MIDEAST-JERUSALEM-RELIGION-HOLY SEPULCHRE-CONFLICT

The patriarch retires inside the crypt and prays and then appears with the miraculous light, to the ecstasy of the attending crowd. At the same time, fire is reported to appear lighting the candles in and out of the Church spontaneously. Wax torches held by the pilgrims are also sporadically seen to be lighted by ‘divine’ intervention, after smoking for some time. Blue-white lightning is reported to sometimes appear and travel through the air. The miraculous fire lighting the patriarchs’ candle has been reported to be different from normal fire, in that a hand placed in the flame is not burned (at least the hands of the believers, and only for the first 33 minutes after the miracle) To quote from a related religious site: “The Holy Light symbolizes and recalls in a miraculous manner the Resurrection of Christ. It is a god sent miracle through the centuries, from the Light which is Jesus Christ to the world. Science cannot explain this great miracle and this time, it has wisely opted to remain silent and to refrain from expressing even a theoretical conclusion. Anyway, how could science explain an authentic miracle?”

The Atheist Union of Greece have called for the abolition of the transport of the Holy Light from Jerusalem to Athens.
The Atheist Union of Greece have called for the abolition of the transport of the Holy Light from Jerusalem to Athens.

The Holy Light is brought back to Greece with a special flight of the state airline. It is greeted with Honours normally reserved for Foreign Heads of State. This is the most revered ‘miracle’ of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Special flights are used to distribute the Holy Light throughout Greece, so it is made available late Saturday night during the Mass of the Resurrection in many Churches. Returning with the light home, devout Christians burn a cross on the front door beam, use the Holy Light to bring fertility to their infertile beasts, and fruitless trees, use it to fight vermin etc… “For instance, in Korone of Messene people return home from the night mass carrying the Holy Light with them. They use the smoking flame to mark a cross above windows and doors and thus preserve the mark of the Holy Light throughout the year .Then they take the Holy Light to the family altar make the sign of the cross and light the candle. Then they go the animal stalls to mark the beasts, goats, sheep. The oxen, the cows, the donkeys, whatever beast they may keep, they singe the animals (sic) even the chicken.”

How deplorable to see such neo-lithic superstition reign supreme, in the land that gave birth to philosophy and the sciences. However, there have been voices in the past that raised serious doubts about these religious ceremonies. The famous Greek intellectual of the Age of Enlightenment, Adamantios Korais (1748-1833) denounced the ‘Holy Light’ as a fraud and urged the Eastern Orthodox Church to discontinue the practice, arguing that “no true religion is in need of such false miracles”. In his treatise “On the Holy Light of Jerusalem”, Korais was adamant against religious fraud and theurgy. He referred to the recurring ‘miracle’ as ‘machinations of fraudulent priests’ and to the unholy light of Jerusalem as… “a profiteers’ miracle”. With deep sorrow, the Greek sage contemplated in his writings, that “while Greeks are content to have the ‘Holy Light’, the people in Europe of his time are living among people of objective knowledge, surrounded by Academies, and Lyceums, and schools of every kind of art and science. Europeans have open, splendid public libraries, and their print presses buzz with activity daily and without pause”. Taking heart from the courageous stance of the great intellectual, patriot and writer Korais, and enraged from the willful suppression of his treatise on the ‘Holy Light’ that remains an obscure work for most Greek readers to this day, we decided to look carefully into this miracle and the way with which it could be ‘achieved’.

Adamantios Korais
Adamantios Korais

How could the spontaneous appearance of fire be explained as a totally human act, when there appears to be no obvious human intervention? Our research pointed in the direction of use of some self-igniting material, that ignites spontaneously when in contact with the air. An appropriate candidate for such use would appear to be white phosphorus. But how could this spontaneous ignition be delayed in order to take place in the appropriate time? Simply, if phosphorus is dissolved in an appropriate organic solvent, self-ignition is delayed, until the solvent has almost completely evaporated. Repeated experiments showed that the ignition can be delayed for half an hour or more, depending on density of the solution and the solvent employed. We repeatedly demonstrated the technique on live satellite TV in the presence of representatives of the Eastern Orthodox Church, igniting spontaneously a number of candles, to their amazement.

Naphtha

Our research was published as a treatise of 250 pages. It goes a long way to prove that self igniting materials were known in antiquity, as there are several instances recorded of use of such materials in the works of ancient Greek authors; such self-igniting materials are also mentioned in the Bible disguised as ‘miracles’ in the tale of Elias (I Kings 18.21-40) and in the tale of Nehemiah (Septuagint II Maccabees 1.17-23). To those that would argue that such materials were unknown in antiquity we refer them to Strabo who distinguishes two kinds of naphtha: In Babylon (Chaldea) there are two kinds of naphtha springs, a white (colourless, clear ) and a black (crude oil) The white naphtha is the one that ignites with fire. (Strabon Geographica 16.1.15.1-24) The source for acquisition of crude phosphor in antiquity could have been relatively simple. Indeed a list of materials with a high content in phosphor, possibly used in its acquisition, directly takes us into the realm of alchemy and magic. Indeed, we are talking about black magic because the source for phosphorus is incinerated bones, excrement and urine! Precisely such a recipe for a methodical incineration of bones in a pot can be found, where else but… in the Bible:

“Thus saith the Lord GOD; Set on a pot, set it on, and also pour water into it: Gather the pieces thereof into it, even every good piece, the thigh, and the shoulder; fill it with the choice bones. Take the choice of the flock, and burn also the bones under it, and make it boil well, and let them see the bones of it therein…Heap on wood, kindle the fire, consume the flesh, and spice it well, and let the bones be burned. Then set it empty upon the coals thereof, that the brass of it may be hot, and may burn, and that the filthiness of it may be molten in it, that the scum of it may be consumed.” [Ezekiel 24.3-11]

Greek Fire
Greek Fire

It appears that some of the early alchemists really came up with the recipe for the real “philosopher’s stone” that could turn commonplace filth and human credulity into gold… and the example of the “Holy Light” is ample proof of that. The call of the Ancient Greeks was: “Remember to Doubt!” (*Memniso Apistein, a quote of Epicharmus mentioned by Lucianus in Hermotimus). Such scepticism can never coexist with “believeth all things” (1 Corinthians 13.7) of the Christian dogma. The death-centered Christian worship with its oriental fixation in the phantasies of a life after death are incompatible with the spontaneous Greek worship of our ephemeral life. Of course our supposed soul-saviours are too busy continuously describing the coming end of the world with the bleakest colours- how could they find some time for science, research of nature and plain logic? Yes, for us the only Holy Light is the light of Reason and continuous query.

Hand siphon for Greek fire (medieval illumination detail)
Hand siphon for Greek fire (medieval illumination detail)

http://www.greatlie.com/en/

https://web.archive.org/web/20070702163351/http://forum.stirpes.net/orthodox-church/3270-michael-kalopoulos-miracle-holy-light-jerusalem.html

In 1995, just a few days before the locum tenens of the Patriarchal throne, Metropolitan Cornelius of Petra, received the Holy Fire in the place of patriarch Irenaeus, he declared in a television interview that the holy fire is a natural light, lit by the patriarch from the Sanctuary Lamp! And then came the big shock: “The miracle is the prayer that hallows the light”. (The light which supposedely comes from heaven!!)

(Greek, 5:16-5:40, 7:03-7:15).

Patriarch Diodoros of Jerusalem has described the process of the coming down of the fire as follows:

I find my way through the darkness towards the inner chamber in which I fall on my knees. Here I say certain prayers that have been handed down to us through the centuries and, having said them, I wait. Sometimes I may wait a few minutes, but normally the miracle happens immediately after I have said the prayers. From the core of the very stone on which Jesus lay an indefinable light pours forth. It usually has a blue tint, but the color may change and take many different hues. It cannot be described in human terms. The light rises out of the stone as mist may rise out of a lake it almost looks as if the stone is covered by a moist cloud, but it is light. This light each year behaves differently. Sometimes it covers just the stone, while other times it gives light to the whole sepulchre, so that people who stand outside the tomb and look into it will see it filled with light. The light does not burn. I have never had my beard burnt in all the 16 years I have been Patriarch in Jerusalem and have received the Holy Fire. The light is of a different consistency than normal fire that burns in an oil lamp.

At a certain point the light rises and forms a column in which the fire is of a different nature, so that I am able to light my candles from it. When I thus have received the flame on my candles, I go out and give the fire first to the Armenian Patriarch and then to the Coptic. Hereafter I give the flame to all people present in the Church.

So called “Miracle of the holy fire – holy light” is a fraud. It is explained by Greek scientist live on Greek TV. Video is in Greek language but it is enough to watch his actions. He put a candle in white phosphorus and after a while candle will ignite spontaneously.

It is scientifically explained, so there are no “god’s miracle”. Orthodox priests claims it is a miracle of “holy fire” or “holy light” is nothing but a fraud, hoax, cheat.

Proposed reconstruction of the Greek fire mechanism by Haldon and Byrne
Proposed reconstruction of the Greek fire mechanism by Haldon and Byrne

https://wordpress.com/post/79263192/new

http://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/4295/does-a-miracle-of-spontaneous-holy-fire-occur-in-a-jerusalem-church-every-year

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Miracle or Fraud? The Turin Shroud (Joe Nickell, 2013)

NOTE: The following article is the 18th chapter from The Science of Miracles: Investigating the Incredible:

download (6)

The Shroud of Turin continues to be the subject of media presentations that treat it as being so mysterious as to imply a supernatural origin. One recent study (Binga 2001) found only ten credible skeptical books on the topic versus over four hundred promoting the cloth as the authentic, or potentially authentic, burial cloth of Jesus—including a revisionist tome, The Resurrection of the Shroud (Antonacci 2000). Yet since the cloth appeared in the middle of the fourteenth century it has been at the center of scandal, exposés, and controversy—a dubious legacy for what is purported to be the most holy relic in Christendom.

BOGUS SHROUDS

There have been numerous “true” shrouds of Jesus—along with vials of his mother’s breast milk, hay from the manger in which he was born, and countless relics of his crucifixion—but the Turin cloth uniquely bears the apparent imprints of a crucified man. Unfortunately the cloth is incompatible with New Testament accounts of Jesus’ burial.

John’s Gospel (19:38–42, 20:5–7) specifically states that the body was “wound” with “linen clothes” and a large quantity of burial spices (myrrh and aloes). Still another cloth (called “the napkin”) covered his face and head. In contrast, the Shroud of Turin represents a single, draped cloth (laid under and then over the “body”) without any trace of the burial spices.

Of the many earlier purported shrouds of Christ, which were typically about half the length of the Turin cloth, one was the subject of a reported seventh-century dispute on the island of Iona between Christians and Jews, both of whom claimed it. As adjudicator, an Arab ruler placed the alleged relic in a fire from which it levitated, unscathed, and fell at the feet of the Christians—or so says a pious tale. In medieval Europe alone there were “at least forty-three ‘True Shrouds’” (Humber 1978, 78).

 SCANDAL AT LIREY

The cloth now known as the Shroud of Turin first appeared about 1355 at a little church in Lirey, in north central France. Its owner, a soldier of fortune named Geoffroy de Charney, claimed it as the authentic shroud of Christ, although he never explained how he acquired such a fabulous possession. According to a later bishop’s report, written by Pierre D’Arcis to the Avignon pope, Clement VII, in 1389, the shroud was being used as part of a faith-healing scam:

The case, Holy Father, stands thus. Some time since in this diocese of Troyes the dean of a certain collegiate church, to wit, that of Lirey, falsely and deceitfully, being consumed with the passion of avarice, and not from any motive of devotion but only of gain, procured for his church a certain cloth cunningly painted, upon which by a clever sleight of hand was depicted the twofold image of one man, that is to say, the back and the front, he falsely declaring and pretending that this was the actual shroud in which our Savior Jesus Christ was enfolded in the tomb, and upon which the whole likeness of the Savior had remained thus impressed together with the wounds which He bore…. And further to attract the multitude so that money might cunningly be wrung from them, pretended miracles were worked, certain men being hired to represent themselves as healed at the moment of the exhibition of the shroud.

D’Arcis continued, speaking of a predecessor who conducted the investigation and uncovered the forger: “Eventually, after diligent inquiry and examination, he discovered the fraud and how the said cloth had been cunningly painted, the truth being attested by the artist who had painted it, to wit, that it was a work of human skill and not miraculously wrought or bestowed” (emphasis added).

Action had been taken and the cloth hidden away, but now, years later, it had resurfaced. D’Arcis (1389) spoke of “the grievous nature of the scandal, the contempt brought upon the Church and ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and the danger to souls.”

As a consequence Clement ordered that, while the cloth could continue being exhibited (it had been displayed on a high platform flanked by torches), during the exhibition it must be loudly announced that “it is not the True Shroud of Our Lord, but a painting or picture made in the semblance or representation of the Shroud” (Humber 1978, 100). Thus the scandal at Lirey ended—for a time.

 In October 2009 it was announced that scientists in Italy had made a cloth bearing an image very similar to the shroud.
In October 2009 it was announced that scientists in Italy had made a cloth bearing an image very similar to the shroud.

FURTHER MISREPRESENTATION

During the Hundred Years’ War, Margaret de Charney, granddaughter of the Shroud’s original owner, gained custody of the cloth, allegedly for safekeeping. But despite many subsequent entreaties she refused to return it, instead even taking it on tour in the areas of present-day France, Belgium, and Switzerland. When there were additional challenges to the Shroud’s authenticity, Margaret could only produce documents officially labeling it a “representation.”

In 1453, at Geneva, Margaret sold the cloth to Duke Louis I of Savoy. Some Shroud proponents like to say Margaret “gave” the cloth to Duke Louis, but it is only fair to point out that in return he “gave” Margaret the sum of two castles. In 1457, after years of broken promises to return the cloth to the canons of Lirey and later to compensate them for its loss, Margaret was excommunicated. She died in 1460.

The Savoys (who later comprised the Italian monarchy and owned the shroud until it was bequeathed to the Vatican in 1983) represented the shroud as genuine. They treated it as a “holy charm” having magical powers and enshrined it in an expanded church at their castle at Chambéry. There in 1532 a fire blazed through the chapel and before the cloth was rescued a blob of molten silver from the reliquary burned through its forty-eight folds. The alleged talisman was thus revealed as being unable even to protect itself. Eventually, in a shrewd political move—by a later Duke who wished a more suitable capital—the cloth was transferred to Turin (in present-day Italy) (see figure 18.1).

In 1898 the shroud was photographed for the first time, and the glass-plate negatives showed a more lifelike, quasi-positive image. Thus began the modern era of the shroud, with proponents asking how a mere medieval forger could have produced a perfect “photographic” negative before the development of photography. In fact the analogy with photographic images is misleading, since the “positive” image shows a figure with white hair and beard, the opposite of what would be expected for a Palestinian Jew in his thirties.

Nevertheless, some shroud advocates suggested the image was produced by simple contact with bloody sweat or burial ointments. But that is disproved by a lack of wraparound distortions. Also, not all imaged areas would have been touched by a simple draped cloth, so some sort of projection was envisioned. One notion was “vaporography,” body vapors supposedly interacting with spices on the cloth to yield a vapor “photo,” but all experimentation produced was a blur (Nickell 1998, 81–84). Others began to opine that the image was “scorched” by a miraculous burst of radiant energy at the time of Jesus’ resurrection. Yet no known radiation would produce such superficial images, and actual scorches on the cloth from the fire of 1532 exhibit strong reddish fluorescence, in contrast to the shroud images that do not fluoresce at all.

Figure 18.1

SECRET STUDY

In 1969 the archbishop of Turin appointed a secret commission to examine the shroud. That fact was leaked, then denied, but (according to Wilcox 1977, 44) “at last the Turin authorities were forced to admit what they previously denied.” The man who had exposed the secrecy accused the clerics of acting “like thieves in the night.” More detailed studies—again clandestine—began in 1973.

The commission included internationally known forensic serologists who made heroic efforts to validate the “blood,” but all of the microscopial, chemical, biological, and instrumental tests were negative. This was not surprising, since the stains were suspiciously still red and artistically “picturelike.” Experts discovered reddish granules that would not even dissolve in reagents that dissolve blood, and one investigator found traces of what appeared to be paint. An art expert concluded that the image had been produced by an artistic printing technique.

The commission’s report was withheld until 1976 and then was largely suppressed, while a rebuttal report was freely made available. Thus began an approach that would be repeated over and over: distinguished experts would be asked to examine the cloth then would be attacked when they obtained other than desired results.

JN

SCIENCE vs. “SHROUD SCIENCE”

Further examinations were conducted in 1978 by the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP). STURP was a group of mostly religious believers whose leaders served on the executive council of the Holy Shroud Guild, a Catholic organization that advocated the “cause” of the supposed relic. STURP members, like others calling themselves “sindonologists” (i.e. shroudologists), gave the impression that they started with the desired answer.

STURP pathologist Robert Bucklin—another Holy Shroud Guild executive councilman—stated that he was willing to stake his reputation on the shroud’s authenticity. He and other proshroud pathologists argued for the image’s anatomical correctness, yet a footprint on the cloth is inconsistent with the position of the leg to which it is attached, the hair falls as for a standing rather than a recumbent figure, and the physique is so unnaturally elongated (similar to figures in Gothic art) that one proshroud pathologist concluded that Jesus must have suffered from Marfan syndrome (Nickell 1989)!

STURP lacked experts in art and forensic chemistry—with one exception: famed microanalyst Walter C. McCrone. Examining thirty-two tape-lifted samples from the shroud, McCrone identified the “blood” as tempera paint containing red ocher and vermilion along with traces of rose madder—pigments used by medieval artists to depict blood. He also discovered that on the image—but not the background—were significant amounts of the red ocher pigment. He first thought this was applied as a dry powder but later concluded it was a component of dilute paint applied in the medieval grisaille (monochromatic) technique (McCrone 1996; cf. Nickell 1998). For his efforts McCrone was held to a secrecy agreement, while statements were made to the press that there was no evidence of artistry. He was, he says, “drummed out” of STURP.

STURP representatives paid a surprise visit to McCrone’s lab to confiscate his samples. They then gave them to two late additions to STURP, John Heller and Alan Adler, neither of whom was a forensic serologist or a pigment expert. The pair soon proclaimed that they had “identified the presence of blood.” However, at the 1983 conference of the prestigious International Association for Identification, forensic analyst John F. Fischer explained how results similar to theirs could be obtained from tempera paint.

A later claim concerns reported evidence of human DNA in a shroud “blood” sample, although the archbishop of Turin and the Vatican refused to authenticate the samples or accept any research carried out on them. University of Texas researcher Leoncio Garza-Valdez, in his The DNA of God? (1999, 41), claims it was possible “to clone the sample and amplify it,” proving it was “ancient” blood “from a human being or high primate,” while Ian Wilson’s The Blood and the Shroud (1998, 91) asserted it was “human blood.”

Actually the scientist at the DNA lab, Victor Tryon, told Time magazine that he could not say how old the DNA was or that it came from blood. As he explained, “Everyone who has ever touched the shroud or cried over the shroud has left a potential DNA signal there.” Tryon resigned from the new shroud project due to what he disparaged as “zealotry in science” (Van Biema 1998, 61).

DNA

POLLEN FAKERY?

McCrone would later refute another bit of proshroud propaganda: the claim of Swiss criminologist Max Frei-Sulzer that he had found certain pollen grains on the cloth that “could only have originated from plants that grew exclusively in Palestine at the time of Christ.” Earlier Frei had also claimed to have discovered pollens on the cloth that were characteristic of Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) and the area of ancient Edessa—seeming to confirm a “theory” of the shroud’s missing early history. Wilson (1979) conjectured that the shroud was the fourth-century Image of Edessa, a legendary “miraculous” imprint of Jesus’ face made as a gift to King Abgar. Wilson’s notion was that the shroud had been folded so that only the face showed and that it had thus been disguised for centuries. Actually, had the cloth been kept in a frame for such a long period there would have been an age-yellowed, rectangular area around the face. Nevertheless Frei’s alleged pollen evidence gave new support to Wilson’s ideas.

I say alleged evidence because Frei had credibility problems. Before his death in 1983 his reputation suffered when, representing himself as a handwriting expert, he pronounced the infamous “Hitler diaries” genuine; they were soon exposed as forgeries.

In the meantime an even more serious question had arisen about Frei’s pollen evidence. Whereas he reported finding numerous types of pollen from Palestine and other areas, STURP’s tape-lifted samples, taken at the same time, showed few pollen. Micropaleontologist Steven D. Schafersman was probably the first to publicly suggest that Frei might be guilty of deception. He explained how unlikely it was, given the evidence of the shroud’s exclusively European history, that thirty-three different Middle Eastern pollens could have reached the cloth, particularly only pollen from Palestine, Istanbul, and the Anatolian steppe. With such selectivity, Schafersman stated, “these would be miraculous winds indeed.” In an article in Skeptical Inquirer Schafersman (1982) called for an investigation of Frei’s work.

When Frei’s tape samples became available after his death, McCrone was asked to authenticate them. This he was readily able to do, he told me, “since it was easy to find red ocher on linen fibers much the same as I had seen them on my samples.” But there were few pollen other than on a single tape that bore “dozens” in one small area. This indicated that the tape had subsequently been “contaminated,” probably deliberately, McCrone concluded, by having been pulled back and the pollen surreptitiously introduced.

McCrone added (1993):

One further point with respect to Max which I haven’t mentioned anywhere, anytime to anybody is based on a statement made by his counterpart in Basel as head of the Police Crime Laboratory there that Max had been several times found guilty and was censured by the Police hierarchy in Switzerland for, shall we say, overenthusiastic interpretation of his evidence. His Basel counterpart had been on the investigating committee and expressed surprise in a letter to me that Max was able to continue in his position as Head of the Police Crime Lab in Zurich.

Monochrome fresco at the Palace of the Popes in Avignon, France.
Monochrome fresco at the Palace of the Popes in Avignon, France.

C-14 FALSEHOODS

The pollen “evidence” became especially important to believers following the devastating results of radiocarbon dating tests in 1988. Three laboratories (at Oxford, Zurich, and the University of Arizona) used accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) to date samples of the linen. The results were in close agreement and were given added credibility by the use of control samples of known dates. The resulting age span was circa 1260–1390 CE—consistent with the time of the reported forger’s confession.

Shroud enthusiasts were devastated, but they soon rallied, beginning a campaign to discredit the radiocarbon findings. Someone put out a false story that the AMS tests were done on one of the patches from the 1532 fire, thus supposedly yielding a late date. A Russian scientist, Dmitrii Kuznetsov, claimed to have established experimentally that heat from a fire (like that of 1532) could alter the radiocarbon date. But others could not replicate his alleged results and it turned out that his physics calculations had been plagiarized—complete with an error (Wilson 1998, 219–23). (Kuznetsov was also exposed in Skeptical Inquirer for bogus research in a study criticizing evolution [Larhammar 1995].)

A more persistent challenge to the radiocarbon testing was hurled by Garza-Valdez (1993). He claimed to have obtained samples of the “miraculous cloth” that bore a microbial coating, contamination that could have altered the radiocarbon date. However, that notion was effectively disproved by physicist Thomas J. Pickett (1996). He performed a simple calculation that showed that for the shroud to have been altered by thirteen centuries (i.e., from Jesus’ first-century death to the radiocarbon date of 1325±65 years) there would have to be twice as much contamination, by weight, as the weight of the cloth itself!

The Shroud of Turn held by Catholic Bishops
The Shroud of Turn held by Catholic Bishops

SHROUD OF RORSCHACH

Following the suspicious pollen evidence were claims that plant images had been identified on the cloth. These were allegedly discerned from “smudgy” appearing areas in shroud photos that were subsequently enhanced. The work was done by a retired geriatric psychiatrist, Alan Whanger, and his wife Mary, former missionaries who have taken up image analysis as a hobby. They were later assisted by an Israeli botanist who looked at their photos of “flower” images (many of them “wilted” and otherwise distorted) and exclaimed, “Those are the flowers of Jerusalem!” (Whanger and Whanger 1998, 79). Apparently no one has thought to see if some might match the flowers of France or Italy or even to try to prove that the images are indeed floral (given the relative scarcity of pollen grains on the cloth).

The visualized “flower and plant images” join other perceived shapes seen—Rorschach-like—in the shroud’s mottled image and off-image areas. These include “Roman coins” over the eyes, head and arm “phylacteries” (small Jewish prayer boxes), an “amulet,” and such crucifixion-associated items (see John 19) as “a large nail,” a “hammer,” “sponge on a reed,” “Roman thrusting spear,” “pliers,” “two scourges,” “two brush brooms,” “two small nails,” “large spoon or trowel in a box,” “a loose coil of rope,” a “cloak” with “belt,” a “tunic,” a pair of “sandals,” and other hilarious imaginings, including “Roman dice,” all discovered by the Whangers (1998) and their botanist friend.

They and others have also reported finding ancient Latin and Greek words, such as “Jesus” and “Nazareth.” Even Ian Wilson (1998, 242) felt compelled to state: “While there can be absolutely no doubting the sincerity of those who make these claims, the great danger of such arguments is that researchers may ‘see’ merely what their minds trick them into thinking is there.”

Black Madonna

CONCLUSION

We see that “shroud science”—like “creation science” and other pseudosciences in the service of dogma—begins with the desired answer and works backward to the evidence. Although they are bereft of any viable hypothesis for the image formation, sindonologists are quick to dismiss the profound, corroborative evidence for artistry. Instead, they suggest that the “mystery” of the shroud implies a miracle, but of course that is merely an example of the logical fallacy called arguing from ignorance.

Worse, some have engaged in pseudoscience and even, apparently, outright scientific fraud, while others have shamefully mistreated the honest scientists who reported unpopular findings. We should again recall the words of Canon Ulysse Chevalier, the Catholic scholar who brought to light the documentary evidence of the shroud’s medieval origin. As he lamented, “The history of the shroud constitutes a protracted violation of the two virtues so often commended by our holy books: justice and truth” (quoted in Nickell 1998, 21)

Dr John Jackson and the late Professor Giovanni Riggi, examine the Shroud in Turin, Italy, in 1978
Dr John Jackson and the late Professor Giovanni Riggi, examine the Shroud in Turin, Italy, in 1978

Also see:

https://scottnevinssuicide.wordpress.com/2015/03/15/the-true-cross-chaucer-calvin-and-relic-mongers-joe-nickell-2010/

https://scottnevinssuicide.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/holy-shrouds-joe-nickell-2007/

https://scottnevinssuicide.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/artistry-and-the-shroud-joe-nickell-2013/