Believers Say Image of Jesus Appeared in Flames of Notre Dame Cathedral

The image of ‘Jesus’ in the flames of Notre Dame Cathedral.  (Getty images)

The image of ‘Jesus’ in the flames of Notre Dame Cathedral. (Getty images)

A photograph in which people claim to see the image of Jesus Christ in the flames consuming Notre Dame Cathedral’s roof has been circulating on social media this week.

From there it was picked up by many major media outlets, and seen by millions; both believers and debunkers alike.

The image, first noticed by Lesley Rowan of West Dunbartonshire, Scotland, prompted outcries of both support and skepticism from the online community.

“When I looked at this photo last night, I was really astounded by what I saw," Rowan told the Daily Record on April 16th. "When I look at it I see a silhouette of Jesus. I really see a vivid image. I shared it and asked for people's opinions—even my brother in Australia said it looks like Jesus.”

"I feel like it will bring comfort to people in Paris and all over the world at this sad time," she added.

The fire in Notre Dame began last Monday, and that same day Rowan shared the religiously-themed image to Facebook.

“I may be letting my mind play tricks on me here,” she wrote. “Folks take a close look at this pic and what do you see.”

“Like someone standing with an arm outstretched,” responded one person.

“Looks like a figure of Jesus or I am tripping,” said another.

Others were unconvinced, and skeptics were quick to point to pareidolia as a likely explanation for the image.

Pareidolia is “the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern.”

But some believe that pareidolia itself isn’t the outright dismissal of a potentially paranormal explanation that many believe it to be.

“What if pareidolia is simply one of the means through which paranormal entities communicate?” asked Tobias Wayland; investigator, head writer, and editor for the Singular Fortean Society.

“Imagine ‘spiritual’ beings that exist on the level of human consciousness, and what they might need to do to talk to us,” he continued. “Sure, they could ‘speak’ to us directly through dreams or visions, but how would they make a visible, physical appearance? Maybe human consciousness interacts with the paranormal in such a way that sometimes the end result is physical reality acting in accordance with our expectations regarding paranormal events, and maybe that explains the pareidolic images associated with certain phenomena; like ghosts, cryptids, or religious images. In this case, the ‘spiritual’ presence behind Christianity—whatever you believe that to be—manifested itself, its appearance matched to our expectations, during a tragedy involving an iconic Christian cathedral, and it did it in a way that would be visible in a photograph using the only means it had available; pareidolia.”

“Or maybe it’s just our imagination,” Tobias quipped. “I guess either way it’s all in our heads.”

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