The Face of Jesus




By Robert Perry

A mysterious photograph which was reportedly manifested by famed Indian spiritual master, Sai Baba, is becoming increasingly popular as an object of veneration around the world. According to the story, an Australian woman (known as "B.A.") visited Sai Baba's ashram in Puttaparti, India, in 1985. While there, she held up a black-and-white computer-generated printout of the Shroud of Turin. Sai Baba, who is known for his spontaneous miracles, reportedly took this paper from her and "manifested" a blank sheet of glossy photo paper. He then passed his hand over this paper and on it appeared a color "photo" of the face of Jesus. The dimensions of this face matched exactly the dimensions of the face on the Shroud. Furthermore, in the upper left and lower right corners of the photo, one could even see traces of the Shroud image itself, including its distinctive bloodstains. The photo was quite beautiful and has gained increasing circulation, both in Europe and America, including being used on the cover of a book entitled, "Love Without Conditions," by Paul Ferrini.

What is not generally known is that this "photograph" of Jesus is actually a reproduction of a painting created in 1935 by an Armenian artist named Aggemian. Every feature in the photo, including every hair in the moustache and beard, is exactly the same as the painting. The Sai Baba "photo" is a poor-quality reproduction of the original, and being murky and dark makes it hard to tell that it is a copy of a painting and not a photograph. Aggemian's painting, which is based on the Shroud of Turin, has enjoyed some popularity on its own merit. One can even obtain a version of it called "The Original Double-Effect Shroud Image," in which from one angle one sees the painting by Aggemian, and from another angle, the face on the Shroud; from a certain angle, one can see overlapping images of both the Shroud and the painting -- just as in the Sai Baba "photo."

This raises some very interesting questions: Was the "Sai Baba photo" actually "manifested" by Sai Baba or was it produced by other means? Also, does the "Sai Baba photo" violate any copyright laws? The Original Double-Effect Shroud Image, for instance, was copyrighted in 1979 by VARI-VUE in Pelham, New York. Wouldn't it be ironic if a miraculous manifestation broke the law? And most important of all, this may afford us a fascinating and instructive glimpse into the mechanism of miracles. If we accept that Sai Baba actually did manifest this image, he clearly did not reach back 2,000 years in time and manifest a photograph of genuine, unadorned history. Instead, he drew from humanly-created images that are circulating right now.

The Face of Jesus has parallels with the phenomenon of stigmatists, that rare group of Christian believers who manifest wounds that imitate the wounds of the crucified Christ, especially nail holes in their palms. Yet research has shown that nails through palms would be unable to support the weight of a crucified man -- more likely, the nails went through the wrists (significantly, the figure on the Shroud of Turin has nail wounds on the wrists). The wounds of stigmatists, then, reflect popular misconceptions of the Crucifixion, rather than historical fact. If we can take these two examples as our cue, perhaps such miraculous manifestations are not windows into pure history but (at least in some cases) merely reproductions of images already existing in the mass mind.