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Just another good conspiracy?

One day in 1531, the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, instructing him to go give the Bishop a message for her. The Bishop asked for proof that it was really her, so Mary told Juan to go pick some flowers and fold them up in his cloak, showing them to no one except the Bishop. When he unwrapped the cloak in front of the Bishop, they were shocked to see in their place an image of the Lady herself, just as she had first appeared to him. No flowers. (I have a real hard time with this stuff.) This miracle caused millions of indigenous Indians in Mexico to convert to the Catholic faith, something that is kicked around the "Well wasn't that convenient for the Church" file.

The image on the left is the said to be the original, before it was retouched for restoration.

Around 1929 the Original Our Lady of Guadalupe was retouched to restore some damage it had suffered over time. Most of the original image was hidden under a new layer of paint, which puzzles me since it was seen as a serious religious miracle. All of the present reproductions and photos you'll probably see are the retouched image, or even new renditions like the one on the right.

José Aste Tonsmann, who is a graduate of environmental systems engineering from Cornell University has spent 20 years investigating the painting, . Tonsmann, who works for the Mexican Center of Guadalupan Studies, even brought his findings up for discussion during a conference at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum. Say that three times fast. What he says he found is something remarkable with the Virgin Mary's eyes.

Tonsmann says that although the dimensions are microscopic, the iris and the pupils of the image's eyes have imprinted on them a highly detailed picture of at least 13 people. The same people are present in both the left and right eyes, in different proportions, as would happen when human eyes reflect the objects before them.

He insists that the original image "that has not been painted by human hand" and as early as the 18th century, scientists were saying that it was impossible to paint such an image in a fabric of that texture. The "ayate" fibers used by the Indians deteriorated after 20 years, but the image and fabric the painting of the Virgin is on has lasted over 470 years.

Add to the debate Richard Kuhn, a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, who said he found that the image did not have natural, animal or mineral colorings (I went "huh?" at this..) and since there were no synthetic colorings in 1531, the image is "inexplicable". Is anything "inexplicable" in this day and age?

Add to that, in 1979 Americans Philip Callahan and Jody B. Smith studied the image with infrared rays and discovered to their surprise that there was no trace of paint and that the fabric had not been treated with any kind of technique.

Tonsmann asks, "How it is possible to explain this image and its consistency in time without colors, on a fabric that has not been treated? How is it possible that, despite the fact there is no paint, the colors maintain their luminosity and brilliance? Callahan and Smith showed how the image changes in color slightly according to the angle of viewing, a phenomenon that is known by the word iridescence, a technique that cannot be reproduced with human hands."

Getting back to the eyes - Tonsmann magnified the iris of the Virgin's eyes 2,500 times and says that through mathematical and optical procedures, and a digital process used by satellites and space probes in transmitting visual information, he was able to identify all the people imprinted in the eyes. The eyes reflect the witnesses of the Guadalupan miracle, the moment Juan Diego unfurled his cloak before the bishop to show him the painting; a kind of instant picture of what occurred at the moment the image was unveiled. It is possible to see a seated Indian who is looking up to the heavens; the profile of a balding, elderly man with a white beard who looks like the Bishop; a younger man who is possibly interpreter Juan González; another Indian who is Juan Diego; a woman of dark complexion who is possibly a slave who was in the bishop's service and a man with Spanish features who looks on pensively, stroking his beard with his hand.

It gets better. In the center of the pupils an Indian family can be seen - made up of a woman, a man and several children. In the right eye, other people who are standing appear behind the woman.

Tonsmann ventured to express why he believes the Virgin's eyes have a "hidden" message for modern times, when technology is able to discover it. "This could be the case of the picture of the family in the center of the Virgin's eye," he says, "at a time when the family is under serious attack in our modern world."

To which I say "hm" and after seeing the big, massive circus that is made over stains that look like the Vrigin Mary or an ossuary that is discovered and thought to be a biblical tomb, and the ongoing quest to crack the Shroud of turin....why wouldn't this painting of Our Lady be front page news, investigated by NASA? The Louvre? A huge team of really brilliant forensic people?

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