Anyway, here's your perfect Voynich word for today: pareidolia, which I would describe as being the delusional antipattern the human mind is tempted to succumb to when it sees something astonishing in basically the wrong place - such as Mother Theresa in a cinnamon bun, Jesus Christ in a tortilla (1978), or the 2007 "monkey tree phenomenon" in Singapore.
People flock to see these (particularly religious pareidolia), and collectors even buy & sell them on eBay. The Internet has some fantastic collections of pareidolia photographs (and bizarre stories), such as on the Skeptic's Dictionary site, The Folklorist site, and this Pope Tart site (yes, really).
In the context of this blog, I think it is quite clear that most visual interpretations of the Voynich Manuscript (and I'm particularly thinking about its curiously-structured herbal pages here) are "pareidolic", manifesting the basic human need to find meaning in whatever it looks at.
And so if you look long enough (hours? weeks? years?) at anything, the danger is that you'll start to mis-see meaning in it. The paradox here is that long-term researchers (such as myself) surely become unable to tell whether they are extremely expert or extremely deluded, if not indeed both at the same time. Are they deluded as to their expertise, or experts in their delusion?
This whole thing can also be viewed as one of "semantically irregular verbs":-
- I am an expert
- You (singular) are a bit confused
- He/she is deluded
- We agree to differ
- You (plural) have somewhat lost the plot
- They are completely bonkers
In this sense, then, I think Newbold's quest to find meaning within the random craquelure of the Voynichese quillstrokes is something closer to apophenia than to pareidolia. Other Voynich theories based at the level of stroke decomposition (like the gloriously over-detailed one from Ursula Papke that used to be at ms408.com, and where the "meaning" is read off from each stroke of the letter) may well also be apophenic.