We appear to be the only species who can find deep meanings in optical illusions with minds uniquely structured to process geological and meteorological features in the natural world. There, we identify aged spiritual beings in the weathered faces of mountains, splashing white elephants in the clouds, and heroes facing their inner demons among patterned stars in the night sky. We have long projected these optical illusions in the myths we tell, the art we create, and the songs we sing.

Through this extraordinary ability we have developed an animistic connection to the cosmos that is evidenced in our earliest cave art, embedded in religions worldwide, and can be analyzed individually and collectively from our dreams. This visual phenomenon of pareidolia appears to be at the root of what makes us human and perhaps asks us to reconsider our own species name. Are we really Homo sapiens, “the wise man,” or Homo pareidolia, with an imagination that animates our lives from the optical illusions we process within our heads through to stories of the fantastical?  

Bernie Taylor is an explorer whose work encompasses astronomical, mythological and biological knowledge among prehistoric, indigenous and ancient peoples, and through his books, Biological Time and Before Orion: Finding the Face of the Hero, YouTube videos, frequent podcast appearances, and popular and scientific presentations, takes his audiences over the edge, dropping them deep into the unimaginable.