On Sensory and Spiritual Deception–and “The Last Time She Saw St. Peter’s Square”

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

I saw a photograph of something called “dazzle camouflage” (see below) which got me to thinking about how easy it is to trick the senses–and the spirit. It also got me to thinking about how powerful deception is, in both realms, and the need to maintain discernment.

Sensory Deception


This  example of sight deception is what’s called “dazzle camouflage“:

The theory behind the camouflage (introduced in World War I) was that submarines searching for the enemy atop would be confused by the painted-on shapes, blobs, and shards and thus fail to hit their targets. The method worked to varying degrees but was soon made obsolete by many other far more sophisticated forms of camouflage technology.


A good, and shocking, example of sound deception is the so-called “Voice of God” technology that is used for military and crowd control purposes. The technology is called LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device). It is used to command and control groups or single individuals.



Examples of the use of smell for deception (and protective) purposes also come from the military as part of the “Nonlethal Weapons Development” program used for “crowd control, warfare applications [and] to discourage people from hanging around certain facilities”.


The best examples come from nearly everyone’s experience of biting into something that looks absolutely delicious; however, the taste is not. I am reminded of a time I quit coffee drinking for several weeks, so I ordered tea at a restaurant. What came to me was a very bitter liquid that tasted like dirty dishwater! Or so my mind discerned. It was, in fact, coffee, but my taste buds were anticipating tea!


One immediate texture fake that comes to mind is astro turf.  It’s green and looks soft and cool and invites one to run barefoot across it in hot weather, but in reality it’s coarse and actually uncomfortable to walk on barefoot.

When it comes to sensory deception it’s clear that on occasion it might be necessary to double-check–double- view, see, smell, taste, or feel–because sensory deception can be very powerful. Sometimes, lethal.

Spiritual Deception

When one is searching for the real deal spiritually, so to speak, it is also necessary to double-check, i.e., discern carefully, considering the influence the powers-that-be have to deceive in that arena, too because, as in the natural, mis-perception in the spiritual can be at least confusing, at worst, lethal.

Here is the spiritual reality check in a nutshell:

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God…” (1 John 4:1-2, NIV)

Seems rather simplistic on first read, but if you think about it, the cross on which Jesus died as the perfect and permanent reparation for our sins is THE focal point of Christianity, followed by His resurrection back to life which sealed the deal, you might say. The Bible is not the only documentation of those events.

As the perfect, sacrificial “Lamb of God,” Jesus was God’s own solution for our spiritual fakes, you might say, as well as for our sins. All other religious systems are mankind’s attempt to create some kind of salvation, but none have a risen savior.

But it makes sense that there would be a plethora of religious systems and philosophies because people are quick to mimic (and counterfeit) a thing of value and power, for various reasons.

Some reasons are spiritual, some are financial, and some are to satisfy the deeper search all people engage in to one degree or another that begins when we are very young, i.e., to find the answers to the essential questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What happens when I die?

Of course there is Another who would have us run hither and yon, think here and beyond, in search of ultimate meanings because this Other wants to control and destroy. See what you think.  And he is most effective when appearing as “an angel of light”–the easier to deceive us by, if you will, we who can be so easily deceived not only in the natural but in the spiritual as well if we are not discerning.

On “St. Peter’s Square”

I am reminded here of a past post describing an “experience” one of my sisters had, that is re-printed below.

We grew up in the Roman Catholic church, a wealthy, sensory-rich, religious milieu although most members worldwide are middle class or poor.

In many of the brick and mortar–marble and gilt–churches and cathedrals in that denomination, there was/is sensory overload; strong appeals to sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.

But to the topic of this post, deception, there were/are also spiritual adds-ons, embellishments, even distortions that defy the beautiful external appearance with false doctrine, extra-biblical teaching, and cult-like control mechanisms behind and beneath the plush curtains and cathedral spires to keep the people in the pews and in the (spiritual) dark.

The cross of Jesus Christ was/is hanging in a prominent spot in those churches, but it is often obscured in clouds of sweet-smelling incense, the play of sunlight through crimson and cerulean stained glass, priests in silver- and gold-threaded vestments holding aloft golden goblets to the sound of small brass bells as the congregation stands, sits and kneels on cue, many unaware of the origin and meanings of the pomp and circumstance; many, unaware of the simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ–which is the most important reality Satan desires to keep from the needy, the curious, the hungry, and the hurting.

And many are unaware of the power of that ancient, brilliant artificer who is more than happy to dwell amid the beautiful pomp and circumstance (the more, the better) so that his fake gospel, pitted with distraction, distortion,  and deception, can keep the people away from the truth.

Nevertheless, the power of the real Gospel, “Jesus, and Him crucified,” as Paul put it, can pierce through even the most deceptive and distracting glitz and glamour to reveal the truth to those who choose ears to hear and eyes to see. Even today.

Here is my sister’s experience.

On the Last Time She Saw St. Peter’s Square…

St. Peter’s Square

She recalled it like this:

I found myself standing in St. Peter’s Square. The bronze, marble, and granite of the piazza’s art and architecture shone hard in the hot Mediterranean sun. The saints’ statues rimming the balustrade atop the columns surrounding the forecourt stood like sentries guarding the opulence. Maybe it was the brilliance of noon, but I also had the impression of gilded, jewel-encrusted edifices.

The people were cheering and looking upward in awe at the balcony of the Papal apartments. The Supreme Pontiff, robed in regal attire, gleaming mitre crowning his head, smiled and waved. He seemed well pleased with the power of the presentation, the homage of the pilgrims.

Suddenly, I was aware of a man standing nearby. Silently, he guided me inside the basilica. I stepped through a massive door anticipating the famous splendor of the interior, but it was dark and thick with dust. As my eyes adjusted, I perceived the floor was moving. In horror, I realized the movement was caused by hundreds of human beings on their hands and knees scratching in the dirt.

It was then I realized it was all a façade.

My sister said [that] dream of St. Peter’s Square startled her even though she had long since left Roman Catholicism. But it also prompted gratitude—in both of us, former Roman Catholics. Gratitude for having been invited entrance to God’s “rest” by faith [1], not by pilgrimage, homage, or scratching in the dirt for the price of admission. Gratitude for Jesus, who paid the cost in precious coin, His blood. And gratitude that St. Peter preceded us not in worldly pomp and glory but as the very first to declare the knowledge revealed by the Father that Jesus is the Son of the living God:

“When Jesus came into the coasts of Cesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the son of man am? / And they said, some say that thou are John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. / He saith unto them But whom say ye that I am? / And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God. / And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. / And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mathew 16: 13-18 KJV).

Memory withers, pomp and glory, even under a brilliant Mediterranean sun, fade, but the question—and the invitation—remain.


[1] Hebrews 4:1-11

Post updated.

NOTE: for more of my own experiences in, and coming out of, Roman Catholicism, read here.

Image of dazzle camouflage from here

Image of radio broadcast towers from Wikimedia Commons

Image of nose from Wikimedia Common

Image of coffee from Wikimedia Commons

Image of artificial turf from Wikimedia Commons

Photo from public domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:St-Peters-Square-and-St-Peters-Basilica.jpg

This entry was posted in Commentaries, Devotionals, dreams of instruction, end times spiritual survival, Ex-Roman Catholic/Catholicism, most recent posts, Out of the Fire: On Leaving Roman Catholicism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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