Only the Hearing is Safely Believed – A Meditation on How Faith Comes by Hearing, Powerfully Demonstrated in a”Video”

102314In the video below there is a fascinating demonstration of what is known as the McGurk Effect, wherein what we hear is strongly influenced by what we see. Though the sounds heard in the experiment are exactly the same, when the visual cues change we hear another sound. Even knowing the “trick” does not change the effect.

And this is a paradigm for faith, if you ask me.

Scripture speaks often of the fact that faith is a matter of hearing rather than seeing:

  1. So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Rom 10:17).
  2. For we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7).
  3. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face (1 Cor 13:12).
  4. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? (Rom 8:24)
  5. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb 11:1).
  6. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy (1 Peter 1:8).
  7. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (Jn 20:29).

So while many say, “Seeing is believing,” it really isn’t so. Seeing is just seeing. Faith comes by hearing.

Now this principle is very important, for many of the truths of our faith are “mysterious.” The use of the word “mysterious” here does not mean to imply that the truths are spooky or strange, but rather that what we “see” or intellectually grasp of them is but a small part, and that the greater part of is hidden from both our sight and our intellect. Since this is so, we must be taught the faith through hearing. Receiving the faith by hearing gives us a prophetic interpretation of the reality we perceive through our other senses.

Consider especially the sacraments. What we see is often very limited.

At a baptism, our eyes may see merely water being poured out. But with faith, granted though our hearing of the sacred words, we grasp the deeper meaning: that sins are being washed away, that new life is being conveyed, and that a heavenly inheritance is being bestowed.

At a wedding, our eyes may see merely a man and a woman. But as we hear their vows proclaimed, we must disregard what our eyes see (still two) and grasp through faith what our ears tell us from the very Word of Jesus: They are no longer two, but one and what God has joined together, let no one divide (Matt 19:6). Faith comes by hearing.

Regarding the Holy Eucharist, St Thomas lovingly wrote in the hymn Adoro Te Devote,

Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur.  (Sight, touch, taste, in thee falter.)
Sed auditu solo tuto creditur. (But the hearing alone is safely believed.)
Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius; (I believe whatever the Son of God has said;)
Nil hoc verbo veritátis verius. (Nothing is truer than this word of truth.)

So again, the eyes deceive; we must believe through what we hear. The world and the flesh are always demanding to see, but faith comes by hearing. There may be some “motives of credibility” that seeing can give, but, frankly, the eyes are too easily deceived; we are often misled by what we see.

And that brings us to the video. As has already been mentioned, the sound in the video remains unchanged, but when the visual cue changes, we insist that the sound has changed. But it hasn’t. Yet even knowing this, we tend to trust our eyes more than our ears and insist on what we see rather than what we hear.

But then comes the strangest thing of all. The BBC announcer, almost in a subconscious illustration of the McGurk effect, comes to precisely the WRONG conclusion. She says, “The McGurk effect shows us that what we hear may not always be the truth.” Wrong! And exactly backwards! The McGurk effect demonstrates that what we SEE may not always be the truth. Stubbornly, she then reiterates, “So we can’t always trust what we hear.” But again, wrong in terms of this experiment and exactly backwards! It is what we SEE that we cannot trust in this instance. Indeed a very strange error on her part and almost Freudian in its psychological significance.

In the end, I hope you “see” what I mean: faith comes by hearing. And it is a very important dimension of faith to not let our eyes or other senses override our ears. The eyes and other senses can supply us with certain data, even motives of credibility. But in the end it is through hearing and the Word of God, heard, that we have a prophetic interpretation of the reality perceived by our other senses. Faith, which comes by hearing, is a prophetic interpretation of reality: Sed auditu solo tuto creditur.

Enjoy the video; it’ll mess with your mind but it confirms an important truth.

6 Replies to “Only the Hearing is Safely Believed – A Meditation on How Faith Comes by Hearing, Powerfully Demonstrated in a”Video””

  1. One thing (besides a couple of others, such as that I remember what I see much more readily than what I hear) that bothers me about some churches not wanting the congregation to read the Gospel along with the lector: quite a few times I’ve heard the lector, in stumbling along with his reading, SAY the exact opposite of what the Gospel text said. They (several persons, in various churches) never stopped and corrected themselves. If someone didn’t have the text before them, they might not have known. It bothers me.

  2. Test it. Watch the video 3 times. Once, as is. Second, with volume up and eyes closed. Third time, volume down, eyes open. Fascinating. Proves what the author is saying. It is what we see that may not always be the truth.

  3. Interesting ..and hopefully , a good means to propagate devotion to Divine Mercy image as well –
    the Vilnius original ,like in here – ; if what we see has such effect on how we hear ( hope I am not mistaken in the interpretation ) , then, in our times flooded with so many images that tend to cater to the carnal nature , is it not real mercy that The Lord wants this image venerated at every place and promises much for same – having read how this is the only image done at the explicit request of The Lord Himself !

    The Fatherly, compassionate gaze – would that not be the antidote to much that afflicts us , since every sin is said to be related to the Father wound of possible percieved rejection and related deep hostilities ;
    has there been any other times when so many ( from all the fathers that were lost in wars and broken families ) have faced same and is even the obsession with football ( or nay sport , for that matter ) is that too a symptom , may be deeply hoping that, that ball of pigskin that all those men seem to fight for , is one’s own personification of being wanted by someone, not able to see The Face that ever waits , for that glance from His child , with the related confused drives and runs , after empty hearts !

    Having heard how for those who stll have woundedness in mother relationships, Rosary is not an easy devotion ( and that Mother wound might be even in relationship to Mother Church ) , wonder if the slowness to this devotion / image can be a barometer of Father wounds , that could need deliverance prayers , including the binding away prayers , before one gets led to being able to utter more from the heart – Our Father and include all persons that one wants to be able to accept that Father love , to thus be real men /fathers !

    May all the fathers in our lives , in the Name of Jesus ( with hearts full of Fathelry love ) , take authority of each and every ( unholy) spirit , in all our lives and bind them away , to let The Lord be The Lord , who reveals to us The Father , that having seen Him, we see The Father , thus to cleanse and heal relationships from carnal holds and its hatreds , into the joy of pure love , knowing and trusting in the One that one knows is Love itself !

    Thank you to all fathers , esp. in the priesthood, who strive to show The Father , in The Lord and helping the women, to be what they are meant to be as helpmates from God , for the men in their lives , so that all can be children , in Him – images and words all abounding in these truths, in our holy faith and Church !

  4. This is really interesting. Thank you for sharing. I went back and listened with my eyes closed, and indeed, I only heard the Bah sound even when with the picture I saw the Fah sound. The human brain is so very interesting, and I never considered how much our hearing actually involves a visual component. I know that deaf and hard of hearing often read lips, but I never considered how much I read lips without realizing it. I suppose there is some vast research into how babies learn to distinguish sounds based on facial expressions. But this is a fascinating tidbit.

  5. “So while many say, “Seeing is believing,” it really isn’t so. Seeing is just seeing. Faith comes by hearing.”

    Msgr, I agree with other responses, sometimes what we hear is not true. If a lector misspeaks or a priest forgets a critical part of his homily, then what have you?

    I actually think this blog post is an even GREATER call to Catholics to live our faith more visibly, to back up what we are saying. Non and former believers too often did not hear what was said because they believed what they saw, that happiness can be found on earth. We must live the Gospel as we speak it, giving weight to the truth of it.

  6. Apologies – a correction in the wording of the ‘binding prayer ‘ – it was to read ‘ In Name of Jesus , I take authority over each and every spirit that has come against ( name persons) and I bind you away .’

    Having read how the enemy is a legalist , guess one has to be careful in the words as well as the right kind of authority ;
    With Halloween around , may be many can practice these prayers and others, in the book Freedom through Deliverance , by Rev.Fr.Carl Schmidt . Apologies for sounding like a broken record but hoping that this book would be a real counter , having far greater effect world over, than the one by Karl Marx that set communism as wild fire .

    And who knows , come next October , we might have a great celebration of family life , filled with gratitude for what these deliverance prayers and related attitudes of the heart can do , like it did for the plague, with the discovery of its relationship to mice, from the narrative of the return of the Ark , with the five golden mice , for the outbreak of plague among those who captured it illicitly !

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