Original Research

Blindness: physical or spiritual? An attempt at an interdisciplinary analysis

Adam Rybicki, Andrzej Jastrzębski, Monika McNeill
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 41, No 1 | a2084 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v41i1.2084 | © 2020 Adam Rybicki, Andrzej Jastrzębski, Monika McNeill | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 February 2020 | Published: 27 July 2020

About the author(s)

Adam Rybicki, Department of Theology, Institute of Theological Sciences, John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Lublin, Poland
Andrzej Jastrzębski, Faculty of Human Sciences, St Paul University, Ottawa, Canada
Monika McNeill, Department of Psychology, School of Health and Life Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, United Kingdom


This article focuses on the issue of the weakness of human perception, which raises questions about the reasons for not recognising certain people and the mistakes related to such, at the level of both the physical and spiritual senses. The main issue here is why we do not recognise the face and figure of another person. One of the classic examples of this phenomenon is the meeting of Jesus with his disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13–35), where first Jesus is inexplicably unnoticed by the disciples, and then unrecognised. We attempt an interdisciplinary analysis of this event. Theological interpretations of the causes of this disability (e.g. as the effects of original sin) are insufficient, which is why they are supplemented with philosophical and anthropological interpretations, as well as contemporary empirical research on facial recognition conducted in the area of psychology. The article arrives at the conclusion that the results of the research on the defects in the mechanisms of perception found by psychologists, and a philosophical, as well as theological, analysis of human nature and theology do not contradict each other, but rather create a more complex (exhaustive) answer to the question posed.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: A strictly theological interpretation of human behaviour stems from original sin in that it has damaged human nature by constricting its cognitive abilities. This article goes beyond such a restrictive approach in exploring this absence of vision by including both the philosophical and empirical approaches used in psychology.


Emmaus; blindness; perception; distortion; interdisciplinary analysis


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