If you are looking for a sign...

by Zardoz
Updated: July 23, 2018

If you are looking for a sign, you will probably see it - so it is a good idea to control this process

Most signs are misinterpretations of basic phenomena. Yet they affect us at a deep level. We can qualify the negative effect of bad signs with a little analysis and capitalize on a positive emotional response by controlling our own signs.

In modern society, people still believe in signs. Understanding why reveals how they can still be of use.


Pareidolia essentially means wrong image and is the perception of something that isn’t there based on optimistic pattern matching, e.g. two dots and a line look like a face.

This ability would have be naturally selected in ancient times, i.e. the ability to spot threats from minimal visual cues.

A short step on from this is the projection of desired images onto patterns. For example, the Rorschach inkblot test uses this to attempt to gain insight into a person’s mental state.


Given that pareidolia is rooted in survival, it is beneficial to pass on this knowledge without requiring direct experience: Better to tell your children not to eat the poisonous plants than let them learn by experience!

When the reasoning is not understood, a superstition can be created: When you see the sign, it means something good/bad but you don’t know what exactly.

Since avoiding danger is favorable to survival regardless of whether reasons why are understood or not, it can be argued that susceptibility to superstition has also been naturally selected.

Signs, logos & trademarks

Given that superstition is rooted in survival, it is natural to be comfortable with the significance of signs. The need for a business to have some kind of logo is often taken for granted, even though it may be unnecessary or undesirable.

One problem with signs is that the more abstract the concept, the less reliable is the encoding across different cultures and languages.

Another problem is the tendency for them to be self-fulfilling.

We notice what we’re focused on

Otherwise known as Attentional bias this is a cognitive bias where we attach excessive importance to something that coincides with what we are thinking about at the time.

I thought about something and received an e-mail about it the same day. But I had more than 300 e-mails that day and none of the others mentioned it. So was it a good sign or a bad sign?

Choosing signs

When it comes to making financial decisions, the issues are usually so abstract that “signs” can be very misleading.

That is not to say instincts don’t contribute something, it’s more the case that their relevance is diluted.

Sometimes my lucky number is significant. When I see it in financial charts it’s just a coincidence.

Inherited ideas cannot be relied on when the environment is different. If they arose from intelligence, they can and should be revised with intelligence.

Is a black cat good or bad? If it lives on vermin, it might mean you have rats. Alternatively, it might be keeping your house free of scorpions.

Creating signs

Sigil (from the Latin “sigillum” meaning seal) refers to medieval occult symbols for supernatural beings. The idea was revised by Austin Osman Spare into a modern way of represent ideas as symbols to leverage the subconscious mind and gain control.

In its simplest form, the unique letters from the written goal are converted into an abstract symbol (the sigil) which is ultimately ceremonially destroyed.

Personally, I haven’t had much luck with Spare’s method, probably because I don’t like the language-specific approach - it’s too contrived for me to accept.

More info

Pareidolia at reddit.com.

Sigil magic at houseofintuitionla.com.

Austin Osman Spare at hermetic.com.

Sigils and Seals at neuromagick.com.

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