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Are “Group Hallucinations” Possible? The Case of Mary.

Several people have asked me about my claim that “group hallucinations” are possible – that is, that a “vision” can be seen by many people at once.  It seems counter-intuitive: aren’t hallucinations by definition the inner workings of a person’s mind?  How can more than one person have the same hallucination at the same time?

Well, I’m not sure how that works, psychologically.  My guess is that there is a strong sociological component as well – i.e., that something weird is seen by a number of people, one of the persons in the group nterprets it, and the rest agree that Yes, that is indeed what they saw.  But that’s just my guess.  Maybe some of the trained psychologists on the blog can tell us.

But in any event, it is a well-documented phenomonen.  Here is the query from one of the people who asked the question, specifically with respect to the modern-day appearances of Jesus’ mother, Mary, followed by a brief discussion of the phenomenon taken from my book How Jesus Became God.

 

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QUESTION:  Bart, when you refer above to “the hundreds of people who say they have, at one and the same time, seen the Blessed Virgin Mary” what apparition or apparitions are you referring to? Can you give some background details please? Thank you!

 

RESPONSE:  Here is a brief discussion taken from my book:

 

The Blessed Virgin Mary

René Laurentin is a modern-day Catholic theologian and expert on modern apparitions, who has written many books on the topic.[1]  He has a degree in philosophy from the Sarbonne in Paris, and two PhDs, one in theology and one in literature.  He is not your average intellect.   And he deeply and sincerely believes that Mary – the mother of Jesus who died 2000 years ago — has appeared to people in the modern world and that she continues to do so.  Here I give just two examples from his writings.

In Cua, Betania, in Venezuela, a woman named Maria Esperanza Medrano de Bianchin received peculiar spiritual powers: she could tell the future, levitate, and heal the sick.  The Virgin Mary appeared to her…

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On the Accuracy of Oral Traditions
Upcoming Debate!

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  1. Avatar
    PeloniAlmoni  February 26, 2016

    There are also examples where an individual’s vision report has probably later become reported as a vision shared by a group of people. This has direct application, of course, to the New Testament’s literary accounts of appearances to various groups of people at a single time. The online article here http://tinyurl.com/jhhf6ya provides four examples:
    1. Ashurbanipal’s vision of the Goddess Ishtar/Astartes, reported as seen by his whole army;
    2. Constantine’s vision seen only by himself (Lactantius) or by his whole army (Eusebius);
    3. Alexander’s dream-vision about the siege of Tyre, also had by many Tyrians (per Plutarch);
    4. A ghostly vision probably originating with one townsperson, reported as shared by all the townspeople (Sefer Chasidim).

    While it is possible in each case that the underlying ‘experience’ (if any) might have been ‘shared’, I agree that the claim of a mass vision in each case looks like a development in the reporting of what was originally an individual vision. In either case, the reporting of a mass vision is a quite understandable development on naturalistic grounds.

  2. Avatar
    Como  March 20, 2016

    A similar event occurred in Lubbock, TX when I lived there in 1988. From the article:

    “Then, in the middle of mass, and shortly before dusk, the sun broke dramatically through a gathering curtain of clouds. Shrieks went up from the lawn, and many of those assembled cried, prayed and pointed toward the sky. Some said they saw Jesus in the heavens, some saw the Virgin Mary, some saw the gates of heaven. Others, including a number of priests, stood by, craning their necks but seeing nothing unusual at all.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/1988/08/17/us/lubbock-journal-reports-of-miracles-draw-throngs.html
    http://articles.latimes.com/1989-04-10/news/mn-1686_1_virgin-mary-crucifix-guide-dog
    http://www.upi.com/Archives/1988/08/15/Between-10000-and-15000-pilgrims-cried-pointed-to-the/2066587620800/
    http://lubbockonline.com/stories/081008/loc_316883103.shtml#.Vu8HD_lVikq
    http://lubbockonline.com/life/2013-08-11/westbrook-st-john-neumann-chalked-record-attendance-25-years-ago#.Vu8Hi_lVikp
    http://lubbockonline.com/slideshow/2013-08-08/1988-feast-assumption#slide-1

  3. Avatar
    Judi  July 25, 2016

    Well if they saw her there would be no way to prove it. I can say , however, that when i was having a very hard night that two people some how pickedup on it I went to their church for a few years , one I knew the other woman I did not know. The woman I did not know phoned me the next morning , but my number was unlisted and she did not dial my number. She dialed the Pastors number but got me . My number was no where near the same Karen asked who she was talking to and when i told her who I was , she was so surprised. She said she dialed Pastor Dodson to get my phone number, but git me instead. The one woman that I did know called me later that day and said she felt I had a bad night .She said she woke up ln the middle of the night singing to God, and believed it was for me. She then said it upset her husband and he kicked her off the bed to shut her up.

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