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Are Group Visions Possible?

I have received a number of interesting responses to my claim in yesterday’s post that it is possible for groups of people to have the same non-veridical vision (that is, hallucinations).  I used the phenomenon of the Blessed Virgin Mary: she seems to appear a good deal, to groups of people – sometimes large groups.  In this post I thought I would respond to two of the highly intelligent demurrals.

 

DEMURRAL:

As a former evangelical Protestant we believed that Roman Catholics who claim to see the Virgin Mary as a group are in a state of emotional hysteria and seeing an illusion not experiencing a group hallucination.  An illusion is a distorted perception of something that really is present, such seeing a stain on a wall or a cloud formation in a photograph and seeing the Virgin Mary or Jesus in it.  Many thousands of Roman Catholics claimed to have experienced a visitation of the Virgin Mary in Fatima Portugal not due to seeing and hearing a woman in flowing robes speak the same words to them and perform the same actions but because many of them came to the conclusion that the sun had moved in an unusual pattern.  This is not a group hallucination but an example of mass hysteria regarding an illusion.

 

RESPONSE:

              This is a very interesting distinction between an “illusion” and a “hallucination.”  The former…

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Pastor Goranson, the Son of God, and I: A Blast From the Past
Group Visions and Agnostic Jesus Scholars: Mailbag March 12, 2017

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Comments

  1. RonaldTaska  March 13, 2017

    Rumors are now called “alternative facts” and they are just a tweet away not 12 seconds away.

    The second question is a good one and the answer that the disciples may have been anticipating seeing Jesus after the reports of Peter and Mary is a good answer. Thanks

  2. erudite  March 13, 2017

    Why are Catholics the only ones who have visions of Mary? If she appeared to a non believer it would have more impact.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 14, 2017

      Yup! Same with JEsus at his resurrection: why didn’t he appear to Pilate, e.g., or Caiaphas?

      • dragonfly  March 14, 2017

        He had bigger fish to fry: Paul!

    • SidDhartha1953  March 15, 2017

      A Methodist woman I worked with at a Baptist hospital told me she had a vision of Mary when she was twelve years old. She decided it was Mary, I think, because the woman she saw resembled paintings or prints she had seen.

  3. John Uzoigwe  March 13, 2017

    Good point

  4. Epikouros  March 13, 2017

    About Paul’s reference to the “five hundred” who reportedly saw the risen Jesus (1 Corinthians 15): I don’t think these 500 are mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament. Just wondering why not. Did the story change, or were there different versions of the post-resurrection narrative floating around at the time?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 14, 2017

      Yes, my assumption is that this is a rumor Paul (but not the Gospel writers) had heard.

  5. talmoore
    talmoore  March 13, 2017

    Dr. Ehrman, I would never call myself an “expert” in cognitive psychology — my formal education was in the social sciences in general — but for the better part of two decades now I’ve consumed massive amounts of cognitive science literature for my research. What I can say is this. There seems to be a misunderstanding by the laity as to the causes and nature of so-called “mass hallucinations”. Mass hallucinations are not the result, necessarily, of every single person perceiving the *exact* same illusion, but rather are the result of everyone miscomprehending the same object and then only later coming to a consensus as to what it was they saw. In other words, it’s not that they are seeing (or mis-seeing) the very same illusion. It’s that they are all misperceiving the object in different ways and then deliberating afterwards in order to arrive at a shared explanation as to what it was they saw. And that makes this phenomenon a flaw in *collective memory* rather than collective perception. Cognitive scientists even have a term for this: retroactive interference. Here, I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about.

    Take, for instance, a group of, say, five people all witnessing the same crime. Later, police ask them, as a group, if they saw the hair color of the assailant. Four of the witnesses say they don’t remember. But the fifth says, “I think he had brown hair.” And then the cop asks the other four if that sounds right. Did the assailant have brown hair? The four think about it for a minute, look at each other, inquire of each other: “Does that sound right?” “Did you see brown hair?” “That sounds like it could be right, right?” And after a few minutes the entire group of five people will come to a consensus that, sure, why not, the criminal had brown hair. Did they ALL see a brown haired individual? No. But if you were to ask them all later, they will all “remember” seeing a brown haired individual. Why? Because they’ve all formed a “collective” memory of what they saw. This is a classic example of the so-called Misinformation Effect or retroactive interference. (Incidentally, this is why police usually interview witnesses apart from each other, so that they do not contaminate each other’s memories.) Even in cases where one person at first believes he or she saw something different from the rest of the group, the human need to conform to the group often makes that one hold out eventually come around to share the same collective memory of the group (cf. doubting Thomas).

    In most — I would suggest all — cases of “mass hallucination” this is likely what has happened. A group of people have all witnessed an event that either happened to fast to take in all the details or was so hard to make out in detail (i.e. ambiguous), that they are not, at first, able to comprehend or explain what it is they saw. But afterwards they will exchange bits and pieces, share hypotheses and speculations, and, eventually, they will arrive at some consensus as to what it is they experienced, even to the point of implanting shared collective memories. And — this is important! — their shared memory need not be an accurate representation of what it was they actually witnessed! They are unwittingly implanting false memories into each other. That, I think, is how so-called mass hallucinations are created.

    Here’s a link to a more detailed description by cognitive researchers of the Misinformation Effect and retroactive interference.
    http://personal.kent.edu/~mzaragoz/publications/Zaragoza%20chapter%204%20Garry%20Hayne.pdf

    • Bart
      Bart  March 14, 2017

      Yes, I pretty much agree. I began to look into “group memory” only after I wrote How Jesus Became God, but it is highly significant for the group visions, as you lay out here.

    • Gary  March 14, 2017

      Yes, I agree. I believe that this is what happens in a “group hallucination”. They all may experience “something” very generalized, such as “we all saw the Virgin Mary”, but if each of these individuals were interviewed prior to being able to discuss their experience with their peers, their descriptions of the “Virgin” would vary considerably. I believe that in the overwhelming majority of these cases, the participants were able to talk among themselves after the event. In doing so they developed a common story.

      I do not believe it is possible for any two people to have the same exact dream or the same exact hallucination. It is a medical impossibility. Groups of people can hallucinate about the same general topic, but not in the same detail. I want to see evidence from a respected medical journal to believe otherwise.

  6. Gary  March 13, 2017

    As a primary care physician of 26 years, I have never received a report from a psychologist in which he or she said my patient is experiencing a “vision”, veridical or non-veridical. This is a non-medical term. I do not believe that a psychologist would use it. It is possible I am wrong. If there are any psychologists reading this post it would be good to hear from them.

    I believe this discussion illustrates a very important point: Christians and skeptics need to be using the same terminology! If Christians are using the term “hallucination” as used by medical professionals and skeptics are using the term “non-veridical visions” we are going to misunderstand one another. In this instance, I suggest that skeptics and Christians use the terms used by all medical professionals, including psychiatrists:

    Delusion: a false belief held with the conviction that it is true despite being presented with overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Example: A widow who refuses to believe her husband is dead even though she attended his funeral.

    Hallucination: a false perception of something that is not there. Example: A widow who believes that her recently deceased husband appears to her at night, speaks to her, and touches her, is most likely experiencing hallucinations due to overwhelming grief. (there are other causes of hallucinations such as a high fever, metabolic disorders, mental illness, etc.)

    Illusion: a distorted perception of something that is there. A crowd of devout Roman Catholics who see a rock formation on a hillside and believe that it looks like the Virgin Mary and that it is an appearance of the Virgin Mary.

    Christians such as Habermas and Licona want to know how we skeptics explain the many group appearance claims in the Gospels and in the Early Creed. If we skeptics tell them that these were “group hallucinations”, Christians are going to laugh at us as being ignorant of the definition of “hallucination”, based on the medical definitions above. This is EXACTLY what Habermas and Licona do in their book! Here is a quote:

    “Hallucinations are not collective experiences. Hallucinations are like dreams in this way. Imagine that it is the middle of the night. You wake up your wife and say, “Honey, I just had a dream that we were in Hawaii. Come back to sleep and join me in my dream and we’ll enjoy a free vacation together.” It would be impossible for her to do so since a dream [like an hallucination] exists only in the mind of the individual.

    Gary: Groups of people can hallucinate at the same time. Groups of people can hallucinate at the same time about the same subject. Groups of people can hallucinate at the same time, about the same subject doing some general activity. Example: All eleven disciples, in a state of severe grief and sleep deprivation hallucinate seeing Jesus hovering above them. However, it is medically impossible that this or any other group of people could hallucinate the same DETAILED hallucination. If interviewed immediately after the hallucination, each disciple would have described the hallucination differently. Every child may dream about Christmas morning on Christmas Eve, but each dream about Christmas morning will be slightly different. No dream will be exactly the same. So too with hallucinations.

    I strongly suggest that we skeptics stop claiming that groups of people can have group hallucinations unless we specify that a group hallucination can only be about a very generalized subject: “We all saw the Virgin Mary.” They can never be detailed hallucinations. It makes us look foolish in the eyes of medical professionals and educated Christians. Yes, all the disciples at the same time and place could have hallucinated seeing Jesus, but if interviewed after the experience, each of their hallucinations would have been different. No two hallucinations, just like no two dreams, are ever identical.

    The detailed appearance stories in the Gospels CANNOT be explained by group hallucinations. I believe there are only two options to explain these stories: There really was a supernatural event or these stories are literary inventions.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 14, 2017

      Yes, this is a category named and discussed by psychologists/psychiatrists. You can find it, for example, in the

        Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

      of the American Psychiatric Association. I’m agnostic on whether groups really did see something, or if these are later oral/literary inventions. But I think the former is at least possible.

      • Gary  March 14, 2017

        Are you saying you believe it is possible for:

        1.) a group of people to hallucinate at the same time and place seeing “the Virgin Mary” in a vague, non-specific sense?

        or, are you saying you believe it is possible for

        2.) a group of people to hallucinate at the same time and place seeing “the Virgin Mary” in a red robe, black braided hair, pale brown eyes, who says the following: “On December 4, 2019, I, Mary the Mother of the Lord will return to earth and appear in front of the Lincoln Memorial for three hours” and who then touches the heads of three persons named Bob, JoAnne, and Cindy in the front row, before disappearing into thin air?

        That’s the issue. I think it is very easy for a group of devout Roman Catholics to work themselves up to an emotional point where they all have the expectation of seeing SOMETHING they all believe to be the Virgin Mary, but there is no way they are all going to experience the second scenario unless miracles really do happen. Christians such as Habermas and Licona believe that you and other skeptics are insinuating that the second scenario is possible and is therefore an explanation for the detailed appearance stories in the Gospels. I sincerely hope you do not believe this because it is medically impossible for two people to hallucinate such a detailed hallucination. Only if this group of people collude after the “appearance” to concoct a group story could they all claim to have seen the same “vision”. Medically, it is impossible.

        • Bart
          Bart  March 16, 2017

          See today’s post. I”m saying that it is possible for a group of people to have seen (to have remembered having seen) Mary appear to them, and possibly even to speak to them.

      • Gary  March 14, 2017

        I just spoke to a psychologist colleague. I asked her, “Have you ever used the diagnosis of ‘non-veridical vision’?” Her response was: What?? She had no idea what I was talking about. When I explained to her what I meant, she said, “Oh, you mean an hallucination.”

        I think you are in error, Dr. Ehrman. I strongly suggest you discuss this issue with a few psychiatrists and psychologists at your university. Such a term may be found somewhere within the DSM-5 but it is obviously not in common use if a prominent psychologist in a major US city has never heard of it.

        She also agreed with me that a group hallucination is impossible except for in a very general sense. Groups of people cannot hallucinate the same detailed hallucination. The parapsychology article posted below in the comments may say it is possible, but physicians, psychiatrists, and licensed psychologists do not believe it is.

        • Bart
          Bart  March 16, 2017

          Yes, I’ve been wrong before. 🙂 On the latter point, see today’s post.

    • Tony  March 15, 2017

      Thank you for your clarifying the various definitions.

      As far as your last paragraph – literary inventions, absolutely!

  7. Gary  March 13, 2017

    I recommend we skeptics stop using the biblical term “vision”. It is too vague and creates confusion. Instead, we should use: dream, illusion, or hallucination.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 14, 2017

      Psychologists do use the term vision, but differentiate between veridical and non-veridical visions. The problem with “dreams” is that in antiquity they did not differentiate as we do between waking visions and sleeping visions.

      • Gary  March 15, 2017

        If one is imagining images/scenes in one’s mind, whether while awake or asleep, that is a dream/day-dream. If one perceives while awake and with one’s eyes open an image to be truly present that is not, one is hallucinating. The term “vision” is NOT used by psychologists in my part of the country (the West Coast). I would encourage you to verify your claim with psychiatrists and psychologists at your university. With all due respect for your remarkable intelligence, I believe you are very mistaken on this point.

        It is fine to point out that the ancients called these experiences “visions” but I do not believe that we today should refer to them by this outdated term. There were either dreams, illusions, hallucinations, or real experiences (miracles).

        • Bart
          Bart  March 16, 2017

          OK, thanks. See today’s post. (Religion scholars do speak about visions, but I’m willing to yield on psychologists)

  8. wostraub  March 13, 2017

    I agree with Bart that group-visions might have been influenced by individual visions, so that the appearance of Jesus might have been an anticipated event after all. But I also believe it’s possible that the disciples could have cooked up the whole thing to bolster their newly-imagined solution to the death of their Messiah — that is, Jesus the Messiah was actually Jesus the Redeemer.

    By the way, my wife is a Coptic Egyptian who lived in Cairo during the 1968 apparition of Mary atop the Zeitoun Coptic Church. She didn’t see it herself, but her friends did, and to this day she fervently believes that thousands witnessed the actual Mary. Consequently, belief doesn’t necessarily have to be based on personal experience. And after 40 years of marriage, we still disagree as to what the people actually saw!

    • Bart
      Bart  March 14, 2017

      Ah, yes, one of the very important cases in point! Thanks.

  9. jhague  March 13, 2017

    Isn’t it true that when one person says that they see something or someone (even if they don’t see it) that other people will join in and say that they saw they same thing? If Peter was so distraught that he thought he saw Jesus, then he told Mary, she could decide that she saw Jesus too. They both of them tell more people, and some of those people say they saw Jesus and they tell more people and “Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.”

    • Bart
      Bart  March 14, 2017

      Yup!

      • jhague  March 14, 2017

        That’s my point about Paul. He wanted to join in with the rest of the group claiming visions. And he felt he needed the vision to give himself the authority that he wanted. Does it make sense that this might be the issue with Paul?

        • dragonfly  March 14, 2017

          You think Paul wanted to be part of the group he was persecuting?

          • jhague  March 16, 2017

            I don’t think Paul was persecuting anyone. I think he was aware of the floggings that occurred in the synagogue but he was not doing it.

      • doug  March 14, 2017

        Sounds a bit like “group-think”. I’ve seen it in churches – “my friends think such-and-such, and they’re good people who know what they’re doing, and I want to be a good person and be accepted by them, so maybe they’re right”.

  10. mreichert  March 13, 2017

    I certainly believe that non-veridical visions of Jesus after the crucifixion provide a plausible explanation for resurrection stories, but I am still doubtful that this provides the best explanation. My primary reason for doubt is that people can tell the difference between a non-veridical vision and an actual flesh and blood human. Of all the Mary visions that are documented, how many people claim to have held her hand, given her a hug, or taken her out to lunch? I think people recognize their visions of Mary as a spirit manifestation rather than as a physical body, therefore treat the vision much different than they would a normal human. The same cannot be said for all appearances of Jesus as documented in the New Testament.

    I wonder why you do not discuss the alternate hypothesis that Jesus was still alive when taken from the cross? Of course I know the usual arguments, that Jesus was pronounced dead and that he could not have survived the treatment that he endured, but is this really a true statement? If biblical accounts are to be believed (barring John’s spear-stabbing incident which I do not think happened because it is not consistent with the other gospels), Jesus was taken down from the cross after a relatively short time by folks who certainly would have been willing to care for him if he were not dead rather. This would have at least provided an additional possibility for survival. But mainly, the automatic assumption if someone is thought to be dead but later found alive is that the person was not actually dead. Why does this assumption seem to fit all cases except if it involves Jesus?

    One quick comment on the second part of yesterdays blog. My own story is that I care about the historic Jesus and early Christianity because most of my friends and family are devout Christians who periodically discuss their faith (and my lack thereof) with me. I like to have something to say rather than “I don’t believe you” when they say something about prophesy fulfillment or the resurrection or some other such matter. I have a feeling many people on this blog have a similar story.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 14, 2017

      Actually, the problem with non-veridical visions is that people almost always assume they *are* veridical.

      • SidDhartha1953  March 15, 2017

        Also, from what I have read by you and others (Crossan, for instance) the Romans did not allow loved one to remove victims from their crosses until they had been dead long enough to have decomposed and/or be eaten by scavengers, so the swoon theory seems like a fanciful hypothesis based on historical misinformation.

    • Gary  March 14, 2017

      I think the hypothesis that one or a couple of the disciples had an hallucination is more probable. People who have hallucinations do not recognize that they are not reality. They perceive them to be as real as any other event in reality. Therefore if they have a visual hallucination of a person, they will believe they have actually seen that person when they later recall that event. If Peter did betray Jesus, he not only would have experienced grief at the death of his friend and leader, but great shame at his betrayal. This severe emotional state accompanied by lack of sleep could have led to a delusional state in which he experienced hallucinations.

      Peter seems to have been a very convincing man. If he was able to convince a group of first century Jews to stop eating kosher just because he hallucinated seeing a floating sheet of unclean animals one afternoon, why couldn’t he have convinced the same group of first Jews that he had seen the resurrected Jesus in another hallucination?

  11. mannix  March 13, 2017

    To add to confusion, Webster’s 9th Collegiate lists “hallucination” under “illusion” as a “synonymous cross-reference”. Under “hallucination”, the term “delusion” is similarly listed. The three are not the same however.

  12. Stephen  March 13, 2017

    But what about dream visions as opposed to waking visions? I know this takes out the group experience aspect but the reason I bring it up is because I have had this experience myself, of a recently departed loved one appearing to me in a dream offering words of comfort and reassurance. I would go so far as to call the dream visionary not because I believe in the supernatural but because of the quality of the dream. It was vivid and overwhelming and I was truly comforted by it. I’m a modern secularist and perfectly comfortable with a psychological explanation – I had an experience because I needed to have it. But I ask myself what if I was an ancient person whose conception of the demarcation between the dream world and the waking world was not as fixed as ours?

    Would that have been enough do you think? Could the germ of the resurrection have been dream visions instead of waking visions? It’s been six years now and I’m still haunted by the experience. And even though I don’t interpret the event supernaturally the experience itself was certainly real enough even though in a dream.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 14, 2017

      As odd as it seems to us today, ancient people did not differentiate between waking visions and sleeping visions.

      • Wilusa  March 14, 2017

        No, but that doesn’t mean *we* can’t differentiate between the two phenomena and speculate that they were really having dreams. And that the visionary experiences they found most believable were the ones they had in dreams (as would be the case for most of *us*).

  13. godspell  March 13, 2017

    I’m at a loss to understand why people would be so skeptical about this.

    Is it because they want to believe the early Christians were lying? Because there never was a real Jesus, or because they never thought he really rose from the dead? Obviously there was, and they did. And there is nothing so hard to believe about this. People believe they’ve seen UFO’s, Bigfoot, The Loch Ness Monster, Elvis in the supermarket–in the present day! Obviously the disciples had been prepared to see a risen Jesus, if Jesus did, in fact, tell them he’d rise. Or even if he merely said something that could be interpreted that way.

    And if some people in a group of Christians said they saw Jesus–how many of those who didn’t would be willing to say so? We all know the story of Hans Christian Anderson’s naked Emperor. And we can all think of more serious delusions occurring in the present day.

    Loren Eiseley didn’t call us The Dream Animal for nothing. We make our own realities.

  14. Eskil  March 13, 2017

    Seeing dead people isn’t that unusual. It alone cannot explain the birth of Christianity.

    A study in Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica reports that “Half of the subjects felt the presence of the deceased (illusions); about one third reported seeing, hearing and talking to the deceased (hallucinations)” in 1993.
    Source: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1600-0447.1993.tb03332.x/abstract

    Seeing a dead person should not be a reason to believe that he/she is a god.

    But I can believe Bart’s view that combined with the Jews’ apocalyptic views the visions made Peter and Paul etc. to believe (if they actually believed) and preach that resurrection had already started (but not ended yet).

    It’s also evident from Paul’s letters that not all shared their views:
    1 Corinthians 15:12 “how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?”
    2 Timothy 2:18 “They say that the resurrection has already taken place”
    Luckily, history is on the side of his opponents.

  15. mjt  March 13, 2017

    In the ‘minimal facts’ argument, it’s usually worded something like ‘the disciples had experiences they interpreted to be of the risen Jesus.’ They might include the notion that some of these experiences were in groups. This statement has always seemed too vague to me to be meaningful. It doesn’t say how many disciples had these experiences, how many expected to have experiences but didn’t, how many group experiences, what kind of experiences they had…do you think a statement like this (that most scholars supposedly agree with) is meaningful in any way?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 14, 2017

      It’s more meaningful than saying that they had *no* such experiences!

  16. TWood
    TWood  March 13, 2017

    But even if skeptics end up “seeing” a vision, it’s still not the same because they went there focusing on visions (whether they did or didn’t expect to see one). So maybe a better word than “expect” would be “focus.” Focus can do strange things to people’s minds regardless of their actual expectations (our minds are tricky that way). I’d argue the earliest visions of Jesus (e.g. Peter, Mary, John) were not focused on visions of Jesus (they weren’t skeptics or believers—Jesus appearing to them shortly after his death was not an idea they’d ever thought of, much less focused on). The appearances (the earliest ones) seem to come out of nowhere, which is probably why they had such strong impacts on these individuals (they probably reasoned that these visions didn’t come from within their minds, so they must have come from outside of their minds, which would make believing these visions were real and from God easier). I’m not arguing this proves they are verdigal (real) or non verdigal (not real). But I think it’s hard to argue the earliest disciples’ visions of Jesus were the same as Catholics or skeptics who focus on visions. The evidence doesn’t seem to support the first disciples would be focused on Jesus appearing to them, so it’s hard to imagine they were, and yet at least a handful seem to have all really believed Jesus did appear to them. It’s a very strange historical occurrence no matter what, but I’m just wondering what your thoughts are on using the word “focus” instead of “expect” in order to highlight the differences between what Peter and Mary saw and what a bunch of gathered people who are focused on whether or not Mary will appear.

  17. Josephsluna
    Josephsluna  March 13, 2017

    Bart, have you ever heard of the saying, ” Zeus the Highest?”

    • Bart
      Bart  March 14, 2017

      Yup! I talk about it in my forthcoming book.

      • Josephsluna
        Josephsluna  March 14, 2017

        Is ” Zeus the Highest” found on a statue at the bottom of Mount Olmypus? What does ” The Highest ” mean to you? If you could tell me what “The Highest” means to you, would be great!

        • Bart
          Bart  March 14, 2017

          I don’t know if it is. It means that Zeus is the ultimate God, and possibly the only one who deserves fully to be considered God. the term was applied not only to Zeus, though. More often the term was simply “The Highest God” and he was left unnamed.

          • Josephsluna
            Josephsluna  March 14, 2017

            Oh yes, I have heard of that. The statue was headless found by a near by river bed by Dion, Pieria? So what your saying is Zeus is the only one that mattered .. Where Christians and Jews come up with one God ….

            Olmypus never fell
            Olympians Gods are very real
            (In the eyes of my mind and heart of course)

          • Bart
            Bart  March 16, 2017

            No *I’m* not saying Zeus is the only one who matters. But in antiquity there were pagans who thought that he was above all other gods (or that the other gods were simply aspects of who Zeus was)

          • godspell  March 15, 2017

            Would this concept be more likely to occur in societies that had a strong king or emperor over them?

            And conversely, less likely to occur in less centrally organized societies?

          • Josephsluna
            Josephsluna  March 15, 2017

            My question Bart, does Dion mean Zeus named after the city at the bottom of Mount Olmypus..?

          • Bart
            Bart  March 16, 2017

            I’m not sure of the etymology of either Dion or Zeus.

        • talmoore
          talmoore  March 14, 2017

          In the Bible Yahweh is often called El Elyon — אל עליון — the “highest god”. It was a common epithet throughout the Mediterranean and Near Eastern world.

          • Josephsluna
            Josephsluna  March 16, 2017

            LOL
            Thank you

  18. Zboilen  March 13, 2017

    Hi Bart, do you think that that the 1 Corinthians 15 creed implies group appearances to the apostles? I ask this because the creed says that 500 people saw Jesus “at the same time” but the other appearances in the list don’t mention that they saw Jesus at the same time. What do you think Paul means when he says that Jesus appeared to the 12? All at once? Or one apostle one day then another a day later etc.

  19. Jana  March 13, 2017

    How do magicians like Criss Angel or Copperfield produce mass hypnosis with one of their tricks that EVERYONE sees? Is what you are suggesting like this? Have you treated this theme in any of your books (that I’ve yet to read 🙂 ?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 14, 2017

      I wish I knew! It’s amazing.

      • SidDhartha1953  March 15, 2017

        I don’t know about Angel, but I think Copperfield’s biggest stunts are done for television. I presume his making the Statue of Liberty vanish involved two islands, one undeveloped, and a large crowd of paid shills to act amazed and say they saw it happen. The Grand Canyon levitation was just pathetic. You could see the outline around him from putting him in front of a blue screen or whatever.

    • Jason  March 14, 2017

      A usual example is that Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear by framing the audience’s view of it across the bay through stage curtains and then slowly rotated the platform that the audience and stage shared so that when he opened the curtains again they were looking out into the ocean instead. Magicians use what they call “misdirection” (though not usually this literally) to make you think what you’re seeing is something other than what you really are seeing, but you’re still actually seeing something-does that differ from what you mean by a “non-veridical vision?”

      • Bart
        Bart  March 16, 2017

        Yeah, I *saw* that (OK, on TV) and was massively impressed! And wondered how he did it….

  20. steelerpat  March 13, 2017

    Great stuff. So , assuming the visions were entrenched in reality, how does anyone know what Jesus or Mary really looked like? A silly stretch , but what if jesus shaved? For example.? Who were people really seeing??.!

    • Bart
      Bart  March 14, 2017

      Right — and how did Paul know he was seeing Jesus? (Or on the Mount of Transfiguration, how did Peter know he was seeing Moses and Elijah?)

  21. John1003  March 14, 2017

    Given that you believe that the stories in the bible were embelished upon and changed even before they were written down. On what would you base your belief that anyone claimed to have a vision of Jesus. Secondly, if they did claim it then why believe them. I bet religious people lie about these things to validate their message all the time. I think there are many miracle stories passed around the Christian community that never happened.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 14, 2017

      I’m afraid there’s a long answer to that, which I give in my book How Jesus Became God. Short answer: it is massively documented that people claimed to see Jesus alive after his death, and it is always *this* and not something else (e.g., and empty tomb) that convinces them he was raised. SOMETHING had to convince them. If not this, I’m not sure what….

  22. Jason  March 14, 2017

    If th disciples wanted the apocalypse to come quickly in an intense enough way, and they really did think Jesus could/would bring it about, wouldn’t a resurrected Jesus be exactly what they thought they’d see?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 14, 2017

      Only if they were expecting a messiah to be raised from the dead at the end. But there is nothing suggesing they expected this — they are always massively surprised to see him when he does appear.

      • llamensdor  March 15, 2017

        You’ve used “massively” in a couple of answers. What does that word mean in these circumstances?

        • Bart
          Bart  March 16, 2017

          It’s my new favorite word. It means “mongoongous” (which was my favorite word for bigly in high school)

  23. MikeDavis  March 14, 2017

    Bart,

    You might find this essay, titled “Theories About Collective Apparitions” interesting:

    http://psi-encyclopedia.spr.ac.uk/articles/theories-about-collective-apparitions

    • Bart
      Bart  March 14, 2017

      Thanks!

    • Wilusa  March 14, 2017

      Hmm. I didn’t have time to read this in detail, but I was intrigued upon realizing a good many people are willing to consider some form of telepathy! What I think is that in *some* cases, an individual who has telepathic capabilities (with or without knowing it) experiences a hallucination, and “broadcasts” it (again, knowingly or not) into the minds of others who are nearby. So they all experience the same hallucination. It would be similar in a way to someone’s hypnotizing them; but the “hypnotist” would himself be experiencing the “vision,” and he’d be transmitting it to others mentally rather than verbally.

      Of course, if someone was capable of doing that intentionally, it would be a very dangerous power.

  24. Hormiga  March 14, 2017

    I’m sure this has been remarked on before, but there’s a lot of similarity between reports of religious visions and UFO sightings. About fifty years ago there was a study (“The Condon Report”) that had some discussion about such: http://files.ncas.org/condon/text/s6chap02.htm .

    • Bart
      Bart  March 16, 2017

      I actually talk about UFO’s in my book on memory, Jesus Before the Gospels.

  25. Eskil  March 14, 2017

    Bart, you seem to rarely refer Pentecostal Christians that experience “miracles” in their meetings. They believe collectively that for example speaking in tongues is a sign of baptism in the Holy Spirit. Doesn’t that sound kind of similar to a group visions? Group of believers are in trance or mass hysteria and experience similar symptoms?

    http://www.psychohistorian.org/display_article.php?id=200508010351_speaking_in_tongues.content

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_hysteria

    • Bart
      Bart  March 16, 2017

      Yes, I experienced that took, numerous times, in my hard-core conservative Christian days (I was charismatic for a time)

  26. Wilusa  March 15, 2017

    I thought of posting an explanation of why I believe mind-to-mind contact is possible, but realized it would be an excessively long post. So instead, I created a new essay at FictionPress:

    https://www.fictionpress.com/s/3303139/1/A-Meeting-of-Minds

    • dragonfly  March 17, 2017

      Wow, spooky! I vaguely remember the ghost and Mrs Muir as a TV series. Don’t remember much about it but I think it was black and white. My wife has had a number of experiences where different people seem to have been able to pick up information about her. Some have been in churches and they would say it was God or the holy spirit. But others have other beliefs. Looking back she has decided they were “picking up messages” off her. Not that she was sending any, or even understood it at the time. But some of the information they got she understands what it was now. I don’t know what to make of it. None of it was helpful in any way.

      • Wilusa  March 17, 2017

        That “Ghost and Mrs. Muir” TV series was a comedy, and I never looked at it. The *movie* was definitely in black and white, and it was very romantic. A very old movie, starring Gene Tierney and, I think, Rex Harrison. Mrs. Muir’s little girl was played by then-child actress Natalie Wood, who’d be in her late seventies now if she were still alive.

  27. SidDhartha1953  March 15, 2017

    Do you have a preferred explanation for why all the canonical gospels say Mary was at least the first to “know” Jesus had been raised, if not the first to see him, yet Paul doesn’t mention her at all. Was she dead by the time Paul had his first meeting with Peter or off apostling elsewhere, and none of the male apostles cared to give her credit? I find it hard to believe a tradition of a woman being first to witness the Resurrection being invented after Paul’s ministry.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 16, 2017

      I think it’s because she may have been the first to claim to have seen Jesus after his death.

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