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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 [...]

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

Several people have asked me about my claim that “group hallucinations” are possible. That is, 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. For example, if something weird is seen by a number of people, one of the persons in the group interprets 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 phenomenon.  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. Group Hallucinations - [...]

2022-06-28T23:52:32-04:00February 9th, 2016|Historical Jesus, Public Forum, Reader’s Questions|

Weekly Readers’ Mailbag: February 7, 2016

Time for my weekly mailbag.   Before dealing with two rather more direct questions that have come to me – one about eyewitness testimony and the other about whether I hope to get on Fresh Air and Colbert with the new book – I thought I would include an item that did not come to me from the blog, but on my Facebook page.  It’s a brief exchange I had with some anonymous figure.  I seem to have a lot of these.    Please excuse his/her (lack of) syntax; grammar is evidently not a strong suit.  But I think you get the idea of the question.  At least I thought I did.   FACEBOOK EXCHANGE:   bart you said on npr that you feel as that the eye witness all had visions or hallucinations.that jesus didn`t rise from the you really expect serious students of the word to accept that,do you know that the expert on the resurrection gary habermas of liberty university called your explanation total nonsense.the ration that over 500 people all experiencing the [...]

2017-11-16T21:26:23-05:00February 7th, 2016|Memory Studies, Paul and His Letters, Reader’s Questions|

Why I (Actually) Discuss Hallucinations

In this post I continue with my response to Larry Hurtado’s critique of How Jesus Became God.  In the previous posts I dealt with factual errors – where he assigned views to me that I do not state and do not have.  As I have pointed out, Larry was generous to retract these critiques in a subsequent post on his blog.   In this post I want to deal not with a factual mistake but with an assertion he makes about my motive for part of my discussion – an assertion that I take issue with. One of my major premises in How Jesus Became God is that Jesus was not considered divine during his lifetime, but that it was belief in his resurrection that made his followers begin calling him God.   But since my study is a historical account of how Jesus came to be considered God, rather than a theological or religiously motivated account, I have to deal with a very big problem, which is that historians cannot declare a God-produced miracle as a [...]

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