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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|

The Virgin Birth and Jesus’ Brothers

I am now ready to end this thread of posts dealing with the stories of Jesus’ virgin birth – told differently in Matthew and Luke, not at all in John, and seemingly argued against in the Gospel of Mark. Earlier I should have given some terminology so that we could all be on the sam page.   There are different terms that are often confused: Immaculate Conception. This doctrine is *not* about Jesus’ mother conceiving as a virgin; it is about Mary’s *own* mother and how she conceived Mary.   Mary, in Roman Catholic thinking, did not have a sin nature.  Otherwise she would have passed it along to Jesus.  But how could Mary not have one, if she were born and raised like every other human?  The answer came in the medieval notion of the immaculate conception: Mary herself was conceived (by her mother Anna) miraculously: God did a miracle so that even though Mary was conceived through the sex act, she was not given a sin nature. Virginal conception. This is actually the view of [...]

2017-12-09T11:12:36-05:00January 3rd, 2015|Historical Jesus, History of Christianity (100-300CE)|

Jesus and Mary Magdalene

I pointed out in my last post that most people simply assume that Jesus was not married because there is no mention of his wife in any of our sources, or any mention that he ever had a wife. And so it is assumed that he did not have one. As Karen King pointed out in our discussion the other night at the Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, that is an argument from silence, and as such is not a very strong one – since, among other things, none of these sources indicates, either, that he was not married. And so this is not evidence in one direction or another. It’s a good point, but my own view is that the silence in this case is telling – though not for the reason people sometimes say. It is sometimes wrongly asserted – by no less authority than Dan Brown, in the Da Vinci Code – that if there was not claim that Jesus was not married that must mean that [...]

2020-04-30T12:46:02-04:00January 26th, 2014|Historical Jesus, Women in Early Christianity|

Visions of Mary

I wrote chapter five of How Jesus Became God today; there will be nine chapters altogether.  In this one I am talking about the visions of Jesus that the disciples had.  I think they really had visions.  Whether that's because Jesus really appeared to them or because they were hallucinating is the difference between believers and unbelievers, and as a historian, I don't feel particularly inclined to judge one way or the other.  As a non-believer, of course, I, well, don't believe it.   In any event, I think it's important to put visions of Jesus in the context of other kinds of visions, and here I have a short section on visions claimed (and documented) for the Blessed Virgin Mary. *********************************************************************************************************************** Also of relevance to our reflections is that visions of revered religious figures from the past are one of the best documented kind of visionary experience.   Here I can speak just briefly about the “appearances” of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and visions in the modern world of Jesus himself. The Blessed Virgin Mary René [...]

2020-04-03T18:41:07-04:00March 27th, 2013|Book Discussions|
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