Lourdes, Medjugorje, Zeitoun, Fatima and other Big Things

#1
It has been a long time since I attempted to discuss Marian apparitions and attendant miracles at Skeptiko. The last time might predate my PhD work almost four years ago. Why is this? Do all critics simply know that these things are always the delusions of religious fanatics or cynical deception? I can understand the willingness to embrace such explanations, but the history of at least some of these events is very solidly attested to by many witnesses.

Lourdes has skeptic doctors employed to disprove the medical miracles, even one with a Nobel prize, yet they keep happening. In Medjugorje, local officials did everything they could think of to prevent the strange events from happening, resorting even to throwing a group of children in prison, yet the events continued to occur. At Zeitoun, thousands of people have seen the apparition and it has been photographed. And what about the miracle of the Sun in Fatima, witnessed by between 30,000-100,000 people? Explain the celestial event as you like, it remains unique and it was predicted in advance. It may have been a solar flare, a comet, mass hysteria, or any other thing you care to fancifully imagine, but it happened to tens of thousands of people simultaneously after being predicted in advance. That remains amazing no matter how you care to interpret the event.

These types of events are so much more powerful than statistical inferences drawn from laboratory data that I wonder why they don't come up more often here. Is it because critics disregard them as ridiculous and everyone else don't feel like bearing the brunt of unfounded ridicule? I know I hesitate to raise topics that have religious connotations, but these kinds of events lend some credibility to some religious ideas. If religion isn't all wrong, if God is real (for instance) does it not make sense to pursue lines of inquiry when they are presented, such as these Marian apparitions?

AP
 
#2
These types of events are so much more powerful than statistical inferences drawn from laboratory data that I wonder why they don't come up more often here. Is it because critics disregard them as ridiculous and everyone else don't feel like bearing the brunt of unfounded ridicule? I know I hesitate to raise topics that have religious connotations, but these kinds of events lend some credibility to some religious ideas. If religion isn't all wrong, if God is real (for instance) does it not make sense to pursue lines of inquiry when they are presented, such as these Marian apparitions?
I do think these major events are important. However, this forum has taken on a sort of collective momentum, which is not down to any one individual, nor even to any particular subgroup of members. That seems to have given rise to an overall picture of which topics are suitable for discussion here.

I think of it like a Venn diagram, with intersecting circles representing the particular areas of interest of each member. Where the circles overlap in the middle is a relatively tiny area that seems to interest almost everyone. but it's a complex pattern, the circles overlap in a kind of mesh, with lots of enclosed areas representing the common interests of some members. I often feel that rather more than 50% of what is discussed here is of no interest to me, but I still hang around for rest.

When something is posted which doesn't fall within the shared interests of a significant number of active members, it's not so much that it is shouted down or treated with hostility, it's more that the lack of overall interest tends to let such discussions quietly fade into the background.

From what I've observed, I think perhaps the most central two ideas which seem to be the focus of this forum are those of "science" and "philosophy". Anything which doesn't fit squarely in the middle of one of those boxes tends to be pretty much neglected. (I'm sure I've over-simplified, but bear with me if you will). Of course when such momentum of a collective focus has built up, it becomes self-perpetuating, those who find themselves disinterested in those topics might not even join at all, while others drift away.
 
#3
There is a lot of anti-religious bias. If something has any religious element it is automatically discarded as false.

Many here unreasonably rely on recent western science as the determinant of truth. The devaluation of experience and history limits broader discussions.

Skeptico can be helpful for showing areas of fixed belief, but it has not shown ability to move most people out of their particular fixed idea. Perhaps only personal experience and willingness to seek experience is the key to the door.
 
#4
There is a lot of anti-religious bias. If something has any religious element it is automatically discarded as false.
I think you're right about that. Perhaps I show that bias myself, but its more the case that I don't adhere to any specific religion, so am sometimes uncomfortable with some of the details which are expressed, rather than the concept as a whole.

Many here unreasonably rely on recent western science as the determinant of truth. The devaluation of experience and history limits broader discussions.
Also it often seems the first, and perhaps only question which is focussed upon is "can this be proved", or "can it be tested scientifically", while there are lots of topics which are worth exploring in depth even if they can never be proved. This does place severe limits on what subjects, and ways of looking at them, are considered suitable for this forum.

Skeptico can be helpful for showing areas of fixed belief, but it has not shown ability to move most people out of their particular fixed idea. Perhaps only personal experience and willingness to seek experience is the key to the door.
Personally I'm often disappointed in seeing how often people prefer to pay attention to the views of someone, anyone else, rather than their own, particularly when the views of the revered expert are obviously superficial in nature.
 
#5
D. Scott Rogo was a leading investigator of the paranormal back in the '70s and '80s. He wrote a book, "Miracles: A Parascientific Inquiry into Wondrous Phenomena", in which he attempted to scientifically analyze Marian apparitions and other Catholic miracles. He found more than enough evidence that the major events actually happened to real people in real space-time, with multiple witnesses to the anomalous effects.

The major alternative explanations are

(1) That these occurrences are actual visitations by a spiritual being or presence and show the truth of Catholic theology. Presumably that kind of explanation would be uncceptable to the vast majority of followers of this forum, both materialist skeptics and proponents, since Catholic and other religious theologies appear to be incompatible with the scientific world view.

(2) That these occurrences are manifestations of the paranormal - the psychic powers of human minds or other minds. Rogo came up with his own parapsychological theory that seemed to fit the evidence - where the phenomena are the psychic projections of the collective unconscious of masses of the faithful.
"....(it is) possible that they are projections of images latent in our minds which literally become temporarily real on rare occasions.....The key to understanding Marian apparitions may be in their tendency to occur at times of social and/or political crisis. At such times of stress, some form of mass telepathic communication may occur in the collective unconscious of the threatened culture. This may lead to the formation of a "group mind", which, in turn, results in the projection of a Marian visitation......The apparition, which might be compared to a thought form, merely echoes back the concerns of the people who have projected it....".
This theory could relate to the collective unconscious projection theory of UFOs.
 
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S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#6
The thought-form hypothesis reminds me of the Tulpa thread in CS.

I think one of the challenges is when you hear something about this it makes you wonder about all the other possible miracles like Hindu statues drinking milk or the curious astrological/meterological phenomenon centered around historical, IIRC at the time Shinto-majority Japan.

And then there's just the mass UFO sightings, historical recordings of Fey encounters, and the still AFAIK unexplained Hessdalen Lights.

I think some of these are better explained by mundane answers, but others are not so clear. And given the varied agendas at play obfuscating the search for Truth it does suggest Jacque Vallee has the right of it - the best thing might be to seek out the paranormal/Numinous on your own whether that's going to these sites or just trying out a spiritual path, casting a spell, seeking out mediums/astrologers, etc. (There's also taking psychedelics, though I'd be sure to read up on safe and cautious use in places like Neurosoup beforehand.)
 
#7
and show the truth of Catholic theology.
Actually I don't have a problem with that, even though I don't personally accept Catholic theology. Just as in an NDE where the beings one encounters may be strongly influenced by one's beliefs or cultural background, in the everyday world, our experiences are also affected by our culture and the belief systems with which we are familiar. For me this isn't a matter of any particular belief being the "right" one, but rather that spiritual messages are sent to us in a form which we can relate to and understand; this is no more remarkable than that we ourselves usually choose to speak to others in a language which they can understand.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#8
As a point of cautious skepticism, I would note that not everyone thinks the entities inspiring the world's religions are benevolent.

There are lots of possibilities in play even if/when we accept there's something immaterial going on. Johnathan Zap talks a lot about mind parasites, for example, or even the hungry dead utilizing religious conflict as a means to feed off emotional energy.
 
#9
It has been a long time since I attempted to discuss Marian apparitions and attendant miracles at Skeptiko. The last time might predate my PhD work almost four years ago. Why is this? Do all critics simply know that these things are always the delusions of religious fanatics or cynical deception? I can understand the willingness to embrace such explanations, but the history of at least some of these events is very solidly attested to by many witnesses.

Lourdes has skeptic doctors employed to disprove the medical miracles, even one with a Nobel prize, yet they keep happening. In Medjugorje, local officials did everything they could think of to prevent the strange events from happening, resorting even to throwing a group of children in prison, yet the events continued to occur. At Zeitoun, thousands of people have seen the apparition and it has been photographed. And what about the miracle of the Sun in Fatima, witnessed by between 30,000-100,000 people? Explain the celestial event as you like, it remains unique and it was predicted in advance. It may have been a solar flare, a comet, mass hysteria, or any other thing you care to fancifully imagine, but it happened to tens of thousands of people simultaneously after being predicted in advance. That remains amazing no matter how you care to interpret the event.

These types of events are so much more powerful than statistical inferences drawn from laboratory data that I wonder why they don't come up more often here. Is it because critics disregard them as ridiculous and everyone else don't feel like bearing the brunt of unfounded ridicule? I know I hesitate to raise topics that have religious connotations, but these kinds of events lend some credibility to some religious ideas. If religion isn't all wrong, if God is real (for instance) does it not make sense to pursue lines of inquiry when they are presented, such as these Marian apparitions?

AP
Yeah, I too used to wonder why some of those type things came up so seldom here. It's ridiculous how a hundred thousand people seeing a vision still seems, well, somehow not enough to convince people . . . specifically the fine skeptics here at skeptiko . . . and since it's so often about convincing others, it doesn't really work too well to just converse about such things . . .

There are several things I'm intrigued with that I believe fall under the skeptiko umbrella, but I don't bring them up for various reasons. I'm a firm believer (due to experience) in Neville-like new thought . . . and other things, too . . . but they just don't seem to fit here.

Not that I'm complaining too terribly much. It's still a great site.
 
#10
Side question... in Zeitoun and Fatima there were UFO-like phenomena.
Are there reports of similar occurrences in Medjugorie and Lourdes too?
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#11
As a point of cautious skepticism, I would note that not everyone thinks the entities inspiring the world's religions are benevolent.

There are lots of possibilities in play even if/when we accept there's something immaterial going on. Johnathan Zap talks a lot about mind parasites, for example, or even the hungry dead utilizing religious conflict as a means to feed off emotional energy.
Wanted to follow up on this, though I recognize it is a rather pessimistic option that's potentially worse than the possibility that there's nothing there at all. And from my own past feelings that I was touching the Numinous it's possible there are far more positive interpretations of what is going with spiritual experiences.

It's best to avoid getting too pessimistic about this sort of thing.

Anyway, on with the show ->

Here's Zap on Mind Parasites:

Explore the nature of “mind parasites,” a potent X factor that may account for much of the strange excesses of individual and collective darkness. What types of mind parasites are there and what do ancient traditions have to say about them? What connection do mind parasites have with biological parasites, energy sappers and vampires?

Here's his breakdown of the book The Siren Call of Hungry Ghosts, with the part mentioning religions being as follows:

The ex-spiritualist connects the phenomena she and Joe have experienced to UFO abductions which also frequently have a sexual component, and also to the origins of major religions,

…Nearly every religion in the world was initially based on psychic manifestations, visions on mountaintops, images of God appearing to prophets, voices in the mind—just as our modern day mediums hear voices, see visions. Indeed, I have heard of certainly more than one medium who claims her contact is Jesus or God himself.

These beings, in their different guises, have directly formed our very religions. And anyone who has studied the history of organized religion must be aware that (religion) has been responsible for more death and destruction than just about anything else. And yet we all stagger blindly on, oblivious to this manipulation for thousands of years…

Certainly the Gnostics would agree with this interpretation as they left many warnings that the evil entities they called “Archons” would manipulate us through religious ideologies. (see A Gnostic View of Mind Parasites)
I think the Siren Call of Hungry Ghosts is important because it shows the benefits of using your own reason and moral compass to steer you when someone starts asking you to contravene rationality and the instinctual sentiments born from Justice & Compassion.
 
#12
I know a bit of Fatima. I've heard a number of opinion, but the best one in my opinion was gave by a Catholic priest. It goes more or less like this:

That day, after the rain, the fog of the rain was enough to enable people to see directly into the sun and the such while waiting for the Miracle the kids predicted. If you see the sun directly for sometime without blinking, the radiation can affect the retina, and make the appearance the sun is spinning and the such. This, and perhaps a bit of selective memory modifications (interviews of the event, if IIRC, took many years. The first reports, in O'seculo and other secular newspapers didn't involve reports ), and a bit of mass hysteria may account for all this facts, including the views of the event that happened in the near town to Fatima.
 
#13
It has been a long time since I attempted to discuss Marian apparitions and attendant miracles at Skeptiko. The last time might predate my PhD work almost four years ago. Why is this? Do all critics simply know that these things are always the delusions of religious fanatics or cynical deception? I can understand the willingness to embrace such explanations, but the history of at least some of these events is very solidly attested to by many witnesses.

Lourdes has skeptic doctors employed to disprove the medical miracles, even one with a Nobel prize, yet they keep happening. In Medjugorje, local officials did everything they could think of to prevent the strange events from happening, resorting even to throwing a group of children in prison, yet the events continued to occur. At Zeitoun, thousands of people have seen the apparition and it has been photographed. And what about the miracle of the Sun in Fatima, witnessed by between 30,000-100,000 people? Explain the celestial event as you like, it remains unique and it was predicted in advance. It may have been a solar flare, a comet, mass hysteria, or any other thing you care to fancifully imagine, but it happened to tens of thousands of people simultaneously after being predicted in advance. That remains amazing no matter how you care to interpret the event.

These types of events are so much more powerful than statistical inferences drawn from laboratory data that I wonder why they don't come up more often here. Is it because critics disregard them as ridiculous and everyone else don't feel like bearing the brunt of unfounded ridicule? I know I hesitate to raise topics that have religious connotations, but these kinds of events lend some credibility to some religious ideas. If religion isn't all wrong, if God is real (for instance) does it not make sense to pursue lines of inquiry when they are presented, such as these Marian apparitions?

AP

Andy,

I wasn't familar with some of this. Do you recommend any good links, or books, where somebody could read up on these more. Or, even some youtube vids would be great.

Thanks!
 
#14
Andy,

I wasn't familar with some of this. Do you recommend any good links, or books, where somebody could read up on these more. Or, even some youtube vids would be great.

Thanks!
Ethan, two of the best English-language books about Fatima are these:

THE TRUE STORY OF FATIMA, by Father John DeMarchi (1952)

Our Lady of Fatima, by William Thomas Walsh (1954)

The books are old, and written from a religious perspective, but they're very well documented with respect to the history of the events, as well as the private lives of the seers. As a starting point for a modern discussion of Fatima, these books are invaluable.

The surviving seer, Lucia dos Santos, also penned some memoirs in the late 1930s and early '40s. You can read them here:

In Lucia's Own Words

Hope this helps.
Doug
 
#15
Ethan, two of the best English-language books about Fatima are these:

THE TRUE STORY OF FATIMA, by Father John DeMarchi (1952)

Our Lady of Fatima, by William Thomas Walsh (1954)

The books are old, and written from a religious perspective, but they're very well documented with respect to the history of the events, as well as the private lives of the seers. As a starting point for a modern discussion of Fatima, these books are invaluable.

The surviving seer, Lucia dos Santos, also penned some memoirs in the late 1930s and early '40s. You can read them here:

In Lucia's Own Words

Hope this helps.
Doug
Thanks Doug, much appreciated! I'll take a look at those.
 
#17

The Fatima Apparitions and the 'Miracle of the Sun,' 1915 - 1917
The apparitions at Fatima made waves in the Christian community, but examined in a different light, they could hold the same significance for ufologists, mystics, and modern consciousness researchers. Not only are the apparitions incredibly well attested to - with upwards of 70,000 witnessing the events’ culmination in October 1917 - but they are some of the most fantastical on record, blurring the lines between angels and aliens, miracles and mysticism.

 
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