The great hallucination

Starting from this point from the Scientology thread…

Thanks for the response!

I would argue that it is impossible for the hallucination explanation to be true in terms of ‘miracle’ ( or in general for many reasons, but we’ll stick to your response for now ) Simply because ‘miracle’ involves God (or greater than natural power, if desired) by definition. Explaining away the ressurection by way of a mass hallucination and linking it to the word miracle, would seem to be against the definition of miracle.

Thus, to your conclusion, I would agree! The hallucianation if true, would not be more miraculous - because it would not be a miracle, it would be a natural event, not including necessary factors to be a miracle (namely ‘unexplainable’ because we would be explaining).

With regard to the ressurection, I would also conclude the impossible is not possible - people don’t rise from the dead on their own power. (at least I haven’t seen it yet)

So now we come to the true test of faith, two roads (in this case) - people’s life experience and explanations, or a theory not considered for centuries after the event. A potential natural theory which we can only argue might have happened this one time ever as there is no other period in history where we make this claim. - that hundreds of people, in many locations, hallucinate over the same subject, inclusive of sitting and eating with their hallucination. (amazing without some pretty good mushrooms)

Digging into details regarding statements by someone who knows he will sound crazy, but is willing to have his skin peeled away slowly until he dies for his testimony, is something I think is worth the time to evaluate.

Concluding that person then had plenty of time to open the cellar door and say, ‘no, just kidding, the body’s down here’, is also something I considered.

Is the ressurection crazy? Absolutely.

But God is crazy…in love with you.

So would you categorize the 10 plagues as a miracle (GOD sent them), however, they ARE explainable in natural terms.

Red sea is Red algae which does kill fish

Red algae kills fish who eat immature frogs… frog plague

1st born…ergot poisioning (first born got the largest portions of food)

Parting of the red sea… strong east wind… would have parted the sea over a land bridge

Even the people in the middle ages thought that the plague was a punishment from
GOD for sin… when in fact it was superstition that led them to kill cats, which would have kept the rat population down and therefore the fleas on the rats… Maybe GOD was punishing them for not being better stewards of his creatures.

My point is that even if things are explainable…does that make them any less from GOD? especially if they were foretold before they happened.

Aha, I like your argument against the hallucination as miracle, and it makes my point. Yes, hallucination would not be miraculous, it would be a natural event. Its likelihood as an explanation is therefore greater than the Resurrection explanation because that would require a miracle. And miracles can only be asserted if the other explanations are even more miraculous.

Ah, but you are dismissing almost all the details in such a claim - which take nature alone (no God) and throws it out the window!

So, if it was a hallucination, we could walk on ice considering such a claim, but we would have to eat all the details, which would break our ice pretty quickly.

For instance - a couple guys discussing the day’s big news back in Jerusalem, while traveling away from the city eventually having a meal with Jesus. This is not something the writers of the gospels would have known if these folks didn’t find the apostles to lay the story out (in quite a panic probably).

The easiest detail to thwart hallucination is the multiple locations of ‘seeing’ Jesus. Which takes hallucination and makes it a bigger miracle than the ressurection! Please lay out the times in history where right thinking folks, not hopped up on drugs in various locations who do not know each other, or maybe even about the subject, all are hallucinating over the same (said) subject.

  1. You are assuming the historical accuracy of the account.

  2. If multiple hallucinations are a miracle, then we need to do some revised thinking about alien encounters and abductions.

  3. I cannot imagine why you would think that multiple hallucinations (if they happened) would be more miraculous than a man coming alive after death. (You will gather that I dissent!)

#1 is surely the crux, isn’t it? Looking past the many things you and I probably share as accurate about other historical matters and how we conclude such in similar manner as would be needed with this situation…

Many people die for lies. Nobody dies for what they KNOW is a lie. Once that arm starts stretching a bit, a liar is quick do what is necessary to avoid pain. Even someone telling the truth might be pulled to twist it or reject it.

In the case of the accuracy, surely what we have to determine is if folks are trustworthy. In this cynical world, it’s hard to imagine there was a time when a man’s word actually meant something. But a little historical research and common sense, it would be easy to see that in general there was a time where folks didn’t lie constantly, and rather, it was important for them to not lie.

Then just with regard to common sense, if the accuracy is incomplete, surely one of the early folks would have at least punted, if not reject what they were being forced to reject anyway. They were all torturously murdered.

2) ah but we are talking about 1 subject here, not multiple subjects, there is no re-thinking, people who 'encounter aliens' don't write about the alien named zzzz and that it is the same one as all the other people who have 'encountered'. I'd like to see a bunch of alien encounter folks that all detail the same 1 event with the same subject.

3) The point being multiple hallucinations to hundreds of people at different times in different locations, on the same subject - can't happen (thus the more twist)...

God doing something miraculous would be normal for God, he has the ability.

I have to run, but this leads me to thinking about a great analysis of 'why God has to exist' (essentially through testing no God existing) which I'll try and touch up tomorrow.

Yes, one problem here is that a document can be flawed in historical value without being “a lie”. A document Is not “a lie” if the authors believed it. Were the hallucination theory correct (and remember I’m not arguing that it is) those who experienced the hallucinations would have believed them. And they could have convinced their followers (who might then have had similar experiences). They would not have been dying for “a lie”, but for something they passionately believed.

I don’t see why you have put an extra requirement (the same alien!) on the multiple hallucinations truth. Hundreds of people have reported alien encounters and abductions. In many cases there are multiple witnesses of the same event. And while it is true that the aliens seem to have a particular predeliction for probing Americans, there have been cases elsewhere. What this demonstrates is that multiple hallucinations are not miraculous. Hallucinations are commonplace.

In fact we know that our brains are misleading us continuously — in dreams, of course, but also in the way we ordinarily perceive the world. The brain edits what our senses report before giving us a version of reality (is that a lie?). We know from experimente designed to show the reliability of witness descriptions that our brains will all ignore things that are really happening, and invent things that are not, if this fits a mould our brains are holding.

And, of course, there are all the usual caveats about the age of the Gospels, their uncertain date and authorship, and the editing, additions and interpolations that have taken place. And how the stories we tell are never independent of our own internal narratives. And how they change over time. And how they change rapidly when passed from person to person.

Thanks for the reply! We are getting into so much great stuff. Though I don’t quite know if there is a function or if people take the time to move the ‘quote’ syntax, I don’t like to do the ‘cut up a note’ for fear of losing or replying out of context. I’ll try and capture it all without cutting up the paragraphs, but being specific where the paragraphs have good cut-off’s.

For the first paragraph - I suppose I would just want confirm that you and I can agree that a document’s existance regarding historical events in general is to record such events? Secondly, if we understand that people who could write 2000 years ago would only do so out of necessity or extreme importance since it was a huge pain to do? (they didn’t have neat little keyboards, or comic books)

With regard to your opinion- are you saying you are taking the stance of many politicians “it’s a good law, though I don’t believe in it”? I would say history between us would show the opposite of such a statement. But it’s also not a necessary focus as we’re trying to analyze, not just shout opinions.

Obviously, I agree, they died for something they passionately believed in. Hopefully as obvious, the end goal is to determine if there is truth in the belief.

Specifically here we are trying to hash out the hallucination theory and if it could be married to specific events in many folks lives, some of whom chose to document some of the more important happenings.

Something to consider I suppose, is to evaluate current hallucinations. I would really appreciate some recorded instances to be provided of folks hallucinating over quite a period of time, at the same time living their lives and providing for their families, then re-hallucinating when the subject they first hallucinated over came back to talk to them.

I’ve been around folks on acid, and they didn’t hallucinate outside of dropping the acid. Also when they are hallucinating, they didn’t evaluate what wasn’t there. It was all around how the real material around them ‘changed’ to them (a house being a ‘pop-up’ book for instance).

Second paragraph - I followed you into the alien thing since I figured it would be pretty obvious it is not comparable to the ressurection and possible hallucination. The reason we have to have the same alien is because Jesus is one person. All written and oral information passed down about Jesus corroborate each other in the historical events of Jesus. Another item we can hang a hat of confidence on.

Also with regard to aliens, what we don’t know about is the back story of the person making the claim. No one has seen an alien but those who claim it, this is not true with Jesus. He is a documented real person. Jesus taught many who walked away, few stayed. He was arrested by many, scourged by few. Stood in front of many who chose to kill him, while standing next to another real person, Pilate, who did not want anything to do with the murder of an innocent man.

Hallucinations happen, but I wouldn’t go as far as commonplace without the use of drugs. You might be confusing illusions here. Like on a hot day where the road looks wet in front of the car.

Your second to last paragraph is great, and quite ironic here. Remember, if God exists and he works in our nature,** reality** can absolutely be something illogical, or plays games with our minds.

Christians don’t claim the ressurection is normal, it’s not, it’s quite odd and something that doesn’t happen in nature alone. So we have to consider context with the history of the person who pulled it off.

Accounts of the apostles in the upper room are not of proud folks that knew they understood that guy who said he would die for them. The apostles were in a locked room scared, knowing their necks were on the line if what happened, really happened.

That is not in a state of hallucination.

For your last, I think it’s important to remember - The real events didn’t need the documents to make the events real. But it is nice to have things written down.

Then I’ll follow your lead and not chop you up into bits too much if you dislike that practice. I’ll shove some numbers in if that will help, should you wish to reply.

Anyway … Hi ffg! Thanks for your interesting responses.

1 In your second paragraph I agree with your second point, that mankind has taken a foolishly long time to invent the iPad, and the technology of 2000 years ago didn’t make authorship easy.

2 As to the first point in that para, I’m not so sure. Historians don’t simply write to lay out the dry antiseptic facts, they write to express an opinion, a point of view, about those facts. They arrange them in a construct that leads to a narrative that expresses their attitude. Their attitude will be affected by the climate of their times: an historian could hardly write today without taking at least some account of the developments of 20th Century history – the belief that history should be as much about peasants as about kings; the belief that history should be as much about women as about men. Those attitudes would have been strange indeed to their predecessors of a few centuries earlier.

3 Similarly people in ancient times writing history in a society in which there was a landscape replete with mythical beings encompassed that mythical landscape in their writings. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle was written by sober learned men and our understanding of Anglo Saxon history leans heavily on it, but it includes matters we realise are mythical. Bede was the greatest historian and one of the greatest scholars of his age, but his History includes matter we now believe to be mythical. Similarly I have no problem with the understanding that the New Testament, though written 700 years or so before Bede, contains valuable material for historians, but when I encounter such tales as the woman made pregnant by a god I think it wisest to assume I am in the presence of myth, as I would assume faced with the similar events in other traditions.

Goodness me, what a lot of words! I’ll take a break now: Part 2 after these messages (do American tv announcers still say that sort of thing, I wonder?)

4 You ask about my own opinion. I entered these discussions simply to put Hume’s point that "No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.” – that an explanation that involves no miracle is to be preferred over one which relies on the miraculous. I don’t know what happened after Christ’s death. But it seems to me that the explanation I have offered, that myths rapidly accreted around the visionary experiences of His highly emotional followers, is one that requires no miracle, and is therefore to be preferred to an explanation which relies on the miraculous.

5 You suggested that what we are now referring to (a little disrespectfully) as hallucinations could not occur to large numbers of people in a large region in the same period. I could have replied that however impossible you found that it was not as impossible as a dead man coming alive. Being an irenic sort of chap, however, I came up with the example of alien encounters: hallucinations, large numbers of people, large region, same period, and in our own times.

6 You countered with the fact that they were not necessarily seeing the same aliens, and now you require that the same aliens should be seen by the same people sporadically over a period of time. Now I see no reason why I should match every detail of what may possibly have happened in Palestine 2000 years ago. I have no need to prove the hallucinations theory; I just offer it as an explanation that does not rely on miracles and that is therefore to be preferred to a miraculous theory.

7 But, as I say, I’m an ameliorative bloke. It so happens that we can identify the phenomena you require: the same dead person appearing to numbers of people a number of times sporadically over a period of time. These are the hallucinations we usually categorise as hauntings.

8 Incidentally I am not drawing a distinction between the disciples’ visionary experiences and illusions. “Hallucinations” was not the word I used when I offered this explanation; it was the word used by one of your co-religionists as a way of dismissing me; in other circumstances it would not have been a word I would have used in this context. But never mind!

Part 3 looms later!

9 (Yes 9!) You are quite right: if we assume God in advance, then we assume supernatural, miraculous things may happen. Indeed I would go further and say that to believe in the supernatural and miraculous we must first assume the existence of God (which is why I was surprised when a poster on CAF said he was persuaded of the existence of God by the fact of the Resurrection).

10 Equally, if we do not assume God in advance, then we need to proceed with logical caution. That leads us back to David Hume.

Aaaargh! It was not one of your co-religionists: it was you ffg! Anyway, my word was “visions”.

Note to Mods - I am happy to carry this conversation where it goes. It doesn’t bother me if Picky and I go down a path outside of the initial focus - resurrection hallucinations / visions.


We are hitting a lot. Starting with #2 and including a response to #3 at the end - as it’s more fun to talk about that which we do not agree, no? or we could grab a drink, find a fire, sit and nod approvingly, perhaps with a pipe and jacket.

RE: 2) Historians write to express an opinion?! Yikes! Opinion writing is commentary - without the intent of instruction, rather persuasion or interest. All the way up to the printing press and then after until the typewriter and then even still later - You did not have a whole lot of opinion writing. Writing was not a fun thing to do. Thus there were jobs created because of it - scribes, who wrote necessary and important things, since dictation was a time killer and people had to get on with their day. There was no blogging.

Certainly, more information helps one get to the details. Details might be lacking from person to person which then creates different lengths of write-ups. Very similar to what we see with the Gospels, the guys were not in the same room, yet wrote about similar events, some with more detail, but not one contradicting the other. Variance in detail doesn’t presume opinion.

Even considering a writer’s environment (second part of #2), one’s environment doesn’t change what did happen. A writer can’t create history, if they are writing what they think about history, it’s not history. For instance 2 field reporters in a war - person 1 ‘a tank blew up’, person 2 ’ It’s a raging fight, a tank blew up. I don’t think anyone could have survived that explosion.’ The last part in person 2, their opinion, doesn’t contradict the first’s reporting or change the story (and could be true).

Now how are we to know what the intention of a writer is, if the writer is dead? Well, ever hear about how when someone dies, a close relative says something like ‘They would have loved it this way…’ or ‘This is the way they would have wanted it’.

That person has the authority to set the foundation of the dead person’s intent. Why? Because they knew the person better than anyone, perhaps spoke to them about things that might arise after they are dead and recieved that authority from them.

Who is that in Catholicism? Well Jesus taught, created a Church and gave authority to His followers specifically for when he was not physically with them any longer. Jesus knew Peter and the others wouldn’t live on this world forever, or anyone who came after them, thus -

RE: 3 start) the Church is the place that lives through time to help us understand ‘how God wants it’.

So, with regard then to the Bible, we must go to the Church for understanding and interpretation.

Changes are not being made to the Bible for commentary purposes or any other purpose, though environments change or writing is easier. Interpretation also doesn’t change.

So we need to look at who reads the bible for the error, if any, in interpretation - Are they understanding the bible in light of Church teaching on it, which would be sourced from the writers?

For instance, your interpretation of Jesus’ birth. I fully understand the chaos the event brings, it’s been seen since the event, but that’s where context helps. To help with context, we should probably confirm that Jesus did live on this world, I assume you understand this? Other Context questions - Did Joseph run from the situation? Was Mary stoned for being unfaithful, which I believe was common? Were they scared? Did they know that they did not ‘know’ each other?

I think something that is difficult when we go down paths of myth, visions, hallucinations, whatever, with any subject, is that we put ourselves in a bubble many times ignoring or rejecting context. If the context confirms a myth, I don’t have a problem with that, like Bebe (admittedly, if true, I’m going on your word here). But we must consider all aspects to get to a clear answer.

Truth can exist whether we know it, believe it, or want it.

I think you would find that some folks might say the more we know about truth ( Catholicism assumingly to bring context), the less we want it to be true. This is exampled in the fact that older people seem to take forever in confession, when younger folks take a few seconds. There is a difference in understanding one’s sinfulness and it’s effects.

I have to touch up on the other posts later. Take care,

If you have time, or are interested, this priest is someone I really like to listen to -

Fr. John Riccardo

He doesn’t just throw text at you, he thinks, and thinks through items, cosidering all aspects.

On the link here, he has one that kind of ties us in a little in the recording labeled ‘May 14, 2014: Cath 101 #3-The Bible’ on the website

If you are interested, but don’t have much time, try starting around minute 30.

I’ll get to your other posts that I have not replied to hopefully today, but we’ll see about the day.

Take care,

Thanks for the recap - As I jumped in as another thread broke into this realm, of which I obviously have interest, the recap helps. Also, you probably have a better memory than I. Though I do remember introducing the ‘great hallucination’ term as a summation of what I read in one of your posts in the other thread.

Regardless of what we want to call ‘brain games’, I think we are doing well evaluating aspects that will hopefully show us that brain games were possible, or not (obviously, I’m the counter).

RE 4) I understand your ‘preferred’ stance and source in Hume. My problem with trying on ‘brain games’ as a theory is that it is only in my mind. I have nothing to support my claim but myself. If I’m going to feed myself from the bowl of ‘it was brain games’ I’m missing out on the rest of the meal (context). There is drink, fruit, the main course, and of course dessert!

RE 5 and 6) I remember playing the ‘twist’ for the more likely discussion earlier, which I suppose could be confusing, though I think you were following well. Obviously, we are dealing with incomparables if we try and marry ‘preferred’ to true/false.

I would agree that we don’t need to match details. To evaluate why, I would start with the 1 event vs other types of events that have multiple occurances. It’s really hard to compare the resurrection to anything. There hasn’t been another person by His own power do what is documented (and before and after documentation discussed at length).

RE 7) Good thinking on the hauntings. Our education on them though is that they tend to be location specific and haven’t been caught eating, yet. Jesus was all over the place, and seemingly quite hungry as he always asked for food. (obviously, to assist the shocked person to understand He was real)

RE 8) It was my word after reading one of your posts in the other thread. I don’t mind not using it. Many Atheists like to use it. Hopefully, a more general ‘brain games’ isn’t too horrible.

Great stuff! Take care,

This opens another can of fun to play with, I appreciate it.

I still haven’t gotten back to writing that ‘proof’ (for lack of a better term) of God through a great thought process I heard recently, but this opens the door again, but not today.

That’s good that we both think that God (or something outside of our material realm) must exist for the supernatural and it’s effects on the natural world, to exist.

I would hope that would be obvious, but it’s good to be clear.

With regard to your paren about another poster - We should evaluate how we can conclude God exists.

Simply, I would say, the only way for creation to know there is a creator, is for the creator to inform the creation of said creator’s existence.

Would you agree?

I suppose to be extremely clear, in other words, there is NO WAY creation can learn of creator without an act from creator.

red handed

Just the “historians” thing today, then I must attend elsewhere.

I’m sure you’re mistaken. No literary work can exist without being affected by the internal narratives of the author. And there is no point writing history without there being a point or argument you wish to make.

A few from my shelves: Oppenheimer using DNA to argue against the theory that there was a mass Saxon invasion of England and native wipeout; Pryor making a similar case from archaeology; Wood arguing that too little attention has been paid to the greatness of Athelstan; Trevelyan writing in the Whig tradition of the March of Progress; Guedalla giving an more sympathetic view of Wellington the man than had been seen before; Lambert arguing that the War of 1812 was just an attempt to annex Canada; and so on.

And the brilliant Oxford historian AJP Taylor’s “The Origins of the Second World War” which shocked and angered contemporaries by arguing that Hitler had no plan for world conquest but was just an unscrupulous opportunist who exploited the incompetent diplomacy of Britain and France.

And Taylor’s excellent “English History 1914-1945” and its well known (and I think rather moving) peroration — almost pure opinion — in which he reveals his romantic, patriotic, soft-socialist views:

In the second World War the British people came of age. This was a people’s war. Not only were their needs considered. They themselves wanted to win. Future historians may see the war as a last struggle for the European balance of power or for the maintenance of Empire. This was not how it appeared to those who lived through it. The British people had set out to destroy Hitler and National Socialism – ‘Victory at all costs’. They had succeeded. No English soldier who rode with the tanks into liberated Belgium or saw the German murder camps at Dachau or Buchenwald could doubt that the war had been a noble crusade. The British were the only people who went through both world wars from beginning to end. Yet they remained a peaceful and civilised people, tolerant, patient, and generous. Traditional values lost much of their force. Other values took their place. Imperial greatness was on the way out; the welfare state was on the way in. The British empire declined; the condition of the people improved. Few now sang ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. Few even sang ‘England Arise’. England had risen all the same.

Surely, take your time. We have real life to deal with, as well as about 4 subjects here. I think yesterday’s last will be a lot of fun.

Interesting. Perhaps we are walking down this path with some more understanding of each other. 

Excellent examples of opinions on historical events. Here you show very well, in the last 200-400 years - writing and literacy has expanded greatly vs previous generations and thus we see more opinions in writing.

Regardless of what we want to call the person - "historian" or not, a statement is either objective or subjective.

Thus, contrary to your first paragraph, I can show you here that a writer can absolutely write objectively about history (without internal narratives, or a point to argue) - 

'Adolf Hitler was a man in Germany in the 20th century.'

That statement is true, regardless of my internal narrative or life experience. I also don't think you or I would argue the point. There is no point to argue.

Now one of us might not know this fact, but could learn it.

So in summary, what I think we can start to see is that you and I view historical events differently because we use different methods to consider history.

I like to look for objective statements regarding history. The more I can get from multiple sources writing corroborating objective statements as close to the time period of the subject I am researching, the more comfortable I am with knowing the subject existed /  happened. (Which leads me to consider God is real, of course)

Then I like to buffer the statements with context. I know the older the writing, the more chance the objective statement is genuine because writing was horrible to do and the masses were more illiterate than literate. Which would discourage someone from wanting to write. It seems writings we have access to today, were written to be read by the literate to the illiterate early on, as copying was also a real pain.

Thus, I can't vouch that literacy and ease of writing in the last 2-400 years discounts the accuracy of older historical objective statements. For our example - The tomb being empty. Jesus did die. At the least, Mary and John knew where he was buried. Surely they did some research, if at least to pay some respects.

Take care,

Well, no, if you just said that about Hitler then the huge amount you were airbrushing out would indicate you were indeed editorialising, I think.

Incidentally, back on the hauntings (for the last time, I hope!) I believe Ann Boleyn likes to turn up in many locations, head tucked underneath her arm.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit