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Critical reflections on Christic visions

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This paper discusses Christic visions as a significant kind of religious experience requiring explanation. It is based upon research published in ‘Visions of Jesus: Direct Encounters for the New Testament to Today’ (1997), in which I draw on information obtained from 30 living visionaries, using 21 categories to classify their experiences, including 15 phenomenological ones.

Proposed explanations can be plausibly classified as falling into three broad categories: supernaturalistic, mentalistic and neurophysiological. I argue that no single explanation in any of these broad classes can adequately account for the detailed phenomena reported by visionaries. I demonstrate the ineffectiveness of mentalistic explanations, including several made popular by well-known psychologists, and argue that they cannot be improved without adverting to neurophysiological concepts.

I argue that one of the most advanced neurophysiological explanations developed by recent psychiatric researchers cannot account for a particular kind of experience frequently reported in vision experiences. I also show that well-known supernaturalistic explanations for Christic visions do not provide adequate explanations, and identify some of the features of such visions that continue to tempt percipients toward supernaturalism.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Trinity Western University, 7600 Glover Road, Langley, BC, V2Y 1Y1, Canada.

Publication date: November 1, 2000


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