Alternative theories have all been excluded
When it comes to apparition experiences, a whole range of alternative explanations are well-known to science. In taking on two among the most obvious – fraud and hallucination – the Croatian psychiatrist Dr. Bartulica concluded in 2006, starting out with his impressions of visionary Vicka Ivankovic when he studied her in the 1980s:
“You have to ask yourself if it is possible that she is deceiving us. The answer is that it might be possible, but if that was the case, all the six seers are capable of this simultaneously for a period of 25 years! That in itself would be a phenomenon! And anyway that cannot be, because it has been established scientifically that their ecstasies are authentic. Besides, there is no such case in the history of psychiatry that six children start simultaneously hallucinating at 6:40 p.m..” , Dr. Bartulica testified. (1)
In fact, with the exception of hypnosis (which was only later ruled out with certainty) the entire collection of known alternative explanations had been excluded by independent scientists as early as 1984. This was when a French medical team headed by Dr. Henri Joyeux became the first one to deeply examine the Medjugorje visionaries with the entire battery of modern equipment known and used by medical science by that time.
Dr. Joyeux, a cancer researcher, headed a team of scientists from the University of Montpellier. The team made video and audio recordings of more than 35 apparitions and conducted a battery of tests. Among the many tests performed by the team were brain, vision, hearing, voice and cardiac function tests, using electroencephalographs, electrooculographs and other scientific devices. (2)
In their conclusions the French team of scientists excluded manipulation, epilepsy, catalepsy, dreams, hallucinations, hysteria, neurosis, pathological ecstacy, and fraud. (2)
On January 14th 1986 a French-Italian commission of scientists, psychologists, psychiatrists and theologians published the results of its investigations of the Medjugorje visionaries in a 12 point conclusion. While the nine later points were more theological in nature, the first three conclusions were strictly scientific:
“1. On the basis of the psychological tests, for all and each of the visionaries it is possible with certainty to exclude fraud and deception.
2. On the basis of the medical examinations, tests and clinical observations etc, for all and each of the visionaries it is possible to exclude pathological hallucinations.
3. On the basis of the results of previous researches for all and each of the visionaries it is possible to exclude a purely natural interpretation of these manifestations.” (3)
Dr. Enzo Gabrici, an Italian neuro-psychiatrist, examined Ivan, Vicka, Marija and Jakov for five days in April 1984. He became the first scientist to exclude hypnosis as an explanation “because in this situation, subjects are not able to remember anything while in the trance. The Medjugorje visionaries, however, remember exactly what takes place during the ecstasy, discounting the hypnosis theory”. (2)
While this conclusion relies on the visionaries to tell the truth about their experiences during the apparition, hypnosis was scientifically ruled out as an explanation in 1998. Headed by Fr. Andreas Resch, a theologian and psychologist from Institute for the Field Limits of Science in Innsbruck, Austria, among the primary purposes of the 1998 examination was to determine if the apparitions could be due to hypnosis.
Experts from Center for Study and Research on Psychophysiology of States of Consciousness in Milan, Italy, were also included in the team, and so were experts from European School of Hypnotic Psychotherapy Amisi of Milan and The Parapsychology Center of Bologna, Italy.
To determine whether the state of ecstacy experienced by the visionaries could be due to hypnosis, the examined visionaries was hypnotized. While in hypnosis the seers were led to re-experience the apparition experience by suggesting to the visionaries that they saw the Virgin Mary before them. The aim was to determine if the visionaries displayed the same physical and emotional reactions found and measured by the scientists during the real apparitions.
They did not, as it turned out:
“The hypnotically induced state of ecstasy did not cause the phenomenology of spontaneous experiences and therefore it can be deduced that the ecstatic states of spontaneous apparitions were not states of hypnotic trance”, the scientists concluded. (4)
On his own account, team leader Fr. Andreas Resch later said the results were even clearer than that:
“The experiments show a radical difference between the states of hypnosis and ecstacy. Therefore the point of view that ecstacy is a sort of hypnotic state that can be induced from the outside or automatically can be excluded”, he wrote seven years after the experiments. (5)
With hypnosis also excluded, scientific experts had ruled out all the known alternative explanations of the apparition phenomenon. And along the way of determining for sure what the visionaries do not experience, the scientists had also determined the charateristics of spiritual ecstacy. Some of them had even concluded that this state of complete disconnection from the exterior world is what the visionaries actually experience.
(1) Medjugorje Tribune # 1, January 2007
(2) Dr. Henri Joyeux and Fr. René Laurentin: “Scientific and Medical Studies of the Apparitions at Medjugorje”, Veritas Publications 1987
(3) Dr. Luigi Frigerio et al: “Dossier Scientifico su Medjugorje”, Paina 1986
(4) “Research on the Visionaries”, results from the Medjugorje 3 Group, quoted here from Medjugorje Parish Bulletin # 109, January 27th 1999
(5) Fr. Andreas Resch: “Die Seher von Medjugorje im Griff der Wissenschaft”, Resch Verlag 2005