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An apparition is an act or instance of appearing, including:

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

APPARITIONS. An apparition, strictly speaking, is merely an appearance (Lat. apparere, to appear), the result of perception exercised on any stimulus of any of the senses. But in ordinary usage the word apparition denotes a perception (generally through the sense of sight) which cannot, as a rule, be shown to be occasioned by an object in external nature. We say "as a rule" because many so-called apparitions are merely illusions, i.e. misconstructions of the perceptive processes, as when a person in a bad light sees a number of small children leading a horse, and finds, on nearer approach, that he sees two men carrying bee-hives suspended from a pole. Again, Sir Walter Scott's vision of Byron, then lately dead, proved to be a misconstruction of certain plaids and cloaks hanging in the hall at Abbotsford, or so Sir Walter declared. Had he not discovered the physical basis of this illusion (which, while it lasted, was an apparition, technically speaking), he and others might have thought that it was an apparition in the popular sense of the word, a ghost. In popular phraseology a ghost is understood to be a phantasm produced in some way by the spirit of a dead person, the impression being usually visual, though the ghost, or apparition, may also affect the sense of hearing (by words, knocks, whistles, groans and so forth), or the sense of touch, or of weight, as in the case of the "incubus." In ordinary speech an apparition of a person not known to the percipient to be dead is called a wraith, in the Highland phrase, a spirit of the living. The terms ghost and wraith involve the hypothesis that the false perceptions are caused by spirits, a survival of the archaic animistic hypothesis (see Animism), an hypothesis as difficult to prove as to disprove. Apparitions, of course, are not confined to anthropomorphic phantasms; we hear of phantom coaches (sometimes seen, but more frequently heard), of phantom dogs, cats, horses, cattle, deer, and even of phantom houses.

Whatever may be the causes of these and other false perceptions, - most curious when the impression is shared by several witnesses, - they may best be considered under the head of hallucination. Hallucinations may be pathological, i.e. the result of morbid conditions of brain or nerve, of disease, of fever, of insanity, of alcoholism, of the abuse of drugs. Again, they may be the result of dissociation, or may occur in the borderland of sleep or waking, and in this case they partake of the hallucinatory nature of dreams. Again, hallucinations may, once or twice in a lifetime, come into the experience of the sane, the healthy, and, as far as any tests can be applied, of the wide-awake. In such instances the apparition (whether it take the form of a visual phantasm, of a recognized voice, of a, touch, or what not) may be coincidental or non-coincidental. The phantasm is called coincidental if it represents a known and distant person who is later found to have been dying or in some other crisis at the moment of the percipient's experience. When the false perception coincides with nothing of the sort, it is styled non-coincidental. Coincidental apparitions have been explained by the theory of telepathy, one mind or brain impressing another in some unknown way so as to beget an hallucinatory apparition or phantasm. On the evidence, so far as it has been collected and analysed, it seems that the mind which, on the hypothesis, begets the hallucinations, usually does so without conscious effort (see Subliminal Self). There are, however, a few cases in which the experiment of begetting, in another, an hallucination from a distance, is said to have been experimentally and consciously made, with success.

If the telepathic theory of coincidental hallucinations be accepted, we have still to account for the much more common non-coincidental apparitions of the living who do not happen to be in any particular crisis. In these instances it cannot be demonstrated that telepathy has not been at work, as when a person is seen at a place which he thought of visiting, but did not visit. F. W. Myers even upheld a theory of psychorhagy, holding that the spirits of some persons have a way of manifesting themselves at a distance by a psychic invasion. This involves, as he remarked, paleolithic psychology, and the old savage doctrine of animism, rather than telepathy (see Myers, Human Personality). Of belief in coincidental hallucinations or wraiths among savages, records are scanty; the belief, however, is found among Maoris and Fuegians (see Lang, Making of Religions). The perception of apparitions of distant but actual scenes and occurrences is usually called clairvoyance. The belief is also familiar under the name of second sight(see Second Sight), a term of Scots usage, though the belief in it, and the facts if accepted, are of world-wide diffusion. The apparitions may either represent actual persons and places, or may be symbolical, taking the form of phantasmic lights, coffins, skeletons, shrouds and so forth. Again, the appearances may either represent things, persons and occurrences of the past (see Retrocognition), or of the present (clairvoyance), or of the future (see Premonition). When the apparitions produce themselves in given rooms, houses or localities, and are exhibited to various persons at various times, the locality is popularly said to be haunted by spirits, that is, of the dead, on the animistic hypothesis (see Hauntings). Like the other alleged facts, these are of world-wide diffusion, or the belief in them is world-wide, and peculiar to no race, age, or period of culture. A haunted place is a centre of permanent possibilities of hallucinations, or is believed to be so. A distinct species of hauntings are those in which unexplained sounds and movements of objects, apparently untouched, occur. The German termPoltergeist has been given to the supposed cause of these occurrences where the cause is not ascertained to be sportive imposture. In the performances of modern spiritualists the Poltergeist appears, as it were, to be domesticated, and to come at the call of the medium.

An intermittent kind of ominous haunting attached, not to places, but to families, is that of the banshee (Celtic) or family death omen, such as the white bird of the Oxenhams, the Airlie drummer, the spectral rider of Clan Gilzean, the rappings of the Woodde family. These apparitions, with fairies and djinns (the Arab form of fairy), haunt the borderland between folk-lore and psychical research.

So far we have been concerned with spontaneous apparitions, or with the belief in them. Among induced apparitions may be reckoned the materialized forms of spiritual seances, which have a material basis of veils, false moustaches, wigs and the corpus vile of the medium. It is also possible that mere expectancy and suggestion induce hallucinatory perceptions among the members of the circle. That apparitions of a sort can be induced by hypnotic and posthypnotic suggestion is certain enough (see Hypnotism). Savages produce apparitions in similar ways by suggestion, accompanied by dances, fumigations, darkness, fasting, drugs, and whatever can affect the imaginations of the onlookers (see Magic). Both in savage and civilized life, some persons can provoke themselves into beholding apparitions usually fantastic, but occasionally coincidental, by sedulously staring into any clear deep water, a fragment of rock crystal, a piece of polished basalt or obsidian, a mirror, a ring, a sword blade, or a glass of sherry (see Crystal Gazing). Indeed any object, a wall, the palm of the hand,the shoulder-blade-bone of a sheep, may be, and has been used to this end (see Divination).

Almost all known apparitions may accommodate themselves to one or other of the categories given, whether they be pathological, coincidental or spontaneous, induced, permanently localized, or sporadic.


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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

This article will deal not with natural but with supernatural visions, that is, visions due to the direct intervention of a power superior to man. Cardinal Bona (De discret. spir., xv, n. 2) distinguishes between visions and apparitions. There is an apparition when we do not know that the figure which we see relates to a real being, a vision when we connect it with a real being. With most mystics we shall consider these terms as synonymous.


Since St. Augustine (De gen. ad litt., 1. XII, vii, n. 16) mystical writers have agreed in dividing visions into corporeal, imaginative, and intellectual.

Corporeal vision. Corporeal vision is a supernatural manifestation of an object to the eyes of the body. It may take place in two ways: either a figure really present strikes the retina and there determines the physical phenomenon of the vision, or an agent superior to man directly modifies the visual organ and produces in the composite a sensation equivalent to that which an external object would produce. According to the authorities the first is the usual manner; it corresponds to the invincible belief of the seer, e.g. Bernadette at Lourdes; it implies a minimum of miraculous intervention if the vision is prolonged or if it is common to several persons. But the presence of an external figure may be understood in two ways. Sometimes the very substance of the being or the person will be presented; sometimes it will be merely an appearance consisting in a certain arrangement of luminous rays. The first may be true of living persons and even, it would seem, of the now glorious bodies of Christ and the Blessed Virgin, which by the eminently probable supernatural phenomenon of multilocation may become present to men without leaving the abode of glory. The second is realized in the corporeal apparition of the unresurrected dead or of pure spirits.

Imaginative vision. Imaginative vision is the sensible representation of an object by the act of imagination alone, without the aid of the visual organ. Sometimes the subject is aware that the object exists only in his imagination, that it is a purely reproduced or composite image. Sometimes he projects it invincibly without, which is the case in supernatural hallucination. In natural imaginative vision the imagination is stirred to action solely by a natural agent, the will of the subject, an internal or an external force, but in supernatural imaginative vision an agent superior to man acts directly either on the imagination itself or on certain forces calculated to stir the imagination. The sign that these images come from God lies, apart from their particular vividness, in the lights and graces of sincere sanctity which accompany them, and in the fact that the subject is powerless to define or fix the elements of the vision. Such efforts most frequently result in the cessation or the abridgement of the vision. Imaginative apparitions are ordinarily of short duration, either because the human organism is unable to endure for a long time the violence done to it, or imaginative visions soon give place to intellectual visions. This kind of vision occurs most frequently during sleep; such were the dreams of Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar (Genesis 41; Daniel 2). Cardinal Bona gives several reasons of expediency for this frequency: during sleep the soul is less divided by multiplicity of thoughts, it is more passive, more inclined to accept, and less inclined to dispute; in the silence of the senses the images make a more vivid impression.

It is often difficult to decide whether the vision is corporeal or imaginative. It is certainly corporeal (or extrinsic) if it produces external effects, such as the burnt marks left on an object by the passing of the Devil. It is imaginative if, for example, the image persists after one has closed one's eyes, or if there are no traces of the external effects which ought to have been produced, such as when a ball of fire appears above a person's head without injuring it. The time most conducive to these visions is a state of ecstasy, when the exercise of the external senses is suspended. However, although the question has been discussed among mystics, it seems that they may also be produced outside of this state. This is the opinion of Alvarez de Paz (De grad. contemp., 1., V, pt. III, cii, t. 6) and of Benedict XIV (De servorum Dei beatif., 1. III, c. i, n. 1). Imaginative vision may be either representative or symbolic. It is representative when it presents an image of the very object to be made known: such may have been the apparition to Bl. Joan of Arc of St. Catherine and St. Margaret, if it was not (which is more probable) a luminous vision. It is symbolic when it indicates the object by means of a sign: such as the apparition of a ladder to Jacob, the apparition of the Sun, Moon, and stars to the patriarch Joseph, as were also numerous prophetic visions.

Intellectual visions. Intellectual visions perceive the object without a sensible image. Intellectual visions in the natural order may apparently be admitted. Even when we hold with the Scholastics that every idea is derived form some image, it does not follow that the image cannot at a given time abandon the idea to itself. The intellectual vision is of the supernatural order when the object known exceeds the natural range of the understanding, e.g. the essence of the soul, certain existence of the state of grace in the subject of another, the intimate nature of God and the Trinity; when it is prolonged for a considerable time (St. Teresa says that it may last for more than a year). The intervention of God will be recognized especially by its effects, persistent light, Divine love, peace of soul, inclination towards the things of God, the constant fruits of sanctity.

The intellectual vision takes place in the pure understanding, and not in the reasoning faculty. If the object perceived lies within the sphere of reason, intellectual vision of the supernatural order takes place, according to the Scholastics by means of species acquired by the intellect but applied by God himself or illuminated especially by God. If it is not within the range of reason it takes place by the miraculous infusion into the mind of new species. It is an open question whether in intellectual visions of a superior order the understanding does not perceive Divine things without the aid of species. In this kind of operation the object or fact is perceived as truth and reality, and this with an assurance and certainty far exceeding that which accompanies the most manifest corporeal vision. According to St. Teresa

"We see nothing, either interiorly or exteriorly. . . But without seeing anything the soul conceives the object and feels whence it is more clearly than if it saw it, save that nothing in particular is shown to it. It is like feeling someone near one in a dark place" (first letter to Father Rodrigo Alvarez).

This is the sense of the presence, to use the expression of modern writers. And again:

"I have rarely beheld the Devil in any form, but he has often appeared to me without one, as is the case in intellectual visions, when as I have said, the soul clearly perceives someone present, although it does not perceive it in any form" (Life, 31).

The vision is sometimes distinct, sometimes indistinct. The former attests the presence of the object without defining any element. "on the feast of the glorious St. Peter," writes St. Teresa, "being at prayer, I saw, or rather (for I saw nothing, either with the eyes of the body or with those of the soul) I felt my Savior near me and I saw that it was he who spoke to me" (Life, 27).

At a certain degree of height or depth, the vision becomes indescribable, inexpressible in human language. St. Paul, rapt to the third heaven, was instructed in mysteries which it is not in the power of the soul to relate (II Cor. 12:4). There is no occasion, however, to accuse the mystics of agnosticism. Their agnosticism, if we may so speak, is merely verbal. The inexpressible is not the incomprehensible. Since Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagitica mystics have been in the habit of designating the profundity of Divine realities by negative terms. The avowal of the powerlessness of human speech does not prevent them from saying, as did St. Ignatius, for example, that what they have seen of the Trinity would be sufficient to establish their faith, even though the Gospels were to disappear. It is impossible to establish a parallel between the degree of spirituality of the vision and the degree of the mystic state or the sanctity of the subject. Imaginative or even corporeal visions may continue in the most advanced state of union, as seems to have been the case with St. Teresa. However, intellectual visions of the supernatural order, as of the mystery of the Trinity, point indisputably to a very high degree of mystical union.


Since the day when, in the terrestrial paradise, the enemy of the human race took the form of a serpent in order to tempt our first parents, the Devil has often shown himself to men in a sensible form. The struggles of St. Anthony in the desert against the visible attacks of the enemy are well known (St. Athanasius, Vita S. Antonii) as also in more recent times are the Devil's visible attacks on the Curé of Ars, St. Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney. As St. Paul says (II Cor. 11:14) Satan often transforms himself into an angel of light in order to seduce souls. Sulpicius Severus has preserved the account of an attempt of this kind made against St. Martin. One day the saint beheld in his cell, surrounded by a dazzling light, a young man clad in a royal garment, his head encircled by a diadem. St. Martin was silent in surprise. "Recognize," said the apparition to St. Martin, "him whom thou seest. I am Christ about to descend upon earth but I wished first to show myself to you." St. Martin made no reply. "Martin," continued the apparition, "why dost thou hesitate to believe when thou seest? I am Christ." Then said Martin: "The Lord Jesus did not say that he would return in purple and with a crown. I will not recognize my Savior unless I see Him as He suffered, with the stigmata and the cross." Then the diabolic phantom vanished, leaving behind an intolerable odor (De Vita Martini). Newman has given an interpretation of this vision for his own period (Martin and Maximus, 206). The best way of judging of the origin of these manifestations is that given by St. Ignatius, namely, to examine the series of incidents; to question one's self concerning the beginning, the middle, and the end, will lead to a good result (Spiritual Exercises: Rules for the Discernment of Spirits, 5 a).


It is written (I Kings 28) that Saul, when defeated by the Philistines, went to the witch of Endor and asked her to bring before him the shade of Samuel, and the shade rose out of the earth and revealed to Saul that God was angry with him because he had spared Amalec. Numerous pagan cults practiced evocation of the dead; magicians practiced it in the Middle Ages, and in modern times medium or spiritists have taken upon themselves the task of communicating with the souls of the dead or with disembodied spirits (see SPIRITISM). The Catholic Church has on various occasions condemned the practice of magnetism and spiritism, inasmuch as this practice evokes the spirits of the dead and may call evil spirits into action. But it has never thereby declared that each operation puts us into real relation with the spirits of the dead or an evil spirit. The chief condemnations are those of the Holy Office, 4 August, 1856; 21 April, 1841; 30 March, 1898. [See also Acta Concil. Baltim., II (Col. Lac., III, 406).]

Portions of this entry are taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907.


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