Sunday, April 17, 2022

Can grief hallucinations explain the appearances of Jesus?

There are a lot of studies out there involving bereavement and how people respond to it. In many of these studies, they talk about grief hallucinations. According to one paper I found, grief hallucinations occur in anywhere from 30% to 60% of widows. They happen in different ways, though. It can involve seeing somebody, hearing their voice, smelling them, or just feeling their presence. "Hallucination" is a catch-all phrase, as this paper points out. It is sometimes used to refer to experiences that aren't hallucinations in the strictest meaning of the word.

Of course visually seeing a dead loved one is the least common experience among those who have visions, hallucinations, lucid dreams, etc. I didn't dig around to find the statistic on that, but I did find that when it happens, the most frequent interpretation is that it's a ghost or what appears to be a ghost. Just for the sake of argument, let's say visual experiences happen in something like 1% of those grieving the death of a dead loved one. If it happens to be higher, that will only strenghten the point I'm about to make.

That would mean there have been hundreds of millions of people who have experienced visual grief hallucinations. As far as we know, these experiences never lead people to think their dead loved one has risen from the dead. If we follow Hume's reasoning, this would amount to a full proof that grief hallucinations just don't cause people to believe in resurrection. With that being the case, it probably wasn't a grief hallucination that caused the disciples to believe Jesus had risen from the dead.

If, as most scholars think, the disciples saw something that lead them to believe Jesus had risen from the dead (e.g. E.P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, p.280), but it wasn't a grief hallucination, then maybe they actually saw the risen Jesus himself. Just sayin'!

Happy Easter!

For more on this subject see my 2011 post on The Hallucination Hypothesis.

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