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No. 130: JUL-AUG 2000

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Epiphanies as Vascular Anomalies!

Emanuel Swedenborg, the 18th century scientist and visionary, recalls Saul of Tarsus. Each underwent a crisis of vocation and religious out-look, and in both instances the critical event was a single episode that could be characterized as convulsive. Saul became the apostle Paul. His blinding conversion on the road to Damascus transformed the zealous advocate of Jewish tradition into the equally persevering Christian preacher and martyr. Swedenborg's conversion occurred at age 56, in 1744, when he was troubled by dreams, heard strong winds, felt a powerful trembling, and was thrown from his bed. During the following weeks his sense of contrition and desire for righteousness approximated the spirit of penthos described by orthodox contemplatives. Subsequently, he discovered his visionary ability to communicate with spirits and devoted his remaining days to visiting the spirit world where he gathered information sufficient to establish a new religion and to write the several books composing the Arcana Coelestia.

After analyzing Swedenborg's visions and trance states, D.T. Bradford suggests that he only had had a "vascular .anomaly in the posterior area of the left cerebral hemisphere."

(Bradford, David T.; "Neuropsychology of Swedenborg's Visions," Perceptual and Motor Skills, 88:377, 1999.)

Comment. Must we accept that all epiphanies, revelations, and transcendental experiences are pathological? Strokes of genius will be next! Normality is very, very important.

From Science Frontiers #130, JUL-AUG 2000. 2000 William R. Corliss

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