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Science tests the visionaries

MEDJUGORJE:  A team of physicians from the University of Montpelier conducted the most complete scientific study of an alleged supernatural event in the history of Catholicism when they traveled to Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzogovina in 1984.  The leader of the French doctors was Dr. Henri Joyeux, an internationally renowned cancer researcher.  Six months earlier, he had already been videotaping the six visionaries with an electronics engineer to investigate whether their synchronized movements were in any fashion orchestrated.  Close scrutiny of those films greatly impressed this medical researcher, leading to the call for his whole team of experts.

The most eminent of these specialists was Dr. Francois Rouquerol, an ear, nose, and throat specialist.  He was able to demonstrate a clear “disconnection of the auditory pathways during the ecstasy” of each visionary.  He proved, most convincingly, that no visionary reacted to the blaring of ninety decibels of engine noise into their ears during their apparitions.  Sensations travelled in a normal manner to the brain of the Medjugorje seers, but the findings of evoked auditory potential tests and screening tests showed that the cerebral cortex did not perceive the transmission of the auditory and visual neuronal stimuli received from the surrounding environment.  This indicates a disconnection located somewhere in the cortex, and it can be thought of as functional dualism, comparable to a motorcar being functionally divided into two by pressing the clutch.

Dr. Rouquerol also reported that his instruments indicated their voices had become completely silent during their supernatural experience, but their tongues, lips, and facial muscles had continued to function exactly as when speech is audible.  The larynx or voicebox of each visionary had somehow ceased to operate – an inexplicable condition unknown to medical science, according to Dr. Rouquerol.  With an impedanceometer the medical team carefully studied the visionaries’ uncommon voice activity, distinguished by unmistakable axiomatic articulation without phonation.  Their tests revealed a number of exciting findings.  The instrument’s needle showed extensive movements of larynx muscles while the seers recited the rosary before the apparitions, but as soon as the apparitional episode began and the voices became inaudible, the larynx stopped moving and the needle was still.  During the conversation with the apparition, the seers’ lips moved without phonation.  As the voices returned, in the middle of the apparition, to recite the “Our Father,” which, according to the visionaries, had been initiated by the Virgin, the needle moved again.  Articulation without phonation occurred once more during the final phase of the apparitional experience, as the visionaries voice was replaced by silence, although their lips were moving.  As the seers began to speak, at the end of the apparition, the movements of the larynx resumed, showing that the vocal extinction experienced at the beginning of the apparitional experience is linked to the absence of movement of the larynx, and although the lips were moving quite normally, the act of exhaling did not vibrate the vocal cords.  The visionaries themselves have admitted to hearing their own voices of verbal communication as normal during the apparitional experience and are surprised that others cannot hear them.  This observation itself rules out manipulation and psychogenic aphonia.

The team’s opthalmologist, Dr. Jacques Philippot, confirmed a profound inhibition of eyelid reflexes to brilliant dazzling lights in all visionaries.  He also discovered that the gaze of all six children during their experience remained fixed on exactly the same fixed point in space several feet above their heads.  Dr. Philipott’s tests demonstrated that Ivanka and Marija’s eyelid movements during the apparitional experience were two times slower than before and after.  Even when he blocked their vision with an opaque screen, none of their eyes reacted or shifted at all.  What he considered most impressive was that he had measured a simultaneity of eyeball movement among the visionaries of less than one-fifth of a second using electro-oculogram readings at both the beginning and the end of their shared apparition.  This is so far beyond the capacity of normal human functioning that no form of collusion or manipulation could account for it.  After the apparition, however, eye and muscular movements resumed at exactly the same time.  Electro-oculographic recording demonstrated that their eyes converged at the same point.  During the apparitional experience, blinking reflex was absent but was normal before and after.

Heart specialist, Dr. Bernard Hoarau reported that electrocardiogram, blood pressure, and heart rhythm examinations of the visionaries during their ecstasies “allow us to exclude totally the existence of dreaming, sleep, or epilepsy.”  Neurologist Dr. Jean Cadhilac added that his tests “formally eliminate all clinical signs comparable to those observed during individual or collective hallucinations, hysteria, neurosis, or pathological ecstasy.”

Dr. Joyeux was most impressed by the electroencephalogram tests that had measured activity in eight distinct areas of the brains of these six children.  All states of consciousness known to neuroscience involve some mix-ratio of alpha and beta impulses.  Dr. Joyeux found these ratios to be normal in all the children prior to their apparition experiences.  Going into a sleep or trance state would have increased beta cycles while decreasing alpha cycles.  But, exactly the opposite actually occurred: their beta impulses stopped completely!  They were considered to be “hyper-awake” in a state of pure meditation – an extremely rare condition only observed in a few Buddhist monks while deeply in prayer.  Dr. Joyeux and his team concludes,

“The ecstasies are not pathological, nor is there any element of deceit.  No scientific discipline seems able to describe these phenomena.  The apparitions at Medjugorje cannot be explained scientifically.  In one word, these young people are healthy, and there is no sign of epilepsy, nor is it a sleep, dream, or trance state.  It is neither a case of pathological hallucination nor hallucination in the hearing or sight facilities … It cannot be a cataleptic state, for during the ecstasy the facial muscles are operating in a normal way … It is more like a state of deep, active prayer, in which they are partially disconnected from the physical world, in a state of contemplation and sane encounter with a person whom they alone can see, hear, and touch.  We cannot reach the transmitter, but we can ascertain that the receivers are in a state of sane and good working order.” (8:201-204)

The assembly of seventeen renowned natural scientists, doctors, psychiatrists and theologians in their research came to a 12-point conclusion on January 14, 1986 in Paina near Milan. (131a)

  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.

    4. On the basis of information and observations that can be documented, for all and each of the visionaries it is possible to exclude that these manifestations are of the preternatural order, i.e. under demonic influence.

    5. On the basis of information and observations that can be documented, there is a correspondence between these manifestations and those that are usually described in mystical theology.

    6. On the basis of information and observations that can be documented, it is possible to speak of spiritual advances and advances in the theological and moral virtues of the visionaries, from the beginning of these manifestations until today.

    7. On the basis of information and observations that can be documented, it is possible to exclude teaching or behavior of the visionaries that would be in clear contradiction to Christian faith and morals.

    8. On the basis of information or observations that can be documented, it is possible to speak of good spiritual fruits in people drawn into the supernatural activity of these manifestations and in people favorable to them.

    9. After more than four years, the tendencies and different movements that have been generated through Medjugorje, in consequence of these manifestations, influence the people of God in the Church in complete harmony with Christian doctrine and morals.

    10. After more than four years, it is possible to speak of permanent and objective spiritual fruits of movements generated through Medjugorje.

    11. It is possible to affirm that all good and spiritual undertakings of the Church, which are in complete harmony with the authentic magisterium of the Church, find support in the events in Medjugorje.

    12. Accordingly, one can conclude that after a deeper examination of the protagonists, facts, and their effects, not only in the local framework, but also in regard to the responsive chords of the Church in general, it is well for the Church to recognize the supernatural origin and, thereby, the purpose of the events in Medjugorje


Shortly after Dr. Joyeux left Medjugorje in 1985, the Italians dispatched their own all-star team of medical specialists from Milan’s Mangiagalli Clinic.  Dr. Michael Sabatini, a psychopharmacologist specializing in pain research, applied his algometer to the six visionaries.  This device measures the intensity of pain created by applying pressure to particularly sensitive areas of the body.  The results showed that the six visionaries entered a state of “complete analgesis” during their apparition ecstasies – that they could feel no pain.  This proved, beyond any doubt, according to Dr. Sabatini, that the visionaries “do not fake and do not deceive.”  The head of their medical team, Dr. Luigi Frigero, added that the visionaries “were not simply awake, but hyper-awake during their ecstasies.  This cannot be explained naturally, and thus can be only preternatural or supernatural.” (8:204)

Dr. Enzo Gabrici, a neuropsychiatrist, spent four days examining Ivan, Jakov, Marija, and Vicka.  In his report he excluded any possibility of “hallucinatory phenomena, epilepsy, or post-hypnotic suggestion.”  He saw no indication of neurosis or psychosis.  Unlike spirit mediums, the visionaries retain “perfect consciousness of their identity.”  He also noted,

“The apparition does not tire Vicka as is the case with hysterical trances; on the contrary, she feels more invigorated.  Jakov would run outside to play soccer immediately after his apparition; such normal behavior simply is not an aspect of hysterical or hallucinatory visions.” (8:162-163)

Dr. Lucia Capello, a neurologist, was not only impressed but deeply shaken by the “three synchronizations” in the visionaries’ behavior.  First, the visionaries dropped to their knees and their voices became inaudible in the same instant – without even a split second of separation.  Second, without any observable awareness of one another, their voices again became audible at exactly the same moment – on the third word of the Our Father prayer.  Finally, the head and eyes of each visionary were raised simultaneously in the same instant at the end of the apparition (when the Virgin ascended), as all five uttered the word “Ode.”(“There she goes”)  They justify this movement by explaining that “the Virgin Mary disappears upwards.”  Their eye movements reflect those of a person looking at a real moving object – which is different from those of a person looking at an imaginary moving object.  The eyeballs of the visionaries are converging toward an external point indicating true objectivity and do not follow the established eye movement patterns associated with remembering or visualizing.  He concludes that there is no natural explanation that could account for such perfect simultaneity. (8:163)

Heart surgeon Dr. Mario Botta’s electrocardiogram of Ivan’s heartrate revealed that he maintained a perfect rhythm without any fluctuations before, during, and after the apparition.  Given the extraordinary level of activity indicated by Ivan’s brain waves at the same time, Dr. Botta concluded that the visionary’s experience “transcends normal physiology.” (8:163)

Dott Santini, the Italian investigator, used an estesiometer to confirm the absence of corneal reflex; the hundred-watt bulb used during his tests failed to make the seers blink.  The most aggressive tests performed on the visionaries were conducted by Dr. M. Frederica Magatti, who tried shouting at, jabbing, and pinching them during an apparition – without obtaining any observable reactions.  After noting that the eyes of each child had become “hugely dilated,” Dr. Magatti used a film projector with a 1,000-watt bulb to blast their pupils with light.  None of them reacted; not only did their pupils remain unusually dilated, but the eyelids of each child continued to blink at a normal rate.  There was no change in alpha rhythm in the brain to the 1000 watt light.  This is scientifically inexplicable and never seen before.  FOR THE PUPIL TO RESPOND, THE BRAIN MUST REGISTER THE LIGHT — BUT NO BRAIN WAVE CHANGE TOOK PLACE.  Additionally, such intense stimulation normally causes a significant cortical response, but none occurred during the apparition period. (131a) Dr. Magatti asserted that the Medjugorje visionaries “were demonstrating the most complete suspension of consciousness of their relationship with the exterior world” that she had ever observed. (8:163) The medical observations and synchronisms suggest that the Medjugorje visionaries are responding to an outside power and not to internal stimuli.  The dual modes of perception also suggest that there is a “nonphysical agent in front of the visionaries.”

Dr. Giorgio Sanguinetti, a prominent psychiatrist, makes the following report:

“The ‘visionaries’ sit down on little stools, and recite the Rosary in a thoughtful, recollected manner.  Suddenly, at exactly the same time, which is amazing, the young people stand up and line up in front of one of the walls of the room.  All of them gaze upwards at the same time, without ever looking at each other, and they seem to stare intensely at something that is outside the room and very far away.  They keep their hands joined in prayer, and some of them move their lips, but their voice cannot be heard.  After approximately one minute of time, on the occasion I was there, and again, amazingly all together, they give signs of a fleeting bodily tremor, and all withdraw from the place where they were standing.  The expression on their faces becomes like ours.  Behaving quite normally and with no haste — but deliberately, they go towards a table, do not speak to each other and each taking a pen and a notebook wherein their names are written, they sit down, and again without talking to each other, write down quickly, without pausing, the message which was given to them during the ‘vision.’  The length of the text differs from one to another.  When they have finished, they leave the notebook and the pen, and with a quick handshake they greet us and leave the room, each going about his or her own business.  I know that this description of the ‘vision’ has already been given by other witnesses; however, I considered it useful to describe it after I had sketched pathological mystical behavior so that the reader can compare these and take account of the psychic normality of the young ‘visionaries.’  Something unusual, extra-ordinary exists but it seems to be strictly limited to the short period of the ‘vision.’  However, nothing authorizes us to say that the visionaries, because of this experience, manifest any personality disorders.  They seem to be in a world beyond the perception of others and, for what concerns them, to have left our sphere of perception.” (131a)

Fresh medical teams from Poland, Austria, England, Italy, and America continued to replicate and validate these scientific findings.  Father Rene Laurentin, who closely watched over these efforts, concluded:

“The best explanation is that the visionaries are in living, personal, and normal contact with a person from another world.” (8:204)

Further testing on June 25, 2005 by Dr. Philippe Loron, a colleague of Dr. Henri Joyeux, indicated that the visionaries were not transcending into an altered state, but rather that they transcend into a deeper state of reality.  The apparition and any views of “eternal life” are seen by them as more real than what they would experience in everyday life.  This depth of reality which they perceive is superior to any known reality of life on earth.  Afterwards, they return to a lesser state of reality or “ordinary level” that the rest of us in the human race are accustomed to.  Through science, we now can say, empirically, that what they are seeing is not of this world.  We cannot confirm what they are seeing – only that they are able to do so with how their brains are functioning.  With three visionaries as subjects on this day, electroencephalograms recorded alpha rhythms on the whole brain during ecstasies.  These examinations capture on the surface of the scalp minimal electricity produced by the activity of brain cells.  The alpha rhythm (between 8 and 13 Hertz) is a normal rhythm of wakefulness, mainly of rest.  It occurs essentially in the posterior regions of the brain when the eyes are closed.  Similar results are usually obtained when listening to soothing music or when one is in a state of contemplation, meditation or prayer, especially with eyes closed.  It also corresponds to the intermediate state between wakefulness and the first stage of sleep: when one relaxes with the light off, but is not yet asleep.  Therefore, in Medjugorje, the results are remarkable since the alpha rhythm occurs preferentially at the moment of ecstasy with a tendency to spread to anterior regions of the brain, while the eyes remain open and oriented towards the apparition.  Of course, science can’t demonstrate that these are apparitions of the Virgin Mary, but it can support the absence of deception. (131a)

GARABANDAL:  Dr. Celestino Ortiz Perez of Santander, a pediatrician specializing in child psychology, examined the four girls when they were in a state of ecstasy during the apparitions.  He concluded,

“In this state of ecstasy they gave proof that they are beyond the explanation of medical science and all natural laws.  They showed no reaction to pain, pin pricks, et cetera.  Once out of their trances however, they reacted immediately.  From a pediatric and psychiatric point of view, the four little girls have always been and continue to be normal.  The trances in which we have observed these young girls do not fit into the framework of any psychic or any psychological pathology presently known.  Our conceit falls apart when we are faced with this kind of dilemma which God bestows on us in order to point out our own medical limitations.” (68:249)

Dr. Ricardo Puncernai, a neuropsychiatrist and Director of Neurological Services at the University clinic in Barcelona has also examined the visionaries during their ecstasies.  He concluded,

“Even though we try to explain only part of these extraordinary phenomena, the truth is that we do not find any natural scientific explanation which could explain the whole affair.” (68:250)