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  November 16, 2006 11 a.m.

The "Vision Thing" – Divine Interventions Interpreted by History, Anthropology, Psychology and Neuroscience

Seminar Room


Gábor Klaniczay

Collegium Budapest

The presentation will introduce the research agenda of a coming Summer Institute that I will arrange together with William A. Christian Jr. in June-July 2007 at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, and in July 2008 at Collegium Budapest. Whether they know it or not, the lives of virtually all people on the globe have been marked by visions: most of the major religions have been founded through them or deeply marked in their dogmas and institutions by them; wars and revolutions have been fought because of them; and the private reception of visual images, auditory messages, or the sense of invisible presence enriches (and often confuses) the lives of a surprisingly large number of ordinary people. A few examples of visions or reported visions that have influenced history and present-day institutions can illustrate this observation: -Visions and healing: incubatory shrines (from Asclepius to Cosmas and Damian); - Other examples from Ancient Rome and Greece (the Oracle at Delphi, Sybillic prophecies); - The founding of religions: the resurrection of Christ, the Angel Moroni and the Mormons, Mary Ellen White and Seventh Day Adventists; - Geopolitical mobilization, political revelations (Joan of Arc; the Visions of Ezkioga during the Spanish Civil War); - Diabolic possession, witchcraft and wars of religion (Loudun);- The founding of shrines: La Salette, Lourdes, Fatima, Medjugorje.
After providing an outline of the interdisciplinary approach suggested by the summer institute, ranging from history, anthropology, religious and social psychology and neurobiology, I will provide an overview of one of the planned research themes:
Periodization of vision activity in the West Cycles of disenchantment and reenchantment; dynamics of critical and permissive attitudes in religious institutions, the media, and the general public. Socio-cultural and political environment of visionary outbreaks. Encapsulation of visions in hostile contexts. Vision activity as compared to witch crazes. Vision acceptance political and subsistence crises. Textual patterns and their transformation.

Gábor Klaniczay is Permanent Fellow of Collegium Budapest (Rector 1997-2002).

tel: +36 1 2248 315, fax: +36 1 2248 310, email:

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