Philosophical Discussion

                    Understanding the La Salette Apparition

                                                                                                                                                                    James Paul Pandarakalam MBBS, DPM., RCPSI, DCP, MDCH

 Abstract:  Marian apparitions are all unique in their own way, but authentic ones share common features. Those interested in French visionary events have the well-documented manifestation at La Salette (France, 1846). It incorporated trans-century predictions and has a link with theistic parapsychology. Psychical studies are centred on mind and consciousness, middle/lower planes of the discarnate realm, but Marian apparitions are focussed on the highest dimensions and are highly significant for seekers of the finalities of existence. An apparition might prove its manifestation at the physical site by way of offering predictions that are to be fulfilled at a later date. The Fatima predictions (Portugal, 1917) are more explicable in the context of La Salette – Fr. Rene Laurentin posited that they are complementary.          

                                                             Introduction

            According to the La Salette secrets found in the Vatican archives in 1999 by Fr. M. Corteville, a French priest, while researching La Salette, and later authenticated by Fr. Rene Laurentin, there is an indication of a period of peace and great abundance preceded and succeeded by turbulent times (Laurentin & Cortville, 2002). On September19, 1846, two French children in La Salette saw “a Lady, all of Light” in the ravine at La Salette, a French hamlet in the Alps.  Melanie Calvet, 15,  and Maximin Goiraud, 12, suddenly saw a globe of motionless light. This opened out, and inside they saw another, brighter moving light. Within this radiant orb was the apparitional figure. Melanie and Maximin were cowherd children and they were tending their masters’ cows at the base of Mount Gargas. They had known each other only for a short time. 

            The apparition shed tears all the time she was speaking. Melanie described the attire of their celestial visitant. To borrow a few words from Melanie, the costume of the apparition was white with glittering points of light upon it and with gold coloured drapery in front and with a white kerchief covering the shoulders. This kerchief was bordered with coloured roses, and there were multi-coloured roses about the feet. On the head was a crown of gold and on the breast a crucifix hanging from a chain of gold round the neck, and sewing upon it the implements of the Passion.

            The apparition gave them a few conditional prophecies that might take place without much delay and then said something in secret to each of the percipients. As she spoke to each in turn in what seemed to be her previous tone of voice, the other could see her lips move, but could not hear what she said. If the immediate predictions were audible equally to both the percipients, the special messages were unshared and inaudible to the other one. After revealing the special messages to each of them, the voice of the apparition suddenly became audible to both of them. Her last words were: “You will make this known to all my people.”

            The La Salette visionaries report that towards the end of their celestial experience, the apparitional figure moved forward, seeming to glide over the surface of the grass but without causing a blade to bend, Then, before them, the Holy Lady rose gradually into the air, remaining as suspended for some minutes at a distance of about two meters from the earth. After this, the figure continued to rise, the head first becoming lost to view in the blaze or globe of light that surrounded it, and then the body, and lastly the feet.  La Salette apparitions have been amply written about (Carlier, 1911; Kennedy, 1958; Ullathorne, 1942).

            A striking feature reported concerning the phenomenon was the perfect uniformity of the visionaries’ account of the apparitional occurrence, even down to the smallest detail and the marked change that had come over the two. The visions that appeared to the La Salette children were perceived by each percipient in exactly the same way. They never wavered in their narrations or altered it during subsequent recounting.  A certain canon of the cathedral of Paris wrote that never have criminals at the bar of justice been questioned, cross-questioned, and brown-beaten, as have been these two peasant children in the course of the succeeding two years; to questions insidiously combined beforehand, they were always  ready with prompt and conclusive replies. When the dry stream by which the apparition manifested began to miraculously flow shortly afterwards and the reporting of a few remarkable faith cures began to spread, the devotion to La Salette began.  The local bishop gave official recognition to it in November 1851.

                                                 Anomalous Cognition

            Spontaneous experiences suggestive of precognition have been recorded since ancient times. Prophets and seers have been replaced by scientists and psychologists, and there are now two interpretations for them in parapsychology (Zohar, 1983).

 ·         A precognitive vision of a future event is a form of telepathic communication with someone who already has knowledge of that event. Advanced discarnate spirits are well placed to predict the outcome of human behaviour because they can foresee the spiritual causation of physical events.

·         In precognition, the mind sees something and subsequently acts on world events by anticipatory psychokinesis, bringing about the foreseen event. In Mary’s appearances, the precognition/prediction is in the mind of the apparition and the information is passed on verbally to the passive percipient(s).

            Theologians believe Mary is inspired by the Holy Spirit, and Mary’s predictions are akin to prophecy. Seers act as liaison agents for humanity. The La Salette visionaries demonstrate no unusual psychical abilities that suggest the predictions are the product of their psi faculties.

            Prophecy is an active phenomenon involving a transcendental vision of the universal future. Precognition is passive and may be independent of a higher reality, involving random “snapshots.”   Precognition – paranormal awareness of future events – is preceded by a precognitive experience. In this unconscious perception people infer, from data unconsciously acquired, that a certain event will probably happen.

            There is little scientific evidence to support precognition. Investigations have resulted in contradicting theories. In precognition, the prediction has a fortuitous characteristic: the anticipated unexpected events are rationally unpredictable (Vasilescu and Vasilescu, 2001). A requirement for accurate precognition may be that the precognised event is determined (Ryzl, 1955). Chance coincidence is a likely explanation for many cases of ostensible precognition, and memory lapses may lead a person to believe after an event that they had some knowledge of it beforehand when they did not (Royce, 1889). A percipient may bring about an apparent fulfilment of a precognition by his or her own action; precognitive experience unleashes powerful psychokinetic energy that brings about the envisioned future.

            In the human mind, normally the future has no existence. Precognition implies that causation can run backwards or that the future has been determined. For a prediction to be true, an event has to take place backwards in the predictor’s mind. Inverted time is difficult to comprehend as we think in the physical sense of time. If precognition happens spontaneously, arguably what has been predicted was one of a range of possible futures, and this one became actuality.  J.B. Rhine’s laboratory tests concluded that what happens is clairvoyance of an existing event: the target had been determined before the experiment.

            A mechanism for precognition is unknown to physics, and contemporary physics does not accommodate any apparently true precognitive experience. Precognition would violate the principle that an effect does not happen before its cause (Bungo, 1983). The physicist John Taylor (1980) has written “since only positive energies are possible, particles going backward in time cannot exist. Any claim that they do is purely a fantasy in the mind of the parapsychologist. There is therefore no direct justification for precognition from physics...experimental evidence from high energy physics is strongly against it.”

            Perhaps a rehearsal of the future event takes place in the mind of those who see the future, and precognitive experiences present a timeline for the future. We should not believe a particular event has been determined if we perceive it in advance (Murphy, 1948). If telepathy can be explained by assuming that some people are very sensitive to electromagnetic signals from another person’s brain or field of consciousness, true precognition indicates a deep spiritual space, a spiritual reality of wholeness within which time, space, energy, individual consciousness and information remain connected and become equivalent to prophecy. A comparison of claims of true precognition with unfulfilled precognitions would make it clear that fulfilled precognitions are coincidences. Some readings of professional psychics have come true, and I conclude that they are a combination of telepathy, clairvoyance, psychometry, and mediumship. Marian apparitions are highly charged psychical experiences and the percipients inevitably have their own personal precognitive experiences, which seers sometimes ascribe to the apparition. Moreover, communication errors may occur, which may account for some unfulfilled Marian predictions. Those fulfilled outnumber them.

                                                            The Fallacies of the Social-Psi Hypothesis

            Critics of Marian apparitions admit the occurrence of some form of non-ordinary experience, but fail to acknowledge its spiritual essence. Because they lack a conceptual model and adequate intellectual tools, they promulgate alternative interpretations. Kevin McClure (1985), who takes a moderate view on most cases of Marian apparitions, has stated that what emanates from the visions may be contact with an externalised form established by belief or hope and perceived by those prepared for it; effectively Marian visions are a product of social psi.  Rogo (2005) proposes two basic theories to explain these apparitions. One is that they represent visitations by a spiritual being or presence sent to the terrestrial plane to instruct humanity. The sceptical speculate that they are psychic projections similar to thought forms, produced in spectators’ minds or by the Catholic community – a view founded on a pure social-psi hypothesis (which was formulated later, from Roll G. Williams’s hypothesis that RSPK is due to living agents).

            The theory that Marian apparitions are the product of social psi is untenable. However, higher-order apparitions may be leaving a trail in the social psi. It is difficult to support Eric Quellet’s (2004) attempt to explain the Fatima apparitions via the Model of Pragmatic Information (MPI), proposed by psychologist and physicist Walter von Lucadou, who claims to present  new opportunities for parapsychology to explore RSPK events from a fresh perspective. At the individual level, parapsychologists who have studied spontaneous paranormal cases tend to think there are mutual interactions between the experiencer and the phenomenon, as in RSPK occurrences. It is however clear that the central person round whom the phenomenon occurs is influencing its nature; their deeply buried anger and frustration appear to give the phenomenon its violent character. At the social level, sociologists who have studied controversies, including paranormal claims, have found that such events put in motion social dynamics where the meaning attached to the phenomenon is debated, and usually determined by the social and political status of the key actors involved and by existing social and cultural pre-dispositions. Adherents of the social-psi hypothesis suggest that the children who saw the “lady” at Fatima did not know what to think at first. Following various social dynamics involving debates between the Church and the secular authorities, it was deemed to be the Virgin Mary. Hence, the phenomenon impacted social dynamics already  in Portuguese society of 1917. Proponents of such views ignore the fact that the local church tried to suppress reports of the occurrences.

            The question is whether there is a parallel with the individual level, where society would influence the shape of the phenomenon, so that the interaction is mutual at the sociological level. If we accept the parasociological hypothesis as a valid field of inquiry, we should also look into the possibility of mutual interaction between individual and sociological levels.  Some of those interactions have been studied already. For instance, individual-level reactions to a poltergeist outbreak can create social debate in society about the “true” nature of paranormal events. Conversely, if some views about the paranormal are already accepted, that is likely to have an impact on individual reactions. False claims of Marian apparitions could probably be explained by the social-psi hypothesis. They tend to occur in Roman Catholic communities. Strange and bizarre events, the meanings of which are unclear to witnesses, become interpreted as Marian apparitions because of strong cultural views. The La Salette apparition was a singular occurrence with no witnesses, and involved immediately fulfilled predictions and trans- century predictions; it does not fit into the social-psi hypothesis.

            True apparitional occurrences have three components: non-physical (apparition), physical (apparitional experience) and social. Social-psi/collective faith contributes to the social events, but several features of La Salette point towards a true apparition. It was a collective experience, and cannot be explained by the telepathic theory (Stevenson 1982).  Collective percipience, the apparition’s quasi-physical features, the apparition’s strong motivation, the percipients’ loyalty and submission to the apparition and the psychokinetic-like manifestations point towards authenticity.

            How could fulfilled and fulfilling trans-century predictions be a social-psi anomaly? Those involved at La Salette could not foresee world events. When the apparition spoke of the “heavy hand of her son,” the uneducated seers thought she was referring to a boy who had beaten her. When she mentioned the conversion of Russia, at Fatima, Sister Lucia thought Russia was a prostitute.

            Non-survivalists have considered ESP combined with psychokinesis an explanation for generic apparitional experiences. In Marian experiences, the percipients’ ESP powers are presumably enhanced by the apparition’s PK-like powers. Super-ESP powers plus some form of refined PK power hypothetically results in auto apparitional sightings. The social-psi hypothesis brings the psi faculties of witnesses, naive and critical observers, and the local community into the equation. Refined PK stipulates intense ESP monitoring of outcome (Braude, 2003) and poses huge practical problems in order to account for collective apparitional experiences. The super-psi and social-psi hypotheses do not fit with two percipients being simultaneously involved, and it is difficult to explain the apparently controlled psychokinetic-type manifestations. If an influx of psychokinetic powers is unleashed and the two children are vulnerable individuals, why is there a single apparitional occurrence?

            Within the social-psi hypothesis, we must conjecture that the visionaries’ super-psi, in combination with social-psi, generated an identical auto apparition. Such a multi-process has to take place without invasion of the absent local community’s mental activity. There is no probability of orchestrated PK activity at La Salette. If multi-process social-psi and super-psi of percipients are implicated, which agency coordinated this?

            The partisans of social-psi and super-psi have to identify a master, who trained the visionaries to develop higher psi faculties, but their experiences were spontaneous and they demonstrated no unusual psychical faculties. Are we to attribute superhuman powers to the visionaries (and witnesses, if present)? Where collective and controlled RSPK-like activity is involved, even the presence of social-psi and super-psi does not exclude apparitional manifestation.

            If we accept the ESP-PK hypothesis of apparitions, we may conjecture that an inter-actionist psi is involved in Marian apparitions and non-verbal cognitive exchanges between apparition and percipients. There is no evidence that percipients’ psi/super-psi controls the apparitional events, but it may aid visionary experiences. As discussed in an earlier paper (Pandarakalam, 2013), collective apparitions cannot be explained away by using the super-psi hypothesis. The percipients’ selectivity and the fulfilled predictions made 168 years ago at La Salette argue against the social-psi and super-psi hypotheses of living agents.

            The late Dr. Ian Stevenson (1972) identified several features that distinguish RSPK that is due to living agents and discarnate agents. Social psi may be a good tool to explain away several large-scale anomalous experiences, but utilising the hypothesis to explain visions of Mary would be a total denigration of Marian mysticism. It is possible that social psi might have offered psychological and psi support for the percipients to fulfil their spiritual mission at La Salette and other Marian apparitional sites.

                                  Psychokinetic-Like Higher-Order Phenomena

            There were no witnesses to describe the behaviour of the La Salette visionaries. Their narration has to be examined in terms of court-room logic. It appears that the visions were under the control of an external agency. Most of the words of the apparition were heard in common. For the special messages, the apparition manifested externally controlled psychokinetic-like activity of a higher order: her voice was masked from one, who saw her lips move while she conversed with the other. This internally controlled psychokinetic-like phenomenon adds to authenticity.

            Similar inaudibility of voice was reported at Fatima in 1917. Three percipients were involved in Fatima apparitional experiences. It was reported that Lucia saw, spoke to, and heard the Lady, Jacinta saw and heard her, and Francisco simply saw her. Francis was incapable to hear  what the apparition was telling to Lucy and Jacinta and he was also unable to speak to the apparition, and the percipients could not hear each other (Johnston, 1980). Some external voice blackout has been reported at Lourdes, Fatima, Garabandal, Beauraing and recently Medjugorje. As there were no witnesses at La Salette, the external audibility of the percipients’ voices is unknown.

            Unlike generic apparitions, Marian manifestations occur only to selected individuals. The apparition remains invisible to any witness – perceptual selectivity is notable in all well-documented cases. It is unlikely that anyone else would have seen the apparition had they been nearby at La Salette.

                                                              Immediate Predictions

            The apparition at La Salette listed a whole series of immediate calamities that were threatening the world, Europe in particular. The apparition announced to the peasant children in their language:  “If sinners repent, the stones and rocks will turn into heaps of wheat, and potatoes will be sown by themselves.”  The perils foretold in 1846 began to unfold by 1847 and came about fully by 1852.  In Mary’s terms, predictions do not have to be major world events but can even be trivial things but when analysed carefully might contain high spiritual truths.

            The apparition announced that by Christmastide, there would be no potatoes left because of the total failure of the crop and it happened as predicted, not only in France but abroad as well. The potato famine of Ireland has been a historical tragedy. Approximately 1.5 million people died in Ireland and one million fled the country. The Irish population was reduced from 8 million to 4 million.

            “The wheat will be worm-eaten and will fall into dust,” Our Lady warned, and by 1851 disease attacked the grain crops resulting in incalculable losses throughout Europe.

             “There will be great famine...and some will do penance through hunger.”   According to newspaper reporting, in 1856, 152,000 people died of starvation in France alone and more than a million in all Europe.

            “Little children will be seized with trembling and will die in the arms of those who are holding them.” This prediction began to come true in 1847, in the Canton of Corps. In 1854, all over France 75,000 died of ague which was characterised by icy cold, sweating and shivering leading to death after a couple of hours of fearful suffering.

            “The walnuts will be worm-eaten and withered.” In 1852, a report sent to the French Ministry of the Interior stated that, in the preceding year, a disease had totally destroyed the walnut crop in the regions of Lyon, Beaujolais, and Isere.

            “The grapes will rot...” A plague began to attack grapes at this period, as a result of the importation of American vines. It is a century since phylloxera and mildew first began to ravage vineyards.

            The immediate fulfilment of  these prophesies formed a strong material argument in favour of the authenticity of La Salette , but the apparition also confided to the visionaries special messages to be revealed later.  They are popularly known as the “Secrets of La Salette.”

                                                                         Distant Prophecies

             In these famous secrets, there is a passing mention of a pontiff being shot and his life span not reduced.  It is possible that this could be a reference to the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. There is also mention of the persecution of Christians and that France would become irreligious. While the apparition mentioned only France, many other European countries have renounced faith to say the least.  There is mention of great disorders in the church and we are witnessing all these trans-century predictions being fulfilled in front of our own eyes. It is not all pessimistic; after all these turbulences, faith would be rekindled and there would be a prod of peace. In the La Salette apparition, as well as at Fatima and Medjugorje, there is a promise of a period of global peace. La Salette and Fatima apparitions offer insight into the para-pathology of wars. The predictions follow a chronological order with its own logical sequence.

            I would like to refrain from any interpretation of the Secrets of La Salette that are self-explanatory. Here, I am reporting the secrets of Maximim and Melanie as written by them in front of the bishop of Grenoble in July, 1851 and sent to Pope Pius IX  (Laurentine & Cortville, 2002). The Laurentin-Cortville book contains the handwritten copies of these secrets.

                            he Secret Written by Maximin                                            

            “On September 19, 1846, we saw a beautiful Lady. We never said that this lady was the Blessed Virgin but we always said that it was a beautiful Lady.  I do not know if it is the Blessed Virgin or another person. As for me, I believe today that it is the Blessed Virgin. Here is what this Lady said to me: ‘If my people continue, what I will say to you will arrive earlier, if it changes a little, it will be a little later.  France has corrupted the universe, one day it will be punished. The faith will die out in France: three quarters of France will not practice religion anymore, or almost no more, the other part will practice it without really practicing it. Then, after [that], nations will convert, the faith will be rekindled everywhere. A great country, now Protestant, in the north of Europe, will be converted; by the support of this country all the other nations of the world will be converted.  Before all that arrives, great disorders will arrive, in the Church, and everywhere. Then, after [that], our Holy Father the Pope will be persecuted. His successor will be a pontiff that nobody expects. Then, after [that], a great peace will come, but it will not last a long time. A monster will come to disturb it. All that I tell you here will arrive in the other century, at the latest in the year two thousand.’

            “Maximin Giraud  (She told me to say it sometime before.) My Most Holy Father, your holy blessing to one of your sheep. Grenoble, July 3, 1851.”

                                                                         The Secret Written by Melanie

            “Secret which the Blessed Virgin gave me on the Mountain of La Salette on September 19, 1846: ‘Mélanie, I will say something to you which you will not say to anybody: The time of the God's wrath has arrived!  If, when you say to the people what I have said to you so far, and what I will still ask you to say, if, after that, they do not convert, (if they do not do penance, and they do not cease working on Sunday, and if they continue to blaspheme the Holy Name of God), in a word, if the face of the earth does not change, God will be avenged against the people ungrateful and slave of the demon.

            ‘My Son will make his power manifest! Paris, this city soiled by all kinds of crimes, will perish infallibly. Marseilles will be destroyed in a little time. When these things arrive, the disorder will be complete on the earth; the world will be given up to its impious passions.   The pope will be persecuted from all sides, they will shoot at him, they will want to put him to death, but no one will be able to do it, the Vicar of God will triumph again this time.

            ‘The priests and the Sisters, and the true servants of my Son will be persecuted, and several will die for the faith of Jesus-Christ.  A famine will reign at the same time.

After all these will have arrived, many will recognize the hand of God on them, they will convert, and do penance for their sins. A great king will go up on the throne, and will reign a few years. Religion will re-flourish and spread all over the world, and there will be a great abundance, the world, glad not to be lacking nothing, will fall again in its disorders, will give up God, and will be prone to its criminal passions.

            ‘[Among] God’s ministers, and the Spouses of Jesus-Christ, there will be some who will go astray, and that will be the most terrible.

            ‘Lastly, hell will reign on earth. It will be then that the Antichrist will be born of a Sister, but woe to her! Many will believe in him, because he will claim to have come from heaven, woe to those who will believe in him!  That time is not far away; twice 50 years will not go by.

            ‘My child, you will not say what I have just said to you. (You will not say it to anybody, you will not say if you must say it one day, you will not say what it concerns), finally you will say nothing anymore until I tell you to say it!’

            “I pray to Our Holy Father the Pope to give me his holy blessing.  Mélanie Mathieu, Shepherdess of La Salette, Grenoble, July 6, 1851.”

                                                                                    Concluding Remarks

            There are fulfilled La Salette and Fatima predictions, as well as unfulfilled and partially-fulfilled ones. When the predictions and the reported calamities of La Salette are analysed from a para-psychological and theological perspectives, one wonders whether the current calamities going on around the world also may have a spiritual pathology. It is a basic requirement to believe in the historical existence of the Mother of Christ before Marian apparitions are analysed; if not, one is likely to miss the spiritual essence of these precious mystical manifestations. In the same vein, it may also be argued that Marian apparitions are also another route to understand the historical existence of Christ and Mary.

            La Salette secrets have been controversial. The original information passed on to the visionaries had been subjected to psychological editing by the seers themselves and their own mystical elaborations. As time went on, words have been put into their mouths by over enthusiastic investigators. The messages from the Blessed Virgin Mary have to be discerned from the rusts of time. But there are no grounds to be sceptical about the authenticity of the handwritten secrets documented in 1851 and excavated from Vatican archives with the endorsement of Rene Laurentin. Though apparently simplistic at a glance, these secrets are highly profound and spiritually loaded, offering great insight into the present and future of humanity.  Ascribing infallibility to predictions is equivalent to denying the free will of human beings.

            Kevin McClure who has made critical evaluations of Marian apparitions concludes that the majority of the prophecies of La Salette were fulfilled within a short space of time and even the most cynical of commentators concur with that point (McClure, 1985).  He even adds that there seems to be evidence enough to suggest that the claims of the visionaries at La Salette should be taken very seriously indeed.

 

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            Correspondence should be sent to Dr. James Paul Pandarakalam at jpandarak@hotmail.co.uk