The Transmogrification of Mystical Episodes (into UFO events)?
The June 4th New York Review of Books piece on the great sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini [Bernini: He Had the Touch by Ingrid d. Rowland, Page 16 ff.] allowed me a remembrance of Saint Teresa of Avila, one of the favorite saints of my Jesuit teachers at seminary in my youth.
Bernini’s terra cotta of Saint Teresa [circa 1647] is one of the glories of sculpting and art:
Saint Teresa became sainted when she was canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622. And on September 27th 1970 she was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI.
This is one mystical “experience” she claimed to have had in 1559:
“Teresa became firmly convinced that Jesus Christ presented himself to her in bodily form, though invisible. These visions lasted almost uninterrupted for more than two years. In another vision, a seraph drove the fiery point of a golden lance repeatedly through her heart, causing an ineffable spiritual-bodily pain.” [Wikipedia]
Saint Teresa isn’t the only saint or person to have [holy] mystical experiences:
Saul of Tarsus (St. Paul) had a life-changing vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus.
Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc) spoke with God and conquered armies.
Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism interacted with an angel of God (Moroni).
Bernadette of Lourdes had apparitions appear to her at the cave-grotto of Massabielle.
Three Portuguese children created the Fatima story.
The question to ask is (usually), Were these events from within or without?
Psychiatry would call such “experiences” hallucinogenic, even when wounds appear on the person having the experience: Padre Pio became famous for bearing the stigmata for most of his life.
But what about ‘unholy” persons who’ve had a UFO experience with evidence of afflictions from the thing they encountered?
Stefan Michalak (The Falcon Hill case)
Robert Taylor (the Scotland UFO incident)
And others you are familiar with...
What makes one an alleged holy interaction and one a UFO event (or hoax)?
The experiences are similar in kind, only nuanced by the interpretations of those experiencing: some infused with holy or religious elements and some subject to a non-holy, weird experience, both exampled by the now clichéd Ezekiel experience recounted in the Bible [The Book of Ezekiel]:
Even assuming that the experiences are self-induced, from where and what do they derive, neurologically, psychologically, mentally?
The saints didn’t likely see Mary the mother of Jesus and Joseph Smith didn’t meet an angel. Or did they?
But did Stefan Michalak touch a hot UFO? Was Robert Taylor dragged about by an odd machine from elsewhere than Earth?
Did Joan of Arc go to the stake because she actually was communicated to from God?
Were Saint Teresa’s visions really from the perceptive doorway to God’s realm? Or was she fooled by her brain?
We can’t know, can we?
But we can speculate, and that’s all we can do.