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Old 06-04-2008, 09:08 PM   #1
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Joan of Arc: Genuine or Not?

My parents just got back from France. As part of their tour of Northern France, they visited the town where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. Hearing about this visit, and seeing pictures of the town, got me thinking: did Joan of Arc really communicate with saints, or was she hearing voices in a schizophrenic sense?

I find it hard to understand that God would intervene in a conflict between two nations (that being England and France) over a piece of land, and not others. For example, why isn't there a Joan of Arc for the Israel/Palestinian conflict - of the all conflicts in the world?

And if Joan of Arc really did hear saints' voices, and God really did want to intervene in a conflict, why? Was it to test the Europeans' faith with all the Crusades they were doing at the time?

I'm curious about what other people think of this.
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Old 06-04-2008, 09:10 PM   #2
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I might have an "opinion" on this.
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Old 06-04-2008, 09:14 PM   #3
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I think that she genuinely believed that she was communicating and is an example of one person doing tremendous things because of fortuitous circumstances.

I also think that she probably had a very special temporal lobe.
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Old 06-04-2008, 09:21 PM   #4
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A theory has been proposed that a lot of European Christianity's "visionaries" used psychotropic drugs--not unlike what one would expect from Native American religion. It is thought that this also contributed to witch hysteria, as well.

It should be remembered that medieval Europe came from a cultural and historical background that is quite different from today.
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Old 06-04-2008, 09:32 PM   #5
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A theory has been proposed that a lot of European Christianity's "visionaries" used psychotropic drugs--not unlike what one would expect from Native American religion. It is thought that this also contributed to witch hysteria, as well.

It should be remembered that medieval Europe came from a cultural and historical background that is quite different from today.
What kind of culture did medieval Europe have? Were drugs often used back then?
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Old 06-04-2008, 09:36 PM   #6
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I find it hard to understand that God would intervene in a conflict between two nations (that being England and France) over a piece of land, and not others. For example, why isn't there a Joan of Arc for the Israel/Palestinian conflict - of the all conflicts in the world?

And if Joan of Arc really did hear saints' voices, and God really did want to intervene in a conflict, why? Was it to test the Europeans' faith with all the Crusades they were doing at the time?
I think we have to remember that modern national identities are completely fabricated. What we unequivocally call "England" and "France" today is the result of 20/20 hindsight. Back then, though, these identities weren't entirely clear. Edward III was the first monarch to truly establish an independent English identity, whereas prior, it was dominated by foreign influences, from the Romans to the Anglo-Saxons to the Norse to the Normans. And it is that latter French Norman invasion of England that contributed to the Hundred Years' War. Was England supposed to be under the thumb of the French monarchs, as the Norman kings were supposed to be? Did Normandy, in exchange, really belong with the English, as the Norman invaders had, essentially, become "English" and so perhaps their French homeland should still be theirs too? And, just as the Norse-descended "Normans" (hence the name) invaded present-day Normandy and claimed it as their own, perhaps it was time to just take over France entirely?

Considering that both England and France were Christian for centuries, I find it hard to believe that God would intervene in either conflict, particularly since some invasions were tremendously successful on one hand (the Germanic Frankish invasion of France, the Germanic Anglo-Saxon invasion of England) and some failed completely. Which side is God supposed to take in these civil conflicts?

Overall, in history, it is pretty easy to look back on what happened and claim it was "God's will" after the fact. It may as well be God's will. Or it may just be that one nation had a stronger army and better luck, with the victor writing the history books. The vanquished European tribes of history, many of whom were Christian or otherwise, were conquered and absorbed into obscurity, but I would not claim to argue that God inherently hated them or preferred their enemies. It is just an oddity of history, in the end.
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Old 06-04-2008, 09:39 PM   #7
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What kind of culture did medieval Europe have? Were drugs often used back then?
Germanic pagan religion did assign importance to certain substances. Coupled with the fact that Germanic culture is all over Western Europe, due to the post-Roman invasions of these tribes, and the uneasy Christianization of these tribes, where many of their pagan practices long outlived their religion and existed alongside Christianity, it is conceivable.
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Old 06-08-2008, 10:57 PM   #8
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Joan of Arc: Genuine or Not?

real? genuine?

sure

why not?

She has as much right to be real as Abraham, and all the other people in the past that there are claims of communication with the almighty.

If he comunicated any of them, why would he not have comunicated with Joan?

and why that conflict and not others?

That question could be applied to any person where is a similar claim.
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Old 06-09-2008, 10:28 AM   #9
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Germanic pagan religion did assign importance to certain substances. Coupled with the fact that Germanic culture is all over Western Europe, due to the post-Roman invasions of these tribes, and the uneasy Christianization of these tribes, where many of their pagan practices long outlived their religion and existed alongside Christianity, it is conceivable.

But wasn't anyone who practiced them branded a witch?
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Old 06-10-2008, 06:58 PM   #10
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IF there is a god he doesnt understand international boundries
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Old 06-10-2008, 08:25 PM   #11
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But wasn't anyone who practiced them branded a witch?
We're not talking pagan witchcraft here, as much as old traditional practices lasting from the pagan era to the Middle Ages. Medieval "medicine," for instance, was substantially different than modern medicine, and, chances are, they never understood what was going on, or they didn't see hallucinogenic side effects as something created in the mind. Hence, they ascribed it to the supernatural, demons and angels alike.
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Old 06-10-2008, 10:26 PM   #12
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Hearing about this visit, and seeing pictures of the town, got me thinking: did Joan of Arc really communicate with saints, or was she hearing voices in a schizophrenic sense?
I believe that neurology and psychology can account for most - if not all - of the spiritual encounters that were documented during the Middle Ages. As melon has already pointed out, there is evidence that psychoactive drugs may have been used to enhance or create religious experiences during this time period. Starvation and sleep deprivation were also used (both intentionally and unintentionally) by certain mystics/fraternal orders/etc. to induce spiritual hallucinations. St. Francis of Assisi, for instance, experienced his most famous vision (in which he developed stigmata) during a forty day fast. Here's a fairly interesting article that examines the biology and psychology behind it: http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/anthro/fa...erStigmata.pdf

While I admittedly don't have any hard research to support this, I've also come across instances of common sleep paralysis while reading mediaeval literature. For example, there are a few passages in Guibert of Nogent's memoirs [link] that absolutely scream sleep paralysis:

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Since it is the habit of the Devil to invade souls weakened with grief, suddenly while [Guibert's mother] lay awake, the enemy himself lay upon her and by the burden of his weight almost crushed the life out of her. As she choked in the agony of her spirit and lost all use of her limbs, she was unable to make a single sound, having only her reason free, in utter silence she awaited aid from God alone. Then behold, from the head of her bed, a spirit, no doubt a good one, began to cry out in loud and kindly tones, "Holy Mary, help her." And after some words which she fully understood, keeping her senses, although so grievously harassed, he broke out into angry rebuke. Thereupon he who lay upon her, rose up, and the other met and seized him and in the strength of God, with a great crash, overthrew him, so that the room shook heavily with the shock of it and the maidservants, fast asleep, were rudely awakened. Now when he had thus been driven out by the power of God, that good spirit, who had called upon Mary and routed the Devil, turning to her whom he had rescued, said, "Take care to be a godly woman."
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One of the chief nobles from a neighbouring town, a very courtly and discreet man, kept watch while the rest slept in the dead of night. As his thoughts wandered at will and his eyes roved hither and thither, suddenly the figure of a chief devil with a small head and a hunched back appeared advancing toward the man, and, looking at each of the beds in turn, he proceeded to walk slowly around the room. When the great Deceiver came to the mattress of the young man whom I mentioned as being most beloved by the bishop, he halted and, turning his gaze on the sleeper, said: "This man troubles me bitterly and worst of all those who sleep here." After saying that, he headed for the door of the latrine and went in. The man who was looking on, while paying attention to all this, was oppressed with a burden which made speech or movement impossible.
Now compare that to the information on this page: Sleep Paralysis and Associated Hypnagogic and Hypnopompic Experiences. The really fascinating thing about it is that the brain essentially "creates" an explanation for the paralysis by drawing upon the fears of one's cultural environment. During the Middle Ages, Satan was likely the primary fear lurking in every Christian's mind. It is therefore quite fitting that Guibert should describe the oppressive presence of the devil during these seemingly spiritual experiences.

So, to finally answer your question...no, I don't think Joan of Arc was hearing the voices of saints. I think that she - like many other mediaeval visionaries - was experiencing abnormal neurological activity and interpreting it as the voices of saints, based upon the cultural beliefs of her time.

Sorry for going off on tangents; this is obviously a topic that interests me quite a bit.
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Old 06-10-2008, 11:28 PM   #13
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It rightly should interest you, but don't stop at medieval visionaries, kick it up to a natural theory of all prophets.
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Old 06-11-2008, 12:22 AM   #14
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It rightly should interest you, but don't stop at medieval visionaries, kick it up to a natural theory of all prophets.
Of course. The neurology behind spiritual visions applies across all time periods and cultures. I just happen to enjoy waffling on about the Middle Ages whenever the opportunity presents itself.
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Old 06-11-2008, 12:31 AM   #15
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Ah but the neurology of belief would place the behaviour into a biological (and therefore evolutionary) context. I understand that a lot of religious people have no problem reconciling their existence through natural processes but to explain that magical feeling, I think that there could be a bit of opposition or rejection.
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