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The Physical Phenomena of Mysticism

Item Number: 60749

Catalog Code: PPM-DIS

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Physical Phenomena of Mysticism

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Herbert Thurston, S.J.’s “invaluable work of reference” (said the Times Literary Supplement in 1952) is back in print for Catholics crying out for guidance—and getting little—on such matters today. His topics? We’ll let all these major reviewers of his time, including the redoubtable London Tablet, outline them for you:


“One by one he examines the wonder of levitation, stigmata, telekinesis (movement of a body without material connection with the moving cause), luminous phenomena, human salamanders, to mention but a few. Even the ordinary ‘thriller fan’ will find plenty of stimulus.”—Irish Ecclesiastical Record

“A major section is concerned with stigmata. Is any subject more controversial?...This book certainly teaches us how very little we now know about what the human body can endure or do, and the effect of the mind upon it. What matters is sanctity. Thus the Holy See, when canonizing St. Gemma Galgani, explicitly denied that it was guaranteeing the phenomena she manifested as supernatural.”—C.C. Martindale, SJ

“Valuable source of information…covers the entire field of mystic experience…sound and scholarly…might prove disturbing.”—Catholic Library World

“There have been quite a few cases where the authorities have had to reprimand an ill-advised zeal for marvels which turned out to be entirely due to natural causes and even to fraud. This strange enthusiasm is even less understandable in a time like our own, which produces so much truly heroic sanctity.”—Author Hilda C. Graef, Books on Trial

Points of Interest, from Fr. Thurston



  • Why gullibility in these matters is no virtue
  • Ways to assess probable authentic divine manifestations (usually years and years after the fact)
  • St. Joseph of Copertino’s 35 foot levitation episode
  • True marvels of Catholic mysticism
  • Why some who seem authentically gifted have never been canonized, while most Saints have despite a lack of such episodes
  • Cures versus levitation: which is easier to judge real?
  • The curious cases of St. Francis, St. Teresa of Avila, and thenliving Padre Pio
  • St. Catherine of Siena’s story
  • Different kinds of stigmata _
  • Wounds on the hearts of a few authentic stigmatists, discovered after death
  • Fr. Thurston sees imposters in some “mystics” of their day
  • Apparent-stigmatists and “ecstatics” who fall away from the Faith
  • Why in beatification proceedings, heroic virtue takes precedence over “marvels”
  • An event in the Cure of Ars’ priesthood, when he was distributing Communion
  • Bodily elongation cases
  • Thoroughly discussed: “odor of sanctity” manifestations
  • More cases: incorrupt bodies… absence of rigor mortis… blood flowing from the dead
  • St. John Bosco feeds 300 boys with fewer than two-dozen rolls, but has rolls left over
  • Pope Pius IX’s warning about one case where he suspected diabolic influence

    Notes the London Tablet in a featured review:

    “Most of the strange physical manifestations popularly associated with mysticism are subjected to a searching examination….The Church has always been extremely reserved in her pronouncements on the origin of extraordinary phenomena. The learned Jesuit [Fr. Faber] should prove a great help to all who might at one time or another be confronted by such, and assist them to keep an open mind and avoid hasty judgments.”

    Classic Hardcover Style


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