This is one of my Guerrilla Skepticism mantras when you aren't sure where to start editing Wikipedia. Its nice if you have favorite topics but it can be a bear to find the citations that Wikipedia needs to be notable.
In the case of Vassula Ryden (whom I had never heard of) I found an article in Skeptical Inquirer written by Joe Nickell about her purported written messages from God and friends. So I had a well sourced document on hand and she had a Wiki page that was mostly positive or neutral. Start with all this, carefully read the source and write a small blurb about the article, then "tag" the Wiki page while also using "ref" tags linking it back to the original article. And your done!
Here is the article...
"Rydén is best known for her writings entitled "True Life in God", which is a compilation of nearly 2000 messages she claims to have received from God since the year 1985 when she was living in Bangladesh. While she was writing a grocery list, she reports to have suddenly experienced a light electrical feeling in her right hand and, at the same time, an invisible presence. She says she felt led by this presence and, permitting her hand to be guided, she wrote a line in a very different style from her own with the words: "I am your guardian Angel and my name is Daniel."
A long list of "investigators" all listed on her page looked into her writings and here is what they determined...
"...three possibilities are open for discernment – a diabolical origin, a psychic origin or a supernatural origin. The findings of these investigations of Rydén’s case – documented in books and articles – systematically rule out the first two possibilities and conclude that the writings are a phenomenon of supernatural origin"
How about just FRAUD. Have you thought about that? Apparently not. Wonder if someone should check these references?
Another investigator researched her writings and came up with this...
"Laurentin carefully examines and addresses the many objections made against Rydén. He states: "Vassula is one of the most balanced and transparent seers that I know. Nevertheless, she has excited more opposition than any other. As is often the case for mystics, disbelief, fear, opposition and calumny appear in like measure with the graces received."
"”The theological analysis of her writings brings into relief themes like: devotion to the Holy Spirit, the Alliance of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Christian unity, the conversion of Russia, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the spreading apostasy."
Kinda makes you want to be sick doesn't it? Anyone looking this woman up would find little criticism of her "talent" to someone on the fence it kinda looks like she is the real thing. Messages from God? Well Okay, why not? She is not telling people to jump off cliffs but to Love one another and spread the Word of God. This was the article before I got a hold of it.
Enter Joe Nickell. CFI investigator of the paranormal, also an expert on handwriting analysis.
"In Skeptical Inquirer Magazine investigator Joe Nickell took an objective look into these “purported messages” and found “the contrived handwriting, the linguistic lapses, and the indications of fantasizing all suggest that Vassula Ryden is not in touch with supernatural entities but is simply engaging in self-deception that in turn deceives the credulous. Her automatic writings therefore are not works of revelation but simply of pious imagination.” Furthermore Ryden's personal misspellings and grammar are identical to those written by Jesus, God, Mary and her own invisible “guardian angel, Daniel which all seem to have the same hand writing and grammar. Nickell states, “If God deigns to use the English language, should we not expect it to be rendered accurately?” In conclusion Nickell writes, “One suspects that if Ryden were prevented from seeing what was being written, the entities supposedly guiding her hand would be unable to so faithfully follow the lines! I invite Ryden to accept my invitation to perform a scientific test to refute or confirm this suspicion."
Insert arm pumping here! That is pretty exciting to this Guerrilla Skeptic! There was nothing critical of her on her page, and shame on us for that. We should never allow this kind of woo to go unchallenged. Do you think any hint of doubt ever entered the head of one of her followers? This isn't so in your face that I'm calling her a fraud (which I have no idea or not if she truly believes these claims) and that isn't important here. What is important is to state the facts with no opinion. But it was okay for me to quote Nickell's opinion. See the difference?
Still we badly need more criticism on her page. She isn't one of the popular woos so she doesn't get the attention that grief vampire Sylvia Browne does. We need to get the link to the SI article "active" I've written to Barry Karr of SI and asked if we can't get these articles to become something people can click on and in an instant able to read. As it stands now they have to order the magazine article or go to the library and look it up. Hardly something people are likely to do. Just waiting for a reply from Barry.
This adventure isn't truly over. I had a problem with the wording in the first paragraph of the article. They had written...
"She receives no personal royalties, fees or benefit for her efforts.
Yeah sure. So I added the line "Other than personal recognition from devoted fans, she receives no personal royalties, fees or benefit for her effort".
That was taken out. So on the discussion page I state that the editor is not NPOV (in other words not neutral point of view, which is against Wikipedia's policies) the editor is showing bias towards Vassula Ryden. I say either remove the line completely or allow mine to stay. This all happened in March 2011. I waited and waited and no one said anything (the page is on my Wikipedia Watch List) so in June I wrote rather aggressively...
"Been more than 2 months. I'm removing the non-NPOV statement about her "doing this for free" line. Does she SELL her books or not? Amazon has quite a few books listed of hers for sale, wonder if they know they are supposed to be for free? I'm willing to go through arbitration with Wikipedia senior editors if you try to put it back into her page. Sgerbic"
So far so good. Sometimes you have to get a bit aggressive and use Wiki phrases to make them think you know what you are doing. Just be confident.
Just for the fun of it check out a few of the comments from other editors on the discussion page which just reek of bias and craziness.
if you read the documents from the Vatican, there can be no doubt that the writings ARE NOT private relevation (from Heavan) but personal considerations of Mrs Ryder. It is implied that, like Fatima and Lourdes, the writings are on the same level. This is blatently misleading, because Fatima and Lourdes ARE private relevations, recognised by the church, without warnings from the Vatican, and Mrs Ryder's writings are only personal consideration, with warnings from the vatican."
"Since it appears that the real theologians at the Vatican have nixed the possibility that Jesus "this time" is really communicating through this woman, it seems that demons would most likely be responsible. They like to lie about who they are. They love to pretend to be good beings suggesting that they are Jesus or angels of Heaven. Look at the stupid demon who began talking to Joseph Smith. Smith was arrested for divining which is an occultic activity. Then when the supposed angel Mormoni began talking to him he believed that it was a Heavenly angel. What he didn't seem to understand is that someone who messes around with the occult is not going to get Heavenly visiters but demonic ones! I mean Mormoni? Please!"
To the person who "trusts" the messages of Mrs. Ryden why not just read the real Bibles and get your messages from them instead of another Christian who seems to be loosing her way by one of Satan's monkeys?"
"If anyone tries to re-modify this article, putting author-opinionated comments such as stating Vassula's writings not being of divine origin etc, this WILL be taken on to the next level and we will get an independent 3rd party to intervene based on the abovementioned guidelines.
I don't feel like getting an account to make the needed changes..."
There is a bit of hope though. this is from August 2010.
"Does making "prophetic" predictions automatically give someone notability? How many predictions did she make that didn't come true? This article has problems. Like this blatantly biased statement, "Vassula has recorded many prophetic messages, some already fulfilled and others yet to unfold." This is ridiculous and implies that she has some kind of mystical power, a theme found throughout the article. And regarding notability, almost all the references to her writings are from religious organizations, her own website, or clergy with very few sources in the non-religious media. I think that this article needs to be heavily edited and unsubstantiated, biased claims of prophecy and especially the section on "supernatural phenomena" removed. The sections on her work with other churches and the United Nations, and the controversy with the Catholic Church is fine and well sourced, but the rest is questionable. I may be out of bounds, I don't edit a lot here. ch473 "
I wrote to ch473 thanking him/her for their skepticism and advising them to please make the changes they think will improve the article.
I'm telling you there is A LOT of work out there to do. I have Vassula Ryden on a Google Alert hoping for more articles about her (hopefully critical ones) that I can add to the page. So far I've only gotten a couple hits, mostly in some other language and a link to her fan page on Facebook. (Which only has 39 fans BTW).
Ok... a couple things...bear with me...there's a happy ending...ReplyDelete
Nickell's information makes some important points, but whether it's editing, or really how he said it, he includes *a lot* of conjecture and supposition in his conclusions.
For starters, he supposes how "God" would presume to write, or whether the entities would know how to stay in lines. Or that they would not all have the same handwriting. How would he know this?
This implies he has an idea of "God", et al., and that what this woman is displaying isn't what he imagines "God" and the others to be like. He is expressing his own prejudices here, as much as the writer of the wiki page, whether he realizes it or not.
Entities seen in visions are not personalities that they should have their own handwriting, they are images in the form of humans, or angels, or Jesus, or as is the case with "God," he is often seen as light.
They don't write, the visionary does. Anything a mystic writes is literally filtered through *her,* and so *will* be expected to have errors such as those she will make herself.
In order to claim that these writings are *not* from a supernatural source, you'd have to have examples of writings that are agreed to BE from a supernatural source, and to my knowledge, there aren't any that a skeptic will agree are. So how can he say any writings aren't from a supernatural source?
He can't. He's not qualified. But the Church has had 1,700 years of practice in discerning what is and isn't of a supernatural, Christian source. They are the experts in alleged Christian revelation.
Mr. Nickell should spend more time looking into the vast collection of writings amassed by the Church's mystics before attemting to claim that anyone is *not* one.
However...there are many holes in the site, and many things that can be said to both bolster Mr. Nickell's existing comments, and correct any of his implications.
Of all the subject matter than I can contribute to, Christian Mysticism is probably the one I know best. Not only because I have *had* mystical experiences of the kind Ms. Ryden alleges she's had, but because I have chosen to pursue advanced degrees in the topic, through and including a Ph.D. All with a skeptical attitude.
But a skeptic seeks truth, not slant. So any other skeptic that wants to enter this particular arena will be expected to have their ducks in a row as much as they demand from the target of their skepticism.
Now let's go shred this page!!! 8-))
"Entities seen in visions are not personalities that they should have their own handwriting, they are images in the form of humans, or angels, or Jesus, or as is the case with "God," he is often seen as light."ReplyDelete
That's a lot of presuming Anna.
"They don't write, the visionary does. Anything a mystic writes is literally filtered through *her,* and so *will* be expected to have errors such as those she will make herself."
I'm sure that is what Vassula and others like her state. How convenient to them. How are you able to prove the writing is not just something she is making up then? Again this is presuming all this is true.
"In order to claim that these writings are *not* from a supernatural source, you'd have to have examples of writings that are agreed to BE from a supernatural source, and to my knowledge, there aren't any that a skeptic will agree are. So how can he say any writings aren't from a supernatural source?"
The burden of proof is not on the Skeptic Anna as you well know. She is making the outrageous claim that she is channeling spirits. It is up to her to prove that. How could we know she is not channeling demons, Satan or smurfs?
"He can't. He's not qualified. But the Church has had 1,700 years of practice in discerning what is and isn't of a supernatural, Christian source. They are the experts in alleged Christian revelation. "
Again you are presuming that the Church has some evidence that the rest of the world does not. Where is the supernatural proof?
Religion is based on faith. It will always come down to that. Proof will only ever be possible with the material. You can challenge her books, but you can't really challenge what's in her head producing them. That's the bottom line.ReplyDelete
As for my presumptions, they are not presumptions...obviously entities in a person's head are not personalities with the ability to write without the seers hands...how is that a presumption? It will always be the seer who is writing...always. Until we see a pen moving by itself...that's what I meant by that.
And that was me pointing out Mr. Nickell's presumptions...now *those* were presumptions. I understand he was a Baptist until college...that explained the slant I picked up in his language..
..and yes, it is convenient...you're absolutely right...good observation on your part...and this is why mystics have had problems proving their visions since time immemorial...you can't prove what's in your own head to another...
You can't prove what you're channeling, *but* you CAN prove the RESULT of the experiences. And there are tried and true results. I've written paper after paper on this stuff...and I've used nothing but experts as sources..this is not an unexamined field.
I can comment because I've seen some things myself...*that* material has certain consistent qualities to it that experts in the field of mysticism have identified. They are consistent world wide.
And I was not insulting Mr. Nickell, I was making a serious suggestion. But it's entirely possible that the few lines representing him are just simply not doing him justice, that's not his fault.
As for who has the burdon of proof, something I've noticed about skeptics, they think they can force people to give a shit about whether *they* believe a claim...this is very arrogant. Someone who has mystical experiences has no reason to care whether we believe them...they just throw it out there and get followers..anyone who doesn't believe them is not even in the conversation.
And as for the Church's proof, they DON'T NEED PROOF FOR A SKEPTIC, this is a very very important point...they offer proofs for *believers*. And they have it! You'd have to be Catholic though, to buy into it. They set down standards hundreds of years ago, and continually modify it, to suit their needs. Their rules are in the Catechism of the Catholic Church...you will not be approved a mystic by the Roman Catholic Church unless you fit THEIR CRITERIA...
Those that were claiming mystical knowledge that didn't match their criteria were burned at the stake in the middle ages. Remember them? They can't do that today, they can just claim the mystic doesn't follow doctrine and Catholics must let her go...or risk being excommunicated.
Mystical experience is not something someone can just come along and disprove with a few swipes, this is a huge area of study in an arena that the average person knows nothing about.
The Roman Catholic Church has over one billion adherents, it has a seat at the United Nations - no other faith does, it has its own astronomers, biochemists, physisists...they are not in the dark ageas AT ALL anymore...they have full time scholars with access to the same, and better, technology, sources, etc., than you and I could ever have.
When I say that Ryden is better off being attacked by them it's because I know exactly what they require from a mystic...and she doesn't fit it...she overstepped...
We are ants among elephants.
On another note, I tried searching Nickell's article on the SI site and it didn't return anything...what do I need to do to find it? Should I pursue the hard copy of the magazine? I'd love to order it if I knew when it was printed...
Berry Karr says that a lot of SI articles are on-line, but not ALL articles. This is one of those cases. You can get the magazine from www.csicop.com. On the citation on Vassula's page you will find the issue #.ReplyDelete
Awesome! I'm going to order it.. I would love to throw in some more of what Mr. Nickell has to say! I'll also do the link up you suggested re the automatic writing..options for what's going on should be represented..otherwise it just looks like a giant ad for the woman...ReplyDelete
Thank you Anna!ReplyDelete
I am not as articulate as you are, I have no problem with people re-editing my blurbs. I'm sure you will be able to work it better than I did.
Yes, it does look like a giant ad for her.
hhmm..I just tried looking for that issue on csicop and its not offered in past issues, or on the site. They just posted the Jan/Feb issue so it's possible the March/April issue will be posted too, but that will probably take a while I'm guessing...so I'm kinda stuck. I'm thinking I can expand the skeptical section with his content, link the auto-writing, and call it a day, but I have to wait till I can get access to his article first.ReplyDelete
I did order a subscription though! So it wasn't a total loss.
Did Karr indicate how I would order a past issue that they didn't have up in their past issue section?
Anna send me your address to my email.ReplyDelete
Your going to love the magazine!
My Google alert just brought me this YouTube video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2NEA3aPRNwReplyDelete
I tried to get through it but only made it a minute into it. Did you know that Jesus has the most beautiful baby blue eyes? I wonder if Vassula communicated that?
Anyway, wanted to point out that I still use Google Alerts, rarely get anything from Vassula Ryden but I'm still looking just in case.
Google alert today gave me this blog from "Our Catholic World". Has some nice images of Vassula meeting the Pope in 2008 and giving him a copy of her book. Probably a very big moment in both of their lives.ReplyDelete
Here is the link for safe keeping. No idea if there is anything to do with it.
Vassula prophesied, among other things, the collapse of the Twin Towers, ten years before the exact date (i.e. in a message dated September 11th 1991). These were all published many years before September 11th 2001. If this is not enough proof of the divine origin of her writings, then I do not know what else is. People are willing to believe anything (astrology, UFO, reptilians, you name it) but they find it hard to believe that God speaks to us.ReplyDelete
I and the World await the proof that she predicted this.Delete
BTW "Anonymous" why didn't she alert the FBI? Your saying that she had 10 years notice, maybe she could have given names and addresses for the terrorists. Should "psychics" that make predictions in advance be prosecuted for not acting on that information? In the same way the average citizen can be held responsible for holding onto knowledge that would have prevented a crime?
I'm sure CNN or many of the news agencies out there will be having a slow day after the elections are over and need some filler. Maybe they will pick up your story that God (which one I think is the next question) is giving us messages, would love to see your evidence.
I mean you can only report on escaped bears and treed cats for so long before viewers get bored.
@ sgerbic: I suppose you do not believe in the Apocalypse, either. You see, Saint John does not mention dates and addresses. Vassula's books were published in many languages several years before prophecies materialized. And please, if you have not read sth, do not comment on it. Ah, yes, also please learn to distinguish between prophets and psychics!Delete