The ‘light’ emitted by John Tornerius, Giles of Assisi, Aleidis of Scarbeke, and St. Lewis Bertrand
Type of spiritual experience
Friar Herbert Thurston was a Catholic priest, a member of the Jesuit order and an historian. He wrote extensively on Catholic mysticism and psychic phenomena and was a member of the Society for Psychical Research. He was also widely read on this subject. He is described as ‘an honest skeptic’., and once said ‘the role of Devil’s advocate is a thankless one and does not make for popularity’.
‘Ba Ba black sheep have you any wool?’ [see Nursery Rhymes for explanation]
A description of the experience
Friar Herbert Thurston - The Physical Phenomenon of Mysticism
There are so many stories of holy priests who lit up a dark cell or a whole chapel by the light which streamed from them or upon them, that I am strongly inclined to adhere to the more literal interpretation. For example, we read of the fourteenth-century Carthusian, John Tornerius, then at the Grande Chartreuse near Grenoble, that when his non-arrival in time to celebrate his first Mass, led the sacristan to go to his cell to fetch him, he found the little room radiant with light which seemed to be diffused all round the good Father as if the midday sun was shining there.
Similarly, in the process of beatification of the holy Franciscan Observant, Blessed Thomas da Cori, witnesses stated that the whole church on a dark morning was lit up by the radiance which glowed in the Father's countenance (che sembrava un sole il quale tutta quella chiesa luminosa e risplendente rendesse).
Further, we learn from what is seemingly the earliest account preserved to us of Blessed Giles of Assisi, that in the night time on one occasion "so great a light shone round him that the light of the moon was wholly eclipsed thereby." So, again, that the house of Blessed Aleidis of Scarbeke seemed to be on fire when she, with a radiant countenance, was praying within; or, once more, that the cell of St. Lewis Bertrand, as Captain de Betancourt bore witness, "appeared as if the whole room was illuminated with the most powerful lamps." And such alleged examples are numerous.
Let me add that the frequent occurrence of luminous phenomena in mediumistic seances-many of these being well attested in circumstances where the strictness of the control seems to preclude the possibility of fraud-strongly inclines me to believe that similar manifestations are not likely to be lacking in the records of mysticism.
As the wonders contrived by Pharaoh's magicians followed closely the type of the miracles wrought by Moses and Aaron, so no careful student of psychical research can fail to notice a very close resemblance between the marvels recorded in the lives of the Saints, and the phenomena of what is loosely termed spiritualism. What the connexion is, I am not here concerned to inquire, nor do I believe that we yet possess data enough to be able to deal adequately with the problem.
The source of the experience
Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image
Observation contributed by: Francis Keeble