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Observations placeholder

Carrel, Alexis - The Voyage to Lourdes



Type of Spiritual Experience


The Voyage to Lourdes was written probably shortly after his 1903 visit to Lourdes, but was not published until after his death. The book was written in the third person ostensibly by a "Dr. Louis Lerrac"---Carrel's last name reversed.

A description of the experience

The Voyage to Lourdes -  (1950, Harper & Brothers) by Alexis Carrel

Lerrac was convinced that the Lourdes phenomena deserved scientific investigation... A systematic study of the Lourdes cures had never been undertaken. Lerrac had decided to make the attempt. If the cures turned out to be only imaginary, he would not be losing much time. If, on the other hand, there were definite results, no matter what caused them, this fact, established scientifically, might have considerable interest... if, by wild chance, the facts were true, it would be a signal opportunity to see something profoundly interesting and the way would then be open to the most serious speculations." (Pg. 3-4)

[He recounts a dialogue with a priest]: "Out of every three hundred patients, some fifty or sixty always feel they have improved or been cured when they return.' 'And what about all those who hope for a cure and suffer the miseries of the long journey in vain?... They must die of fatigue and despair when their hopes are not fulfilled!' 'You are reckoning without faith, my dear Doctor... Those who are not cured come back comforted, and even if they die when they get home they are still happy!'" (Pg. 5)

..... "Absorbed in his scientific studies, his mind had been strongly attracted to the German system of critical analysis ... His religious ideas, ground down during the analytic process, had finally been destroyed, leaving him only a lovely memory of a delicate and beautiful dream. He had then taken refuge in tolerant skepticism. He had a horror of all that was sectarian... He both hated and loved the fanaticism of the Lourdes pilgrims and their priests whose sealed minds were lulled to sleep by a blind faith... Truth, he thought to himself... was always a sad and bitter thing. He was an unhappy man." (Pg. 15-16)

[In a discussion with a former classmate who asked him what kind of disease cure would convince him of miracles], "I would have to see an organic disease cured... a leg growing back after amputation, a cancer disappearing, a congenital dislocation suddenly vanishing. If such things could be scientifically observed, they would mean the collapse of all the laws we now accept, and then it would be permissible to admit the intervention of a supernatural power... we can never underestimate the power emanating from thousands of people united in one fervent purpose... It may possibly have a healing effect, in itself. But it is also certain that this power does not act on organic disease... If I should ever see such a remarkable phenomenon... I would willingly throw overboard all the theories and hypotheses in the world. But there is little danger. My purpose in coming here is to record what I see with all possible accuracy... I propose to be entirely objective... If such a case as hers [tubercular peritonitis] were cured, it would indeed be a miracle. I would never doubt again; I would become a monk!" (Pg. 20-22)

"A longing now swept over Lerrac to believe, with these unhappy people among whom he found himself, that the virgin Mary was not simply an exquisite creation of the human brain. Lerrac was praying, now... Lerrac's exaltation did not last. He forced himself back into the safe paths of scientific investigations... However, Lerrac kept his detachment and was prepared to accept the evidence of any phenomenon he might observe himself." (Pg. 28)

 "As he made his way past the thousands of fervent, rapt pilgrims, however, Lerrac found that he no longer wanted to smile at their childlike, fantastic hopes. All he had ever believed was turned upside down. The wildly improbable had become a simple fact. The dying were cured in a few hours. These pilgrimages had a power of their own and brought results; above all, they taught humility." (Pg. 39)

  "The Lourdes cures are incomparably superior to any known methods of therapy... All means of relieving pain and curing the sick are good, provided they succeed. It is the results that count. I have been able to observe a remarkable event... since I have seen an apparently incurable chronic invalid restored to health and normal life. These facts must be recorded, they must be conscientiously studied; above all, they must not be ignored and scorned." (Pg. 42)

[He summarizes], "The various phases of his [intellectual] development had brought him nothing but unhappiness. As he looked back upon his life, he realized that, after all, the Catholicism he had unfortunately failed to understand had given him more peace. Now he was alone and in darkness. Intellectual systems no longer seemed to count. In the face of life and death, mere theories were void. It was not science that nourished the inner life of man; it was the faith of the soul." (Pg. 46)

The source of the experience

Carrel, Alexis

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Science Items

Activities and commonsteps