False visions which followed Beauraing

Confusion was caused by a number of false visions that occurred during and after Beauraing; these sowed doubt in some people’s minds, as was the case with previous recognised apparitions. Some of those present on 8 December, who had been standing on the railway embankment, claimed to have seen a vision of, “a whitish light having a human form.”

When questioned the next day they were in a frightened and emotionally upset state, and some said they had seen something like Our Lady of Lourdes, but others gave different accounts.It is difficult to decide the exact cause of these “visions,” but perhaps some form of multiple hallucination was responsible, or more seriously perhaps they are evidence of demonic intervention.

In the highly charged atmosphere of that evening, when many expected a miracle or sign, these are certainly possibilities, and show that the greatest prudence is needed in investigating such phenomena.The difference between these events and the experiences of those who saw the miracle of the sun at Fatima are subtle but decisive. At Fatima a miracle had been promised and people had gone there with the expectation of seeing something, but without knowing exactly what would happen. But on 8 December the feeling had grown amongst the crowd, because it was the feast of the Immaculate Conception, that a miracle would be performed.

The Lady had however said nothing about a miracle, and so we can probably explain what was seen as resulting from an intense expectation which effected certain members of the crowd to the extent that they believed they saw something which wasn’t there, that is they were subject to some form of “emotional hallucination,” (if not a demonic episode).It is the difference between being told a miracle will happen, and in expecting a miracle to happen, situations involving two completely different mental, spiritual, and emotional states.

Further confusion

Further confusion was caused in June 1933 when a 58 year old man called Tilman Côme claimed to have been cured of illness after seeing the Blessed Virgin at the hawthorn in the convent garden. He alleged that Mary had said she had come to protect Belgium from the invader, which people naturally applied to Hitler, and he announced another “apparition” for 25 June when a crowd of 50,000 turned up.

Unfortunately it doesn’t seem that Mary’s time in heaven since the Assumption had done a great deal for her spelling, since Côme stated that on asking her name he saw this title in golden letters on her sash: Notre-Dame de Bôring, or “Our Lady of Bôring.” He would go into a sort of ‘trance’ and on this occasion he claimed that the vision had told him to organise a great pilgrimage for 15 August, the Feast of the Assumption; although 200,000 people turned up, by now the focus had shifted from Tilman Côme, and within a year, he faded from view as it was established that he was unwell and not really responsible for his actions.

So although his “visions” were false he played a part in drawing large crowds to Beauraing, and they should be a salutary reminder to those who support modern adult “visionaries” who have claimed to see Mary, Jesus or other supernatural figures: when “grown-ups” claim such things, unless they display evident signs of sanctity, it is highly likely that they are either deceived in some sense, unbalanced, or lying.

Sources: Sharkey & Debergh, Our Lady of Beauraing; Toussaint & Joset, Beauraing, Les apparitions.