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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

glossolalia Many Christian evangelists encourage their audiences to engage in “speaking in tongues.” While engaged in this practice, performers (both preachers and worshipers) mumble gibberish which is believed by the faithful to be a secret prayer language understood only by God. The fact that each person mumbles differently matters not a whit. God, angels, and anointed ministers, we are told, are able to understand.
      Technically, this psychological phenomenon is known as glossolalia. Early Methodists, Quakers, Shakers, and Mormons adopted it, then de-emphasized it. It fell into disuse until about 1830, when it reappeared in England among “females of excitable temperament,” Until recently, there was not much emphasis on it in Christianity but now the Pentecostal sects have revived it.
      Scripturally, glossolalia is traced back to the Bible in Acts 2:4, and a meeting of the apostles, wherein  

      they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to talk in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them power of utterance.

      Non-Christian glossolalia predates the modern version considerably, being described in very ancient religions and known in primitive societies untouched by Christianity. It was known to Plato, who described it in use in his day: Greek and Roman oracles spoke in tongues. Virgil wrote, in the Aenead, Book Six, about a Roman Sibyl who babbled that way. Moslems embraced the idea, too. Non-Pentecostal fundamentalists believe that their Pentecostal brothers might be inspired to glossolalia by Satan.
      It says in 1 Corinthians 14:2 that  

      when a man is using the language of ecstasy he is talking with God, not with men, for no man understands him.

      This is an exact use of magical spells and incantations, an intrinsic part of magical methodology, and is indistinguishable from it, though it is called “religion” by today's priests.

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