Connecting People and Ideas in the Hearing Voices Movement

It was at the age of thirteen and a half, in the summer of 1425, that Joan first became conscious her “voices” or her “counsel.” It was at first a voice, as if someone had spoken quite close to her, but it seems also clear that a blaze of light accompanied it, and that later on she clearly discerned in some way the appearance of those who spoke to her, recognizing them individually as St. Michael (who was accompanied by other angels), St. Margaret, St. Catherine, and others. Joan was always reluctant to speak of her voices. She said nothing about them to her confessor, and constantly refused, at her trial, to be inveigled into descriptions of the appearance of the saints and to explain how she recognized them. None the less, she told her judges: “I saw them with these very eyes, as well as I see you.”

In the preface to Bernard Shaw’s play, saint Joan (page 13 14, Penguin Edition) he says of her voices:

Joan’s voices and visions have played many tricks with her reputation. They have been held to prove that she was mad, a liar and impostor, a sorceress (she was burned for this), and finally a saint. They do not prove any of these things; but the variety of the conclusions reached show how little our matter of fact historians know about other people’s minds, or even about their own. There are people in the world whose imagination is so vivid that when they have an idea it comes to them as audible voice, sometimes uttered by a visual figure …

The inspirations and intuitions and unconsciously reasoned conclusions of genius sometimes assume similar illusions. Socrates, Luther, Swedenbourg, Blake saw visions and heard voices just as Saint Francis and saint Joan did…. On the subject of the eleventh horn of the beast seen by the prophet Daniel he was more fantastic than Joan …

Her policy was also quite sound: nobody disputes that the relief of Orleans, followed by the coronation at Rheims of the Dauphin as a counterblow to the suspicions then current of his legitimacy and consequently of his title, were military and political masterpieces that saved France. They might have been planned by Napoleon or any other illusion proof genius. They came to Joan as an instruction from her Counsel, as she called her visionary saints; but she was none the less an able leader of men for imagining her ideas in this way.

Intervoice was set up to support the International Hearing Voices Movement, celebrating the diversity and creativity within it. We do what we can to share information and connect people with groups, networks and resources.

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