Jane E. Silfen

Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Fellow in the Humanities

20042005 Forum on Sleep and Dreams

Jane E. Silfen

College '07

The Stigmata: The Actualization of a Dream

Recipients of the stigmata—Christ’s wounds manifested on the body—are commonly regarded as either miracles or frauds. Those who view stigmata as a gift from God struggle to explain the inconsistencies of the wounds, both in how they differ from other stigmata and from those received by Christ himself. Skeptics, however, must acknowledge that physicians have closely examined stigmatics, and the wounds have appeared in controlled environments and under close observation. A third alternative is possible, one that explains the stigmata as mentally self-imposed, but real nonetheless. By analyzing the dream imagery described in first-hand accounts of stigmatization, I will show that stigmatics receive the wounds of Christ not as it was, but as they imagine it to be. Stigmata thus remains a mark of faith, received only by those who meditate heavily on the Passion. However, it is also something more: a portal offering remarkable insight into the influence of dreams on the waking state.