Anne Catherine Emmerich’s Occult Visions: The Primary Inspiration for The Passion

PART I

About Anne Catherine Emmerich; Jesus Christ’s Prayer and Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane

 

Mel Gibson’s The Passion is primarily based on the writing of Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774–1824), The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Anne Catherine Emmerich

Anne Catherine Emmerich was a Catholic nun and a mystic. She had supernatural visions and experienced occult phenomena, such as levitation and communication with spirits, viz. demons. “During her whole life she had continual intercourse with the souls in purgatory… Often, while yet very young, she used to be awakened out of her sleep by bands of suffering souls, and to follow them on cold winter’s nights with bare feet” (Life of Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich). It is no wonder she was considered to be demon-possessed.

Anne Catherine Emmerich desired to become a nun when she was sixteen, but three convents in three different cities refused to receive her. Her biographer gives a rather unbelievable explanation for this: namely, that Anne was poor. More than ten years later, she managed to get into the convent at Dulmen, Germany, by extortion: “The parents of a young person whom the Augustinian nuns of Dulmen wished to receive into their order, declared that they would not give their consent except on condition that Anne Catherine was taken at the same time.”

The other nuns in the convent did not like Anne Catherine: “Then, she was suspected of listening at the doors, for the private feelings of dislike entertained against her became known, no one knew how, and the nuns felt uncomfortable and uneasy, in spite of themselves, when in her company.” “Whenever the rule… was neglected in the slightest degree, she beheld in spirit each infringement, and at times was inspired to fly to the spot… and she would then repeat suitable passages from the rule, without having ever learned them. She thus became an object of aversion to all those religious who broke the rule; and her sudden appearances among them had almost the effect of apparitions.”

Anne Catherine often fell into a state of ecstasy. It was during such states that she received the “visions” of the Passion. She and her protectors claim her visions were inspired by the Holy Spirit, while others, including the author of this article, believe these were the teachings of demons. Let us examine these visions in the light of the Bible.

Jesus Christ’s Prayer and Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane

In his beautiful sermon Christ’s Agony, the great puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards explains the occasion of Jesus’ distress and agony in the Garden of Gethsemane:

“According to Matthew, Christ made three prayers that evening while in the garden of Gethsemane, and all on this one subject, the bitter cup that he was to drink… What he thus insists on in his prayers, shows on what his mind was so deeply intent. It was his sufferings on the cross, which were to be endured the next day, when there should be darkness over all the earth, and at the same time a deeper darkness over the soul of Christ, of which he had now such lively views and distressing apprehensions.”

“Christ was going to be cast into a dreadful furnace of wrath, and it was not proper that he should plunge himself into it blindfold, as not knowing how dreadful the furnace was. Therefore that he might not do so, God first brought him and set him at the mouth of the furnace, that he might look in, and stand and view its fierce and raging flames, and might see where he was going, and might voluntarily enter into it and bear it for sinners, as knowing what it was.”

“Christ would not undergo these sufferings needlessly, if sinners could be saved without. If there was not an absolute necessity of his suffering them in order to their salvation, he desired that the cup might pass from him. But if sinners, on whom he had set his love, could not, agreeably to the will of God, be saved without his drinking it, he chose that the will of God should be done.”

“That at the same time that he had such a view of the dreadfulness of his sufferings, he had also an extraordinary view of the hatefulness of the wickedness of those for whom those sufferings were to make atonement.”

“Then we may suppose that Satan was especially let loose to set in with the natural dread that the human nature had of such torments, and to strive to his utmost to dissuade Christ from going on to drink the bitter cup; for about that time, towards the close of Christ’s life, was he especially delivered up into the hands of Satan to be tempted of him, more than he was immediately after his baptism; for Christ says, speaking of that time, Luke 22:53. ‘When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me; but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.’ So that Christ, in the time of his agony, was wrestling not only with overwhelming views of his last sufferings, but he also wrestled, in that bloody sweat, with principalities and powers…”

“If Christ’s courage had failed in the trial, and he had not held out under his dying sufferings, he never would have been saved from death, but he would have sunk in the deep mire; he never would have risen from the dead, for his rising from the dead was a reward of his victory. If his courage had failed, and he had given up, he would have remained from under the power of death, and so we should all have perished…”

The Biblical account

Matthew 26:36–46
“Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples,
Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them,
My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying,
O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter,
What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying,
O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.
And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them,
Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.”

Mark 14:32–42
Mark’s account is very similar to that of Matthew’s.

Luke 22:39–47
“And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. And when he was at the place, he said unto them,
Pray that ye enter not into temptation.
And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, saying,
Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, And said unto them,
Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.
And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas…”

Emmerich’s dark hallucinations of Jesus Christ’s agony

In Emmerich’s Dolorous Passion, after Jesus Christ took Peter, James, and John in the Garden of Gethsemane, and went a little further, He “beheld sufferings and temptations surrounding him on all sides, and drawing nearer and nearer, under the forms of frightful figures borne on clouds.” Fantasy.

  • The Garden of Gethsemane, with the walls of Jerusalem in the background Illustration by Géza Phur from the book Az Úr Jézus szülőföldjén: Zarándokutam Palesztinába 1898-ban (In the Homeland of Our Lord Jesus: My Pilgrimage to Palestine in 1898) by Lipót Huber

    The Garden of Gethsemane, with the walls of Jerusalem in the background
    Illustration by Géza Phur from the book Az Úr Jézus szülőföldjén: Zarándokutam Palesztinába 1898-ban (In the Homeland of Our Lord Jesus: My Pilgrimage to Palestine in 1898) by Lipót Huber

    Jesus left the three disciples and “went a few steps to the left, down a hill, and concealed himself beneath a rock, in a grotto about six feet deep, while the Apostles remained in a species of hollow above. The earth sank gradually the further you entered this grotto, and the plants which were hanging from the rock screened its interior like a curtain from persons outside.” This is a lie, because we read in the Bible that the apostles could see Jesus praying, falling on His face and kneeling down. Moreover it is a blasphemy, since Emmerich suggests here that Jesus Christ was so afraid He hid Himself.

  • In the cavern Jesus Christ sees all the sins of the world and the punishment which they deserved, and He takes them all upon Himself. At this moment Satan begins tempting Jesus and says, “Takest thou even this sin upon thyself? Art thou willing to bear its penalty? Art thou prepared to satisfy for all these sins?” These are not in the Bible either.
  • “I felt that Jesus, in delivering himself up to Divine Justice in satisfaction for the sins of the world, caused his divinity to return, in some sort, into the bosom of the Holy Trinity.” This is an awful lie, since for the work of salvation to be accomplished, it was absolutely necessary for Jesus Christ to be fully man and fully God at the same time.
  • According to Emmerich, “Satan laid to the charge of our Lord, with infernal impudence, a host of imaginary crimes.” He reproached Him for the scandals which He and the Apostles had caused by giving up ancient customs, for having been the cause of the sufferings of His parents in Egypt, for not having saved John the Baptist from death, for protecting men of despicable character, for refusing to cure various sick people, etc. These are all lies. First of all, many of them they did not happen at all. Besides, Satan wouldn’t have tempted Jesus with these, since Jesus Christ as God knew exactly what was considered a sin and what wasn’t.
  • “When he [Satan] spoke of the sale of Magdalene’s property, I could no longer keep silence, and exclaimed: ‘How canst thou reproach him with the sale of this property as with a crime? Did I not myself see our Lord spend the sum which was given him by Lazarus in works of mercy, and deliver twenty-eight debtors imprisoned at Thirza?’” Another lie. Jesus Christ did not touch money during His ministry on earth (Matt. 17:27; 22:19); Judas “had the bag”. Moreover the Bible does not say anything about some debtors imprisoned at Thirza.
  • Contrary to Emmerich’s vision, “the conflict in Christ’s soul”, which was “dreadful, beyond all expression or conception” (Jonathan Edwards), caused a bloody sweat, but Jesus Christ was in no way awe-stricken or nervous as an ordinary man. To describe Jesus’ state of mind and debase Him, Emmerich uses blasphemous expressions: “He fell from side to side, clasping his hands; his body was covered with a cold sweat, and he trembled and shuddered. He then arose, but his knees were shaking and apparently scarcely able to support him; his countenance was pale, and quite altered in appearance, his lips white, and his hair standing on end.”; “Ah, truly did our dear Lord writhe like a worm beneath the weight of his anguish and sufferings!”; “When they looked at him, and saw him pale and exhausted, scarcely able to support himself, bathed in sweat, trembling and shuddering, – when they heard how changed and almost inaudible his voice had become, they did not know what to think, and had he not been still surrounded by a well-known halo of light, they would never have recognised him as Jesus.”
  • We read in the Bible, that an angel came from heaven to strengthen Jesus. Emmerich says that “a procession of angels” came to His help – this is a lie –, and that He was praying and “turned towards the consoling angels”, instead of God – this is a blasphemy. Angels are His creatures, infinitely smaller than Him.
  • In Emmerich’s hallucinations, when Jesus returns to the three for the first time, makes the following statement, which is not in the Bible, and which debases Him again: “Were I to live, teach, and perform miracles for thirty-three years longer, that would not suffice for the accomplishment of what must be fulfilled before this time tomorrow. Call not the eight; I did not bring them hither, because they could not see me thus agonising without being scandalised; they would yield to temptation, forget much of the past, and lose their confidence in me. But you, who have seen the Son of Man transfigured, may also see him under a cloud, and in dereliction of spirit; nevertheless, watch and pray, lest ye fall into temptation, for the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
  • After Jesus returns to the grotto, the three disciples weep, and embrace each other, asking, “What can it be? What is happening to him? He appears to be in a state of complete desolation.” After this, they begin to pray, sorrowfully and anxiously. Another lie, which suggests that Jesus was abandoned by God that night, when in reality He was communicating with Him.
  • Emmerich claims to know what Mary and Jesus’ friends were doing in Jerusalem that night. Then she says: “She [Mary] felt no doubt of his [Judas] having gone to betray our Lord, for she had often warned him that he was a son of perdition.” This is a lie, because Jesus did not speak with Mary during His ministry (Matt. 12:46–50). She was present at the beginning of His ministry, when He performed His first miracle at the wedding in Cana, and at the end of His life at the cross. Emmerich’s statement is also a blasphemy, because it suggests that Jesus Christ had less knowledge than Mary, when in fact He was infinitely wiser than her and knew exactly who the traitor was.
  • When Jesus returns to the “grotto” in Emmerich’s vision, angels show Him all the sufferings he has to endure to save mankind. The problem is, in this vision Jesus Christ is conversing with angels and not God. Besides this, here Emmerich clearly shows her true colors and that the spirit of Satan was working in her: she, who describes lengthily the sins of the world, page after page, only touches the theme of suffering, but does not even mention hell, the lake of fire or Gehenna.
  • Emmerich says that the angels were praying before the throne of God on Jesus’ behalf, insinuating that He, who is God, could not pray Himself, or that God didn’t want to listen to His Son. This is a blasphemy.
  • In the next phrases Emmerich stresses again Jesus’ humanity, and repeats the heresy that the divinity of Jesus Christ returned to heaven that night: “I beheld the divine nature of the Son in the Person of the Father, and, as it were, withdrawn into his bosom”; “the Divine Will of our Lord withdrew in some sort into the Eternal Father, in order to permit all those sufferings which his human will besought his Father to spare him, to weigh upon his humanity alone”. Had this happened, Jesus would not have stood the trial, and we would all perish.
  • In Emmerich’s hallucinations, Jesus asks himself: “And what good will result from this sacrifice?”, which is to say, He, Who created the world and devised the plan of salvation, did not know what He was doing. Blasphemy.
  • Emmerich, who did not elaborate on God’s wrath, although His wrath was the main reason for Christ’s agony, in the next few pages goes on to detail every possible sin committed by future Christians. Jesus, seeing all these sins, cries out and awakes the three disciples. Not in the Bible. Peter runs to the grotto and sees Jesus bathed in his own blood, overcome with mortal fear and anguish, groaning, unconscious to Peter’s presence. Jesus humiliated again, Emmerich guilty of blasphemy again.
  • In her next vision, Satan takes up different forms, which represent different sins. She describes a gigantic serpent, with a crown on his head(!) and “of unbounded strength.” Occult symbols and a lie: Satan’s strength is limited. This creature “led forward countless legions of the enemies of Jesus in every age and of every nation”. These insulted and attacked Jesus Christ and His body, the Church. Emmerich goes on to describe in detail all these assaults and the wickedness of men – it appears as if she delights in describing sin and wickedness.
  • When Jesus returns the second time to the three disciples, – according to Emmerich, the blasphemer – He totters, stumbles at every step, trembles and groans, His face is pale and bloody, His hair in disorder. The apostles think He is wandering. Jesus asks them to console Mary and Magdalene. Then He desires to return to the grotto, but has no strength to walk, so John and James have to lead Him back. A flood of lies and blasphemies.
  • Emmerich’s next occult vision is about a “spiritual communication” between Jesus and Mary, “under the form of rays passing to and fro between them.” Mary senses Jesus’ agony and faints several times. Then she sends some messengers to make inquiries concerning Jesus, and goes with Magdalene and Salome to the Valley of Josaphat, and stretches her hands towards the Mount of Olives. Jesus turns His eyes in her direction “as if to seek her assistance.” Lies. Mary presented as greater than God: blasphemy.
  • In the next scene, the abyss opens and Jesus sees in “the first part of Limbo” Adam and Eve, the patriarchs, prophets, the just men etc. The terms “abyss” and “Limbo” are not used in the Bible. The Bible speaks about hell, Abraham’s bosom, paradise.
  • In the next blasphemous vision, Jesus falls on his face “like one at the point of death”, the angels disappear, and another angel, clothed like a priest, appears before Jesus. He holds a “small vase, in shape resembling the chalice used at the Last Supper” in his hand. At the top of this chalice, there is “a small oval body, about the size of a bean,” diffusing a reddish light. The angel places the “mysterious food” in Jesus’ mouth and gives Him to drink from the chalice. He then disappears, and Jesus Christ returns to His disciples. This chalice represents the cup of sufferings. Emmerich suggests here, that an angel, one of Jesus Christ’s creatures, was a mediator between God the Father and God the Son, and this angel is the High Priest instead of Jesus Christ. This is an awful blasphemy.

Conclusion: Emmerich’s vision of Jesus’ agony focuses on Satan and sins. She speaks of God and His wrath as little as possible. She suggests that Jesus was communicating with Satan instead of God that night, God being a mere eyewitness to the events, who sometimes sent angels to strengthen Jesus. Emmerich humiliates and debases Jesus whenever she can. The whole sequence of visions is blasphemous.