Ellen G. White and Her Critics


Chapter 5—Certain Nervous-Disorder Proofs Examined
Were Mrs. White’s Visions Due to Nervous Disorders?—Part IV

In the light of the present-day medical conclusions regarding certain nervous and mental maladies, as laid alongside the life sketch of Mrs. White and the Bible description of prophets, the reader will be able, without our aid, to evaluate certain so-called symptom-proofs that have been set forth by critics to show that she suffered from hysteria and epilepsy, et cetera. To explain the phenomenon of her life as hysteria, for example, is to violate one of the most primary rules that govern modern scientific thinking; namely, that the cause must be adequate to explain the effect. Neither hysteria nor any other grave psychic disorder could have produced a life of unremitting toil and devotion; a mother wholesomely devoted to her family; a public leader drawing the blueprints of world enlargement for a church body; a spiritual guide pouring forth, from platform and through numerous books, moral and religious counsel that even non-Adventists have acclaimed as of the highest quality. EGWC 70.1

However, one of the so-called proofs that her visions were a result of psychic disorders sounds so plausible and presents so definitely the essence of a whole series of symptom-proofs that we shall examine it here. The “proof” will be presented in the words of D. M. Canright, who first set it forth; in fact this whole chapter must focus directly on arguments presented by him: “I do not know that she [Mrs. White] ever had a vision while alone, or if so, only once or twice.” In the same connection he speaks of her “last vision,” and gives the date, “1875.” EGWC 70.2

His argument is this: Her visions were the result of hysteria; hysterics “put on” their “act” only in public, hysterical manifestations subside with the menopause, and in Mrs. White’s case that would be about 1875. Therefore, her visions are merely hysterical episodes. EGWC 70.3

But we have discovered that (1) there is no causal relationship between the fact of the menopause and the subsidence of the bizarre features of hysteria; (2) Mrs. White’s visions were very definitely not all in public, even in the years before 1875; (3) her “last vision” was not in “1875.” The available evidence points to her having visions until the last years of her life. True, they were not public visions, but they were nonetheless visions. That fact stands out clear from the record, and that fact quite demolishes the argument so carefully constructed to prove that hysteria is the explanation of her visions. For the purpose of his argument, the critic dismisses the visions of her later years by a brief reference to “impressions” she had at night. He seeks to convey the idea that these were definitely not visions. EGWC 71.1