Rather than discuss the merits and problems with Has anyone “possessed” ever spoken in language they did not know? I thought it would be better to take this off-line.

The current problems with the question:

  1. "Possession" is not well defined in scientific terms, i.e. it is not a phenomenon that can be tested.
  2. While an official document of the Catholic Church, the Rituale Romanum should not be considered as an authoritative source for scientific research. Consider the Church's teaching that Satan is “a spirit without body, without color and without odor.” If you interpret this from a physics standpoint, an entity without a body has no mass, and without mass it cannot store any information, and without the ability to store information there can be no intelligence, therefore a literal interpretation would conclude that Satan does not exist.

Some possible corrections:

  1. Provide a definition for "possession" in commonly accepted scientific terms. This may include observed changes in behavior after experiencing physical, mental or other emotional trauma, or some other event.
  2. Provide additional sources to give some scientific credence to the descriptions and methods described in the Rituale Romanum.
  • I am open to editing the question to clarify, but just to highlight my position when writing it: I'm not sure possession can be defined (it likely being either mental illness or role-playing i.e. a fiction) but I'm not sure one would need to define possession or evaluate the RR to answer the very narrow question of whether xenoglossia has occurred. Possession and the RR were only mentioned as specific versions of a notable claim (that xenoglossia is has occurred). Would it help clarify to add that to the question? Thanks for posting this discussion to improve the question. Jul 31, 2013 at 16:26
  • I think the question is valid and has a place here on skeptics--i.e. has there been a person who experienced "something" which caused them to speak a language they did not know before. In this case "something" could be interpreted as head trauma, a mental or emotional breakdown, or the general concept of demonic possession, without a firm definition of what "demonic possession" is. The general question "Is is possible for a person to suddenly speak a language that was formerly not known to them" is still valid.
    – oosterwal
    Jul 31, 2013 at 16:44
  • I'm not against using the Rituale Romanum as the source of the claim. I think it is a source of authority to a sufficiently large group that the claims can be considered notable.
    – oosterwal
    Jul 31, 2013 at 16:47

2 Answers 2


In my opinion, the question is about the xenoglossia aspect.

Possession is only referred to in the context of xenoglossia being one of the criteria that believers of possession look to, but we haven't been asked to examine the latter.

However, the title, and the text does put a lot of emphasis on the possession aspect (just in the amount of text devoted to it), even though it is only background. The question could be improved by keeping the question more focused on the xenoglossia aspect and only mention its meaningfulness to believers of possession in passing, perhaps part of showing that the claim of xenoglossia is notable.


I agree with the comment that ossterwal made in the comments on the comments on this question:

"Is is possible for a person to suddenly speak a language that was formerly not known to them"

Is a fine way to phrase the question and greatly downplays any role that possession may or may not play in the question itself.

The question of possession in and of itself is effectively untestable and unprovable from the perspective of this site; however, it should be easy to formulate an answer to the xenoglossy question that would be within the bounds of this site.

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