What is Speaking in Tongues?

Speaking in tongues Primarily a form of religious expression characterized by an outpouring of nonsense syllables or foreign words unknown to the speaker, speaking in tongues is also a common psychic phenomenon. Glossolalia, as it is also called, has been known since the first days of Christianity: the Apostles of Christ gathered together on Pentecost are said to have burst forth in tongues when the Holy Ghost appeared to them and to have used the gift in their missionary work among non-Hebrew peoples. The phe­nomenon has had a cyclical popularity and respectability throughout history: outbreaks have included those at Lou-dun, in France, where a group of Ursuline nuns began speaking in several foreign languages (and were accused of being witches), and among dialect-speaking refugees from the Cévennes, who unaccountably spoke perfect French. The last 20 years have seen a revival of the practice among groups from virtually all the U.S. Christian denominations. Condemned early in the 1960s by church officials, speaking in tongues is now accepted as a legitimate religious phenomenon not only by fundamentalist sects but by the Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches. Glossolalia is less rarely manifested by non-religious persons, but it occurs occasionally among mediums, usually in the form called xenoglossy, or foreign tongues. Particularly adept at xeno­glossy was a young medium of the 19th century named Laura Edmonds, who allegedly conducted conversations in Greek, Spanish and Chippewa while in a trance. Psychologists diífer in their estimates of the healthiness of glossolalia: some see it as the manifestation of unresolved conflicts, while others regard it as a useful means of venting intense religious feelings.