In particular, I remember "camp-style" meetings where people were expected to speak in tongues to "prove" that they were "filled with the spirit." There was an incredible amount of pressure in these meetings, which were often announced ahead of time as being meeting where one would become filled by the spirit. Often, the result was that people, myself included as a very young child, did speak in tongues. But what caused this to happen? Was it a form of mass hypnosis, where the atmosphere was conducive to creating a desired effect? Are children more vulverable to this (I must have been in 5th grade?)? Is it harmful?
This post isn´t related to the theology of "speaking in tongues," rather it - and the other - was related to how do we discern the "spirit" behind such manifestions? And perhaps as a side note, can "mass hypnosis" also be a positive thing? Or can it be explained away by claiming that "one has to be in the know," to understand such things.
I remember reading an interview with a priest who, asked by a skeptic about glossalia (i.e., the gift of tongues of Acts 2:4), replied 'Oh, I think speaking in tongues is great!' The interviewer reacted with some surprise, and asked him why he thought so. The priest replied with something along the lines of the following: 'Oh, you know, when you're just so enraptured with the joy of being in love with God, and that natural enthusiasm just sort of 'bubbles over' into unintelligible jibberish, I just think it's wonderful!'
Now, I don't know too much about speaking in tongues, but I know that's not it. If there is a gift of tongues, it is not a natural 'bubbling over' of religious enthusiasm. It is a supernatural gift. I know, I know, 'grace builds on nature' and all that - my Church history teacher told me that St. Theresa of Avila's flights of ecstasy were actually epileptic fits, and this was no big deal, because 'grace builds on nature' - but I find it hard to imagine either spontaneous jibberish or epileptic fits being described as 'gifts of the Spirit.' Similarly, putting psychological pressure on someone to respond in a certain way, then creating a hyper-suggestive, emotionalistic environment, is not the way to get a gift of the Spirit. Whatever might be produced by this sort of environment may be a 'good' or a 'bad' thing - and who knows, there's nothing to stop the Spirit from choosing such an environment in which to bestow Himself, no matter how incondusive it may be - chances that a genuine supernatural gift is being received seem dim. Probably not harmful, though, except for the possibility that the emotional 'let-down' which inevitably follows such a psychological peak experience is bound to create disillusionment, which may, in turn, be destructive to the spiritual life.