Martin Buber's "First Vision" Account

There is an experience which grows in the soul out of the soul itself, without contact and without restraint, in naked oneness. It comes into being and completes itself beyond the commotion, free of the other, inaccessible to the other. It needs no nourishment, and no poison can touch it. The soul which stands in it stands in itself, has itself, experiences itself – boundlessly.

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Martin Buber

The following words come from Martin Buber (1878-1965), a Jewish philosopher, educator, writer, and translator from Austria.

There is an experience which grows in the soul out of the soul itself, without contact and without restraint, in naked oneness. It comes into being and completes itself beyond the commotion, free of the other, inaccessible to the other. It needs no nourishment, and no poison can touch it. The soul which stands in it stands in itself, has itself, experiences itself – boundlessly. It experiences itself as a unity… because it has submerged itself entirely in itself, has plunged down to the very ground of itself, is kernel and husk, sun and eye… at once. This most inward of all experiences is what the Greeks call ek-stasis, a stepping out…
The human being who trudges along day by day in the functions of bodiliness and unfreedom receives in ecstasy a revelation of freedom. One who knows only differentiated experience – the experience of meaning, of thought, of will… comes to know an undifferentiated experience: the experience of the I. One who always feels and knows only particulars about himself suddenly finds himself under the storm cloud of a force, a superabundance, an infinity…
Of all the experiences which are said, in order to mark their incomparability, to be incommunicable, only ecstasy is by its very nature the ineffable. It is such because the human being who experiences it has become a unity into which no more dualities extend…
Now all powers have vibrated together into one force, all sparks have blazed together into one flame. Now one is removed from the commotion, removed into the most silent, speechless heavenly kingdom – removed even from language…
Being lifted so completely above the multiplicity of the I, above the play of the senses and of thought, the ecstatic is also separated from language, which cannot follow him…
One’s unity is not relative, not limited by the other; it is limitless, for it is the unity of I and world. One’s unity is solitude, absolute solitude: the solitude of that which is without limits…
The unbounded ones do not speak even to themselves, in themselves, because there are no boundaries within them either: no multiplicity, no duality, no more Thou in the I.

Source: Martin Buber, “Introduction: Ecstasy and Confession,” in Ecstatic Confessions, ed. Paul Mendes-Flohr, trans. Esther Cameron (San Franscisco: Harper & Row, 1985), 2-7.
Some similarities to Joseph Smith’s First Vision seem to include:

  • Being with oneself, alone, in solitude
  • Having an “experience,” a vision
  • Experiencing something like the “sun,” with sparks, blazing, and “flames” like fire
  • Discovering an ultimate divine reality, a power, a force, a superabundance, the Infinite, boundless, limitless
  • Experiencing a “heavenly” kingdom, space, vision
  • It is ineffable, indescribable, beyond description, defying all description, transcending language itself
  • The mind being caught away, being lifted out of oneself, apart from the natural sensations of one’s surroundings, body, and normal thought processes
  • A sense of absolute ecstasy, freedom, and joy, while also being absolutely calm, silent, and peaceful

If you would like to submit a “First Vision” account, either personal or found, for inclusion on this website, please click here.


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