Joannes Stobaeus’ “First Vision” Account

Joannes Stobaeus was a 5th-century AD compiler of Greek texts in Stobi, Macedonia. He likely read widely, and recorded many of the most interesting passages he came across from Greek authors, including poets and prose writers. The following seems to be a reference to the ancient Mysteries, religious rites, secret ceremonies and initiations, and what took place in them, perhaps a reference to the Eleusinian Mysteries

Joannes Stobaeus was a 5th-century AD compiler of Greek texts in Stobi, Macedonia. He likely read widely, and recorded many of the most interesting passages he came across from Greek authors, including poets and prose writers. The following seems to be a reference to the ancient Mysteries, religious rites, secret ceremonies and initiations, and what took place in them, perhaps a reference to the Eleusinian Mysteries. The reference may have come from Plutarch.

“The mind is affected and agitated in death, just as it is in initiation into the Grand Mysteries. And word answers to word as well as thing to thing: for τελευτάν is to die, and τελείσθαι to be initiated. The first stage is nothing but errors and uncertainties; laborious wanderings; a rude and fearful march through night and darkness. And now arrived on the verge of death and initiation, everything wears a dreadful aspect; it is all horror, trembling, sweating, and affrightment. But this scene once over, a miraculous and divine light displays itself; and shining plains and flowery meadows open on all hands before them. Here they are entertained with hymns, and dances, with the sublime doctrines of sacred knowledge, and with reverend and holy visions. And now become perfect and initiated, they are free, and no longer under restraints; but crowned and triumphant, they walk up and down the regions of the blessed; converse with pure and holy men; and celebrate the sacred mysteries at pleasure.”

(Source: Warburton, William. 1766. The Divine Legation of Moses Demonstrated. In Nine Books. London: Printed for A. Millar, and J. and R. Tonson, 342-343.)

Some similarities to Joseph Smith’s First Vision seem to include:

  • The mind being affected.
  • Feeling extremely fearful, even on the verge of death and destruction.
  • Being in a dark night, a thick darkness.
  • Everything being a horror, dread, doom, and trembling.
  • Seeing a miraculous Light appear
  • This light is Divine
  • Being ushered into a heavenly vision
  • Being filled with joyous things
  • Having transcendent knowledge and understanding imparted to the mind
  • Feeling freed or delivered from bounds and restraints
  • Feeling peace and joy, triumphant
  • Conversing with the blessed, pure and holy men

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