Can We Have A "First Vision” Experience?

Many in the LDS Church may believe it was unique to Joseph Smith, but is it?

This is a guest post by Ann Purcell. Ann has been teaching a technique of meditation called Transcendental Meditation (TM) since 1973. In this article she introduces what’s possible in meditation and some of the differences between TM and other forms of meditation.

Ann Purcell

I recently posted a guest article on my blog by Bryce Haymond about Joseph Smith, publisher of the Book of Mormon and founder of the Latter-day Saint movement. In his essay Bryce describes a life-transforming experience that Joseph Smith had at age 14 when he was praying in a forest.

The First Vision

Suddenly he saw a light directly above him, first at a great distance, which he described as “above the brightness of the sun.” He said it was like a “pillar of fire,” which descended slowly towards him until it came over him, enveloping him in the light, and filling him with indescribable joy. He felt as if his mind was caught away into a heavenly realm, away from his natural surroundings, to a divine sphere. In his various accounts of the experience, he described seeing many different things including the Lord, God, Jesus Christ, many angels, and many other things that were ineffable and indescribable. He felt a sense of ultimate forgiveness, and profound divine love.

This experience is known as the First Vision. Many in the LDS Church may believe it was unique to Joseph Smith, but is it?
Many artists, athletes, mystics and people from all walks of life have had similar “first vision” experiences.

What was Anwar Sadat’s Experience?

A former President of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, described a transformative experience of transcendence. As a military officer during World War II, he was imprisoned for plotting to free Egypt from British rule. In his autobiography, In Search of Identity, Sadat recounts his experiences of solitary confinement, when he was completely cut off from any links to the outside world, including radio and newspapers. His only companionship during that time was his inner entity, which he called “self.”

“… I was able to transcend the confines of time and place. Spatially, I did not live in a four-walled cell but in the entire universe. Time ceased to exist once my heart was taken over by the love of the Lord of all Creation: I came to feel very close to him wherever I was… “ (More in The Supreme Awakening by Craig Pearson)

Henry David Thoreau’s Experience

Henry David Thoreau, the American Transcendentalist, beautifully describes a profound experience in his Journal of Henry David Thoreau:

“If with closed ears and eyes I consult consciousness for a moment, immediately are all walls and barriers dissipated, earth rolls from under me, and I float . . . in the midst of an unknown and infinite sea . . . We become like a still lake of purest crystal and without an effort our depths are revealed to ourselves.”

The Divine is Within Everyone

Every person has the divine—the transcendent within. All religions confirm this. In Christianity, Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is within you” (Luke 17:21). Sufism states “If human beings knew their own inner secrets, they would never look elsewhere seeking for happiness and peace.”
The transcendent is a field of pure silence at the source of all thoughts. It is an innate reality within everyone waiting to be tapped. Joseph Smith, Anwar Sadat, Thoreau, and many others have transcended spontaneously during a moment of silence.
We all have had moments of calm and peace walking on the beach, sitting by a pond, or reading a good book. These quiet moments are very charming and nourishing to our beings.
In this modern world with the internet, cell phones, and news bombarding us 24 hours a day, many people find it difficult to quiet their minds, even if they want to.
I was one of those who never thought I could sit still long enough to experience any calm. Fortunately, in 1972 I learned Transcendental Meditation (TM). What I like about TM is that it is completely effortless and natural. I could not believe that during my first meditation I actually sat still for twenty minutes and also enjoyed it!

How Does TM Differ From Other Meditations?

There are three basic types of meditation:

  1. Contemplation or concentration: Contemplation means to think about something, and concentration means to hold your mind on a specific thought or object. These types of meditations do not allow the mind to experience finer and finer levels of thought until one experiences the source of all thought, the field of pure silence. Also, concentrating on a specific object can strain the mind, is unnatural, and not an enjoyable practice.
  2. Mindfulness Meditation: The main goal of mindfulness meditation is to bring your awareness to the present moment and be mindful, without any judgment.
  3. Automatic Transcending: Transcendental Meditation falls into this category. TM takes your mind from the surface level of thinking to the source of all thought. It is like diving to the depth of the ocean where it is always calm rather than observing its surface waves. In TM, the mind automatically settles down to these more pleasing levels.

Millions of people who practice Transcendental Meditation have experiences similar to those of Joseph Smith, Anwar Sadat, and Henry David Thoreau.
Growing experiences of inner light, expansion of consciousness, unity, inner bliss, love, and peace are very common in TM practitioners.
B. B. from England wrote of her experience:

“I experience that transcendental consciousness is like a substance; it has a texture; it is like being submerged in the depths of the ocean. It is indescribably soft and smooth. It is a field of pure love. Once… a whirling pool of golden light opened in my heart. As the experience of silence deepens, and the enlivenment of the divine wholeness of life increases, I feel a melting of the small individual ego into the cosmic Self.”

Inner Bliss to World Peace

Imagine the world with everyone daily enjoying the inner bliss, peace, and love of the quietest level of their being, which is a crystal pool of light waiting for everyone to dive into. We can help dispel the darkness in the world by becoming lighthouses of our souls and radiating our inner bliss to create a better world. It is a win-win situation—by enhancing our lives with inner bliss and peace, we are also contributing to the peace of the world.

Ann Purcell is the author of The Transcendental Meditation Technique and The Journey of Enlightenment. Her website can be found at

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4 thoughts on “Can We Have A "First Vision” Experience?

  1. Beautiful and helpful! Thank you. These divine, peak, transcendent experiences are such gifts of grace. Practices like TM certainly have increased their frequency and their integration.

  2. I’m sure you’re aware of JST Luke 17:21, which changes it to “among you” instead of “within you.” The post is nevertheless as intriguing as the others. Keep it up!

    1. Yes, that is an interesting change by Joseph in the JST. I’d be interested to learn more about that specific change, and compare it with other translations, and commentaries on the verse. I know there has been a lot said about it.

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