The following description comes from the 2nd and 3rd century Egyptian-Greek wisdom texts known as the Hermetica:
For it is a property of the Good that it becomes known to him who is able to see it… It shines forth much or little, according as he who gazes on it is able to receive the inflow of the incorporeal radiance… It is full of immortal life.
Then only will you see it, when you cannot speak of it; for the knowledge of it is deep silence, and suppression of all the senses. He who has apprehended the beauty of the Good can apprehend nothing else; he who has seen it can see nothing else; he cannot hear speech about aught else; he cannot move his body at all; he forgets all bodily sensations and all bodily movements, and is still. But the beauty of the Good bathes his mind in light, and takes all his soul up to itself, and draws it forth from the body, and changes the whole man into eternal substance.
Source: Hermetica: The Ancient Greek and Latin Writings Which Contain Religious or Philosophic Teachings Ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus, ed. Walter Scott (Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1924), 1:189.
Some similarities to Joseph Smith’s First Vision seem to include:
- A light that shines, that radiates from the Divine (the Good)
- Sensing being enveloped in this light
- The incorporeal nature of the experience (the mind being caught away in the spirit)
- Perceiving that receiving the Divine is eternal/immortal life
- The experience being indescribable, defying all description
- Perceiving a suppression of one’s corporeal faculties (later Mormons sometimes referred to this as feeling seized or chained to the spot).