John van Ruysbroeck (1293-1381) was a Flemish mystic and writer. He was raised in the Catholic faith, becoming a priest. He is now venerated in the Catholic Church. He was beatified in 1903 by Pope Pius X.
The following quote comes from his treatise The Sparkling Stone. Another well-known modern mystic, Evelyn Underhill, described this passage thus: “The old Mystic, sitting under his friendly tree, seems here to be gazing at, and reporting to us the final secrets of that Eternal World.”
When love has carried us above all things, into the Divine Dark, we receive in peace the Incomprehensible Light, enfolding us and penetrating us. What is this Light, if it be not a contemplation of the Infinite, and an intuition of Eternity? We behold that which we are, and we are that which we behold; because our being, without losing anything of its own personality, is united with the Divine Truth.
In the same work he writes similarly:
If we would taste God, and feel in ourselves Eternal Life above all things, We must go forth into God with a faith that is far above our reason, And there dwell, simple, idle, without image, Lifted up by love into the Unwalled Bareness of our intelligence. For when we go out from ourselves in love, and die to all observances in ignorance and darkness, Then we are made complete, And transfigured by the Eternal Word, Image of the Father. And in this emptiness of spirit we receive the Incomprehensible Light, Which enfolds and penetrates us as air is penetrated by the light of the sun; And this Light is nought else but a fathomless gazing and seeing. What we are, that we gaze at; and what we gaze at, that we are. For our thought, our life, our being, are lifted up in simplicity, And united with the Truth, that is God. Therefore in this simple gazing we are one life and one spirit with God—And this I call the seeing life.
In another work, The Spiritual Espousals, he writes:
This brightness is so great that the loving contemplative, in his ground wherein he rests, sees and feels nothing but an incomprehensible Light…
…he must have lost himself in a waylessness and in a darkness in which all contemplatives wander around in enjoyment and can no longer find themselves in a creaturely way. In the abyss of this darkness in which the loving spirit has died to itself, there begin the revelation of God and eternal life. For in this darkness there shines and is born an incomprehensible light which is the Son of God, in whom one contemplates eternal life. And in this light one becomes seeing.
(Source: John Ruysbroeck, Wikiquote, https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/John_Ruysbroeck)
Elsewhere he notes that “The Love of God is a consuming Fire.”
Some similarities to Joseph Smith’s First Vision seem to include:
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- He lacked intelligence, knowledge, was in ignorance, and could not find his way
- Went forward to God in faith
- Lost in a darkness and abyss
- Sees a divine Light
- This Light is incomprehensible, defies description
- The Light has great brightness, compared to the sun
- It is like fire
- The Light enfolds, enwraps, surrounds, envelopes, penetrates, rests, fills
- Associates this Light with God, even the “Son of God”
- Receives Divine Truth
- Senses that one has encountered “Eternal Life”
- Filled with peace and love