Sophia von Klingnau was a nun who lived in a convent in Klingnau, Switzerland, sometime in the 13th or 14th century. Her writings were published in the Schwesterbücher (Sister Books).
The drawing shown above is of the former Kloster Töss Monastery and Convent where Sophia likely lived, drawn by the historian Heinrich Murer from the 17th century.
As noted in The Supreme Awakening by Craig Pearson, the following account comes from a conversation with another nun who asked Sophia to talk about her experience of the soul:
The soul is so entirely spiritual a thing that one cannot really compare it to any physical thing. But because you desire it so much, I will give you a parable which may help you to understand a little how its form and shape was. It was a round, beautiful, and illuminating light, like the sun, and was of a gold-colored red, and this light was so immeasurably beautiful and blissful that I could not compare it with anything else. For if all the stars in the sky were as big and beautiful as the sun, all their splendor could not compare with the beauty my soul had. And it seemed to me that a splendor went out from me that illuminated the whole world, and a blissful day dawned over the whole earth. And in this light which was my soul, I saw God blissfully shining, as a beautiful light shines out of a beautiful radiant lamp, and I saw that he nestled up to my soul so lovingly and so kind that he was wholly united with it and it with him. And in this union of love my soul acquired from God the certainty that all my sins had been wholly forgiven me, and that it was as pure and clear and wholly stainless as it was when I came out of the baptismal font. And from this my soul became so blithesome and joyful that it felt as if it possessed all bliss and all joy, and if it had the power of wishing it could not and would not wish for anything more…
And this grace lasted in me for eight days, and when I came to myself again and became aware that a living spirit was in me, I stood up and was the most joyful person, so it seemed to me, on the whole earth. For all the joy that all humans ever gained or may gain until the Judgment Day seemed as small to me in comparison to my joy as the tiniest claw of a gnat in comparison to the whole world. And from the abundance of the measureless joy my body had grown so light and agile and so without any infirmity that for those eight days I never felt whether I had a body, so that I was not aware of any physical illness, small or great, and I had no hunger nor thirst nor desire to sleep, and yet I went to table and to bed and to the choir and did as the others did, so that my grace would be hidden and no one would notice it. And when I had passed these eight days in such bliss, the grace was withdrawn from me, so that I no longer had the contemplation of my soul and of God in my soul, and then for the first time I felt I had a body.
(Source: Martin Buber, Ecstatic Confessions, ed. Paul Mendes-Flohr, trans. Esther Cameron (San Franscisco: Harper & Row, 1985), 82.)
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Some similarities to Joseph Smith’s First Vision seem to include:
- It is inherently ineffable, indescribable, beyond words, defies all description. But language is often all we have to communicate something of our experience, and so they try to translate it into words that will be understood by their contemporaries.
- Seeing a light
- This light is like the sun in intensity and brightness
- The experience of this light caused feelings of tremendous Joy and bliss, indescribable.
- The experience occurred among feelings of beauty.
- Feeling as if the day dawn was breaking, awakening and illuminating the whole world with God’s light and understanding
- Seeing God shining brightly in this Light, being integral in the Light
- Feeling greatly Beloved and loved throughout
- Coming to know in this love that all one’s sins were completely forgiven, sinless and stainless, receiving a remission of sins as symbolized by baptism
- Feeling as though one is caught away from one’s physical body to a different space in the mind
- Feeling a tremendous Joy throughout one’s Soul and being for many days following
- Coming to find one’s self again
- Feeling calm and peace and light following for many days
- Keeping it private for some time following the experience
- Eventually falling out of that Joy and bliss and peace, and possibly feeling forsaken