Walt Whitman’s “First Vision” Accounts

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) was a noted poet, essayist, and journalist, perhaps best known for his collection of poems titled Leaves of Grass. He wrote of divine experiences on several occasions in his poems.

walt_whitman_at_36
Walt Whitman, at age 36 (1855)

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) was a noted poet, essayist, and journalist, perhaps best known for his collection of poems titled Leaves of Grass.

He wrote of divine experiences on several occasions in his poems:

That Thou O God my life hast lighted,
With ray of light, steady, ineffable, vouchsafed of Thee,
Light rare, untellable, lighting the very light,
Beyond all signs, descriptions, languages…

(Source: Walt Whitman, “Prayer of Columbus,” Leaves of Grass (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1891-92), 323.)

In another poem he expresses:

As in a swoon, one instant,
Another sun, ineffable, full-dazzles me,
And all the orbs I knew, with brighter, unknown orbs, then thousand fold,
One instant of the future land, Heaven’s land.

(Source: Walt Whitman, “As In a Swoon,” “In Whitman’s Hand: Poetry Manuscripts,” The Walt Whitman Archive.)

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And another:

Why should I wish to see God better than this day?
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God and in my own face in the glass,
I see letters from God dropped in the street, and every one is signed by God’s name.

(Source: Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself,” Leaves of Grass, 76.)

And in the same poem:

Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass all the argument of the earth,
And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of creation is love…

(Source: Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself,” Leaves of Grass, 32.)

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

  • Seeing a light
  • This light is like the sun, even far brighter
  • The light is of God
  • This light is ineffable, untellable, beyond all description and language
  • Being swept up to a heavenly sphere, a different heavenly land different than one’s natural surroundings
  • Seeing God-light that is everywhere encompassing, enveloping
  • Receiving an understanding and knowledge that surpasses all earthly wisdom
  • Feeling a tremendous and deep peace and calm
  • Being thoroughly filled with love

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