Richard Bucke's Vision

I thought this was interesting. I wonder if this vision that so many people, in various walks of life have, is what Peter talked about when he said “give diligence to make your calling and election sure”. I have long been of the opinion that blessings we get from God are less of a bestowal, and more of a realization of what already is.

I was in a state of quiet, almost passive enjoyment, not actually thinking, but letting ideas, images, and emotions flow of themselves, as it were, through my mind. All at once, without warning of any kind, I found myself wrapped in a flame-colored cloud. For an instant I thought of fire, an immense conflagration somewhere close by in that great city. The next, I knew that the fire was within myself.

Directly afterward there came upon me a sense of exultation, of immense joyousness accompanied or immediately followed by an intellectual illumination impossible to describe. Among other things, I did not merely come to believe, but I saw that the universe is not composed of dead matter, but is, on the contrary, a living Presence; I became conscious in myself of eternal life. It was not a conviction that I would have eternal life, but a consciousness that I possessed eternal life then.

I saw that without any peradventure, all things work together for the good of each and all; that the foundation principle of the world, of all the worlds, is what we call love, and that the happiness of each and all is in the long run absolutely certain.

The vision lasted a few seconds and was gone; but the memory of it and the sense of the reality of what it taught has remained during the quarter of a century which has since elapsed. I knew that what the vision showed was true. I had attained to a point of view from which I saw that it must be true. That view, that conviction, I may say that consciousness, has never, even during periods of the deepest depression, been lost.1



1. Experience of Richard Bucke, a Canadian psychiatrist who was President of the Psychological Section of the British Medical Association and later, President of the American Medico-Psychological Association. William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, New American Library, 1958, pp. 306-307.