(c) 2011 Philip T. Nicholson
In the hymns of the Indo-Aryan Rig Veda, the vision of the god, Soma, is described as looking "woolen" with a bulbous shape like a cow's "udder," a "stalk (amsu)," a "navel," a "bull's horn," or a "penis." Some examples: "Fill the dhih [i.e., inspired vision] up, make it swollen like an udder filled with milk [10.64.12];" "Thy descendants, O Immortal One . . . receive them on thy navel, O Soma [1.43.9];" "Soma, . . . Navel of the Way [Rta] . . . he sprang into life in the far distance [9.74.4]." The hymns say the bulbous vision moves: "The Soma amsu, filled full, moves itself everyway [9.74.1-2];" it moves back and forth like a bull "sharpening his shining horns [9.70.7; 9.87.7]."
The Upanishads teach that hidden within every person is a light called the atman, or "self." This small portion of "wool-colored" light is split off from the primordial, undifferentiated radiance of Brahman, the cosmic Self. These verses tell meditators what kind of vision to expect: "The person of the size of a thumb resides in the middle of the body, like a flame without smoke [Katha U., 2: 1, 13, Radhakrishnan, 1992];" "The form of this Person is . . . like white wool [Brhad-aranyak U., 2: 3, 6, Ibid.];" "He is of the measure of a thumb, of appearance like the sun, . . . the self he seems to be of the size of the point of a goad. [Svetasvatara U., 5: 9];" "That which hangs down between the palates like a nipple, that is the birthplace of Indra [Taittiriya U., 1: 6.1];" "Having meditated on him who is the measure of a thumb, within the span (of the heart) in the body, who is smaller than the small, then one goes to the supreme condition [Maitri U., 6: 38, Ibid.]."
In the Yogasutras, Patañjali describes the visions that culminate in Kaivalpa ("Union"): "That vision of countless speckles striking—it has a purpose [4.25]." And what is that purpose? The spray of sparks prepares the way for another vision: "That bending you see [nimnam]—behind it comes Brahman [4.26]."
The Daoist text, Ta-tung jing(Supreme Void), says that the vision of a fiery whirlwind will give way to the vision of "The Miracle of the Emperor One," a diffuse brightness said to look like "a white sun" or like "The Great Ocean of Energies." In this vision, the meditator sees something like a turtle swimming in the "Ocean" [Schipper, 1993, p. 106-7]. When a turtle swims, only its head pokes above the surface of the water, so the image described here is a bulb-shaped object poking out of an expanse of blue light. This same vision is also described using other metaphors that reinforce the image of a bulb-shaped protrusion: for example, some sources say that there is a mountain that protrudes out from the "Ocean of Energies," a sacred mountain called K'un-lun, "the Tortoise Mountain [Bokenkamp, 1997, p. 344]." K'un-lun is said to be an "inverted" mountain (i.e., it is narrower at its bottom which hangs down and wider at its top where the base spreads out) [Ibid., pp. 106]." K'un-lun is also said to be "shaped like a hanging bowl [Kohn, 1993, p. 55]." All of these metaphors point to the vision of a bulbous figure protruding out of an expanse of diffuse blue light.
In the Upper Scripture of the Purple Texts, Daoist Master Yang Xi tells meditators to look for "Moon essences, phosphors of the night, / Exalted on high in the Dark Palace," and to pray: "Bring me the waters of lunar efflorescence, . . . Stored in heaven, concealed in the moon." They then see that this "moon," with its "luminous essence glowing within," appears to move forward, then pull back: "now [it] waxes, now wanes [Bokenkamp, 1997, pp. 319-320]."
In his book, Immortal Flow, the Tantric guru, Goraksanatha, says the vision of the "fiery effulgence" called the Ajna-chakra, located in the inner space between the eyebrows, condenses into a tiny dot, the bindu, and "When the bindu explodes and shatters, it expands immediately and forms the mastaka (that is, the Brahmarandhra), similar to the triangular fruit of the water-chestnut [10-11, in Silburn, 1988, p. 128-9]." Those who eat water-chestnuts know that the edible portion of the fruit is a pale white color and that it has an oval shape. Brahmarandhra, which, literally translated, means the "Egg of Brahman," also connotes a white color and an oval shape. Both metaphors are consistent with seeing a white bulbous image, i.e., with seeing only one pole of the oval pushing out to form a "thumb-like" image.
Goraksanatha also uses a number of other metaphors to describe this bulbous vision: ". . . in the braincase resides the supreme linga [penis] of the skull. From above the seat of the lampika [uvula], this linga showers nectar. In the inner space, the garhba [womb] situated in the middle of the forehead, is found that very nectar. Having mastered it on the surface of the brahmadanda, similar to an ivory tusk (rajadanta), the sankhini [conch] releases its flow [Silburn, 1988, p. 126]."
In Tantraloka, Abhinavagupta describes a bulbous vision using 2 vivid metaphors. He says yogis who reach the "trident stage" will see a vision that looks like "the stomach of a fish," i.e., like a pale gray, translucent balloon. This same vision is also described as seeing the penetration and withdrawal of a god's penis from a perspective inside the body of a female god—seeing images of "expansion and contraction . . . [like] the couple made by Bhairava and Bhairavi devoted to unfoldment and retraction [5: 54-58, Silburn, 1988, p. 56]."
In a chapter in his book, The Epitome of the Six Yogas, Naropa describes the appearance of a bulb-shaped vision: "And thus is produced the invisible psychic protuberance on the crown of the head. / When the protuberance becometh filled with the vital-force of the transmuted seminal fluid, one attaineth the transcendental boon of the Great Symbol, and realizeth the State of the Great Vajra-Dhara [i.e., of the Buddha, "Wielder of the Thunderbolt"]["The Yoga of Psychic Heat," I: 143-146, in Evans-Wentz, Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines," pp. 201-202]." In a different section of the book, Naropa gives other descriptions of the same vision: "The pure illusory body, endowed with the knowledge of the Clear Light, which springeth forth from the Clear Light like unto a fish leaping forth from water, or the Form of the Vajra-Dhara [i.e., the Buddha] which riseth up as one doth upon awakening from sleep, symbolizeth the blending of the Clear Light of the Mother and Son . . . ["Yoga of the Clear Light," IV: 34, in Ibid., p. 230]." Here the "Form of the Buddha" refers to statutes of the Buddha sitting in meditation, his shoulders rounded, which creates a somewhat bulb-shaped figure. In another Tibetan treatise, the Bsre-hpho, the vision of the Pure Illusory Body is described in similar ways but with interesting variations: "Even as from the surface of a clear pool / There suddenly springeth forth a fish, / So also from the All-Voidness and Clearness / Cometh forth the Web of Miraculous Illusion, / The comprending of which is Nirvana; / And to attain this comprehension the disciple hath striven [Evans-Wentz, op.cit., p. 230, fn 3]."
The Hindu guru, Lahiri Mahasay, saw a vision of light with a bulbous shape that he said looked like "another uvula above the uvula." He also described this same vision as "the dazzling sign or penis (Jyotir Lingam)." To illustrate, Lahiri drew an outline of a thumb-shaped figure [Satyeswarananda, 1991, pp. 99, 108].
The contemporary Hindu guru, Muktananda, wrote that "Sometimes I would have a new movement in the heart, in which an egg-shaped ball of radiance would come into view. This is the vision of the radiant thumb-sized Being, who is described . . . in the Shvetashvatara Upanishad [1978, p. 136]."
The hymns of the Rig Veda describe a vision in which the priests participanting in the soma ceremony are able, using their minds, to "express" jets of milk-white light out of the udder-shaped vision of the god, Soma: ". . . in jets, the pressed Soma is clarified [9.72.5];" "Soma . . . widely spreading . . . When Soma seeks to gain (heaven) he assumes a white color; . . . he bursts asunder the raincloud from heaven [9.74.7-9]; "Soma, stormcloud [atmanvan nabho] imbued with life, is milked of ghee, milk [9.74.4]." When the first jets of Soma stream skyward, there are initially only 3 streams: "The fingers press the Soma, they squeeze it glittering like a water-skin; its juice becomes three-fold [9.1.8];" "Thou runnest through the three filters stretched out; thou flowest the length [9.97.55]." Then, like the threads of a sieve, the white streams spread apart: "High in the seat of heaven is spread the Scorcher's sieve: its threads are standing separate, glittering with light. . . . they stand upon the height of heaven [9.83.2]." The hymns testify that this rising and spreading of the white rays happens very quickly: "Let loose thy stream which is as rapid as thought [9.100.3]." In the final movement of the rays, they spread even farther apart, which makes it seem they are drooping to either side, or, to use the more vivid image from the hymns, the rays spread apart to the point that they seem to be "falling like a bird alighting on the trees [9.96.23]," alighting like "a falcon (approaching) his nest [9.71.6]."
In the Yogasutras, Patañjali says the vision of "that bending" which "brings Brahma behind it" will develop a cut that ruptures and releases new visions: "That cut [you see]—from it yet more forms arise [4.27]." And what are these new forms? Patañjali doesn't say, but it is reasonable to infer that these new forms are the thin, white rays that shoot out, multiply, and spread apart.
In the Upper Scripture of the Purple Texts, Yang Xi writes that "The luminous essence glows within, /Then spurts forth as a bridge across dark waters." In this vision "The Five Numinous Ladies / Let fly their beams of light in nine paths / To illumine my [head]." This is the vision that every Daoist master should seek, Yang Xi advises, because "I now feed on lunar efflorescences, / Joining thereby with the Perfected [Bokenkamp, 1997,p. 320]."
Abhinavagupta says the kundalini "Supreme Energy" breaks out of its confinement within the human body in the "serpent piercing," which is a vision that he describes as a cobra with many heads rising up above its coils: "This supreme energy blossoming into bliss is adorned like a five-hooded cobra as she rises from the inferior to the superior center. . . . / . . . she flashes forth like lightning . . . . Such is the so-called serpent piercing . . . [Tantraloka 29: 248-251; Silburn, 1988, p. 97]." The reference to a cobra rising points to an irregularity in one of the 3 rays that is only visible for that brief, 1-second interval when the first set of 3 rays suddenly erupts into view: in this initial vision of the rays, the very tip of the ray on the right is bent almost 90° to the left—so it does resemble the silhouette of a cobra that has reared up with its head facing left.
In The Epitome of the Six Yogas, Naropa describes what happens after a meditator sees the vision of the "invisible psychic protuberance," also known as the vision of the "Pure Illusory Body:" "When the protuberance becometh filled with the vital-force of the transmuted seminal fluid, one attaineth the transcendental boon of the Great Symbol, and realizeth the State of the Great Vajra-Dhara ("Wielder of the Thunderbolt"). Simultaneously with this realization, the white-fluid issueth in an intensified manner from the base of the organ of generation and floweth upward to the crown of the head and permeateth completely . . . .["The Yoga of Psychic Heat," I: 143-146, in Evans-Wentz, Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines," pp. 201-202]."
The hymns of the Rig Veda also describe what happens next after the milk-white jets of Soma are stretched to the rim of the sky: there the streams of the exhilarating soma liquid are drunk in by Indra, the god of thunder and lightning, and, fortified with this miraculous drink, Indra becomes all-powerful. He begins to hurl lightning-bolts, and these bright flashes illumine the minds of those celebrants who meditate as part of the soma ritual: they see "an inspired thought which is bright-like-lightning, a dhih [vision] of the nature of the light of heaven at the abode or seat of rta [10.177.2, Gonda, 1963]." They see Indra "clothed in the fire-bursts of the sun [9.71.9, Wasson, 1971, p. 38]." This is the vision the priests want to see when their chant implores the gods to ". . . milk heaven and earth for us as lightning (milks) the clouds [9.76, Wilson, 1888]."
Zoroaster, a priest (zaotar) of the Indo-Iranian Avestan religion who described himself as a manthran ("inspired eulogist)" and "as 'one who knows' the truth of divine wisdom," founded the Zoroastrian religion that became predominant in ancient Persia (now Iran) [Boyce, 1984, p. 19]. Zoroastrianism exercised an important influence on the early development of Judaism, and, by extension, on the other Abrahamic religions, Christianity and Islam. To understand the visionary experiences of Zoroaster, some background information is required. The hymns of the Indo-Iranian Avesta and the Indo-Aryan Rig Veda are close cousins, having originated in the rituals of nomadic tribes that split into two groups, some migrating into the regions now in Iran while others migrated into India. Both religious traditions celebrate a ritual honoring a god whose name is Soma or Haoma. It is not known if the visionary experiences associated with these rituals were the same in both cultures, but the commentary on Video 1 does provide some evidence that both rituals involved the pursuit of meditation-induced light visions, beginning with visions of green light-wheels [also see Nicholson, "The Soma Code, Part III, Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies, 2002; 8(3): 70-92]. The traditional sources state that the Prophet Zoroaster saw a vision of white light while he was officiating at a haomaritual. Just before dawn he had immersed himself in a river to gather water for that ritual, and then, as he was wading back to shore, he suddenly saw the vision of a "divine messenger," an "archangel" named Vohuman whose garment was "light itself [Zadspram, 21.8, in Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 5, 1897]." He was then led by Vohuman to another vision in which he saw a whole assembly of archangels, all radiating such bright light that Zoroaster "no longer saw his shadow on the ground [Ibid., p. 75]." Inspired by these visions (and by his conversations with the archangels), Zoroaster founded a new religion in which the god of goodness, Ohrmazd, sponsors "Forces of Light" that battle against the "Forces of Darkness" led by an evil god, Ahriman. Ohrmazd is said to live in "a pure place of light" where light is "endless" [Ibid., pp. 45-48, 86]." Putting these several observations together, it is reasonable to infer that Zoroaster, the Avestan priest, saw a vision near the end of a haoma ceremony of white lights that were so bright he "no longer saw his shadow," and that these visions were similar to the bright white lights described in the Indo-Aryan Rig Veda as "Indra's lightning-bolts." It is not uncommon for mystics who see visions of light to describes the lights as spirits or divine beings, but there is not enough information available to determine if Zoroaster's visions took on "the form (ayuinako) of a man" or if what he saw was just the garment of an archangel which was like "light itself" and was so bright he "no longer saw his shadow."
The Hebrew patriarch, Moses, was herding sheep in a remote desert pasture when he saw "a flame of fire out of a bush, and he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed [Exodus 3.1-6]." He turned to look at this strange sight, not knowing what it was. Only later, when a voice spoke out of the fire, did Moses realize that the fiery light was an "angelic messenger" sent to attract his attention. In the Hebrew and Christian Bible, this vision is said to have erupted spontaneously, which it might well have done, but is it possible that this vision appeared during some kind of meditation that Moses practiced during his lonely vigils as a shepherd? What might suggest this possibility? Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, was the shaman-sheikh of a Midian tribe, which means Moses had an opportunity to learn esoteric practices from Jethro. Later, when Moses returned to Egypt, he used shaman-like magic to convince the pharaoh to free the Hebrew people. Then after the Exodus, when Moses and the tribal elders were camped at Mt. Sinai and holding a feast to celebrate their new Covenant with YHWH, they all saw visions of the "sapphire paving stones beneath God's throne [Exodus, 24: 9]." In order to see visions of dark blue lights shaped like paving stones, they would have to have known how to enter meditative states and induce visions of inner light.
The Hindu Upanishads advise meditators that they should expect to see two very different types of light visions: "of the Brahma light there are these two forms, one, the tranquil, and the other, the abounding [Maitri U., VI: 36; Radhakrishnan, 1992]."
The Upanishads describe the "Abounding Brahma-Light" as a bright white light: ". . . that is the bright, that is the immortal, that is the place of Brahman. That is the ocean of light. In it, indeed, the worshippers become dissolved like (a lump of) salt. It is the oneness with Brahman for in it are all desires contained [Maitri U., 6: 35; Radhakrishnan, 1992]." This is a vision that looks like lightning: ". . . why is it said to be lightning? Because in the very moment of going forth it lights up the whole body [Ibid., 7:11.]."
Gotama Sakyamuni, the original Buddha, spent an entire night meditating under a Banyan tree in a state of advanced despair. During the night he saw many "limited light-manifestations," but then, just before dawn, the "Divine Eye opened (caksus uppada)," releasing "boundless light-manifestations" along with "joy, light, and insight into the true nature of reality [Samyuda Nikaya, 12.1.10, Gonda, The Visions of the Vedic Poets, 1963, p. 306]." The "Enlightenment" which transformed Gotama into an "Awakened One (Buddha)" was also a nirvana, or "extinction," because, just as a breath blows out a candle, this experience extinguished the karmic ties that would have destined Gotama for rebirth.
A Hebrew priest named Ezekiel standing alongside the Chebar canal in Babylon saw a vision so overpowering that he collapsed and couldn't speak for seven days. The central feature of this vision was a fiery light that manifested in different ways: "As I looked," Ezekiel said, "a stormy wind came from the north, with a large cloud and a mass of fire, surrounded by a radiance. Out of it—out of the fire—appeared something that looked like hashmal [Ezekiel 1: 1-2]." "Hashmal" means "electrum," a pale yellow alloy of silver and gold highly prized in the ancient world. "Out of it [the hashmal] four creatures emerged . . . . And the shape of the creatures . . . was like burning coals of fire; something with the appearance of torches it was, moving around amidst the creatures. The fire had a radiance and from it lightning flashed. And the creatures darting to and fro with the appearance of sparks. . . . [Ibid., 1: 1-14]." During this vision, Ezekiel lost consciousness and fell to the ground.
In Lao-tzu's famous Dao-de-jing, the progenitor of all Daoist texts, the sage advises his followers to search for a state of mind that is beyond all cognition in which a white light appears: "Can you . . . embrace the One without its leaving you? / Can you control your breathing and make it as soft as a childs? / . . . / Can you, by Non-Knowledge, let the white light penetrate all regions of the (inner) space? [Dao-de-jing, Chapter 10, in Schipper, 1993, p. 139]."
The Apocalypse of Enoch is a Hebrew text by an anonymous author who describes the ascent to heaven of a descendant of Adam, the first man. Like Ezekiel, Enoch sees visions of fiery lights: ". . . stars and lightnings were rushing me . . . . I approached . . . a great house which was built of white marble and surrounded by tongues of fire, the floor of crystal, the ceiling like the path of stars and lightnings between which (stood) fiery cherubim and their heaven of water [1 Enoch: 8-15, Old Testament Pseudoepigraphia, Anchor Bible Reference Library, Vol. 1, pp. 20-21].
In Three Ways to Go Beyond the Heavenly Pass (Tiganguan santu), a meditation text associated with the Great Peace (Taiping) school of Daoism, adepts are told: "Last, meditate on the Passgate Star. This is the Heavenly Pass of Mysterious Yang, the great brightness of Vascillating Radiance. Here the Tao Lords of the Highest Jade Emperor reside [Kohn, 1993, p. 264]."
In the Great Purity (Taiping) school of Daoism, the ultimate visionary experience of meditators is what scholar Isabel Robinet calls "an imaginary self-cremation" in which "a red breath [chi, "energy"] envelops their bodies and everything turns to fire; the fire engulfs their bodies. Body and fire become but one substance. Inside and outside, all is light." This experience is called "dying and living again [Robinet, Taoist Meditation: The Mao-Shan Tradition of Great Purity, 1993, p. 169]."
Philo, a Jewish philosopher and mystic who lived in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, wrote that human souls who use prayer and meditation to ascend toward God will encounter "pure and untempered rays [that] stream forth like a torrent, so that by its beams the eye of the understanding is dazzled," and he adds that these visions in the mind's eye look like "lightning flashes."
In the Yogasutras, Patañjali describes the final stage of meditation in which an individual's consciousness merges with the primordial, undifferentiated radiance of Brahman—with the "Abounding Light." Patañjali hints that this culmination of the yogin's visionary experience will seem like being caught up in a dark stormcloud emitting thunder, lightning, and a rain of bliss: "In one who remains dispassionate," he writes, "the raincloud of cosmic truth (dharma-megha-samadhi) will appear [4.29]."
The prophet Mani, founder of the Manichean religion that once competed with Christianity and Zoroastrianism for dominance, saw a vision that he called the "Syzygos," or "Light Twin." He saw his first vision of the Syzygos at age 12, but it also appeared "many times" thereafter. These visions were "very brief such as I could bear. . . . (they came) like lightning," and they caused him to fall down [Gardner & Lieu, Manichaean Texts From the Roman Empire, 2004, pp. 47-49]." Mani claims that the Syzygos anointed him the incarnation of the Apostle of Light for his generation, making Mani the latest of in a long line of Apostles who had seen the same visions of lightning and who, like Mani, had been so overwhelmed that they'd fallen to the ground [Ibid., p. 154, pp. 55-56].
The Sefer Yesirah (Book of Formation), one of the oldest texts of Jewish Kabbalah mysticism, enumerates a hierarchy of energies that are said to emanate from God's hidden presence, energies called sefirot: "Ten sefirot of nothingness, their end is embedded in their beginning, and their beginning in their end, like a flame bound to a coal [1.7, Kaplan, Meditation and Kabbalah, 1985, p. 135]." The next verse adds that "Ten sefirot belimah [ineffable], their vision is as swift as the flash of lightning, and there is no limit to their boundaries . . . [1:8, Wolfson, 1994, p. 140]." Many commentaries have been written about the Sefer Yesirah. For example, in a comment on the phrase, "Ten ineffable sefirot, their appearance is like lightning," Rabbi Joseph ben Shalom Askenazi writes that ". . . when a prophet or a mystic [Ha-meyahed, "one who unifies"] comes to gaze upon these holy lights . . . they appear as if they were lightning, and then they immediately are hidden and they shine again and are hidden [Wolfson, Ibid., p. 272]." In another work, the Sefer ha-Hekhalot (The Greater Palace), an anonymous author describes how meditators who have entered the heavenly palace finally reach the seventh chamber, the highest chamber accessible to humans, where "The holy Chayot then lift up their 512 eyes to gaze at him, . . . . The gaze of their eyes is like a lightning flash. All this is besides the eyes of the mighty Cherubs and the Ophanim of the Divine Presence, which are like scintillating flames and the fire of glowing coals. / The individual then trembles, shakes and shudders, is stricken and faint, and he falls backward [Kaplan, op.cit., 1985, p. 53]."
Cassian, the Christian monk who brought the monastic traditions of Eastern Christianity to Western Europe, practiced meditation for many years, living in the Egyptian desert where he studied with famous contemplatives like Evagrius Ponticus and Macarius of Alexandria. Later Cassian traveled to Rome, and from there the church authorities sent him on a mission to found a monastery in Marseilles. Cassian was an advocate of the Eastern Orthodox practice of "mental prayer" or "unceasing prayer" (hesychia) in which the person repeats a single, simple phrase over and over again until he or she is transported into a state of "fiery prayer known and experienced by a very few, and which properly speaking is ineffable, transcending all human thought, . . . . The mind enlightened by the infusion of that heavenly light speaks not with human and limited language but richly pours forth . . . as if from a copious fountain [Conferences 9.25, 10.11.6, Stewart, 1998, p. 114, 117]."
In The Homilies, an anonymous Christian author known as "Pseudo-Macarius," a member of a persecuted Messalian sect, is credited with writing for the first time that the inner light that appears during "unceasing prayer" embodies the same spiritual qualities of the light that descended on Jesus during the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor: "As the body of the Lord [Jesus] was glorified, . . . and was transfigured into the divine glory and into the infinite light, so are the bodies of the saints glorified and shine like lightning [Louth, The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition, 1981, pp. 122-123]." Pseudo-Macarius goes on to describe what those visions of light look like when "The inner self is caught up (harpazetai) into prayer:" "At times the fire burns greatly kindled, (white at other) times more gently and calmly. For a while the light flares out and shines, and then it draws in and dims. . . . [Steward, p. 121]." This vision is the "heavenly fire of the Godhead which Christians receive . . . [Homilies, 11.1, Maloney, 1992, p. 90]," a vision in which "All things will become light. All are immersed in light and fire and are indeed changed [Ibid., 15.10, p. 112]."
The Prophet Muhammed told followers that when he prayed "My eyes sleep, but my heart is awake." It was in this state of prayer that he saw his first vision. He described this first vision to his youngest wife, 'A' isha, many years after the event; he told her "The beginning of the revelation . . . was the True Vision which came like the break of day (falaq as-subh)[Rodinson, Muhammed, 1971, p. 70]." The meaning of this Arabic word is explained in Maxime Rodinson's biography of Muhammed: "The Arabic word [al-falaq] implies a sudden break - the abrupt rending asunder of the darkness of those lands, where there is no twilight of dawn or dusk, by the rising of the sun [Ibid., p. 70]." Once Muhammed recovered from the shock of having received this first vision of a bright, fiery light, he returned to his prayer vigils, and it was then that he saw a second set of visions that he describes as "the Signs of his Lord [Quran 53:1-12]." (See Video 1.)
In The Book of Questions and Answers, Abdisho' Hazzaya, a Christian monk known as "The Illuminated," wrote that the mind of a meditator wholly absorbed in prayer sees "the blue color of heaven" and then later sees visions of a fiery light: "In the 6th Step, one finds oneself clad in fire and absorbed in something like a 'sphere or star' of light [Cowan, Desert Father, 2002, Ibid., p. 140]."
Yeshe Tsogyel, a Tibetan woman who led a secret life as a mystic, attained the ultimate goal of Enlightenment when her "corporeal bundle dissolved in light" [Dowman, Sky Dancer, 1996, p. 160]." Tsogyel excelled in the esoteric Tantric meditation called maithuna in which a lama and a woman meditate while united in sexual congress: "In this mandala of mystic union, . . . . Out of the bliss-waves of the forehead center [chakra] of our union, in the sphere of intense experience of Awareness of Joy, arose a White Paradise [Ibid., p. 40]."
In his treatise, Ātmabodha (Knowledge of the Self), Shankara, the most famous exponent of the Hindu philosophy of Non-Dual Vedanta, wrote that "The individual soul, consumed by the fire of Knowledge (jnana-agni), . . . shines of itself like bright gold [¶66, p.61]" or like "a lamp placed inside a jar [¶51, p. 55]." In his commentary on the Vedanda-Sutras, Shankara that ". . . lightning is the end of the road beginning with light [Vedanta-Sutras, Part II., 4.3.4, Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 34, 38, p. 386]."
Mansur al-Hallaj is one of the earliest Iranian Sufi mystics. The book of his teachings, Kitab al-Tawasin, consists of notes smuggled out of the prison where he was awaiting execution for blasphemy. Al-Hallaj wrote that one who prays sincerely is purified by a radiance (tajalli) sent down by Allah. This radiance is a blessing because it shortens the time a seer must spend on earth before he is resurrected in heaven [Massignon, The Passion of al-Hallaj, 1982, p. 281]. This radiance looks like lightning: ". . . the flash of Its [i.e., Wisdom's] lightning makes a perpetual well spring up [Kitab al-Tawasin, Ch. 3, Ibid., p. 326]." Al-Hallaj links his ideas to the writings of another Sufi, al-Tustari, a contemporary, who said "the essence of Muhammed" is "a column of light ( amûd al-nûr)" which is a "subtle body of faith emanated from God Himself, . . . and which has been disseminated . . . in a certain number of hearts, those of the intimate elect; seeds of certitude that 'illuminate' their reading of the Qur'an [3: 1.2, in Ibid., p. 283-4]."
Abhinavagupta, author of the Tantraloka, taught that the vision of the "Serpent Piercing"—when one sees the rising up of a "Five-Headed Cobra"—quickly gives way to a vision of the "Supreme Emission" which looks "like lightning." This lightning keeps on flashing, thereby generating the vision of the "thousand-spoked wheel, the sahasrara, the universal Consciousness from which the universe proceeds [Tantraloka, 4: 133; Silburn, 1988, p. 145]." Experiencing the "Supreme Emission" evokes changes in the seer's body that can be seen by onlookers: a yogin assumes the "attitude of surprise (cakitamudra)" in which the mouth drops half-open; the eyes stay half-shut; the breathing stops [Ibid., p. 74]; the nostrils quiver (nasa-putaspandana); the legs shake [p. 53, 53n]; the skin tingles as if ants were crawling there (pipilaka) [Ibid., p. 66]; a buzzing sound appears, as if a bee were nearby [p. 75, 96]; and there is a sensation of ghurni, a term that Silburn, the scholar of Indian Tantra, describes as "mystical whirling," "dizziness," or "reeling" [Ibid., pp. 59, 74].
In The Epitome of the Six Yogas, Naropa describes the final attainment so fervently desired by Tantric Buddhist meditators: "The pure illusory body, endowed with the knowledge of the Clear Light, springeth forth from the State of the Clear Light like unto a fish leaping forth from water . . . ["The Yoga of the Clear Light, III: 34, in in Evans-Wentz, Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines," p. 230]," and "This realization marketh the degree of spiritual perfection . . . of which it hath been said: 'When illusory forms contact the Formless, Knowledge dawneth, / And one gaineth understanding of the Pervading and the Real, / And mastery of the Very Bright and of the Enduring, and of the Siddhi of Transformation [III: 35, Ibid., p. 231]."
Symeon the New Theologian was a young nobleman in Byzantium who decided to abandon the life of a courtier to become a monk. He excelled in the hesychast method of "unceasing mental prayer" that was highly prized in the Eastern Orthodox tradition of Christianity. During prayers, Symeon would often be overtaken by visions of a bright, sun-like light: "I often saw a light which appeared to me, sometimes inside (of me) when my soul was enjoying calm and peace, and sometimes it appeared far outside, or hid itself completely, . . . Yet as I fell into cries and lamentations once more, proving my total renunciation of the world, together with obedience and humility, it appeared again, like the sun which tears away the covering of clouds and shows itself, little by little, gentle, spherical . . . [Eucharest 1. 164 - 180, in Krivocheine, 1986, p. 221]." In this same book, he writes that "The heavens opened. You deigned to reveal Your face to me like a formless sun [Ibid., 2. 175 - 180]." In The Hymns of Divine Love, Symeon shifts to poetry: "But, O, what intoxication of light, O, what movements of fire! / O, what swirlings of the flame in me, miserable one that I am, / coming from You and Your glory! [Hymn 25, in deCatanzaro and Maloney, 1980, pp. 24-25]."
Al-Qushayri, a famous mystic who wrote many treatises designed to synthesize Muslim philosophy and Sufi practice, explains that "No one can outdo the explanation of the reality of Witness (al-Mushadada) given by 'Amr ibn 'Uthman al-Makki, God have mercy on him. The gist of what he said is that the lights of manifestation come upon the heart in continual succession, without any veil coming between them, without interruption. It is as if lightning could become continual, and through successive, continual flashes—were such a thing possible—the night could turn into the light of day [The Qushayriyyan Treatise, quoted in Sells, Early Islamic Mysticism, 1996, p. 121]." For these ideas, al-Qushari cites the Quran, Sura 2:20: "Almost blinded by the flash of lightning, they grope forward in the light."
The Tibetan monk, Jetsun Milarepa, lived alone for years practicing the most severe austerities. He told his followers that he could see himself as a "green light" (see Video 1), but he could also "transform [his] physical body into a blazing mass of fire, or into an expanse of flowing or calm water," thereby merging himself in the transcendent "Realm of Clear Light" [Evans-Wentz, 1969, p. 212].
The earliest and most enduring of the many visions seen by Hildegard von Bingen, the German nun, was the vision of the "Shadow of the Living Light," of which she said that "The light I see is not local; it is far, far brighter than the cloud that carries the sun. And I cannot see depth or length or breadth in it [Buber, Mendes-Flohr, and Cameron, Ecstatic Confessions, 1985, p. 44]." Hildegard first saw this vision when she was only 3 years old and she still saw it when she was 70. But there was also another vision, one that would occasionally evolve out of the Shadow of the Living Light: "I sometimes and not often see another light, which is called for me the living light, and when and in what manner I see this, I do not know how to say. And when I gaze on it, all sadness and all need are snatched away from me [Ibid., p. 44]." Hildegard says this vision of the "Living Light" looks like "lightning flashes." Based on her descriptions of these two visions, it is reasonable to infer that she regarded the "Living Light" as a brighter, more overwhelming, and more intimate experience of God's Glory than the vision which was only a shadow of that Light.
In the Sefer Ha-Kuzari, Rabbi Judah Halevi wrote that mystics have an "inner eye" which enables them to peer into the spirit-world and to rise above bodily existence by "cleaving to the angelic species [IV: 3, in Wolfson, p. 177]." Halevi uses the same meditation technique as many other kabbalists: he begins by imagining the letters of God's name until they become transfigured with the light of the Shekhinah emanation from the Holy Spirit which "penetrates them like the light of sun in a crystal [IV: 15, Wolfson, Through a Speculum That Shines, 1996, p. 163]."
In The Red Intellect, Yahya Suhrawardi, founder of the Sufi Order called Illuminationists, placed special emphasis on seeing visions of colored light. He advised meditators to trust Khidr, "The Green One," known to Sufis as the "Teacher of Prophets," as the guide who would lead them to the vision of green light he calls "The Pearl-that-glows-by-night-on-Mount Qaf" (Video 1). Suhrawardi also describes many other visions of light. In Hikmat al-ishraq, he enumerates fifteen different types of apocalyptic lights that range from momentary flashes to cataclysms that almost tear the limbs apart [Thackston, The Mystical and Visionary Treatises of Shihabuddin Yahya Suhrawardi, 1982, p. 217f]." He explains that "These flashes do not come at all times, as there are periods when they cease altogether. But the more ascetic exercise is increased, the more the flashes come until one reaches the stage wherein . . . these flashes become continuous, as a consequence of which the limbs may begin to quiver [treatise VIII, "The Simurgh's Shrill Cry," I: 2.5, in Thackston, Ibid., p. 91]."
The Sufi mystic, Ibn al-'Arabi, said that he learned to meditate on his own, guided by Khidr, known to Sufis as "The Green One" who comes to the aid of those who don't have earthly teachers. Al-'Arabi saw many visions during his career as a mystic, and he describes the culminating vision as an ecstasy (tawajud) that produced an "annihilation of self (wadj)" in which he was "enveloped by lights" and became "wholly light." It felt like Allah was "burning him alive [Chittick, 1989, p. 384, fn 15]."
In Visio Smaragdina, Najmoddin Kubra, a disciple of Suhrawardi, advises meditators practicing dhikr ["remembrance of God"] to watch for "a supernatural green light" that looks as if it rings the mouth of a deep, dark well. They will see this green ring move away from them, so that it feels as if they are falling downward into the well, but this sensation of falling is an illusion—in reality, Kubra writes, their souls are being elevated toward "the Heaven of the sovereign condition (robubiya)." When they reach the "final stage" of meditation, they see the vision of an all-encompassing fiery light, a vision that seers cannot stop once it starts: "Its fire does not cease to blaze, its lights no longer disappear. Without interruption you see lights rising and lights descending. The flames of the fire are all around you - very pure, very ardent, and very strong [Corbin, 1994, p. 76]."
Rabbi Abraham Abulafia taught a meditation technique he called "The Way of Permutations (Tzeruf)." It begins with imagining the 4 letters of God's name, the Tetragrammaton, then staring at those letters until they become transformed into visions of light. The earliest visions of lights will have circular shapes or blue colors, Abulafia explained, but the ultimate goal of Tzeruf is to see the eruption of a "fire in the darkness." This is a vision of a fiery light that strikes awe in the heart and sets the limbs trembling: ". . . when you see the abundance of His goodness and the taste of His radiance, remove your face and afterwards again seek it bit by bit, and with this He will lift you up, for the great fire guards the gate [Sitre Torah, in Idel,The Mystical Experience in Abraham Abulafia,1988, p. 121]." This is a vision of a "thing without a body [Somer Mizway, Ibid., p. 106]," and upon seeing it, the seeker will tremble with awe and feel "burned by fire [Ibid., p. 122]." While the vision of fire is frightening, it purifies the soul and makes it worthy of seeing the emanations of God's Glory. One of Abulafia's disciples, Rabbi Joseph Gikatalia (1248-1323), recommended this same spiritual path in his book, Shaarey Orah (Gates of Light): "Know and believe that there is a method involving the mystical purification of the limbs, through which it is possible for a human being to attach himself to the Divine Presence, even though it is a 'consuming fire.' It is a fire that provides delight and ecstasy to those who attach themselves to it with a pure soul. It is therefore called the Lamp of God [Shaarey Orah 1, p. 14b, in Kaplan, Meditation and Kabbalah, 1982, p. 130]."
The Spanish Kabbalist, Moses de Leon, author of the famous and influential Sefer ba Zohar (Book of Radiance), wrote that skilled meditators can ascend to the 3rd Sefirot, called Binah (i.e., "The Return" or "The Womb") where they will see visions of the green and purple lights of the "Offspring Sefirot" called Tir'eret ("Beauty and Compassion"). But the Binah emanation can also manifest in the form of the "Zohar light . . . so bright that the eye cannot grasp it in any way. It is like the light of the sun, which is so intense (zahir) that the eye has no power (to see) it [Moses de Leon, The Holy Coin, quoted in Kaplan, 1982, pp. 123-124]." The Zohar light is an "intuitive flash, illuminating and disappearing, as sunbeams play on the surface of water [Zohar 1:41b]." Moses de Leon (and many other Kabbalists) recommended to those who wanted to have a glimpse of God's Glory that they place a bowl of water with some oil spread on its surface so that the water would reflect beams of sunlight into the eyes of the beholders. This would enable them to see ". . . the mystery of the supernal chariot, the speculum that shines, the splendor devoid (of form), . . . which does not settle down to be seen, but rather "runs to and fro," as the revolving of the water in a plate when placed against the light of the sun [MS Vatican 283, fol. 170a, in Wolfson, p. 381]."
Gregory Palamas gave up a political career in Constantinople to become a monk at St. Athos. He was a leading exponent of hesychia ("mental prayer") and also of the view that the human body and mind could be transformed by visions of a "hypostatic" divine light, a light hidden beneath the surface of the phenomenal world that only appeared during prayer [Meyendorff, 1983]. In The Triads, Palamas writes that the vision of hypostatic light "is not a sensation, since they do not receive it through the senses; nor is it intellection, since they do not find it through thought or the knowledge that comes thereby, but after the cessation of all mental activity [I.iii.18, p. 35-36]." Palamas usually avoids giving detailed descriptions of the hypostatic lights, but in one passage where he describes the visions of Paul of Tarsus, Palamas supplements the Biblical account with details that could only have come from his own experience: ". . . the light of revelation," he writes, is "a light without limit, depth, height, or lateral extension. He [Paul] saw absolutely no limit to his vision and to the light which shone around about him; but rather it was as it were a sun infinitely brighter and greater than the universe, with himself standing in the midst of it, having become all eye [I. iii. 21, p. 38]."
The Russian Orthodox monk, Sergius of Radonezh, who for many years lived by himself in the immense wilderness of the northern forests, was the first of the Russian mystics to keep a record of his visions: "A great radiance shone in the heavens," he reported, "the night sky was illuminated by its brilliance, exceeding the light of day [Fanning, 1969, p. 73]." He also had a vision that he attributed to the Virgin Mary and the apostles, Peter and John, in which "a dazzling radiance shone upon him, brighter than the sun." When the vision ended, Sergius "in ecstasy, stood in trembling awe and wonder," and "All night long the saint remained in meditation on this ineffable vision [Fanning, pp. 46-47]." During the rule of the Czars, Sergius was appointed the Patron Saint of Russia.
Sufi Master Muhammed Nurbashkh founded the Kubrawiya Order to honor his teacher, Najmoddin Kubra. Nurbashkh taught his disciples how to induce a consciousness halfway between waking and sleep. Once in this trance state, they were instructed to focus their minds on Allah and to wait with the expectation that they would "witness an unveiling" in which "brilliant images" from "higher spheres" would appear. The first "unveilings" would be "an epiphany in green" and "an epiphany in blue," but then they would see a final vision: "an epiphany in white." After that final vision, meditators enter a state of "sobriety," Nurbashkh said, a state in which they will see "limitless indescribable space."
Ignatius of Loyola, a Spanish nobleman and knight whose severe battle wounds had kept him confined to bed for 2 years, embarked on a new life by moving to a remote mountain village where he worked in a small hospital. During his nights he spent long hours praying on his knees for God's guidance. He began to see visions of strange lights that "looked like eyes but were not eyes," and he worried that these visions might come from the Devil. Then Ignatius saw a very different vision, one that he was sure could only come from Heaven: "During prayer he often, and for an extended period of time, saw with inward eyes the humanity of Christ, whose form appeared to him as a white body, neither very large nor very small; nor did he see any differentiation of members. . . . He has also seen our Lady in similar form, without differentiation of members. These things that he saw at that time fortified him and gave such great support to his faith that many times he thought to himself: if there were no Scriptures to teach us these matters of faith, he would still resolve to die for them on the basis of what he had seen [The Autobiography of St. Ignatius, 3: 29.4, in Tylenda, 1985, p. 38.]." Having been reassured by the visions of white light, Ignatius accepted the divine provenance of those visions "that had appeared many times which he had never understood, that is to say, that thing hovering that he had said appeared so beautiful to him, with many eyes [Ibid., 3: 31]."
The Roman Catholic monk, John of the Cross, wrote poems and essays describing his mystical visions of light. In Dark Night of the Soul, John takes care to avoid attracting the attention of church authorities by stating that the soul as it ascends toward God puts on a series of special "garments" or "disguises." First comes the disguise of the "white robe of purity," then the "green almilla" (Video 1), then a "purple robe" (Video 2), then finally a vision appears that represents the culmination of a mystic's quest: "the going up of the purple" makes way for a vision of "the seat of gold," a vision in which "the soul is on fire sweetly" as it cherishes its union with God [II: 20.5, in Zimmerman, 1973, p. 175]. In other writings, John describes the ecstasy of this final vision in more detail: "[W]hen God is pleased to grant this favour to the soul, He communicates to it that supernatural light whereof we speak, . . . . And it is at times as though a door were opened before it into a great brightness, through which the soul sees a light, after the manner of a lightning flash, which on a dark night, reveals things suddenly, and causes them to be clearly and distinctly seen, and then leaves them in darkness, although the forms and figures of them remain in the fancy [Ascent of Mount Carmel, II: 24.5, Peers, translator, 1958, p. 220]." He also writes that the vision of light "glows in a marvelous manner, the divine fire of love burning within it with living flames, so that the soul appears to have received a living fire with a living understanding [Dark Night of the Soul, II: 12.5, op. cit., p. 131]."
Rabbi Hayyim Vital studied meditation with two of the most important Kabbalist mystics who lived in the Safed region of Palestine—Rabbi Moshe Cordervo, known as "The Ramak," and Rabbi Abraham Luria, known as "The Ari." In Sha'are Qedusha (The Gates of Holiness), Vital recorded what he'd learned about Luria's elaborate mystical cosmology. Luria said meditators could ascend through a succession of "firmaments" (i.e., sefirots) until they reached the highest level, the firmament called Aravot, which manifested as a huge white curtain. Emblazoned on this curtain are the 4 letters of the Divine Name, YHWH, each letter shining with a white light mixed in with light of the color of the sefirot associated with that particular letter. The goal of meditators, in Luria's view, is to expand the vision of each letter of colored light so that it becomes more and more white until the whole mind is filled with the vision of a dazzling white mountain. [Kaplan, Meditation and Kabbalah, 1982, p. 125].
Emanuel Swedenborg, founder of the Swedenborgian Church, was a scientist who amassed an impressive record of professional achievements before he experienced a spiritual crisis at age 55. During this crisis, he was afflicted with vivid dreams and "strong shuddering from head to foot, with a thundering noise as if many winds beat together; which shook me; it was indescribable and prostrated me on my face. . . . At that moment I . . . saw Him face to face [Fanning, Mystics of the Christian Tradition, 2001, p. 146-148]." Swedenborg gave up his scientific career to become a spirit-medium and a prophet who challenged the traditional orthodoxy of the Swedish Lutheran Church. While most of his visions were dream-like scenarios, Swedenborg also described seeing visions of a fiery light which he regarded as the most important of all his visions: "That the Lord actually appears in heaven as a sun, has not only been told me by the angels, but has also been given me occasionally to see. What, therefore, I have heard and seen concerning the Lord as a sun, I will here briefly record. . . . To those who receive Him in the good of love, He appears as a sun, fiery and flaming according to reception. These are in his celestial kingdom. But to those who receive Him in the good of faith, He appears as a moon, white and shining according to reception [¶118, Swedenborg, Heaven and Its Wonders and Hell From Things Heard and Seen, 1890, pp. 77-78]." In his vision of a sun-like God, "the light there is so great, as to exceed by many degrees the mid-day light of the world. . . . Its whiteness and brilliancy surpass all description. The things seen by me in the heavens, were seen in that light [¶126, Ibid., p. 83]."
Rabbi Eleazar ben Judah of Worms, "The Baal Shem Tov," was an important leader of a pietist sect of Rhineland Jews, the Hasidim Ashkenazi. For 7 years, Eleazar lived in seclusion during the week, practicing a meditation he called "Constricted Consciousness" for most of the day and night. In his book, Sha'are ha-Sod, he describes the vision of God's Glory: "The Creator has no body, physical stature, image, or form at all. . . . The appearance of His splendor, which is His glory, is like a consuming fire, and they call it the Shekhinah [pp. 147-148, Wolfson, Through a Speculum that Shines, 1994, p. 214]." In another work, Eleazar wrote that "The word of God is like white fire clothed in a black and dark cloud. . . . . The world that goes out from the mouth of God is a fire brighter in its whiteness than any other fire in the world, and the brightness blinds the eyes like one who looks at the sun when it is in its strength. Therefore, the glory, the will of His word, is fire; the form of a cloud and darkness surround it [MS Paris - BN 772, folios 157b-158a, Wolfson, Ibid., p. 244]."
Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (also known as the Mormon Church), lived on a farm in rural New York at a time when the revival movements of the American "Great Awakening" were sweeping through that region. Even as a young boy of 15, he was deeply worried about salvation of his soul. In a state of inner turmoil, distressed that the local preachers could only give him conflicting answers about how to save himself from being "convicted of his Sins," Joseph decided that he would approach God directly and ask for answers. He walked into the woods to be alone and got on his knees to pray. It was then that he saw his first vision: "Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. . . . just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. . . . When the light rested upon me I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me calling me by name and said—pointing to the other—'This is my beloved Son, hear him.' . . . . [Smith, History of the Church, I, 1842, pp. 4-6, in Hill, Joseph Smith: The First Mormon, 1997, p. 52]." The two "personages" told him many things while he was in this state that he said he could not pass on. When the vision ended, Joseph woke up and was surprised to find himself lying on his back looking up at the sky. He must have lost consciousness of his surroundings and fallen down. In Joseph's autobiographical writings, he never mentions having seen visions of colored lights before he saw the bright, sun-like vision, but there is some evidence that he might have seen such visions. Even at his young age, Joseph was known as a good "scryer" who liked to put a seer-stone his hat, place the hat over his face, and stare at the stone, waiting for a vision. The same year he saw the sun-like vision, Joseph borrowed a green glass seer-stone from a friend to scry for a seer-stone that would be his own. As he stared at the green seer-stone, he saw the vision of a white stone that "became luminous, and dazzled his eyes, and after a short time it became as intense as the noon-day sun," even though it was 150 miles away. After he dug up the new white seer-stone, Joseph said he "placed it in his hat, and discovered that time, place, and distance were annihilated; . . . that he possessed one of the attributes of Deity, an All-Seeing Eye [Brooke, Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1996, pp. 150-152]." Given Joseph's skills as a scryer, it is reasonable to infer that he was proficient at inducing trance states and that in these trances he saw visions of colored light.
In his autobiography, Play of Consciousness, the Hindu guru, Muktananda, described how his vision of the Brahmaranda, the "egg-shaped ball of radiance. . . . the vision of the radiant thumb-sized Being [Play of Consciousness, 1978, p. 136]," was suddenly transformed: "One day it opened up and its light was released, and the brilliance of not one or two thousand but millions of suns blazed all around. The light was so fierce that I could not stand it . . . That brilliance had drawn me toward itself, and as I gazed at it, I lost consciousness [Ibid., p. 175]."
Gopi Krishna, an Indian civil servant who became a yogi, experienced "a rising of kundalini" that occurred "spontaneously," by which he means it occurred without the guidance of an experienced guru. In his autobiography, Krishna explains how he rose at dawn to meditate before going to work, and how, during these meditations, he often saw visions of light that looked like "lotuses of brilliant color, emitting rays of light [Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man, 1971, p. 11]." Then one morning, just before dawn, everything changed: "Suddenly, with a roar like that of a waterfall, I felt a stream of liquid light entering my brain through the spinal cord [Ibid., p. 12]." This vision of "liquid light" kept reappearing: "Whenever I closed my eyes I found myself looking into a weird circle of light, in which luminous currents swirled and eddied, moving rapidly from side to side. . . . I found myself staring fearfully into a vast internal glow, . . . resembling the ceaseless movement of wildly leaping lustrous clouds of spray rising from a waterfall which, lighted by the sun, rushes down into a seething pool. Sometimes it seemed as if a jet of molten copper, . . . dashed against my crown and fell in a scintillating shower of vast dimensions [pp. 49-50]."