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Mystical Experience of Genevieve W. Foster

Genevieve W. Foster (1902 - 1992) was a charter member of the Analytical Psychology Club of New York who “considered herself a Jungian [a follower of psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung]” who “lived and worked outside the Jungian circle, among Freudians and others.”  She specialized in work with emotionally disturbed children. Foster authored a book about her mystical experience, The World Was Flooded with Light: A Mystical Experience Remembered, which was published in 1985.

Foster wrote the following account of her mystical experience, which came to her “at the height of [a] mid-life crisis” (note that we have inserted paragraph breaks below for ease of reading the account):

“The climactic event…came…I believe in the spring of 1945 [at the end of March], and it came in a visitation that all my upbringing and education told me was simply an impossibilbity – unless of course one was psychotic…I was at home…[in the] afternoon…I lay down for a nap on the living room sofa.  I will tell the preliminaries as well as I can after thirty-odd years, since I think they are interesting.  I had a dream of levitation; I seemed to be suspended in the air a foot or two above the sofa.  But my good Jungian training had emphasized the importance of ‘keeping my feet on the ground,’ so, still in the dream, I said to myself, ‘This will never do,’ and I managed to pull myself back down to the sofa.  There was a further fragment of a dream, something about the beating of wings above and around me.  Then I woke up.  

The experience I then had would have been called hallucinatory by a psychiatrist of the day, perhaps by most today.  In the technical language of mysticism [according to researcher Evelyn Underhill]…it is what is called ‘intellectual vision.’...That is, I saw nothing unusual with my outward eye, but I nevertheless knew that there was someone else in the room with me.  A few feet in front of me and a little to the left stood a numinous [i.e., divine] figure, and between us was an interchange, a flood, flowing both ways, of love.  There were no words, no sound.  There was light everywhere…Indoors and out, the world was flooded with light, the supernal light that so many of the mystics describe and a few of the poets.  The vision lasted five days; [then] I had a sense of fatigue, and could sustain it no longer, and it faded…

[T]he experience was so overwhelmingly good, that I could not mistrust it….[T]he common metaphor in our daily speech, ‘to see the light’ often jocosely used, must have come ultimately from just such experiences in the old days when they were still recognized as valid….even though such a vision has faded, life can never return to its former pattern….it altered my life permanently, and that value of which I was permitted an awareness in those few days has for me transcended all others….Any work that I did thereafter was done not as a personal achievement, but as an offering to that Other whom I now recognized….

[During my experience] I knew that I was ‘companioned’ and that the Companion was numinous….I have had ever since an intuitive awareness of being ‘companioned.’  That numinous figure is still there, I know, and it is the deficiency of my vision that prevents me from seeing it.”

Quoted from The World Was Flooded with Light: A Mystical Experience Remembered by Genevieve W Foster.

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