Mary Austin

Mystical Experience of Mary Hunter Austin

Mary Hunter Austin (1868 – 1934) was an American writer born in Carlinville, Illinois, as the fourth of six children. A graduate of Blackburn College, Austin lived in various places in California. She was one of the earliest authors to write about nature in the American Southwest. Her classic 1903 book, The Land of Little Rain, describes the fauna, flora, and people of the deserts of California. Austin’s play, The Arrow Maker, which was about American Indian life, was produced at New York’s New Theatre in 1911.

In her book, Experiences Facing Death, Mary Hunter Austin described her childhood mystical experience as follows:

“I must have been between five and six when this experience happened to me. It was a summer morning, and the child I was had walked down through the orchard alone and come out on the brow of a sloping hill where there was grass and a wind blowing and one tall tree reaching into infinite immensities of blueness. Quite suddenly, after a moment of quietness there, earth and sky and tree and wind-blown grass and the child in the midst of them came alive together with a pulsing light of consciousness. There was a wild foxglove at the child’s feet and a bee dozing about it, and to this day I can recall the swift inclusive awareness of each for the whole—I in them and they in me and all of us enclosed in a warm lucent bubble of livingness. I remember the child looking everywhere for the source of this happy wonder, and at last she questioned—‘God?’—because it was the only awesome word she knew. Deep inside, like the murmurous swinging of a bell, she heard the answer, ‘God, God…’

How long this ineffable moment lasted I never knew. It broke like a bubble at the sudden singing of a bird, and the wind blew and the world was the same as ever—only never quite the same. The experience so initiated has been the one abiding reality of my life, unalterable except in the abounding fullness and frequency of its occurrence.”

Quoted from Experiences Facing Death by Mary Hunter Austin.

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