Robert Johnson and the Golden World

Before continuing with the final account of a Jungian analyst who worked with Robert Johnson, here instead is something directly from Robert Johnson’s own spiritual experiences of what he calls the Golden World – it may help explain his life long deep connection between the psychological and the spiritual.

Johnson’s spiritual and psychological searching began at the age of 11 after a terrible accident when his leg was crushed by a car that crashed into the wall beside which he had been roller skating.  In hospital an artery ruptured, and he was slowly bleeding to death. He writes:

‘At a specific moment I crossed a divide and suddenly I was in a glorious world.

It was pure light, gold, radiant, luminous, ecstatically happy, perfectly beautiful, purely tranquil, joy beyond bound. I wasn’t the least bit interested in anything on the earthly side of the divide; I could only revel at what was before me. We have words for this side of reality but none to describe the other side. It was all that any mystic ever promised of heaven, and I knew then that I was in possession of the greatest treasure known to humankind.’

Johnson, as did Mircea Eliade, calls this magnificent realm the Golden World.  In fact, Johnson was brought back to life – but reluctantly so: ‘I was so blinded by the golden light of the divine world that I was spoiled for regular life.’ Earlier in the day before the accident he was a giddy kid, but by midnight a ‘very old man in a kid’s body’. Johnson suffered a double amputation spending two months in the hospital recovering. ‘I philosophize now that I was wounded just enough to set off a deep experience of the inner world but not enough to end my life. Just enough!’

During his life he saw other glimpses of the Golden World. As a child he had no context within which to understand what had taken place. Was it only an hallucination brought on by anaesthesia or physical shock, but then five years later he saw the glory of paradise again, and this time he says it was even more glorious because he was fully conscious.

‘Once again I would experience what a biblical passage describes as the morning stars singing together’. This second vision came after a difficult time when he was working a night shift in a factory aged 16 trying to prove himself despite his disability. He was in physical pain from his leg, and also despairing about the harshness and ugliness of the factory and of the world. ‘I realised that if I didn’t see something beautiful, I would not survive … I had to have the beauty of life confirmed again.’ He drove into the hills and went to watch the sunrise.

‘The sun began to inch its way over the horizon, and, – unbelievably – the Golden World shone forth again with all its glory. The same golden light, the same condensation of pure beauty – it was all there … but my reception of it was different. There was more consciousness in me … it was an antechamber of heaven, and it was my native land.’

He quotes amongst others who have written about the same experience, this is from Walt Whitman:

As in a swoon, one instant,

Another sun, ineffable, full-dazzles me,

And all the orbs I knew, and brighter, unknown orbs;

One instant of the future land, heaven’s land.’