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Observations placeholder

Goethe - Truth and Poetry: from my own life - A pandemonium of elementals



Type of Spiritual Experience


Number of hallucinations: 3


A description of the experience

Goethe's autobiography, 6th book. As published in The Autobiography of Goethe. Truth and Poetry: from my own life. Translated by J. Oxenford. Vol. 1 (London, 1867), 203.

September 1768, near Leipzig, Germany

On the way to the University at Leipzig, 16-year old Goethe and two companions see a bright "tube" at ground level with blinding small lights jumping around. The trip was difficult, under steady rain. The travelers had to get out of the carriage to help the horses on steep slopes. During one of these walking sections, Goethe noticed something unusual:

"Suddenly, in a ravine on the right side of the road, I beheld a sort of amphitheater, marvellously illuminated. Within a space shaped like a pipe an incalculable number of small lights were shining, stacked like steps one on top of the other. They were so bright that the eye was blinded. But what was the most troubling in this sight was that the lights were not fixed, they jumped this way and that, going up and down and in all directions. Most of them, however, remained stable and radiated."

"It is with the greatest reluctance that I consented, when I was called, to move away from this spectacle that I would have desired to examine closer. The postilion, when I interrogated him, stated that he had never known of such a phenomenon, but in the neighborhood there was an old quarry, the hole of which was filled with water. It remains to be known whether it was a pandemonium of elementals or an assembly of luminous creatures, I would be unable to decide."


The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Frenetic exercise


Believing in the spiritual world