Richard Maurice Bucke Describes Cosmic Consciousness
Posted on 07 May 2012, 19:17
William James, Alan Watts, Carl Rogers, and P.D. Ouspensky, have all been influenced by Richard Maurice Bucke’s book, Cosmic Consciousness. The book was conceived after Bucke, (below) at the age of 35, experienced what he called ‘Cosmic Consciousness.’ The experience was so profound, that Bucke studied the phenomenon for the rest of his life.
Here’s what he had to say about his experience…
All at once, without warning of any kind, I found myself wrapped in a flame-colored cloud. For an instant I thought of fire, an immense conflagration somewhere close by in that great city; the next, I knew that the fire was within myself. Directly afterward there came upon me a sense of exultation, of immense joyousness accompanied or immediately followed by an intellectual illumination impossible to describe. Among other things, I did not merely come to believe, but I saw that the universe is not composed of dead matter, but is, on the contrary, a living Presence; I became conscious in myself of eternal life. It was not a conviction that I would have eternal life, but a consciousness that I possessed eternal life then; I saw that all men are immortal; that the cosmic order is such that without any peradventure all things work together for the good of each and all; that the foundation principle of the world, of all the worlds, is what we call love, and that the happiness of each and all is in the long run absolutely certain. The vision lasted a few seconds and was gone; but the memory of it and the sense of the reality of what it taught has remained during the quarter of a century which has since elapsed.
Bucke’s theory was that our mental states are evolving and that to date we have experienced three stages in the development of consciousness: the ‘simple consciousness’ of animals, the ‘self-consciousness’ of the vast majority of humans (reason, self awareness, imagination, etc.), and in some rare cases, ‘cosmic consciousness’; a mystical state of being beyond ‘self consciousness’ and the next stage of human development.
Bucke hypothesized that ‘cosmic consciousness’ is slowly beginning to appear in humans and will eventually spread widely throughout the human race. He posited that certain notable individuals throughout history have demonstrated that they have attained ‘cosmic consciousness’. In the book he cites examples such as Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Dante, St Paul, Francis Bacon, William Blake, and his dear friend Walt Whitman.
Cosmic Consciousness is published by White Crow Books and available from Amazon and all good online bookstores.
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