Richard Maurice Bucke, Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind. E.P. Dutton and Company, 1969. 340 pages.
Bucke explicates cosmic consciousness under four main characteristics.First, cosmic consciousness is constituted by an intense, sudden experience of immersion in a flame or rose-colored cloud and a perception of an inner light.Secondly, it is accompanied by a state of “moral exaltation” (an indescribable feeling of elevation, elation and joyousness, and a sharpening of moral sensibilities).Thirdly, it is constituted by an intellectual enlightenment or illumination, the essential content of which concerns the understanding that the cosmos is a living spiritual presence, not dead matter.Finally, cosmic consciousness is accompanied by a sense of immortality and eternal life and a loss of fear of death and sin.While cosmic consciousness clearly appears to be a type of religious experience, Bucke is adamant about the fact that cosmic consciousness represents the “meltdown” of religion.Cosmic consciousness is tradition-less religion for all – without church, creed, scripture and ritual.Since cosmic consciousness is simply a new psychological faculty and the next step in human evolution, its appearance and continuation requires no religious tradition.
Not unsurprisingly Bucke himself claims to have had a personal experience of cosmic consciousness.In the introduction to Cosmic Consciousness Bucke recounts an experience that occurred in 1872 after an evening spent reading the poems of such Romantics as Whitman, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats and Browning, an experience that bears all four of the essential marks of cosmic consciousness listed above.
by Tim Knepper
Boston University, 2001