The dawning of cosmic consciousness

From Cosmic Consciousness (1902) by Richard Maurice Bucke.

a) The person suddenly, without warning, has a sense of being immersed in a flame, or rose-colored cloud.

b) At the same instant, he is bathed in an emotion of joy, assurance, triumph, “salvation.” The last word is not strictly correct if taken in its ordinary sense, for the feeling, when fully developed, is not that a particular act of salvation is effected, but that no especial “salvation” is needed, the scheme upon which the world is built being itself sufficient. It is this ecstasy, far beyond any that belongs to the merely self-conscious life, with which the poets occupy themselves.

c) Simultaneously or instantly following the above sense and emotional experiences there comes to the person an intellectual illumination quite impossible to describe. Like a flash there is presented to his consciousness a clear conception (a vision) in outline of the meaning and drift of the universe. He does not come to believe merely; but he sees and knows that the cosmos, which to the self conscious mind seems made up of dead matter, is in fact far otherwise—is in very truth a living presence. Instead of men as patches of life scattered through an infinite sea of non-living substance, they are in reality specks of relative death in an infinite ocean of life. He sees that the life which is in man is eternal, as all life is eternal; that the soul of man is immortal as God is; that the universe is so built and ordered that without any peradventure all things work together for the good of each and all; that the foundation principle of the world is what we call love, and that the happiness of every individual is int he long run absolutely certain. The person who passes through this experience will learn in the few minutes, or even moments, of its continuance more than in months or years of study.

d) A sense of immortality, not an intellectual conviction, but a perception that he is presently an immortal being.

e) With illunination, the fear of death which haunts so many falls off like an old cloak—it simply vanishes.

f) The same may be said of the sense of sin. It is not that the person escapes from sin; but he no longer sees that there is any sin in the world.

g) All this is instantaneous; a dazzling flash of ligthning that brings a hidden landscape into clear view.

h) The appearance and presence of the person is transfigured, and hereafter is infused with joy.

Maurice Bucke (1837-1902) grew up as a farm boy in London, Ontario. In the winter of 1857–58, he was nearly frozen to death in the mountains of California, where he was the sole survivor of a silver-mining party. He had to walk out over the mountains and suffered extreme frostbite. As a result, a foot and several of his toes were amputated. He then returned to Canada via the Isthmus of Panama, probably in 1858. The transformative experience of which he writes (in 3rd person) was in 1872, while riding home in a horse-drawn carriage after an evening with friends.

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