Cosmic Consciousness
A form of mystical experience characterized by consciousness
of the whole cosmos, of the life and order of the universe.
It was originally defined by Dr. Richard M. Bucke (1837–1902)
in his book of the same name. Bucke considered cosmic consciousness
a higher peak in human evolution that the race will
universally attain in the distant future.
According to Bucke, it seemed to appear primarily in men
between the ages of thirty and forty, who were highly developed,
of good intellect, high moral quality, superior physique,
and earnest religious belief. He considered the 13 greatest
cases to be Gautama Buddha, Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul,
Plotinus, Mohammed, Dante, Las Casas, John Ypes, Francis
Bacon, Jacob Behmen, William Blake, Balzac, and Bucke’s
friend Walt Whitman.
Coscinomancy Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
As described by Bucke the experience comes suddenly, with
a sensation of being immersed in a flame or rose-colored cloud.
It is accompanied by a feeling of ecstasy and moral and intellectual
illumination in which the mind has a clear concept of the
meaning of the universe.
The man or woman who goes through the experience sees
and knows that the cosmos is a living presence, that life is eternal,
the soul of man immortal, the founding principle of the
world is love, and the happiness of every individual in the long
run is absolutely certain. All fear of death, all sense of sin is lost,
and the personality gains added charm and becomes transformed.
In a few moments of the experience the individual will
learn more than in months or years of study, and will learn
much that no study can teach.
Whitman spoke of cosmic consciousness as ‘‘ineffable light,
light rare, untellable, lighting the very light beyond all signs,
descriptions, languages.’’ His insights correlated with the insights
of a large body of mystical and religious literature, and
had additional appeal because of his scientific credentials and
his mystical approach to God, a perspective somewhat compatible
with Eastern thought.
As described by Bucke, cosmic consciousness is equated with
the early steps of mysticism.
Bucke, Richard Maurice. Cosmic Consciousness A Study of the
Evolution of the Human Mind. 1910. Reprint, New Hyde Park,
N.Y. University Books, 1961. Reprint, New York Citadel
Press, 1970.
———. Richard Maurice Bucke, Medical Mystic Letters of Dr.
Bucke to Walt Whitman and His Friends. Detroit Wayne State
University Press, 1977.
Nomad, Ali. Cosmic Consciousness. Chicago, 1913.
Row, M. C. Nanjunda Row. Cosmic Consciousness, or the Vedantic
Idea of Realization or Mukti in the Light of Modern Psychology.
Madras, India, 1910.