Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind (1901) is a book written by Richard Maurice Bucke, a Canadian psychiatrist. In this book, he explored the concept of Cosmic Consciousness, which he defined as "a higher form of consciousness than that possessed by the ordinary man."
Forms of consciousness
- Simple consciousness, possessed by both animals and mankind
- Self-consciousness, possessed by mankind, encompassing thought, reason, and imagination
- Cosmic consciousness, a consciousness of "the life and order of the universe," possessed by few men at present. It is a further stage of human evolution which will be reached by all humanity in the future.
Bucke's "cosmic consciousness" is an interconnected way of seeing things, "which is more of an intuitive knowing than it is a factual understanding". According to Bucke,
This consciousness shows the cosmos to consist not of dead matter governed by unconscious, rigid, and unintending law; it shows it on the contrary as entirely immaterial, entirely spiritual and entirely alive; it shows that death is an absurdity, that everyone and everything has eternal life; it shows that the universe is God and that God is the universe, and that no evil ever did or ever will enter into it; a great deal of this is, of course, from the point of view of self consciousness, absurd; it is nevertheless undoubtedly true.
According to Juan A. Hererro Brasas, Bucke's "cosmic consciousness" is about the evolution of the intellect, not about "the ineffable revelation of hidden truths". According to Brasas, it was William James who equated Bucke's "cosmic consciousness" with "mystical experience" or "mystical consciousness". Moores points out that "for scholars of the purist camp" the experience is incomplete without the element of love, "which is the foundation of mystical consciousness":
Mysticism, then, is the perception of the universe and all of its seemingly disparate entities existing in a unified whole bound together by love.
Bucke identified only male specimen of the "cosmic consciousness", and believed woman to be unlikely to gain "cosmic consciousness". He regarded Walt Whitman "as the climax of religious evolution and the harbinger of humanity's future".
Some modern psychologists and theologians have made reference to Bucke’s work. They include Erich Fromm, Robert S. de Ropp, and Abraham Maslow. Others who have used the concept of cosmic consciousness, as introduced by Bucke in 1901, include Albert Einstein, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Alan Watts.
- Animal, brutish self-awareness
- Sensual consciousness
- Higher self-consciousness
In Schleiermacher's theology, higher consciousness "is the part of the human being that is capable of transcending animal instincts", and the "point of contact with God". Essence of being human. When this consciousness is present, people are not alienated from God by their instincts. The relation between the lower and the higher conscious ness is akin to Paul's "struggle of the spirit to overcome the flesh", or the distinction between the natural and the spiritual side of human beings.
Wayne Proudfoot traces the roots of the notion of "religious experience" to Schleiermacher, who argued that religion is based on a feeling of the infinite. The notion of "religious experience" was used by Schleiermacher and Albert Ritschl to defend religion against the growing scientific and secular citique, and defend the view that human (moral and religious) experience justifies religious beliefs.
Both Bucke and James argue that all religions, no matter how seemingly different, have a common core; both believe that it is possible to identify this core by stripping away institutional accretions of dogma and ritual and focusing on individual experience; and both identify mystical illumination as the foundation of all religious experience.
William James popularised the concept of religious experience,[note 1] which he explored in his book, The Varieties of Religious Experience. William James saw mysticism as a distinctive experience which supplies knowledge of the transcendental. He considered the "personal religion" to be "more fundamental than either theology or ecclesiasticism", and states:
In mystic states we both become one with the Absolute and we become aware of our oneness. This is the everlasting and triumphant mystical tradition, hardly altered by differences of clime or creed. In Hinduism, in Neoplatonism, in Sufism, in Christian mysticism, in Whitmanism, we find the same recurring note, so that there is about mystical utterances an eternal unanimity which ought to make a critic stop and think, and which bring it about that the mystical classics have, as been said, neither birthday not native land.
Regarding cosmic consciousness, William James, in his essay The Confidences of a "Psychical Researcher," wrote:
What again, are the relations between the cosmic consciousness and matter? ... So that our ordinary human experience, on its material as well as on its mental side, would appear to be only an extract from the larger psycho-physical world?
William James understood "cosmic consciousness" to be a collective consciousness, a "larger reservoir of consciousness" which manifests itself through the individual brains and emanations, but remains intact after the dissolution of the individual brain and may "retain traces of the life history of its indiviual emanation".
All this seems to force upon us an interpretation of Hegel that would understand his term 'mind' as some kind of cosmic consciousness; not, of course, a traditional conception of God as a being separate from the universe, but rather as something more akin to those eastern philosophies that insists that all is one.
Teilhard de Chardin's concept of the noösphere also bears similarities. Due to the popularisation of the notion of "religious experience", similarities have also been conceived with elements of Asian religions, such as the Buddhist concept of Indra's net and satori in Zen.[not in citation given (See discussion.)] According to Marshall, the concept of "cosmic consciousnes" also bears resemblances to some traditional pantheist beliefs. According to Laszlo, "cosmic consciousness" corresponds to Jean Gebser's "integral consciousness" and Cowan and Beck's turquoise state of "cosmic spirituality".
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- Bucke 2000.
- Bucke 2000, p. 3.
- Bucke 2009, p. 19–82.
- Moores 2006, p. 33.
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