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Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind (Compass) Paperback – October 5, 1991

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Editorial Reviews

Book Description

Bucke's account (1901) of his research and contemplation on the trend towards heightened intellectual awareness in man, through evolution, explaining his theory of the three stages of conscious development that culminate in flashes of understanding of the life and order of the cosmos, illustrated by his own and others' experiences. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Kessinger Publishing reprints over 1,500 similar titles all available through Amazon.com. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Compass
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (October 5, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140193375
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140193374
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #415,192 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

117 of 120 people found the following review helpful By OAKSHAMAN VINE VOICE on September 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
This study is from the early days of the psychiatric profession when its practitioners could still write seriously of spiritual and mystical matters without being ostracised or ridiculed as "unscientific." Briefly, the author personally experienced a sudden episode of enlightenment and rapture that, while it was only of brief duration, changed his outlook on life forever. He spent the rest of his life, he was in his mid-thirties at the time, trying to figure out what had happened to him, and if there were any others.

What he found was that such sudden occurances of enlightenment, these epiphanies, had been occuring to mystics, philosophers, writers, and artists all through recorded history. Not only that, but they were occuring with increased frequency as time went on. Bucke concluded that this marked an evolutionary trend. Carried out to its logical conclusion, he postulated that one day "cosmic consciousness" as he termed it, would be as common in the human race as self consciousness currently is. He based this on the manner in which the ancestors of man slowly climbed from the simple consciousness of animals to an almost universal state of self consciousness.

Having experienced a simular event in my mid-thirties (remember, it happens to varying degrees), I found this book to be immensely personally relevant- as it has proven to be to many of us for over one hundred years now.
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58 of 58 people found the following review helpful By richardpinneau.com on February 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
Although now a century old, Dr. Bucke's volume is timeless because its topic is: the human quest for the experience of The Divine.
Written, not by a theologian but by an experiencer of the Ultimate Mystical Experience, this book describes Bucke's own few seconds of illumination, then goes on to show commonalities among the experiences of the ancient (Lao Tse, Buddha, Christ, Paul, Muhammad, etc.), medieval-renaissance (Dante, Shakespeare, etc.), and modern (Ramakrishna, Whitman, etc). The intellectual credentials of this neurologist cause Bucke's work to stand head-and-shoulders above popular "New Age" mystic reports.
Be sure not to miss Bucke's description of his own experience (humbly buried in introductory notes), and don't get bored by reading his analytical sections on the nature of consciousness. Dive into the excerpts of how writers have struggled through the ages to express their inexpressible experiences of Divine Love, Brahmic Ecstasy, Rapture... variously named in different times and cultures.
Although women are under-represented (naturally, since for millenia they've largely been barred from authorship), some of the most movingly personal experiences are those near the end of the volume by three 19th Century women.
The power of this gem stems from its first-hand reports of enlightenment - with its unpredictable, highly personal expressions. You'll find God experienced here not as an anthropomorphic Jehovah, but as a living Presence; not sterilized by intellectual analysis, but revered in Its humanity-divinity. Most helpfully, Bucke shows the parallels between different saints/illuminati/authors in their experiences and in their ways of describing it.
I tell my students that if they were to be sentenced to live out the rest of their lives on a desert island with only five books: Make this one of the five!
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75 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Peter Uys HALL OF FAME on October 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book was one of the first to consider religious illumination from a psychological perspective. It differs from William James's The Varieties of Religious Experience in that many of Bucke's opinions (e.g. his views on socialism) have been refuted by history. In order to judge it objectively, one ought thus to always keep in mind the era in which it was written. The basic point is that the human race is slowly and sporadically - albeit with increasing speed - advancing in consciousness to a higher state that will eventually lift the species above the fear, ignorance and brutality that have plagued mankind throughout history. Bucke's argument - which may be strongly disputed today - is based on analogy. He points out the three phases of consciousness found among living creatures: perception amongst lower animals, receptual consciousness amongst higher animals and the conceptual thinking of human beings which is accompanied by a strong sense of self.

In a very interesting chapter he demonstrates the development of consciousness over the last couple of millennia with reference to mankind's improving ability to distinguish colors. Initially only black and red were differentiated, but what was perceived as "red" has been refined into red, orange, yellow and white and even further. Likewise with "black" which split up into black and blue-green, from which the separate colors blue and green were again discerned:
"The blazing blue of the oriental sky is not mentioned in Homer or the Bible, nor the Rig Veda or Zend Avesta.
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on May 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book remains pioneering and a true one and only. It is as valuable today as it was when it was first published over 100 years ago and will remain valuable for many, many, many years to come, despite the fact that some of the author's views and information is clearly dated. (What sacred work isn't?) The message is timeless and I actually find the dated quality to be part of it's charm; bringing us back to inspiring days at the forefront of modern science, technology, and modern thought, and the days when Darwin's works were still seen as quite new.

What is most unique about this book is the author's illuminating and still modern approach; psychological, analytical and scientific, -we feel we can understand him in plain English and without blind faith or obedience- yet fused with the most inspiring mysticism the world has ever known or seen. The result is simply, that he gets his magnificent point and theory across with inspiring, vivid clarity and the implications are quite astounding to the reader if not wholly awesome. Indeed, the picture that this book creates is much greater than the sum it's parts.

Don't be fooled by the fact that the title "Cosmic Consciousness"(the term the book itself coined) has been swooped up through the years by weirdo's, kooks and new age charlatans. This is NOT that. Nor is it some cold, "rational" and "scientific" look at spirituality that will leave you doubting, depressed and without meaning.

This book and what it can still teach is truly a work of divinity - or at least inspired truly by it to an educated, esteemed doctor, but altogether ordinary man. (You don't feel you are being talked down to, more like listening to your very smart friend.
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