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Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind (Compass) Paperback – October 5, 1991
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This book begins with a dedication to Richard Maurice Bucke from his father, following the death of his son. Following this a brief introduction to "The Man and the Book" by George Moreby Acklom appears. The first section of this book is entitled "First Words" and is dedicated to expounding Bucke's theory of cosmic consciousness. Bucke writes, "Cosmic Consciousness, then, is a higher form of consciousness than that possessed by the ordinary man." Bucke distinguishes between what he terms "simple consciousness" (possessed by the upper half of the animal kingdom; consciousness of oneself, one's body, and thing's around oneself), "self consciousness" (the consciousness in man in which one becomes aware of oneself as a distinct entity from all the rest of the universe), and "cosmic consciousness" (a consciousness of the cosmos accompanied by feelings of illumination, joyfulness, elevation, and moral exaltation). Bucke contends that this new form of consciousness is developing in man, just as self consciousness developed out of simple consciousness through the process of evolution. Bucke goes on to explain various instances of cosmic consciousness, accompanying processes, and relates it to God, Christ, Nirvana, and Brahmanic splendour. The second section of this book is entitled "Evolution and Devolution". Here, Bucke traces the development from simple consciousness to self consciousness (as animals progressed to man). Bucke makes several interesting observations, including particularly noting that the ancients apparently had fewer words for colors than modern man does (perhaps indicating an evolutionary development in color consciousness). Bucke also provides a chart showing the development of the levels of consciousness (and their apparent proportion of occurrence in the general population). Bucke also mentions the idea of "devolution" (noting the prevalence of insanity and "idiocy" as instances of this). The third section of this book is entitled "From Self Consciousness to Cosmic Consciousness". Here, Bucke notes the various accompanying phenomena of cosmic consciousness (including that of moral elevation), the rarity of cosmic consciousness, the fact that instances of it are apparently increasing (since the beginning of recorded history), the fact that it is more likely to occur in men than women, and the fact that it tends to occur at the age of full maturity. The fourth section of this book is entitled "Instances of Cosmic Consciousness". Bucke maintains that the following individuals experienced definite instances of cosmic consciousness (and uses the increasing frequency of such cases to argue for his evolutionary theory): Gautama the Buddha (called "Nirvana"), Jesus the Christ (Bucke maintains that Jesus was a man; called "the Kingdom of God"), Paul (called "Christ"), Plotinus, Mohammed, Dante (called "Beatrice"), Bartolome Las Casas, John Yepes (Saint John of the Cross), Francis Bacon (Bucke maintains that Bacon was the real author of Shakespeare's plays and poems and quotes extensively from them to "prove" this), Jacob Behmen (the Teutonic Theosopher), William Blake, Honore de Balzac, Walt Whitman (Bucke quotes extensively from his "Leaves of Grass" believing Whitman to be among the highest levels of cosmic consciousness so far produced in man), and Edward Carpenter. The fifth section of this book is entitled "Additional - Some of Them Lesser, Imperfect And Doubtful Cases" and details some additional cases of cosmic consciousness, though of a lesser or more doubtful degree. Bucke mentions here various authors, poets, writers, and prophets known to him as well as a few cases from individuals that he personally met or corresponded with. The sixth section of this book is entitled "Last Words". Here, Bucke expounds upon some other instances of cosmic consciouness, again details his evolutionary theory, and explains why it is necessary for the individual so illuminated to be of the right mental and physical physique.
In this book, Bucke provides a unique study of the mystical phenomenon and its apparent increase among members of the human race. As with many scientists from the Victorian era, Bucke was perhaps too wedded to the ideas behind evolutionary theory and the notion of progress. Indeed, Bucke maintains that with the coming development of cosmic consciousness a new social order will be made possible, echoing many of the socialist theories popular at the time. Nevertheless, this book played a very important role in furthering our understanding of mysticism, our sense of the cosmos, and the attempt to study it using scientific methods. Bucke's work would be carried on by later thinkers and researchers who were to reference repeatedly in their own studies of mysticism.
Reviewed by Jeremiah Cox, author of REDESIGNING GOD
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I got this book for Christmas from my sweet husband and I love it:)