Cosmic Consciousness, by Richard Maurice Bucke, , at sacred-texts.com
Born 1265; Died 1321.
Balzac [9: 241 and 263] clearly intimates his conviction that Dante was a "Specialist," which is his name for a man who has
[paragraph continues] Cosmic Consciousness. Balzac probably knew Dante very thoroughly, and could not be mistaken on this point, he being himself a "Specialist"; for as a musician knows of another man whether or not he is a musician, as a poet knows of another man whether or not he is a poet, as a painter knows of another man whether or not he is a painter, as a man with the sense of sight living in a country inhabited with men nearly all of whom are blind must know who among his acquaintances can see and who cannot, so to-day, and all days, a man who has the Cosmic Sense will know of any given man with whom he is acquainted, either personally or by his works, whether or not he also has it. We could therefore accept with confidence Balzac's word that Dante had the Cosmic Sense, but let us not do so—let us try to see for ourselves.
Dante's outward life and personality are as good as lost to us of the nineteenth century. It seems clear, however, and the character of his writings would indicate the same thing, that, as Boccaccio says [81:809], even as a young man he was:
And Leonardo Bruni says of him that:
All which means that Dante was of a thoughtful, studious, earnest nature, and we may interpret this fact to mean either that
in his case such a life led up to a high poetic genius within the limits of self consciousness, or that it led up (as claimed here) to Cosmic Consciousness. In any case, Dante's youth seems to have been such as we often find in men who attain illumination.
Now, as to the outward man, Boccaccio says [111: 200]:
Again Charles E. Norton [111: 204] says of an undoubtedly authentic death-mask of the poet:
As to the quality of Dante's mind and of his work, it will be well to quote here, briefly, perhaps as high an authority as has lived in recent times. He says:
Meanwhile, leaving antiquarians to elucidate the pedigree of Dante's ideas, we may observe that from his earliest boyhood he was familiar with dreams and visions, and that he hints himself, at the end of the "Vita Nuova," that the vision of the "Comedy" came to him as a revelation, while he was pondering on the thought of death and upon the memory of Beatrice* [179: 109].
The object of the whole work (he writes to Can Grande) is to make those who live in this life leave their state of misery and to lead them to a state of happiness† [179:110].
* The writer, while knowing nothing about Cosmic Consciousness, adopts, as it were perforce, the same theory of Dante and his work as that propounded here.
† The main object in life in the case of every (?) man having the Cosmic Sense is to bestow it upon the race, and each feels in himself some power to so bestow it.
In the "Divine Comedy" (a book strictly parallel to the "Comédie Humaine," or the "Leaves of Grass," in the sense that it is a picture of the world from the point of view of the writer), Dante tells, first, in the "Inferno," of human life as seen among ill-doers, the "sinful," the "wicked." Then, in the "Purgatorio"—"that second realm where the human spirit is purified and becomes worthy to ascend to heaven" [71: 1]—he speaks of human life as seen in those who are struggling towards the light—who are trying to lead good lives but are so far overburdened by hereditary flaws, faults committed, bad habits formed, unfortunate surroundings and other adverse circumstances. These are the better people—short of illumination. But in the "Paradiso" Dante treats of the new world of the Cosmic Sense—of the kingdom of God—Nirvâna.
Beatrice—"Making Happy"—is the Cosmic Sense (which, in fact, alone, makes happy). The name may have been suggested by a beautiful girl (so named). If so, the coincidence is curious.
That the meaning is as here said, seems clear from a hundred passages. Take one. Virgil says to Dante: "So much as reason seeth here can I tell thee; beyond that [beyond reason, the self
conscious mind] awaits still for Beatrice" [71:114]. What is beyond reason—the self conscious mind—but Cosmic Consciousness?
Dante wanders through the self conscious world ("Inferno" and "Purgatorio") guided by Virgil (chosen as a splendid example and type of the self conscious mind, and also probably because he had really been one of Dante's principal guides before his illumination). But Virgil was not a case of Cosmic Consciousness, and of course he cannot enter into Paradise. Beatrice (the Cosmic Sense) leads Dante into that realm and is his guide there.
Dante's "Vita Nuova," written at the end of the thirteenth century, was first published in 1309, when he was forty-four years of age. At the very end of it he seems to speak of the oncoming of Cosmic Consciousness.
The "Divine Comedy" was finished in 1321, the time of the action being strictly confined to the end of March and the beginning of April, 1300 [81: 815] at which time Dante was thirty-five years old. It seems almost certain that this was the date of his illumination. It would be at the typical age and in the typical season, and there seems nothing against the supposition. It is a reasonable presumption that the earlier book, "Vita Nuova," was being written up to the early spring of 1300; that when illumination took place it was closed to give place to a greater work then to be begun; that the latter book, the "Divine Comedy," was actually begun at that date.
The "Vita Nuova"  closes as follows:
We will now follow Dante's experience as closely as possible in his own words, using always, as we have done above, the translation of Charles Elliot Norton. And we take first from the "Purgatorio" passages descriptive of Dante's approach to the divine land. When Dante is about to enter Cosmic Consciousness Virgil says of him:
Virgil withdraws. The self conscious mind abdicates its sovereignty in presence of the greater authority. Dante comes into immediate relation with Beatrice—Cosmic Consciousness.
And as my face stretched upward my eyes saw Beatrice.* Beneath her veil and beyond the stream she seemed to me more to surpass her ancient self than she surpassed the others here when she was here [71:198].
* The new world is still veiled and far off, but even so its glory far transcends anything in the old world of mere self consciousness.
Oh, splendor of living light eternal!* who hath become so pallid under the shadow of Parnassus, or hath so drunk at its cistern that he would not seem to have his mind encumbered, trying to represent thee as thou didst appear there, where in harmony the heaven overshadows thee when in thn open air thou didst thyself disclose [71:201]?
* The best prepared poet (on the level of self consciousness) by study and practice could not portray the new world, when it freely (in the open air) discloses itself. "No shuttered room or school can commune with me," says the Cosmic Sense by the tongue of Whitman [193:75].
Beatrice (the Cosmic Sense) says to Dante:
Again Beatrice says to him:
So much for the approach to the Cosmic Sense. Let us see next what Dante says of it after having entered into it.
On a sudden day* seemed to be added to day as if he who is able had adorned the heaven with another sun [72:4].
* "As in a swoon, one instant, another sun, ineffable, full dazzles me" [192: 207].
This is, of course, the subjective light seen by Mohammed, Paul and others at the moment of entrance into the Cosmic Sense.
When the revolution which thou, being desired, makest eternal § made me attent unto itself with the harmony which thou attunest and modulatest, so much of the heaven then seemed to me enkindled by the flame of the sun, that rain or river never made so broad a lake [72:4].
† Of Glaucus.
‡ If I continued to be a mere man.
§ The desire for God leads a man from self to Cosmic Consciousness, and that revolution, when effected, is eternal.
When Dante awoke into the Cosmic Sense, into the new Cosmos, the first thing to strike him (as it is and must be the first thing to strike every one who so awakes) was the vision of the ''Eternal Wheels"—the "Chain of Causation"—the universal order—a vision infinitely beyond expression by human words. His new self—Beatrice—had its eyes fixed on this, the Cosmic unfolding. Gazing thereupon the Cosmic vision and the Cosmic rapture transhumanized him into a god. It is this vision of the universal order coming instantaneously, lighting the world as lightning illumines the landscape, but, unlike lightning, remaining, that has led the present writer to adopt the name "Cosmic Consciousness"—a Consciousness of the Cosmos. Compare with Dante's Gautama's experience as given in the Maha Vegga [163: 208]: "During the first watch of the night he fixed his mind upon the chain of causation; during the second watch he did the same; during the third he did the same." And, as already shown, this is among the very earliest and most reliable accounts of the illumination of the Buddha.
After illumination Dante wrote the "Divine Comedy." In it (as a whole) must be sought the expression, such as Dante could give, of the Cosmic vision. It is, therefore, a parallel statement with the Qur’an, the Upanishads, Suttas, the Pauline Epistles, the words of Jesus, the "Comédie Humaine," the "Leaves of Grass," the "Shakespeare" drama and "Sonnets," the works of Behmen, and "Towards Democracy."
To sum up, we have in this case:
a. The characteristic suddenness that belongs to the oncoming of the Cosmic Sense.
b. Illumination occurs at the typical age and time of year.
c. The subjective light is a strongly marked feature.
d. Intellectual illumination.
e. Moral elevation.
f. The sense of immortality.
g. The extinction of the sense of sin and of shame and of fear of death.