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Cosmic Consciousness, by Richard Maurice Bucke, [1901], at



That the great apostle had the Cosmic Sense seems as clear and certain as that Cæsar was a great general.

He was, in fact, "great" and an "apostle" because he had it, and for no other reason whatever.


In his case meet all the elements both of probability and proof. As shown by his enthusiasm for the religion in which he was brought up, he had the earnest temperament which seems always to form the matrix in which the new life is brought forward to its birth. He was at the time of his (supposed) illumination probably about the age at which the Cosmic Sense usually shows itself. Sutherland (171: 137) has the following bearing on this point: He says that Paul:

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Could not have been very much younger than Jesus. He was of an ardent and impetuous nature, and not long after the crucifixion (perhaps within two years) began to be conspicuous as a persecutor of the little companies of believers in Christ that were gathered not only in Jerusalem but in many other places. The same zeal which made him afterward such an efficient missionary of Christianity now caused him to carry his persecutions of the hated sect of the "Nazarenes" beyond Jerusalem to the cities and villages of Judea, and finally even beyond the bounds of Palestine. It was while he was on his way to the city of Damascus, a little way outside of Palestine on the northeast, bent on extirpating the new heresy there, that the remarkable event occurred which changed his whole life.

If, now, Paul was, say, four or five years younger than Jesus, his illumination took place at the same age as that of his great predecessor.

One word more on this last point. It is a little singular that neither the apostle himself nor his historian, Luke, who was deeply interested in all that related to his personality, have let fall a single expression from which the date of Paul's birth can be positively and definitely deduced. Speaking of his life before his illumination, however, Paul says [18:22:4]: "I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prison both men and women." A very young man, unless born into some place of authority, could hardly have occupied the position thus described. The leaders of the chief party of the Jews would scarcely employ a very young man as Paul was employed. Paul's "conversion" possibly took place in the year 33 [144: 45–6]. Supposing he was born shortly before the year 1, then when Philippians was written—that is, A. D. 61 [144: 357–8]—he would be between sixty and sixty-five years of age, which would agree very well with certain expressions in that epistle which would hardly have been uttered by a much younger man. For instance: "I am in a strait betwixt the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ; for it is very far better: yet to abide in the flesh is more needful for your sake" [24:1: 23–4]. When writing these words it does not appear that he was sick, neither was he in any danger from the result of his trial, which was then going on [144: 357–8]. The near prospect of death must have been due to his age at the time. But if he was, say, sixty-five in A. D. 61, then he would be thirty-seven at

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the time of his illumination. He might not have been as old as that, but could hardly have been much younger.

The chronology of the early church is very obscure. Renan [142: 163] gives the date of Paul's birth 10 or 12 A. D., that of the stoning of Stephen 37, that of Paul's "conversion" 38. Paul, then, would have been between twenty-six and twenty-eight on the occurrence of that event; also he would have been no more than forty-nine to fifty-one when the above passage in Philippians was written. But this, for reasons given, seems exceedingly unlikely. Weighing all probabilities (for we have nothing else) it seems likely that Paul was about four years younger than Jesus and that his illumination took place about the same length of time after that of his great predecessor.


We have three separate accounts of the oncoming of his new life, two of them ostensibly and probably in his own words, and each of the three containing the essential elements of the fact of illumination as positively known in other cases. Again we have elsewhere [21:12:1–7] a description, certainly given by himself, of certain subjective experiences which would alone be strong, if not convincing, evidence of the fact of illumination; for it is safe to say that the words there set down could hardly have been written unless the writer of them had actually experienced the passage from self to Cosmic Consciousness. Then over and above all these evidences there exists a body of writings by this man which over and over again demonstrates the existence in the writer of the faculty in question. His conduct immediately following illumination is also characteristic. Taking the usual course, he retires for some time into more or less complete solitude; whether to the Hauran, as Renan supposes, or to the Sinaitic peninsula, as Holsten thinks, does not matter [84: 417]. As regards his illumination itself—his "conversion," the oncoming of Cosmic Consciousness in his case—we are told [18: 9: 3–9] that:

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As he journeyed it came to pass that he drew nigh unto Damascus: and suddenly there shone round about him a light out of heaven: and he fell upon the earth and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: but rise and enter into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men that journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing the voice, but beholding no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw nothing; and they led him by the hand into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and did neither eat nor drink.

The second account runs as follows [18: 22: 6–11]:

And it came to pass, that as I made my journey, and drew nigh unto Damascus, about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, maul, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest: And they that were with me beheld indeed the light, but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus. And there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus.

And the third account [18: 26: 12–18] is as follows:

As I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, at midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them that journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth I heard a voice saying unto me in the Hebrew language, Saul, Saul why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the goad. And I said, Who art thou, Lord! And the Lord, said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But arise and stand upon thy feet; for to this end have I appeared unto thee, to appoint thee a minister and a witness both of the things wherein thou has seen me, and of things wherein I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people and from the Gentiles, unto whom I send thee, to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.

These three narratives, which agree well enough one with another, their slight discrepancies being of little or no consequence, give the usual sensuous phenomena that nearly always accompany the oncoming of the new sense.

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Next comes a recital of even, if possible, still greater importance [21: 12: 1–7]. It conveys, in few words, an account of Paul's moral elevation and intellectual illumination during and following his "conversion." He says:

I must needs glory, though it is not expedient; but I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ,* fourteen years ago (whether in the body I know not or whether out of the body I know not; God knoweth) such a one caught up even to the third heaven. And I know such a man (whether in the body or apart from the body I know not; God knoweth) how that he was caught up into paradise and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. On behalf of such a one will I glory; but on mine own behalf I will not glory, save in my weaknesses. For if I should desire to glory I shall not be foolish; for I shall speak the truth; but I forbear, lest any man should account of me above that which he seeth me to be, or heareth from me. And by reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations—wherefore that I should not be exalted overmuch there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me.

* "Christ" is Paul's name for Cosmic Consciousness.

Unspeakable words, so Whitman: "When I undertake to tell the best I find I cannot, my tongue is ineffectual on its pivots; my breath will not be obedient to its organs; I become a dumb man" [193: 179].


To complete the case it only remains to transcribe certain utterances of Paul's from the point of view of the Cosmic Sense; which utterances, did they stand alone, would prove that the man from whom they proceeded possessed it, since without it they could not have been made.

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord,* that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words [26:4:15–18].

* The usual assurances of immortality that belong to Cosmic Consciousness.

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For I make known to you, brethren,* as touching the gospel which was preached by me, that it is not after man. For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ [22:1: 11–12].*

But when it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me, even from my mother's womb, and called me through His grace to reveal His Son in

me, that I might preach him among the gentiles; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood; neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned unto Damascus [22: 1: 15–17].

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law [22:3:13].* But before faith came, we were kept inward under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. So that the law has been our tutor to bring us unto Christ that we might be justified by faith; but now that faith is come we are no longer under a tutor. For ye are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptised into Christ did put on Christ [22:3:23–27].

With freedom did Christ set us free* [22:5:1].

For ye, brethren, * were called for freedom [22:5:13].

The fruit of the spirit* is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance: against such as these there is no law. And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof [22:5: 22–24].

Neither is circumcision* anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature [22:6:15].

* As regards his "Gospel," Paul was instructed by the Cosmic Sense only.

* He knew, however, enough about Jesus and his teachings to be able to recognize (when it came to him) that the teachings of the Cosmic Sense were practically identical with the teachings of Jesus.

* Christ is the Cosmic Sense conceived as a distinct entity or individuality. That does redeem any to whom it comes from the "curse of the law"—i.e., from the shame and fear and hate that belong to the self conscious life. Paul seems to suppose a baptism into Cosmic Consciousness (Christ) . Doubtless there is such a baptism; but where is the priesthood which is able to administer it?

* The ''freedom" of the Cosmic Sense is supreme. It absolves a man from his former self and makes future slavery impossible.

* Paul loves and values freedom as keenly as does the modern American Walt Whitman. They both knew (what, alas! so few have known) what true freedom is.

* For "The Spirit" and "Christ Jesus" read Cosmic Consciousness. Cf. M. C. L. infra. "The holy breath kills lust, etc.," and Bhagavadgita: "Even the taste for objects of sense departs from him who has seen the supreme."

* Called by Balzac: "The second existence" [5: 100].

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We speak wisdom among the perfect:* yet a wisdom not of this world, nor of the rulers of this world, which are coming to nought; but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, even the wisdom that hath been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds unto our glory: which none of the rulers of this world knoweth [20:2:6–8].

The spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.* For who among men knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the things of God none knoweth, save the spirit of God. But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us by God. Which things also we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the spirit teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. Now the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God: For they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, and he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.* And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not with meat; for ye were not yet able to bear it; nay, not even now-are ye able; for ye are yet carnal [20: 2: 10–16 and 3:1–3].

If any man thinketh that he is wise among you in this world, let him become a fool, that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God [20:3:18–19].*

If we sowed unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your carnal things [20:9: 11]?*

For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of; for necessity is laid upon me [20:9:16].*

* He speaks from the standpoint of the Cosmic Sense, which was to come when the time was ripe and has come now to him.

* Paul is informed, not by the human (the self conscious) mind, but by the spirit of God (Cosmic Consciousness), and no man merely self conscious can judge him any more than an animal (having simple consciousness merely) can judge a (self conscious) man.

* The merely self conscious man cannot be made to understand the things seen by the Cosmic Sense. These things, if presented, appear foolish to him. But he that has the Cosmic Sense (being, of course, also self conscious) is able to judge "all things"—i.e., the things of both regions. Paul could not therefore speak to the Corinthians as he would have liked to have done, they not having Cosmic Consciousness,

* Paul says the wisdom of self consciousness is not wisdom to those who have the Cosmic Sense, and the wisdom of the latter is foolishness to the merely self conscious.

* Compare Whitman's poem, "To Rich Givers" [193: 2161: "What you give me I cheerfully accept, a little sustenance, a hut and garden, a little money as I rendezvous with my poems, a traveler's lodging and a breakfast as I journey through the states. Why should I be ashamed to own such gifts? Why to advertise for them? For I myself am not one who bestows nothing upon man and woman, for I bestow upon any man or woman the entrance to all the gifts of the universe.

* This seems to be the experience of all persons who have had the Cosmic Sense either in greater or less degree. So Blake says: "I have written this poem ('Jerusalem') without premeditation and even p. 118 against my will." So also Behmen "became impressed with the necessity of writing down what he saw," though writing was far from easy with him.

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If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels,* but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing. Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, does not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil; rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Love never faileth; but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child; now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I have been known. But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love [20: 13:1–13].

For as in Adam all die,* so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order, Christ the first fruits; then they that are Christ's, at his coming. Then cometh the end when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power [20:15:22–25].

Behold, I tell you a mystery:* We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump. For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality, but when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption and this mortal shall have put on

* A splendid exposition of the morality that belongs to the Cosmic Sense. The same spirit may be traced in every case—but see especially [193: 273]: "Give me the pay I have served for, give me to sing the song of the great idea, take all the rest, I have loved the earth, sun, animals, I have despised riches, I have given alms to every one that asked, stood up for the stupid and crazy, devoted my income and labor to others."

* A comparison between the self conscious and the Cosmic Conscious states. Self Consciousness, he says, the Adamic state, is a condition of death. With "Christ" begins true life, which shall spread and become universal; that is the end of the old order. After that there shall be no more "rule," "authority" or "power"; all shall be free and equal. "The angel borne upon the blast saith not 'Ye dead arise,' he saith 'Arise, ye living'" [5: 145].

* Expresses the sense of immortality which belongs to Cosmic Consciousness. Compare [193: 77]: "There is that in me—I do not know what it Is—but I know that it is in me. Wrenched and sweaty—calm and cool then my body becomes, I sleep, I sleep long. I do not know it—it is without name—it is a word unsaid—it is not in any dictionary, utterance, symbol. Something it swings on more than the earth I swing on, to it the creation is the friend whose embracing awakes me. Perhaps I might tell more. Outlines! I plead for my brothers and sisters. p. 119 Do you see, O my brothers and sisters? It is not chaos or death, it is form, union, plan—it is eternal life—it is happiness."

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immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory [20:15:51–55].

But though our outward man is decaying,* yet our inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal: but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens. For verily in this we groan, longing to be clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven; if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For indeed we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not for that we would be unclothed, but that we would be clothed upon, that what is mortal may be swallowed up of life [21:4: 16–18 and 5:1: 5] .

If any man is in Christ he is a new creature; the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new [21:5:17].*

There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.* For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as offering for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after flesh but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace; because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God [19: 8: 1–7].

The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit that we are children of God;* and if children then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs of Christ [19:8:16–17].

* The writer contrasts the self with the Cosmic Conscious life. His consciousness of eternal life is made plain.

* No expression could be more clear cut, more perfect. The man who enters Cosmic Consciousness is really a new creature, and all his surroundings "become new"—take on a new face and meaning. You get around to the other side of things, as it were; they are the same, but also entirely different. "Things are not dismissed from the places they held before. The earth is just as positive and direct as it was before. But the soul is also real; it too is positive and direct; no reasoning, no proof, has established it, undeniable growth has established it" [193: 180].

* In Cosmic Consciousness there is absolutely no sense of sin nor of death, the person feels that this last is merely an incident in continuous life. The merely self conscious man cannot, by the keeping of the "law" or in any other way, destroy either sin or the sense of sin, but, "Christ"—i.e., the Cosmic Sense, can and does accomplish both.

* All men who have Cosmic Consciousness are on the same spiritual level in the same sense that all who are self conscious are men—belong to the same species.

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For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory* which shall be revealed to usward. For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only so, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body [19:8:18–24].

And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good [19: 8: 28].* For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God [19:8:38–39]. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean of itself; save that to him who accounteth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean [19: 14: 14].

* Paul speaks of the glory and joy of the Cosmic Conscious life just dawning upon the world compared with the self conscious state theretofore universal. "Vistas of glory," says Whitman, "incessant and branching." "Joy, always joy," says Elukhanam. "Joy beginning but without ending," says E. C. "When you have once," says Seraphita [that is, Balzac] ''felt the delights of the divine intoxication ( illumination) then all is yours" [7: 182]. Compare also the following extracts from Behmen, in which he in like manner with Paul contrasts the Self with the Cosmic Conscious life: "The external world or the external life is not a valley of suffering for those who enjoy it, but only for those who know of a higher life. The animal enjoys animal life; the intellect the intellectual realm; but he who has entered into regeneration recognises his terrestrial existence as a burden and prison. With this recognition he takes upon himself the cross of Christ" [97: 325].

"The holy and heavenly man, hidden in the monstrous (external) man, is as much in heaven as God, and heaven is in him, and the heart or light of God is begotten and born in him. Thus is God in him and he in God. God is nearer to him than his bestial body" [97: 326].

* An expression of the optimism which belongs to Cosmic Consciousness. Compare Whitman; "Omnes! Omnes! Let others ignore what they may, I make the poem of evil also, I commemorate that part also, I am myself just as much evil as good, and my nation is, and I say there is in fact no evil" [193: 22].

To sum up: We have in this case:

a. The characteristic suddenness that belongs to the oncoming of the New Sense. The new birth takes place at a given place and moment.

b. We have the subjective light clearly, very strongly, manifested.

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c. We have intellectual illumination of the most pronounced character.

d. We have very strongly marked moral exaltation.

e. We have the conviction, the sense of immortality, the extinction of the sense of sin and the extinction of the fear of death.

Next: Chapter 4. Plotinus