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



Both by his moral qualities and intellectual gifts, Socrates seems to take rank with the foremost men of all history. But it would be obviously absurd to argue that because of these facts he was a case of Cosmic Consciousness, and that among the marks of Cosmic Consciousness are moral elevation and intellectual enlightenment. Xenophon tells us that Socrates claimed that "intimations were given him by a God" [201: 350]. He says that "Socrates had been admired beyond all men for the cheerfulness and tranquillity with which he lived" [201: 505], and he further quotes Socrates as saying: "I would not admit to any man that he has lived either better or with more pleasure than myself" [201:506]. These indications, without being absolute, suggest strongly that Socrates had the Cosmic Sense. It is well known that he had exceptional health and constitutional strength, and it seems that at the time of his death, though over seventy years of age, both his mind and body were as vigorous as ever. Also it seems clear that he had a very strong conviction of immortality, though possibly this did not amount to the sense of immortality which belongs to Cosmic Consciousness. His optimism, also one of the marks of the Cosmic Sense, must not be forgotten, nor must his far more than average personal attractiveness. The phenomenon of the "sign," "voice," "god," "genius" or "dæmon" is said to have dated from his early years.

On the other hand, Lelut [88: 313] dates what he considers as Socrates’ insanity * from the siege of Potidæa, B.C. 429, when

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[paragraph continues] Socrates would have been about forty years old. What happened on this occasion is given as follows in the "Symposium" [127: 71]: "One morning he was thinking about something which he could not resolve; he would not give it up, but continued thinking from early dawn until noon. There he stood, fixed in thought; and at noon attention was drawn to him, and the rumor ran through the wondering crowd that Socrates had been standing and thinking about something ever since the break of day. At last, in the evening, after supper, some Ionians, out of curiosity (I should explain that this was not in winter but in summer), brought out their mats and slept in the open air that they might watch him and see whether he would stand all night. There he stood all night until the following morning; and, with the return of light, he offered up a prayer to the sun and went his way."

If, now, we accept this narrative as fact we shall possibly prefer Elam's explanation of it to that of Lelut. It runs: "It is not impossible that he who had turned his back upon an old, worn-out, effete system of philosophy, and who out of the depths of his own thought had eliminated the great truths of the immortality of the soul, and the certainty of a future state of rewards and punishments; who from a chaotic polytheism had arrived at the belief in One God, the Creator and upholder of all things—it is not impossible that such a man may have been so wrapt and lost in the opening immensity and profundity of these considerations as to become insensible to surrounding objects for even so long a time as is here mentioned" [88: 314].

Let us add the testimony of Balzac in "Louis Lambert" [5: 127], in which a state analogous to catalepsy is described as accompanying illumination in that case.

If we put all the facts together—the age of Socrates at the time, the character of the man physically, intellectually and morally—we may not be far wrong if we conclude that he belonged to the order of men of which this volume treats.


267:* For Lelut is a typical "common sense" man and to him all mystics are lunation.

Next: Chapter 7. Roger Bacon