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


Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Born May, 1803; died April, 1882.

Spiritually eminent as was this great American, it does not appear that he belonged to the class of men discussed in this volume. He was perhaps as near Cosmic Consciousness as it is possible

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to be without actually entering that realm. He lived in the light of the great day, but there is no evidence that its sun for him actually rose. Emerson's "Oversoul" was printed in 1841, when the author was thirty-eight years old. In it he tells us plainly where he stood at that time, and it is as good as certain that in later years he did not advance beyond that position. In it he says, for instance:

There is a difference between one and another hour of life, in their authority and subsequent effect.*

There is a depth in those brief moments which constrains us to ascribe more reality to them than to all other experiences.

Every man's words,* who speaks from that life, must sound vain to those who do not dwell in the same thought on their own part.

Only itself can inspire whom it will, and behold! their speech shall be lyrical, and sweet, and universal as the rising of the wind.

In ascending to this primary and aboriginal sentiment, we have come from our remote station on the circumference instantaneously to the centre of the world, where, as in the closet of God, we see causes, and anticipate the universe, which is but a slow effect.

This energy does not descend into individual life, or any other condition than entire possession. It comes to the lowly and simple; it comes to whomsoever will put off what is foreign and proud; it comes as insight; it comes as serenity and grandeur. When we see those whom it inhabits we are apprized of new degrees of greatness. From that inspiration the man comes back with a changed tone. He does not talk with men, with an eye to their opinion. He tries them. It requires of us to be plain and true. The vain traveler attempts to embellish his life by quoting my lord, and the prince, and the countess, who thus said or did to him. The ambitious vulgar show you their spoons, and brooches, and rings, and preserve their cards and compliments. The more cultivated, in their account of their own experience, cull out the pleasing poetic circumstance; the visit to Rome, the man of genus they saw; the brilliant friend they know; still further on, perhaps, the gorgeous landscape, the mountain lights, the mountain thoughts, they enjoyed yesterday—and so seek to throw a romantic color over their life. But the soul that ascendeth to worship the great God is plain and true; has no rose color; no fine friends; no chivalry; no adventures; does not want admiration; dwells in the hour that now is, in the earnest experience of the common day—by reason of the present moment, and the mere trifle having become porous to thought, and bibulous of the sea of light.

* If he had had experience of the Cosmic Vision—the Brahmic Splendor—he could not have used this exceedingly moderate, even cold, language when referring thereto. Neither could he omitting that, be here referring to other experiences.

* These passages show how deep, however short of the bottomless deep, Emerson 's spiritual experience was.

Next: Chapter 16. Alfred Tennyson