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

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Alfred Tennyson.

This poet (for though not absolutely entitled to rank in the divine order, yet he has worthily served for and must be allowed that name) passed the greater part of a long life in that region of self consciousness which lies close upon the lower side of the Cosmic Sense. His "weird seizures" mentioned in "The Princess," in which he seemed to "move among a world of ghosts, and feel (himself) the shadow of a dream" [185: 11], belong to that spiritual realm; but far more certainly a condition well described in the following lines of the "Ancient Sage":

More than once when I

Sat all alone, revolving in myself
The word that is the symbol of myself,
The mortal limit of the Self was loosed,
And passed into the nameless, as a cloud
Melts into heaven. I touch’d my limbs, the limbs
Were strange, not mine—and yet no shade of doubt,
But utter clearness, and thro’ loss of Self
The gain of such large life as matched with ours
Were sun to spark—unshadowable in words,
Themselves but shadows of a shadow-world [186:48].

And again in the "Holy Grail":

Let visions of the night, or of the day
Come as they will; and many a time they come
Until this earth he walks on seems not earth,
This light that strikes his eyeball is not light,
This air that smites his forehead is not air,
But vision—yea his very hand and foot
In moments when he feels he cannot die,
And knows himself no vision to himself,
Nor the high God a vision, nor that one
Who rose again; ye have seen what ye have seen [184: 290].

And yet once more in plain prose:

A kind of walking trance I have frequently had, quite up from boyhood,

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when I have been all alone. This has often come upon me through repeating my own name* to myself silently till, all at once, as it were, out of the intensity of the consciousness of individuality, the individuality itself seemed to dissolve and fade away into boundless being; and this not a confused state, but the clearest of the clearest, the surest of the surest, the weirdest of the weirdest, utterly beyond words, where death was an almost laughable impossibility, the loss of personality (if so it were) seeming no extinction, but the only true life [182:320].

p. 292 * "Repeating my own name." Tennyson quite unconsciously was using the means laid p. 293 down from immemorial time for the attainment of illumination: "He who thinking of nothing, making the mind cease to work, adhering to uninterrupted meditation, repeating the single syllable, Om, meditating on me, reaches the highest goal" (i.e., Cosmic Consciousness) [154: 79]. Of course it makes no difference what word or name is used. What is required is that the action of the mind should be as far as possible suspended, especially that all desires of every kind be stilled, nothing wished or feared, the mind in perfect health and vigor, but held quiescent in a state of calm equipoise!

"Religion was no nebulous abstraction for him. He consistently emphasized his own belief in what he called the eternal truths, in an omnipotent, omnipresent and all-loving God, who has revealed himself through the human attribute of the highest self-sacrificing love, and in the immortality of the soul" [182: 311].

"He invariably believed that humility is the only true attitude of the human soul, and therefore spoke with the greatest reserve of what he called 'these unfathomable mysteries,' as befitting one who did not dogmatize but who knew that the finite can by no means grasp the infinite, and yet he had a profound trust that when all is seen face to face all will be seen as the best" [182: 316].

"He said again, with deep feeling, in January, 1869: 'Yes, it is true there are moments when the flesh is nothing to me, when I feel and know the flesh to be the vision, God and the spiritual—the only real and true. Depend upon it, the spiritual is the real; it belongs to one more than the hand and the foot. You may tell me that my hand and my foot are only imaginary symbols of my existence. I could believe you, but you never, never can convince me that the I is not an eternal reality, and that the spiritual is not the true and real part of me.' These words he spoke with such passionate earnestness that a solemn silence fell on us as he left the room" [182a: 90].

It was written of Tennyson just after his death: "It is understood

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that he believed that he wrote many of the best and truest things he ever published under the direct influence of higher intelligences, of whose presence he was distinctly conscious. He felt them near him, and his mind was impressed by their ideas" [170], the meaning of which, if the report, as it probably is, is true, is that the veil between him and the Cosmic Sense was so thin that he felt the teachings of the latter through it, but there is no evidence known to the present writer that it was ever torn away so that he saw the other world. In other words, there is no evidence that he ever actually entered into Cosmic Consciousness.

Next: Chapter 17. J. B. B.