Book Review: "Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind" by Richard M. Bucke, M.D.

This very unusual and thought-provoking book proposes that there currently exist three grades of consciousness: simple consciousness, as possessed by animals; self consciousness, as possessed by humans; and cosmic consciousness, a special kind of consciousness evolving in the human species, possessed only by a minutia of people.

Cosmic consciousness refers to a consciousness of the life and order of the universe—along with which occurs an intellectual illumination, a moral exaltation, an added charm to the personality, an indescribable feeling of joyousness, and a sense of immortality.

The author of this book argues that just as human self-consciousness—the state in which a being knows that it knows—evolved from a simpler and more ignorant form of consciousness, so too will cosmic consciousness eventually become the dominant condition.

The author describes his own brief encounter with cosmic consciousness as such:

“My mind deeply under the influence of the ideas, images and emotions called up by the reading and talk of the evening, was calm and peaceful… All at once, without warning of any kind, I found myself wrapped around as it were by a flame colored cloud. For an instant I thought of fire…the next I knew that the light was within myself…into my brain streamed one momentary lightening-flash of the Brahmic Splendor which has ever since lightened my life… I learned more within the few seconds during which the illumination lasted than in previous months or even years of study.”

The second half of the book outlines similar and more prolonged instances of Cosmic Consciousness—Guatama the Buddha, Jesus the Christ, Mohammed, Francis Bacon, John Yepes, Blaise Pascal, and Walt Whitman, among others.

The methods towards this attainment are best illustrated to the modern audience by Walt Whitman. Perhaps one of the greatest available example of purity and refinement, and arguably one of the greatest spiritual forces to ever walk the earth, he liked everyone and everything. And although he did not talk much, when he did he always had something uplifting to say about nature—“Oh, the beautiful sky!” or “Oh, the beautiful grass!”—such that nothing captivated him more than the ordinary.