Cosmic Consciousness - What is Cosmic Consciousness?
What is Cosmic Consciousness? The following pages are an attempt to answer this question; but not withstanding, it seems right to make a short prefatory statement in as plain language as possible, to open the door, as it were, for the more elaborate exposition to be attempted in the body of these following chapters. Cosmic Consciousness, is a higher form of consciousness than that possessed by the average man. This last is called Self Consciousness, and is that faculty upon which rests all of our life (both subjective and objective) which is not common to us and the higher animals, except that small part of it which is derived from the few individuals who have had the higher consciousness above named.
To make the matter clear it must be understood that there are three forms or grades of consciousness (1) Simple Consciousness, which is possessed by the upper half of the animal kingdom. By means of this consciousness a dog or a horse is just as conscious of the things about ;him as man is; he is also conscious of his own limbs and body and knows that these are part of himself. (2) Over and above this Simple Consciousness, which is possessed by man as by animals, man has another which is Self consciousness . By virtue of this faculty man is not only conscious of the trees, rocks, waters, his own limbs and body, but he becomes conscious of himself as a distinct entity apart from all the rest of the universe.
It is as good as certain that no animal can realize himself in that way. Further, by means of self consciousness man (who knows as the animal knows) becomes capable of treating his own mental states as objects of consciousness. The animal is, as it were, immersed in his consciousness as a fish in the sea; he cannot, even in imagination, get outside of it for one moment so as to realize it. But man by virtue of self consciousness can step aside, as it were, from himself and think “yes, that thought that I had about that matter is true”. The writer has been asked: How do you know that animals cannot think in the same manner?” The answer is simple and conclusive-it is: There is no evidence that any animal can think in the same way as the homo-sapiens but if they could we would soon know it.
Between two creatures living together, as dogs or horses or men, and each self conscious, it would be the simplest matter in the world to open up communication. Even as it is, diverse as in our psychology, we do, by watching his acts enter into the dog’s mind freely-we see what is going on there - we know that the dog sees and hears, smells and tastes-we know that he has intelligence-adapts means to ends-that he reasons. If he was self conscious we must have learned it long ago. We have not learned it and it is as good as certain that no dog, horse, elephant or ape ever was self conscious.( Why do animals take, mud baths, or participate in the cleansing ritual ?) Another thing: on man’s self consciousness is built everything in and about us that is distinctively human.
Language is the objective of which self consciousness is the subjective. Self consciousness and language (two in one, for they are two halves of the same thing) are the sine qua non of human social life, of manners, of institutions, of industries of all kinds, of all arts useful and fine. If any animal possessed self consciousness it seems certain that it would upon that master faculty build (as man has done) a superstructure of language; of reasoned out customs, industries, art. But no animal has done this, therefore we infer that no animal has self consciousness.
The possession of self consciousness and language (its other self) by man creates an enormous gap between him and the higher creature possessing consciousness merely. Cosmic Consciousness is a third form which is far above Self Consciousness as it is above simple Consciousness. With this form, of course, both simple and self consciousness persist ( as simple consciousness persists when self consciousness is acquired), but added to them is the new faculty so often named and to be named in these chapters.
The prime characteristics of cosmic consciousness is, of the life and order of the universe. What these words mean cannot be touched upon here; it is the business of these chapters to throw some light upon them. There are many elements belonging to the cosmic sense besides the central fact just alluded to. Of these a few may be mentioned.
Along with the consciousness of the cosmos there occurs an intellectual enlightenment or illumination which alone would place the individual on a new plane of existence-would make him almost a member of a new species. To this is added a state of moral exaltation, an indescribable feeling of elevation, elation, and joyousness, and a quickening of the moral sense, which is fully as striking and more important both to the individual and to the race than is the enhanced intellectual power. With these come, what may be called a sense of immortality, a consciousness of eternal life, not a conviction that he shall have this, but the consciousness that he has it already.
Only a personal experience of it, or a prolonged study of men who have passed into the new life, will enable us to realize what this actually is; but it has seemed to the presents writer that to pass in review, even briefly and imperfectly, instances in which the condition in question has existed would be worth while. He expects his work to be useful in two ways: First, in broadening the general view of human life by comprehending in our mental vision this important phase of it, and by enabling us to realize, in some measure, the true status of certain men who, down to the present, are either exalted, by the average self conscious individual,. To the rank of gods, or, adopting the other extreme, are adjudged insane.
And in the second place h hopes to furnish aid to his fellow men in a far more practical and important sense. The view he takes is that our descendants will sooner or later reach, as a race, the condition of cosmic consciousness, just as, our ancestors passed from simple to self consciousness. He believes that this step in evolution is even now being made, since it is clear to him both that men with the faculty in question are becoming more and more common and also that as a race we are approaching nearer and nearer to that stage of the self conscious mind from which the transition to the cosmic consciousness is effected. He realizes that, granted the necessary heredity, any individual not already beyond the age may enter cosmic consciousness.
He knows that intelligent contact with cosmic conscious minds assists self conscious individuals in the ascent to the higher plane. He therefore hopes, by bringing about, or at least facilitating this contact, to aid men and women in making the almost infinitely important step in question.
Reference: Cosmic consciousness/A study in the evolution of the Human Mind/ Author-Richard Maurice Bucke-Introduction by George Moreby Acklom/Publishers-Dover Publications Mineola, New York (First Edition 1837-1902- Dover edition 2009)