Cosmic Consciousness, by Richard Maurice Bucke, , at sacred-texts.com
Renan tells us that the oldest documents in which Moses is mentioned are four hundred to five hundred years posterior to the date of the Exodus, at which time Moses lived, if he lived at all: "Les documents les plus anciens sur Moise sont posterieurs de quatre cents ou cinq cents ans á l’époque ou ce personage a du vivre" [137:160]. Could there have been older, lost, written narratives, upon which those we have were based? Or could the long interval of over four hundred years have been bridged by tradition in such manner as to make the accounts we have of any value? It is hard to say. But if we should dare believe that the incidents in this man's personal history given in Exodus are in any sense reliable (they cannot, of course, be expected to be accurate), then we have in the great Egypto-Israelitish lawgiver a probable case of Cosmic Consciousness. The burning bush that he saw in Horeb, which was not consumed by the fire, would then be the form taken in tradition by the subjective light: "And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold the bush burned with fire and the bush was not consumed" [11:3:2]. And the shining of his face: "And it came to pass, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tables of the testimony in Moses' hand when he came down from the mount, that Moses moist not that the skin of his face shone or sent forth beams by reason of his speaking with Him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him" [11:34:29–30].
[paragraph continues] This shining of Moses' face, when he descended Sinai, would be the "transfiguration" characteristic of Cosmic Consciousness.
At the time that Moses saw the "fire," it would seem that he was already married and had sons [11:4:20], but he was, however, still young, for he lived and labored for forty years there.. after. It seems likely that he was at or near the usual age of illumination at the time. He was at first alarmed at the "fire," or light, as is usual: "And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God" [11: 3: 6]. He distrusted his fitness for the task laid upon him: "Who am I that I should go unto Pharaoh" [11: 3:11]? just as Mohammed distrusted himself. The "voice" giving more or less explicit commands is a common phenomenon. It is doubtful if this voice is ever heard with the outward ear—perhaps occasionally—more likely never. The light is almost certainly always subjective, and no doubt the voice also. But with the Cosmic Sense comes a consciousness of certain facts, and the impression made upon the person is that he has been told these, and if so, then by some one—some person (but, of course, not by a human being)—hence the voice of God to Moses, the voice of the Father to Jesus, the voice of Christ to Paul, the voice of Gabriel to Mohammed, the voice of Beatrice to Dante. Who the person thought to be heard (into whose mouth the teaching is put), shall be supposed to be, will be determined by the mental habitudes of the subject and of his age and nation.
What, now, was actually "told" Moses—if we may believe the report—and it seems credible—is (as far as the present writer can judge) exactly what would have been told him by the Cosmic Sense: The unity, power and goodness of God, namely, and that he should work for the people, of whom he was one. It seems likely, moreover, that there came upon Moses at about the epoch of the "burning bush" a great intellectual and moral expansion. The tables of the law (doubtless composed by him) go to prove this—so does the recognition of his superiority and authority, apparently so freely rendered by a people not especially inclined (it would seem) to surrender their own ideas and place themselves
under the control of a leader having no hereditary or priestly jurisdiction.
Since the above was written the editor has had a letter from C. M. C., whose case is included in this volume (Chapter 29, infra), in which she gives an experience so very similar to that of "the burning bush," that it is impossible to resist the temptation to quote it. She says: "Two lady friends and I were out driving a few days ago. It was a lovely, perfect morning. As we passed along the shaded country road, we got out of the carriage to gather the purple aster, which was blooming in all its perfection by the wayside. I was in a strangely joyous mood—all nature seemed sweet and pensive. The asters had never before seemed so beautiful to me. I looked at the large bunches we had gathered with growing amazement at their brightness, and it was some little time before I realized that this was unusual. But I soon found that I was seeing the aura of the flowers. A wonderful light shone out from every little petal and flower, and the whole was a blaze of splendor. I trembled with rapture—it was a 'burning bush.' It cannot be described. The flowers looked like gems or stars, the color of amethysts, so clear and transparent, so still and intense, a subtle living glow. The veil almost parted; not quite, or I should have seen them smiling and conscious and looking at me. What a moment that was! I thrill at the thought of it."