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

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Charles G. Finney.


This case is of more than usual interest from the fact that although in it occurred almost certainly, although not strongly marked, the phenomenon of the subjective light, together with pronounced moral exaltation and probably some intellectual illumination, yet it was not crowned by the Cosmic vision—the Brahmin Splendor. It is not therefore complete, but only partial or imperfect.

That the illumination of Charles G. Finney was not accompanied by the consciousness of the Cosmos is certain because the account of the Cosmic vision, had this been present, could not have been omitted from his relation of his "conversion," of which it would have been the most striking feature—the very core and centre. What he did see and feel was wonderful and striking enough. How surprised, and probably how incredulous, would he have been if he could have been told that although he had reached the threshold of and strongly felt the Divine Presence to which he was so close, that yet the vision which would have meant so much to him was still hidden behind the veil of sense and for the time denied to him!

So this man's life, though by the experience of that autumn day infinitely exalted as compared with that of the average self conscious man, is yet just as markedly below that of the men who have not only felt the Infinite One as Charles G. Finney felt him, but have passed into His presence and seen His inconceivable glory.

The distinction pointed out may be clearly realized by making a comparison of the book Charles G. Finney has left us with the epoch-making books—the Suttas (for instance), the Gospels, the Epistles, the Qur’an, the "Divine Comedy," the "Shakespeare" works, the "Comédie Humaine," the "Leaves of Grass" and the

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rest—inspired or written by the men to whom has been shown the Brahmic Splendor as a visible fact.

The illumination of Charles G. Finney took place early in his thirtieth year—that is, in October, 1821. He had the usual earnest religious temperament, and for some time had been greatly troubled about his spiritual state, eagerly desiring, but unable to reach assurance of, salvation. Then occurred what he calls his "conversion." He says:

The rising of my soul was so great that I rushed into the room behind the front office, to pray.

There was no fire and no light in the room; nevertheless it appeared as if it were perfectly light. As I went in and shut the door it seemed as if I met the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. It did not occur to me that it was wholly a mental state; it seemed that I saw him as I would see any other man. He said nothing, but looked at me in such a manner as to break me right down at his feet. I have always since regarded this as a most remarkable state of mind; for it seemed that he stood before me, and I fell down at his feet and poured out my soul to him. I wept aloud like a child, and made such confessions as I could with my choked utterance.

I must have continued in this state for a good while; but my mind was too much absorbed to recollect anything I said. But I know, as soon as my mind became calm, I returned to the front office, and found that the fire, that I had made of large wood, was nearly burned out. But as I turned and was about to take a seat by the fire, I received a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost. Without any expectation of it, without ever having the thought in my mind that there was any such thing for me, without any recollection that I had ever heard the thing mentioned by any person in the world, the Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul.

No words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart. I wept aloud with joy and love; and I do not know, but I should say, I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart. These waves came over me, and over me, and over me, one after the other, until I recollect I cried out, "I shall die if these waves continue to pass over me." I said, "Lord, I cannot bear any more;" yet I had no fear of death.

How long I continued in this state I do not know. But it was late in the evening when a member of my choir came to see me. He was a member of the church. He found me in this state of loud weeping, and said, "Mr. Finney, what ails you?" I could make him no answer for some time. He then said, "Are you in pain?" I gathered myself up and replied, "No, but so happy that I cannot live" [104: 17–18].

The long, laborious and beneficent after life of this man proved, if proof was necessary, that his "conversion" was no accidental

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excitement that might have happened to any man, but an unmistakable mark of spiritual superiority.

Mr. Finney had, too, to an extraordinary degree, the personal magnetism that is so characteristic of the class of men to which he belonged. The effect of his preaching was indescribable, and yet it is doubtful whether the words uttered had much to do with its exceptional power. His presence, his touch, the sound of his voice, seemed often sufficient to arouse unutterable feelings—to uplift and regenerate in what may fairly be called a miraculous manner.

Not actually having Cosmic Consciousness, he had not the duplex personality which thereto belongs, and yet he had a feeling of that other self within himself which upon full illumination would have stood out as the "I am," while the self conscious man would have taken second place as "The other I am." As illustrating this inchoate duplex personality, he says: "Let no man think that those sermons which have been called so powerful were productions of my own brain or of my own heart unassisted by the Holy Ghost. They are not mine, but from the Holy Spirit in me."

Finally it should be noted that the life and the life work of Charles G. Finney were on strictly parallel lines, though on a less high plane, with the life and life work of the great religious initiators, he, as they, expending all his time and energy laboring to place his brothers and sisters on a higher moral plane than that on which they had heretofore lived, the only difference being that they worked on a somewhat higher moral level than that upon which he worked.

Next: Chapter 14. Alexander Pushkin