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


The Case of M. C. L. in His Own Words.

Born about January, 1853.

It is a difficult matter to write about myself, especially touching an experience which for four or five years has been one of the most sacredly guarded events of my life. Dr. M. described to me your theory of Cosmic Consciousness, which I at once recognized as defining, in a general way, a certain experience in my own life. I did not communicate the details to the doctor. I never had to anyone, lest I should be charged with superstition or madness.

Early in my career a reputation as a popular preacher was won, and the power to interest and hold an audience achieved. As a minister I wrestled with the intellectual problems of the age, not only in the theological but in the physical, sociological and psychical realms. My desire for information was eager, and the search for truth honest and persistent.

In the month of February, 1890, just following my thirty-seventh birthday, Rev. J. E. L., of Canada, came to assist me in a series of special meetings in my church. My affection for him gained during his stay. He had been gone three days when, thinking of him far through the night—the gray of the morning was already in the heavens—the conviction came to me that in him I had met an incarnation of Christ. I stood a moment transfixed with the thought. Was that which I had held as a theory to be realized as a fact? My friend was forgotten in the vision of Christ, who had come to me, not from without, but through the gates which open inwardly. I knew him, was conscious of him in my own spirit, soul and body. Then with that unfolding consciousness there came a suffusion, as of a delicate cloud or haze, which searched the entire body, was more invasive than light, more penetrating than heat, more inreaching than electricity. It was as if I had been plunged into a bath of fluid more subtle and permeating than ether. Against the inflow and outflow of that enswathing essence the body was not as resistant as the air to a bird's wing or a morning mist to the sunbeam. The rapture, the exaltation, the divinity of that moment passes knowledge. Then swiftly came the awe of the mysterious

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presence that filled me, and the consciousness of the whole creation, universe, went thrilling through me, not as a thought, a sensation, an emotion, but as the vital breath of God. This grew until I found myself rising and expanding into the Infinite, being diffused and lost therein, and the mind and body reeled. Feeling myself falling, I exclaimed: "The vision is too much! I cannot look upon the face of God and live! Father in heaven, it is enough!" And the voice answered. I sank on my bed and slept like a child. A few hours later I woke in joy which was unspeakable and full of glory. I knew what Paul meant by the "unspeakable gift." The experience was to me the "election"—the calling of sonship to do the Father's will. I went to my pulpit vibrant from subjection to the holy breath, and preached upon the text: "And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." The sermon became intense. I saw the cross before me as the necessity of my life. Its agony and fear possessed me, the mind could not bear up under it, I staggered from my pulpit, the congregation awed by the anguish on my face and in my words.

My family were alarmed and a physician was called. He pronounced that I was suffering from nervous prostration, but found no symptoms of insanity, the horror of which had oppressed me. The exhaustion was such that I felt the need of rest and went to my mother, in the old homestead among the hills of Connecticut. To her I told the story. She said: "My boy, I have been expecting this. Now you know the truth of a Living Christ."

The character of my preaching completely changed.* The old popularity has waned, but larger powers of mind have come and the perception of truth is clearer. The holy breath kills lust, passion, hate; fills the heart with laughter and the soul with peace.

I know the eternal Christ of Paul and John, the Christ manifested in the Nazarene, and who in the manifestation was the interpretation of the Cosmic Consciousness of the past and the typal form of the new race in whom that consciousness is evolved. It is the race of the Sons of God, who, like Moses, have stood in the presence and been bathed in the glory of His beauty and the blessedness of His joy. Cosmic Consciousness is the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

* Compare Bhagavad Ghita: "Objects of sense draw back from a person who is abstinent; not so the taste for these objects. But even the taste departs from him when he has seen the Supreme" [154: 50].

In answer to a request for further particulars M. C. L. adds:

The haze or light was more felt than seen. The nearest approach to the sensation I ever knew was experienced when I was at Niagara and visited the Cave of the Winds. And also when, from my window, at Hotel Coutet, in Chamouni, I saw the sun rise on Mt. Blanc. The tinge, subtler than the waves of color, was that of these experiences—a fluid beryl or watery emerald.

The mind slowly passed from fear into a distinct consciousness of some seemingly extra-natural event. At first my thought was, "This is a stroke of paralysis," and I tested every function of body and mind; then the mind opened

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to understand something of what was going on. It kept pace with the sensation, and each progress of experience involved a mental process.

I am inclined to locate the point of contact in the mind. I use the word mind as synonymous with the psyche, which of course involves the personality. I always have believed that the event primarily was subjective, but a subjective experience which was in perfect accord with the entire objective universe. It was the exaltation of the subjective in me to a new relation with the objective in earth and heaven.

This is the first attempt I have ever made to give a verbal history of that holy hour, and it has been with something of a feeling of hesitancy that I have written; but what is written is written.

Next: Chapter 31. Case of J. W. W., Largely in His Own Words