THE THIRD CANON OF THOUGHT
A KEY TO THE ENIGMAS OF THE WORLD
Cosmic Consciousness of Dr Bucke. The three forms of consciousness according to Bucke. Simple consciousness, or the consciousness of animals. Self-consciousness, or the consciousness of men. Cosmic consciousness. In what is it expressed? Sensation, representation, concept, higher MORAL concept - creative understanding. Men of cosmic consciousness. The fall of Adam. The knowledge of good and evil. Christ and the salvation of man. Comments on Dr Bucke's book. Birth of the new humanity. Two races. SUPERMAN. TABLE OF THE FOUR FORMS OF MANIFESTATION OF CONSCIOUSNESS.
Many people think that the fundamental problems of life are absolutelyinsoluble, that mankind will never learn why or for what it is striving, why it is suffering, where it is going. It is considered almost indecent to raise these questions. One is supposed to 'take life as it comes', without thinking, or thinking only about those things which are capable of solution, be it only externally. Men have despaired of finding answers to the principal questions and have given up bothering about them.
At the same time men have a very vague idea of what it is that has produced in them this sense of hopelessness and insolubility. Whence comes this feeling that about many things it is best not to think?
Actually, we begin to feel this hopelessness only when we regard man as something 'finite' and complete, when we see nothing beyond man and think that we already know everything there is in man. In this form the problem is indeed hopeless. There is cold comfort in all social theories promising us various blessings upon earth. They leave one with a sense of frustration and with a bad taste in the mouth, even if one believes their promises.
Why? What is all this for? All right, everybody will be fed. Excellent. But what next?
Let us suppose -although it is very difficult, almost impossible to suppose
- but still let us suppose that material culture, by itself, has given men wellbeing. Real, unadulterated civilization and culture reign on earth! Very well, and what next?
Next, some high sounding phrases about 'incredible horizons' unfolding before science -'communication with the planet Mars', 'chemical preparation of protoplasm', the 'utilization of the rotation of the earth round the sun' or of 'the energy contained in the atom', 'vaccine for all diseases', 'prolongation of man's life to a hundred years', or even to a hundred and fifty!Then, maybe, 'the artificial fabrication of human beings' - but after this imagination fails.
There might still be left the possibility of digging through the earth - but that would be completely useless.
And then comes the feeling of the insolubility of the fundamental questions about the purpose of existence, and the sense of hopelessness in face of our lack of understanding.
Indeed, suppose we do dig through the earthly globe - what then? Shall we then dig in another direction? How tedious it all is! But positivist social theories, 'historical materialism' and so on, promise and can promise us nothing else. In order to obtain at least some kind of an answer to the questions which torment us we must turn in quite another direction -to the psychological method of study of man and humanity. And here we see to our surprise that the psychological method has, after all, very satisfactory answers to the principal questions which appear to us insoluble, and around which we ineffectually turn armed with the useless weapons of positivist methods.
The psychological method gives an answer at least to the question of the immediate purpose of our existence. But for some reason people do not want to accept this answer. They insist on the answer being in a form they like, and refuse to accept anything not in that form. They demand the solution of the question of the destiny of man, but of man such as they imagine him to be, and they refuse to recognize the fact that man can and must become something quite different. In man himself there are unmanifested qualities which must be made manifest, and the manifestation of these qualities can alone create a future for man. Man cannot and must not remain as he is now. To think of the future of this man is as senseless as to think of the future of a child, thinking that he will remain a child forever. The analogy is not quite complete, because only a very small part of humanity is probably capable of growth. Still this comparison gives a correct picture of the general attitude to this question. And the fate of that greater part of humanity which is incapable of growth depends not on itself, but on the smaller pan which will grow. Onlyinner growth, the development of new powers, will give man a rightunderstanding of himself, his ways and his future, and will enable him to organize life on earth. At the present time the general concept 'man' is too undifferentiated and embraces completely different categories of men, those capable of development and those incapable of it. Moreover, a man capable of development already has many new qualities which are quite ready but do not manifest themselves, because for their manifestation they require a special culture, special education. The new view of humanity repudiates the idea of equality -which does not exist anyway - and strives to establish the signs and facts of the differences between men, because humanity will soon have to separate those who are going forward from those who are incapable of goingforward -the wheat from the tares, for the tares have become too prolific and are stifling the growth of the wheat.
This is the key to the understanding of our life. And this key has beenfound long ago!
The riddle has been solved long since. But different thinkers of different epochs, who found solutions, expressed them in various ways, and often, not knowing one another, blazed the same trail with enormous difficulties, without suspecting the existence of their predecessors or their contemporaries who were treading or who had trodden the same path.
In the world's literature there are books, usually little known, which accidentally (or not accidentally) may be found standing on the same shelf, in the same library. Then, taken together, they will give such a full and clear picture of the different sides of man's existence, its purposes and ways, that we shall no longer have any doubts about the destiny of humanity (at least of a small part of it), a destiny other than the sentence of hard labour of diggingthrough the early globe which 'positivist philosophy', 'historical materialism', 'socialism' and so on and so forth have in store for it.
If we feel that we do not yet know our destiny, if we still doubt and are afraid to part with the hopelessness of the 'positive' view of life, we do so, first, because we take together, without differentiation, men of totallydifferent categories, with a totally different future, and second, because the ideas we need, through which we could understand the real correlation of forces, have not won a place in official knowledge, do not represent any recognized department or branch of knowledge and are rarely to be found together in one book. It is very rare even to find books expressing these ideas, collected together.
We fail to understand many things, because we specialize too easily and too drastically. Philosophy, religion, psychology, mathematics, natural sciences, sociology, history of culture, art - each has its own special literature. There is nothing embracing the whole in its entirety. Even the bridgesbetween separate literatures are built badly and ineffectually, and are often altogether absent. This creation of special literatures is the chief evil and chief obstacle to right understanding of things. Each 'literature' evolves its own terminology, its own language,incomprehensible to representatives of other literatures and not corresponding to any of the other languages. In this way each one limits itself still more drastically, dissociates itself from the others and renders its frontiers impassable.
What we have needed for a long time is synthesis.
The word Synthesis was written on the banner of the modern theosophical movement inaugurated by H. P. Blavatsky. But it remained only a word, because the real result was only new specialization and a separatetheosophical literature, tending to fence itself off still more from the general movement of thought.
But there are trends of thought which strive to fight against specialization, not in words but in deeds.
Books are appearing which cannot be referred to any of the accepted libraryclassifications, cannot be registered in any faculty. These books are the forerunners of a new literature, which will break down all fences built in the domain of thought, and will clearly show to those who wish to see it where they are going and where they can go.
The names of the authors of these books are the most unexpected combination. I shall not undertake to give a list of authors or their books; I shall only point out the works of Edward Carpenter and a trend of thoughtwhose representative is the Canadian psychiatrist, Dr R. M. Bucke.
Edward Carpenter, straightforwardly and without any allegories or symbols, formulated the thought that the existing consciousness by which modern man lives is only a transitory form, leading to another, a higher consciousness, which even now is manifesting itself in certain men, after appropriate preparation and training.
This higher consciousness Edward Carpenter called cosmic consciousness.
Carpenter travelled widely in the East, went to India and Ceylon and found there men - hermits and yogis - striving to achieve cosmic consciousness, and he holds the opinion that the way to cosmic consciousness has already been found in the East.
In his book From Adam's Peak to Elephanta, in the chapters: 'A Visit to a Gnani and 'Consciousness without Thought', he says:
The West seeks the individual consciousness - the enriched mind, ready perceptions and memories, individual hopes and fears, ambitions, loves, conquests -the self, the local self, in all its phases and forms -and sorely doubts whether such a thing as an universal consciousness exists. The East seeks the universal consciousness, and, in those cases where its quest succeeds, individual self and life thin away to a mere film, and arc only the shadows cast by the glory revealed beyond.
The individual consciousness takes the form of Thought, which is fluid and mobile like quicksilver, perpetually in a state of change and unrest, fraught with pain and effort; the other consciousness is not in the form of Thought. It touches, sees, hears, and is those things which it perceives -without motion, without change, without effort, without distinction of subject and object, but with a vast and incredible joy.
The individual consciousness is specially related to the body. The organs of the body are in some degrees its organs. But the whole body is only as one organ to the cosmic consciousness. To attain this latter one must have the power of knowing one's self separate from the body, of passing into a state of ecstasy in fact. Without this the cosmic consciousness cannot be experienced.*
All the subsequent writings of Carpenter, especially his book of free verse. Towards Democracy, lead to the psychology of ecstatic experiences and depict the way by which man advances towards this principal aim of his existence, i.e. towards new consciousness.
Only the attainment of this first aim will illumine for a man the past and the future; it will be vision, awakening. Without this, with only the ordinary, sleep consciousness, a man is blind; and he cannot hope to know anything except what he can feel with his blind man's stick.
The psychological picture of the awakening of the new consciousness is given by Dr Bucke in his book Cosmic Consciousness.
I shall quote in an abridged form a few fragments from this book.
What is cosmic consciousness?
Cosmic consciousness, then, is a higher form of consciousness than that possessed
by the ordinary man. This last is 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 pan 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 say the upper half of the animal kingdom. (2)
Self-consciousness, which man has over and above the simple
* Edward Carpenter, From Adam's Peak to Elephanta, 2nd edn, reprinted 1921, London, George Allen & Unwin.
consciousness, which is possessed by man as by animals.* (3) Cosmic consciousness. By means of simple consciousness a dog or a horse is just as conscious of things about him as a man is; he is also conscious of his own limbs and body and he knows that these are a pan of himself. By virtue of self-consciousness man is not only conscious of 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 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; I know
it is true, and I know that I know it is true. . . .' Animals cannot think in the same
manner . . . but if they could we should soon know it. Between two creatures living
together, as dogs or horses and men, and each self-conscious, it would be the
simplest matter in the world to open up communication. Even as it is ... we do enter
into the dog's mind pretty freely -we see what is going on there. ... If he was selfconscious
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. Another thing:
on man's self-consciousness is built everything in and about us distinctly human.
Language is the objective of which self-consciousness is the subjective. Selfconsciousness
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
it seems certain that it would upon that master faculty build a superstructure of language. . . . But no animal has done this, therefore we infer that no animal has selfconsciousness. The possession of self-consciousness and language by man creates an enormous gap between him and the highest creature possessing simple consciousness merely.
Cosmic consciousness is a third form which is as far above self-consciousness as is that above simple consciousness. . . . The prime characteristic of cosmic consciousness is, as its name implies, a consciousness of the cosmos, that is, of the life and order of the universe. . . . 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 the 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.
* In this division lies Dr Bucke's greatest mistake. Human consciousness, i.e. the consciousness of the overwhelming majority of men is 'simple consciousness'; 'self-consciousness', like 'cosmic consciousness' exists only in short glimpses.
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.... The present writer 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 (which is hidden from us), and by enabling us to realize, in some measure, the true status of certain men who, down to the present, are either exalted. . . .to the rank of gods, or. . . are adjudged insane. The view the writer takes is that our descendants will sooner or later reach, as a race, the condition of cosmic consciousness, just as, long ago, 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 knows that intelligent contact with cosmic conscious minds assists self-conscious individuals in the ascent to the higher plane.
Dr Bucke here expresses the view that the immediate future of humanity is indescribably hopeful. At the present time there stand before us three inevitable revolutions, the least of which will reduce to nothing all the known historical upheavals which were called revolutions in the past.* The first is the material (political) revolution, which will come to pass as the result of the establishment of aviation. The second is the economic and social revolution, which will abolish private property and will at once free the earth of two greatevils -riches and poverty. And the third is the physical revolution, which is dealt with here.
Either of the first two revolutions will by itself radically change the conditions of human life and will raise it to a greater height. But the third will accomplish hundreds and thousands of times more than the first two taken together. And the three, operating together, will literally create a new heaven and a new earth. The old order of things will be finished and done with, and a new order will take its place.
On account of aviation national boundaries, customs tariffs and perhaps even the differences of language will fade away like shadows. Large cities will no longer have any reason for existence and will dissolve. People who now live in cities, will live in the mountains, or
* See Comment No. 1, of the 'Comments on the quotations from Dr Bucke's book' which follow, p. 274.
by the sea, building their habitations on heights hitherto almost inaccessible, commanding beautiful views. In winter they will probably live in small communities. Both the herding together in big cities and the isolation from all cultured life of the agricultural worker will become things of the past. Distances will be practically abolished and there will be no crowding together in one spot and no enforced solitude.
Socialism will abolish grinding labour, cruel hardships, offensive and demoralizing riches, poverty and all its ensuing ills. All these will become merely subjects for historical novels.*
In contact with the flux of cosmic consciousness all religions known and named today will be melted down. The human soul will be revolutionized. Religion will absolutely dominate the race. It will not depend on tradition. It will not be believed and disbelieved. It will not be a part of life, belonging to certain hours, times, occasions. It will not be in sacred books nor in the mouths of priests. It will not dwell in churches and meetings and forms and days. Its life will not be in prayers, hymns and discourses. It will not depend on special revelations, on the words of gods who come down to teach, nor on any bible or bibles. It will have no mission to save men from their sins or to secure them entrance to heaven. It will not teach a future immortality nor future glories, for immortality and all glory will exist in the here and now. The evidence of immortality will live in every heart as sight in every eye. Doubt of God and of eternal life will be as impossible as is now doubt of existence; the evidence of each will be the same. Religion will govern every minute of every day of all life. Churches, priests, forms, creeds, prayers, all agents, all intermediaries between the individual man and God will be permanently replaced by direct and unmistakable intercourse. Sin will no longer exist nor will salvation be desired. Men will not worry about death or a future, about the Kingdom of heaven, about what may come with and after the cessation of the life of the present body. Each soul will feel and know itself to be immortal, will feel and know that the entire universe with all its good and with all its beauty is for it and belongs to it for ever. The world peopled with men, possessing cosmic consciousness will be as far removed from the world of today as this is from the world as it was before the advent of self-consciousness.
There is a tradition, probably very old, to the effect that the first man was innocent and happy until he ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That having eaten thereof he became aware that he was naked and was ashamed. Further that there sin was born into the world,
* See Comment No. 2, p. 275.
the miserable sense whereof replaced man's former feeling of innocence. That then, and not till then, man began to labour and to cover his body. Stranger than all, the story runs, that along with this change or immediately following upon it there came into man's mind the remarkable conviction which has never since left it but which has been kept alive . . . by the teaching of all true seers, prophets and poets that this accursed thing which has bitten man's heel should eventually be crushed and subjugated by man himself -by the rising up within him of a Saviour -the Christ.
Man's progenitor was a creature . . . with simple consciousness merely. He was (as are to-day the animals) incapable of sin or of the feeling of sin, and equally incapable of shame (at least in the human sense). He had no feeling or knowledge of good and evil. He as yet knew nothing of what we call work and had never laboured. From this state he fell (or rose) into self-consciousness, his eyes were opened, he knew that he was naked, he felt shame, acquired the sense of sin (became in fact what is called a sinner) and learned to do certain things in order to encompass certain ends -that is, he learned to labour.
For weary eons this condition has lasted -the sense of sin still haunts his pathway
-by the sweat of his brow he still eats bread -he is still ashamed. Where is the deliverer, the Saviour? Who or what?
The Saviour of man is Cosmic Consciousness - in Paul's language - the Christ. The cosmic sense (in whatever mind it appears) crushes the serpent's head -destroys sin, shame, the sense of good and evil as contrasted one with the other, and will annihilate labour, though not human activity.
A personal exposition of Dr Bucke's own cosmic experience and the feelings which preceded it will perhaps help the reader to understand the essence of the facts expounded below.
He was subject at times to a sort of ecstasy of curiosity and hope. As on one special occasion when about ten years old he earnestly longed to die that the secrets of the beyond, if there was any beyond, might be revealed to him. . . .
At the age of thirty he fell in with [Walt Whitman's] 'Leaves of Grass', and at once
saw that it contained, in greater measure than any book so far found, what he had so
long been looking for. He read the 'Leaves' eagerly, even passionately, but for
several years derived little from them. At last light broke and there was revealed to
him (as far perhaps as such things can be revealed) at least some of the meanings.
Then occurred that to which the foregoing is preface.
It was in the early spring, at the beginning of his thirty-sixth year. He and two friends had spent the evening reading Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Browning, and especially Whitman. They parted at midnight, and he had a long drive in a hansom (it was an English city). His 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. He was in a state of quiet, almost passive enjoyment. All at once, without warning of any kind, he found himself wrapped around as it were by a flame-coloured cloud. For an instant he thought of fire, some sudden conflagration in the great city; the next he knew that the light was within himself. Directly afterwards came upon him a sense of exultation, of immense joyousness accompanied or immediately followed by an intellectual illumination quite impossible to describe. Into his brain streamed one momentary lightning-flash of the Brahmic splendour which has ever since lightened his life; upon his heart fell one drop of Brahmic Bliss, leaving thenceforward for always an aftertaste of heaven. Among other things he did not come to believe, he saw and, knew that the Cosmos is not dead matter but a living Presence, that the soul of man is immortal, that the universe is so built and ordered that without any peradventure all things work together for the good of each and all, that the foundation principle of the world is what we call love and that the happiness of everyone is in the long run absolutely certain. He claims that he learned more within the few seconds during which the illumination lasted than in previous months or even years of study, and that he learned much that no study could ever have taught. . . .
The illumination itself continued not more than a few moments, but its effect proved ineffaceable; it was impossible for him ever to forget what he at that time saw and knew; neither did he, nor could he, ever doubt the truth of what was then presented to his mind. There was no return that night or at any other time of the experience. . . .
The supreme occurrence of that night was his real and sole initiation to the new and higher order of ideas. But it was only an initiation. He saw the light but had no more idea whence it came and what it meant than had the first creature that saw the light of the sun. Years afterwards he met a man who had entered the higher life of which he had had a glimpse and had had a large experience of its phenomena. His conversation with this man threw a flood of light upon the true meaning of what he had himself experienced. . . .
He saw the significance of the subjective light in the case of Paul and in that of Mohammed. The secret of Whitman's transcendent greatness was revealed to him. [Certain conversations and personal intercourse with men who had similar experiences (among whom was Edward Carpenter)] assisted greatly in the broadening and clearing up of his speculations. . . . But much time and labour were still required before the germinal concept could be satisfactorily elaborated and matured, the idea, namely, that there exists a family sprung from, living among, but scarcely forming a pan of ordinary humanity, whose members are spread about throughout the advanced races of mankind and throughout the last forty centuries of the world's history.
The trait that distinguishes these people from other men is this: Their spiritual eyes have been opened and they have seen. The better known members of this group who, were they collected together, could be accommodated all at one time in a modem drawing-room, have created all the great modern religions . . . and, generally speaking have created, through religion and literature, modem civilization. Not that they have contributed any large numerical proportion of the books which have been written, but that they have produced the few books which have inspired the larger number of all that have been written in modem times. These men dominate the last twenty-five . . . centuries as stars of the first magnitude dominate the midnight sky.
It remains to say a few words upon the psychological origin of... Cosmic Consciousness. . . .
Although in the birth of Cosmic Consciousness the moral nature plays an important part, it will be better for many reasons to confine our attention at present to the evolution of the intellect. In this evolution there are four distinct steps. The first of them was taken when upon the primary quality of excitability sensation was established. At this point began the acquisition and more or less perfect registration of sense impressions -that is, of percepts. A percept is of course a sense impression. ... If we could go back Car enough we should find among our ancestors a creature whose whole intellect was made up simply of these percepts. But this creature had in it what may be called an eligibility of growth, and what happened with it was something like this: Individually and from generation to generation it accumulated these percepts, the constant repetition of which, calling for further and further registration, led... to an accumulation of cells in the centre sense ganglia. At last a condition was reached in which it became possible for our ancestor to combine groups of these percepts into what we to-day call a recept. This process is very similar to that of composite photography [when a series of repeated photographs is taken on one negative; for example, snapshots of members of the same family]. Similar percepts (as of a tree) are registered one over the other until they are generalized into ... a recept (of a tree).
Now the work of accumulation begins again on a higher plane. The sensory organs keep steadily at work manufacturing percepts; the receptual centres keep steadily at work manufacturing more and yet more recepts.... The capacities of the central ganglia are constantly taxed to do the necessary registration of percepts, the necessary elaboration of these into recepts and the necessary registration of recepts; then as the ganglia by use and selection are improved they constantly manufacture from percepts and from the initial simple recepts, more and more complex, that is, higher and higher recepts.
At last, after many thousands of generations have lived and died, comes a time when the mind ... has reached the highest possible point of purely receptual intelligence; the accumulation of percepts and of recepts has gone on until no greater stores of impressions can be laid up. . . . Then another break is made and the higher recepts are replaced by concepts. The relation of a concept to a recept is somewhat similar to the relation of algebra to arithmetic. A recept is, as I have said, a composite image of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of percepts. . . . But a concept is that composite image - that same recept - named, ticketed, and, as it were, dismissed. A concept is in fact neither more nor less than a named recept -the name, that is, the sign (as in algebra) standing henceforth for the thing itself, that is, for the recept.
Now it is as clear as day to anyone who will give the least thought to the subject, that the evolution by which the concepts are substituted for recepts increases the efficiency of the brain for thought as much as the introduction of machinery increased the capacity of the race for work -or as much as the use of algebra increases the power of the mind in mathematical calculations. To replace a great cumbersome recept by a simple sign was almost like replacing actual goods -as wheat, fabrics and hardware -by entries in the ledger.
But, as hinted above, in order that a recept may be replaced by a concept it must be named, or, in other words, marked with a sign which stands for it - just as a check stands for a piece of goods; in other words, the race that is in possession of concepts is also, and necessarily, in possession of language. Further, it should be noted, as the possession of concepts implies the possession of language, so the possession of concepts and language (which are in reality two aspects of the same thing) implies the possession of self-consciousness. All this means that there is a moment in the evolution of mind when the receptual intellect, capable of simple consciousness only, becomes almost or quite instantaneously a conceptual intellect in possession of language and self-consciousness. . . .
Our intellect, then, to-day is made up of a very complex mixture of percepts, recepts and concepts. . . .
The next chapter in the story is the accumulation of concepts. This is a double process. . . . Each one accumulates year by year a larger and larger number, while at the same time the individual concepts are becoming constantly more and more complex.
Is there to be any limit to this growth of concepts in number and complexity? Whoever will seriously consider that question will see that there must be a limit. No such process could go on to infinity. . . .
We have seen that the expansion of the perceptual mind had a necessary limit; that its own continued life led it inevitably up to and into the receptual mind. That the receptual mind by its own growth was inevitably led up to and into the conceptual mind. A priori considerations make it certain that a corresponding outlet will be found for the conceptual mind.
But we do not need to depend on abstract reasoning to demonstrate the necessary existence of the supra-conceptual mind, since it exists and can be studied with no more difficulty than other natural phenomena. The supra-conceptual intellect, the elements of which instead of being concepts are intuitions, is already (in small numbers it is true) an established fact, and the form of consciousness that belongs to that intellect may be called and has been called - Cosmic Consciousness. . . .
The basic fact in cosmic consciousness is implied in its name - that fact is consciousness of the cosmos -this is what is called in the East the 'Brahmic Splendour', which is in Dante's phrase capable of trans-humanizing a man into a god. Whitman, who has an immense deal to say about it, speaks of it in one place as an 'ineffable light-light rare, untellable, lighting the very light - beyond all signs, descriptions, languages.' This consciousness shows the cosmos to consist not of dead matter governed by unconscious, rigid, and unintending law; it shows it on the contrary as entirely immaterial, entirely spiritual and entirely alive; it shows that death is an absurdity, that everyone and everything has eternal life; it shows that the universe is God and that God is the universe. ... A great deal of this is, of course, from the point of view of self-consciousness, absurd; it is nevertheless undoubtedly true. Now all this does not mean that when a man has cosmic consciousness he knows everything about the universe. We all know that when at three years of age we acquired self-consciousness we did not at once know all about ourselves. ... So neither does a man know all about the cosmos merely because he becomes conscious of it.
If it has taken the race several hundred thousand years to learn a smattering of the science of humanity since its acquisition of self-consciousness, so it may take millions of years to acquire . . . cosmic consciousness.
As on self-consciousness is based the human world as we see it,... so on cosmic consciousness is based the higher religions and the higher philosophies and what comes from them, and on it will be based, when it becomes more general, a new world of which it would be idle to try to speak to-day.
The philosophy of the birth of cosmic consciousness in the individual is very similar to that of the birth of self-consciousness. The mind becomes overcrowded (as it were) with concepts and these are constantly becoming larger, more numerous and more and more complex. Some day (the conditions being all favourable) the fusion, or what might be called the chemical union, of several of them and of certain moral elements takes place; the result is an intuition and the establishment of the intuitional mind, or, in other words, cosmic consciousness.*
The scheme by which the mind is built up is uniform from beginning to end: a recept is made of many percepts; a concept of many or several recepts and percepts, and an intuition is made of many concepts, recepts and percepts together with other elements belonging to and drawn from the moral nature. The cosmic vision or intuition, from which what may be called the new mind takes its name, is thus seen to be simply the complex and union of all prior thought and experience - just as selfconsciousness is the complex and union of all thought and experience prior to it.
Cosmic consciousness, like other forms of consciousness, is capable of growth; it may have different forms, different degrees.
It must not be supposed that because a man has cosmic consciousness he is therefore omniscient and infallible. . . . [Men of cosmic consciousness have reached a high level, but on that level there can be different degrees of consciousness.] - And it must be still more evident that, however godlike the faculty may be, those who first acquire it, living in diverse ages and countries, passing the years of their ... life in different surroundings, brought up to view of life and interests of life from totally different points
* See Comment No. 3, p. 288.
of view, must necessarily interpret somewhat differently those things which they see in the new world which they enter.
Language corresponds to the intellect and is therefore capable of expressing it perfectly and directly; on the other hand, the functions of the moral nature are not connected with language and are only capable of indirect expression by its agency. Perhaps music, which certainly has its roots in the moral nature, is, as at present existing, the beginning of a language which will tally and express emotion as words tally and express ideas. . . .
Language is the exact tally of the intellect: for every concept there is a word or words and for every word there is a concept. . . . No word can come into being except as the expression of a concept, neither can a new concept be formed without the formation (at the same time) of the new word which is its expression. . . . But as a matter of fact ninety-nine out of every hundred of our sense impressions and emotions have never been represented in the intellect by concepts and therefore remain unexpressed and inexpressible except imperfectly by roundabout description and suggestion. . . .
As the correspondence of words and concepts is not casual or temporary but resides in the nature of these and continues during all time and under all circumstances absolutely constant, so changes in one of the factors must correspond with changes in the other. So evolution of intellect must be accompanied by evolution of language. An evolution of language will be evidence of intellect. . . .
It seems that in every, or nearly every, man who enters into cosmic consciousness apprehension is at first more or less excited, the person doubting whether the new sense may not be a symptom or form of insanity. Mohammed was greatly alarmed. I think it is clear that Paul was . . . similarly affected.
The first thing each person asks himself upon experiencing the new sense is: Does what I see and feel represent reality or am I suffering from a delusion? The fact that the new experience seems even more real than the old teachings of simple and self consciousness does not at first fully reassure him, because he knows 'the power of delusions'.
Simultaneously or instantly following the above sense and emotional experiences there comes to the person an intellectual illumination quite impossible to describe. Like a flash there is presented to his consciousness a clear conception (a vision) in outline of the meaning and drift of the universe. He does not come to believe merely; but he sees and knows that the cosmos, which to the self-conscious mind seems made up of dead matter, is in fact far otherwise - is in very truth a living presence. He sees that instead of men being, as it were, patches of life scattered through an infinite sea of non-living substance, they are in reality specks of relative death in an infinite ocean of life. He sees that the life which is in man is eternal, as all life is eternal; that the soul of man is as immortal as God is. ...
The person who passes through this experience will learn . . . much that no study ever taught or can teach. Especially does he obtain such a conception of THE WHOLE, or at least of an immense WHOLE as dwarfs all conception, imagination or speculation . . . such a conception as makes the old attempts to mentally grasp the universe and its meaning petty and ridiculous.
This expansion of the intellect enormously increases the capacity of acquiringand accumulating knowledge, as well as the capacity of initiative.
The history of the development and appearance of cosmic consciousness in humanity is exactly similar to the appearance of all individual mental faculties. When a new faculty appears, it will be found, in the beginning, in a few exceptional individuals. After a time it becomes more frequent;
still later it becomes capable of being developed and acquired by all and, finally, becomes an attribute of all men from birth. Moreover rare, exceptional faculties, faculties of a genius, appear in man in his maturity, and at times even in old age. Becoming more common, more in the nature of 'talents', they begin to appear in younger men. Later, becoming 'abilities' they begin to appear even in children. And, finally, they become the common property of all from birth, and their absence is regarded as a defect.
Such is the faculty of speech (i.e. the faculty of forming concepts). Probably in the remote past, on the borderline of the appearance of human consciousness, this faculty belonged to only a few exceptional individuals and, very likely, began to manifest itself only in old age. Later it became more frequent and began to appear earlier. There probably was a period when speech was not an attribute of all men, just as artistic talents - the musical sense, the sense of colour and lines - do not now belong to all men. Gradually it became possible for all, and later inevitable and indispensable barring some physical defect.*
Comments on the quotations from Dr Bucke's book
1 I quoted Dr Bucke's opinion about the three coming revolutions, though I must say that I do not at all share his optimism regarding social life which, as he makes out, can and must change through material causes (conquest of the air and social revolution). The only possible basis for favourable changes in external life (if such changes are possible at all) can only be changes in the inner life, i.e. those changes which Dr Bucke calls the psychical revolution. This is the only thing that can create a better future for people. All cultural achievements in the domain of the material are double-edged and may equally serve either good or evil. Only a change in consciousness itself can be a guarantee that the abuse of powers given by culture will cease and culture will no longer be a 'growth of barbarism'. Demo
*Dr R. M. Bucke, Cosmic Consciousness, Philadelphia, Innes & Sons, 1905, reprinted New York, Dutton, 1969.
cratic organization and the nominal rule of the majority guarantee nothing.On the contrary, even now, wherever they are put into practice - if only in name - they immediately produce, and promise to produce on a still largerscale in the future, violence, curtailment of individual rights and restriction of liberty.2 Dr Bucke says that once human consciousness is attained, further evolution is inevitable. In assuming this Dr Bucke is making a mistake common to all people who dogmatize the idea of evolution. Having drawn a very correct sketch of the consecutive gradations of the observed forms of consciousness (of animal-vegetable, animal and man) Dr Bucke regards this gradation entirely in the light of the evolution of one form out of another, completelyignoring the possibility of other points of view. For example, he ignores the possibility that each of the existing forms may be a link in a separate evolutionary chain, i.e. that the evolutions of animal-vegetables, of animals and of man are different evolutions, follow different courses and do not pass one into another. This point of view is entirely justifiable if we take into consideration the fact that transitory forms are never known to us. Further, Dr Bucke makes an altogether arbitrary assumption concerning the inevitabilityof a further evolution of man. The unconscious evolution of the vegetable and animal kingdoms (i.e. unconscious for the individual, directed by the consciousness of the species) is no longer possible with the appearance of thinking in man. We must admit that human mind depends on itself much more than the mind of the animal. Human mind has much more power over itself and can help its own evolution, as well as hinder it. The general question is: can unconscious evolution be maintained with the appearance of thinking? It would be much more correct to think that the appearance of thinking abolishes the possibility of an unconscious evolution. Power over evolution passes from the spirit of the species (or from Nature) to the individual. Further evolution (if it takes place) can no longer be the result of primordial and unconscious causes, but will depend on conscious efforts towards growth.* This is the most interesting thing in the whole process, but Dr Bucke does not point it out. A man who does not strive towards evolution, who is not conscious of its possibility and is not helping it, will not evolve. And an individual who does not evolve does not remain in a static state, but goes down, degenerates (i.e. certain of his elements begin their own evolution, hostile to the
* See Chapter 10, quotation from Mabel Collins's book The Story of the Year, a Record of Feast and Ceremonies by the author of 'Light on the Path', London, 1895, p. 63.
whole). This is a general law. And if we consider what a very small percentage of men think and are capable of thinking about their evolution (orof striving towards higher things), then we shall see that to talk of the inevitability of that evolution is at least naive. 3 Speaking of the formation of a higher faculty of perception and thinking, Dr Bucke leaves out one very important circumstance. He himself remarks previously that there takes place in the mind a blending of concepts with emotional elements, the result of which is a new understanding, and thencosmic consciousness. Thus it follows from his own words that cosmic consciousness is not merely a blending of concepts with emotional elements, or of ideas with feelings, but is the result of this blending. But Dr Bucke does not give this point sufficient attention, and, further on, regards the fundamental element of cosmic consciousness as the blending of percepts, recepts and concepts with elements belonging to emotional nature. This, however, is already wrong, because it is not simply a blending of thought and feeling, but the result of blending, or, in other words, it is — thought and feeling, plussomething else that is not to be found either in the intellect or in the emotional nature.
But Dr Bucke regards the new faculties of understanding and feeling as the product of the evolution of the existing faculties and thus deprives all his deductions of value. Imagine that a scientist from another planet, who does not suspect the existence of man, studies a horse and its 'evolution' from a foal to a riding horse, and sees the highest degree of its evolution in a horse with a man on its back. From our point of view it is clear that it is impossible to regard the man in the saddle as a fact of equine evolution. But from the point of view of a scientist who does not know about man, it will be onlylogical. Dr Bucke is in exactly the same position when he takes as a fact of human evolution that which transcends the domain of the human. A man who possesses cosmic consciousness or approaches cosmic consciousness is no longer simply a man but a man plus something higher. Dr Bucke, as also in many instances Edward Carpenter, is hindered by a desire not to go too sharply against the usual accepted views (although that is inevitable); by a desire to reconcile the accepted views with the 'new thought', to smooth down contradictions, to reduce everything to one - which of course is as impossible as to reconcile the true and the false, the correct and the incorrect.
The greater part of Dr Bucke's book consists of examples and fragments from the teachings and writings of 'men of cosmic con-sciousness' in the world's history. He draws parallels between those teachings and establishes the unity of the forms of transition into the new state of consciousness in men belonging to different centuries and peoples, and the unity of their sensations of the world and themselves, testifying more than anything else to the genuineness and reality of their experiences.
The founders of world religions, prophets, philosophers, poets -in Bucke's book these are 'men of cosmic consciousness'. He does not pretend to give a complete list, and one could certainly add many more names to it.*
But, after all, what is important is not the imperfections of Bucke's book, nor the amendments which could be made to it. The important thing is the general conclusion which Dr Bucke draws about the possibility and the nearness of the NEW CONSCIOUSNESS.
This tells us that NEW HUMANITY is near at hand. We build, without takinginto account the fact that a NEW MASTER must come who may not approve at all of what we have built. Our 'social sciences', sociology, etc., have only man in view. Yet, as I have already pointed out many times, 'man' is a composite concept, including in itself different categories of men whose paths are completely different. And the future belongs not to man but to superman,who is already born and lives among us.
A higher race is rapidly arising from the bulk of humanity, and it is arisingthrough its own peculiar, understanding of the world and of life.
It will truly be a HIGHER RACE -and there will be no possibility of anyfalsification, any substitution, any usurpation. Nor will it be possible for anything to be bought, nor appropriated by deceit or force. And not only is this race coming, but it is already here.
Men approaching the transition to this new race are already beginning to recognize one another; watchwords, signs and countersigns are already being established. . . . And maybe the social and political problems, so acutelythrust forward by our times, will be solved on quite a different plane and in a totally different manner than
* Dr Bucke makes a very grave mistake in speaking about self-consciousness. In his opinion 'simple consciousness' is a characteristic of an animal, and 'selfconsciousness' a characteristic of man. But as a matter of fact a prolonged selfconsciousness during sensing, feeling or thinking is a very rare phenomenon in man. As a rule what is called self-consciousness is simply a thought, and it takes place post factum. True self-consciousness exists in men only as a potentiality, and if it manifests at all, does so only at moments. These momentary flashes of self-consciousness should be distinguished from prolonged self-consciousness. Prolonged self-consciousness is already a new consciousness. It brings with it the possibility of moments of cosmic consciousness, which, in its turn, may with further development, become prolonged.
we think -namely, by the appearance on the stage of a new race, CONSCIOUS OF ITSELF, which will then judge the old race.
In my comments I pointed out certain defects of Dr Bucke's book, arisingchiefly from a kind of irresolution, a fear to admit the paramount importance of higher consciousness. This fear lies at the basis of Dr Bucke's desire to view the future of humanity from the positivist standpoint, basing it on political and social revolutions. But this view has lost all value. In the bloody epoch we are now going through, the bankruptcy of materialism, i.e. of logical systems, in the organizing of life is becoming self-evident even to those people who only yesterday were extolling 'culture' and 'civilization'. It becomes increasingly clear that changes in the external life, i.e. changes in the life of the many, if they must come at all, will come as a result of inner changes in the few.
Further, taking Dr Bucke's book as a whole, we may say that, having assumed the natural growth of consciousness, he does not notice the fact that the unfolding of these faculties is not a natural process, but that it requires conscious work. Dr Bucke does not mention at all any conscious efforts in this direction, does not speak of the idea of the culture of cosmic consciousness. Yet there exists a whole series of psychological teachings (occultism, yoga and so on) and a voluminous literature, having in view precisely this systematic culture of higher consciousness. Dr Bucke does not seem to notice this, although he himself touches upon it several times, and continues to take his stand on the idea of natural growth. At one point in his book he speaks very contemptuously about the use of narcotics for the creation of ecstatic states, not taking into consideration the fact that narcotics cannot give a man anything he has not already got (which explains the totallydifferent effect of narcotics on different people). All they can do, in certain cases, is to reveal that which is already in a man's soul. This circumstance completely alters the view of narcotics, as Professor James has shown in his book The Varieties of Religious Experience.
On the whole, carried away by the evolutionary point of view and fixinghis eyes on the future, Dr Bucke, like many others, does not pay sufficient attention to the present. Yet the new consciousness which a man may find or awaken in himself is naturally more important for him than the consciousness which may or may not appear in other men thousands of years hence.
Examining from different standpoints the complex forms of the manifestation of spirit, and analysing the views and opinions of different thinkers, we are constantly confronted with what seems to be gradual phases or consecutive stages of development. And we find that these stages or phases are four in number. Examining further the living world known to us, from the lowest living organism to man, we see the simultaneous existence of all the four forms of consciousness, to which all the other aspects of inner life correspond: space-sense, time-sense, form of activity, and so on. Further, examining the higher type of man we see in him the presence of all the four forms of consciousness which exist in living nature, with correspondingforms.
Forms of consciousness 'Higher type of man' Living world
similar to our instincts Cells, groups of cells, Cells, groups of cells,
and subconscious plants and lower tissues and organs of
feelings. animals; organs and the body.
parts of the body of higher animals and
Simple consciousness and
flashes of thought.
Thinking, moments of
flashes of cosmic consciousness.
Self-consciousness and beginning of cosmic
Absence of awareness of death.
Man. Awareness of death,
or fantastic theories of immortality.
Higher type of man.
Beginning of immortality.
Body, instinct, appetites,
voices of the body.
Simple emotions and
Higher emotions, higher intellect, mystical knowledge.
The simultaneous existence of all the four forms of consciousness at once, both in nature and in the higher type of man renders the exclusively evolutionary point of view too strained and artificial. The evolutionary point of view is often simply a refusal to face a difficult problem, a desire to avoid thinking too much. This is the reason why the evolutionary point of view is often applied where there is no need of it whatever. Very often it is a compromise of thought. Not understanding the existing variety of forms and their interconnections, and not knowing how to think of it all as a unity, people seize upon the evolutionary view and regard the variety of forms as an ascending ladder. This view is, of course, derived not from real facts but from the desire at all costs to systematize what they observe, be it even on entirely artificial grounds. People think that if they construe a system, they already know something. But in reality absence of a system is very often nearer to true knowledge than an artificial system.
'Evolutionists' who are incapable of understanding the whole, without representing it to themselves as a chain, each link of which is derived from another link, are like the blind men in an Eastern tale who feel an elephant from different sides and assert, one that the elephant is like pillars, another that he is like a thick rope, and so on. Only, evolutionists add to this that the elephant's trunk must have evolved from his legs, the ears from the trunk, and so on. But, after all, we know that all this is -an elephant, i.e. one single being, unknown to the blind men. Just such a single being is the living world. And with regard to forms of consciousness, it is much more correct to regardthem not as consecutive stages, nor as phases of evolution, distinct from one another, but as different sides or pans of one whole, which we do not know.
In 'man' this unity is self-evident. All the forms of consciousness can exist in him simultaneously: the life of the cells and the organs with their consciousnesses; the life of the whole body, taken as one; the life of emotions and logical reason, and the life of higher forms of consciousness.
The higher form of consciousness is necessary for the organization of life on earth, as we are already beginning to see. For a long time, under the rule of materialism and positivist thought, people forgot or distorted religious ideas and thought it possible to live by logical reason alone. But now, little by little, it becomes evident to those who have eyes to see, that people, left to the mercy of logical reasoning only, are incapable of organizing their life on earth, and if they do not finally exterminate one another as did some Polynesian tribes, they will at any rate create (and have already created) utterly impossible conditions of life in which everything gained will be lost, i.e. everything that was given them by men of self-consciousness and of cosmic consciousness.
The living world of nature (including man) is analogous to man, and it is much more convenient and correct to regard the different forms of consciousness in the different parts and strata of living nature not as separateand evolving from one another, but as belonging to one organism and fulfilling functions which, although different, are interconnected. In that case the necessity for all naive theorizing on the subject of evolution disappears. After all, we do not regard the organs and limbs of a man's body as evolved one from another in a given individual, and we must do the same with relation to the organs and limbs of the body of living nature.
I do not deny the law of evolution; but it means something quite different. And its application for the purpose of explaining many phenomena of life stands in need of drastic corrections.
First of all, even if we accept the idea of one general evolution, we still have to bear in mind that the types lagging behind, the remnants of evolution, may not continue the same evolution at a slow pace in the rear, but may start their own evolution, in many cases developing precisely those properties for which they were thrown out of the main evolution.
Second, in accepting the law of evolution, there is no need to regard all existing forms as derived one from another. It would be much more correct, in such cases, to regard them all as the higher types in their own evolution. The absence of transitory forms renders this view much more likely than the view which is usually accepted and which provides such rich material for dissertations on the obligatory and inevitable perfection of everything perfection from our point of view.
The views outlined here, and the idea of the living world as one organism, are naturally more difficult than the ordinary evolutionary point of view. But one should try to overcome this difficulty. I have already said that the real world is bound to be illogical from an ordinary point of view, and can never be plain and simple to all and sundry. The theory of evolution requires many amendments and needs to be expanded and amplified. If we take the existingforms on any one plane, it is utterly impossible to assert that all these forms have evolved from the simplest forms on that plane. Some will no doubt have evolved from the lower forms; others will have resulted from the degeneration of higher forms; a third category will have formed from the remnants of some evolved form -and a fourth resulted from infiltration into that plane of properties and characteristics of a higher plane. In this case these complex forms cannot be regarded as the product of evolution taking place on the original plane.
The table appended on pages 282-4 will show more clearly the correlation of the different forms of manifestation of consciousness, or of different states of consciousness.
First form. A sense of one-dimensional space in relation to the external world. Everything takes place, as it were, on one line.
Table of the four forms of the manifestation of consciousness
First form Second form Third form Fourth form
Sense of Sense of one- Sense of two- Sense of three- Sense of four-
space and dimensional dimensional dimensional dimensional
time space. The space. The space. The space. Spatial
world on a line. world on a world in an sense of time.
The line as plane. The infinite sphere.
space. Every plane as space. The sphere as
thing else as All the rest as space. All the
time. Every time. Angles rest as time.
thing not lying and curves as Phenomena as
on this line is movements. movements.
in motion. Non-existence of
Psychology Appearance of Representation. Concept. Expansion of
the first sen Expression of Words. concepts.
sation. One sensations by Judgment. Higher
sensation. Its cries, sounds, Inference. emotions. Self-
division into movements. Thinking. consciousness.
two. Gradual Absence of Speech. Written New sensations.
evolution of words and language. Cosmic
sensations speech. If there Allegory. consciousness.
and the is speech, it Emotions.
accumulation of consists of
memories of proper names
Logic Absence of This is this. A is A. A is not A is both A and
thinking or That is that. not-A. Each not A. Tat
confused think This is not that. thing is either twam asi: Thou
ing of the 2nd Rudiments of A or not A. art that.
form. logic. The logic Dualistic logic. Tertium
of the single The logic of Organum.'
ness of each contrapositions. Logic of the
separate thing. Syllogism. unity of all.
Mathematics Absence of Comparison of Every magni A magnitude
counting or separate visible tude is equal to can be not equal
confused count objects or of itself. A part is to itself. A pan
ing of the 2nd separate repre- smaller than the can be equal to
form. sensations. whole, etc. the whole, etc.
Direct sense of Finite and Mathematics of
quantity. Count- constant infinite and
ing within the numbers. variable
limits of this Euclidean magnitudes.
sense. geometry. Meta-geometry.
Table of the four forms of the manifestation of consciousness -contd.
First form Second form Third form Fourth form
Kinds of Reflex. Instinct. Lever. Beginning of
actions Unconscious 'Emotional' and Possibility of conscious
responsive expedient being conscious actions.
action to action, without of results. The Beginning of
external consciousness cause of actions actions with the
irritation. of result. Seem -in the outer understanding
ing conscious world, in im of their cosmic
ness. Inability pressions meaning and
to use a lever. received from purpose.
the outer world. Beginning of Impossibility of independent
actions without proceeding from
impulses oneself. MAGIC.
Morality Unconscious The beginning Logical and con Return to the
actions (like the of the maternal, ventional law within
actions of a family and tribal division of good oneself. New
sleeping man). instincts. and evil. Sub conscience.
Morality as the mission to the Emancipation
law of the life of group con from the sub
the species and sciousnesses of mission to
as a condition family, clan, group con
of evolution. tribe, nation, sciousnesses.
Unconscious humanity, class, Consciousness
submission to party, etc. of oneself as an
the spirit of the independent
Forms of Potential 'Simple Ability to think Beginning of
consciousness consciousness. consciousness.' of one's states of self-conscious
Consciousness 'It hurts.' But consciousness. ness. Ecstatic
in a latent state. the impos Division of 'I states.
Sleep. sibility of and not-'I'. Transitions to
Consciousness saying: I am Active cosmic
as in a dream conscious that it consciousness. consciousness.
less sleep. hurts me.' The moment
Reflected state when further
of conscious ness. evolution can
Dreaming. only be
Passive state of conscious.
Table of the four forms of the manifestation of consciousness -contd.
First form Second form Third form Fourth form
Forms of Accumulation of Personal Positivist Idealistic
knowledge 'traces' of pro knowledge. science and philosophy. duced reflexes. Impossibility of philosophy. Mathematics of
Appearance of communicating Materialism. the infinite,
instinct and experience. The Spiritualistic Tertium accumulation beginning of the philosophy. Organum',
of simple communication Dogmatic Mystical
instincts. of experience in religions. religion. God
the education of Spiritism and and the World
the young. pseudo- are one. One
occultism. Spirit. The
Sectarianism. sense of a living
Dualism. and conscious
Matter and universe. Union
spirit. The of all branches
division of of knowledge
different forms into one. Under
of knowledge. standing of
'Dharma', i.e. of
Different Lower animal. Higher animal. Man. Inner Beginning of
beings Cells, tissues The human disunion. The the transition to
and organs of body. Two- impossibility of a new type and a
the body. One dimensional attaining inner new sense of
dimensional being. Absence harmony. 'The space. Victory of
being. Vegetable of duality, soul' as the consciousness.
or semi disunion and battlefield of the 'Men of cosmic
vegetable life. disharmony. 'spirit' and the consciousness.'
Animal life. 'flesh'. Triumph of the
Absence of Conscious
immortality. Attainment of
inner unity and
soul as the
centre of independent
Sensations are not differentiated. Consciousness is immersed in itself, in its work of feeding, assimilating and digesting food, and so on. This is the state of the cell, groups of cells, tissues and organs of an animal's body, of plants and lower organisms. In a man this is the 'instinctive mind'.
Second form. A sense of two-dimensional space. This is the state of an animal. What is for us the third dimension is for it - motion. It already senses and feels, but does not think. Everything it sees seems to it equally real. The world for it is full of non-existent, illusory motion. Emotional life and flashes of thought in man.
Third form. A sense of three-dimensional space. Logical thinking. A philosophical division of 'I' and 'Not I'. Dogmatic religions and dualistic spiritualism. Codified morality. Division of spirit and matter. Positivist science. Idea of evolution. Mechanical universe. Understanding of cosmic ideas as metaphors. 'Historical materialism', imperialism, socialism, and so on. Subjugation of the individual to society and law. Automatism. Death as the exhaustion of personality. Intellect and flashes of self-consciousness.
Fourth form. Beginning of the understanding of four-dimensional space.New conception of time. Possibility of more prolonged self-consciousness. Flashes of cosmic consciousness. The idea, and at times the sensation, of a living universe. Striving towards the miraculous and a sense of the infinite. Beginning of volitional self-consciousness and flashes of cosmic consciousness.
Thus the third form embraces that 'man' who is studied by positivistscience. And the fourth form refers to 'man' who is already beginning to pass out of the field of vision of positivism and logical understanding.
Evolution or culture
The most important and most interesting questions which arise when we examine the idea of cosmic consciousness reduce themselves to the following: (1) Is the appearance of cosmic consciousness a matter for other generations in the remote future, i.e. must cosmic consciousness only come into being as a result of the process of evolution after centuries and millenniums, and will it then become common property or the property of the majority? and (2) Can cosmic consciousness appear now in modem man, i.e. even in very few men, as a result of a certain education and self-education which will help to open up in man forces and faculties dormant in him; in other words, can it come as a result of a certain culture?
It seems to me that in this connection we may dwell on the following propositions: The possibility of the appearance or development of cosmic consciousness belongs only to the few. But even in the case of those men in whom cosmic consciousness can manifest itself, this manifestation requires certain very definite conditions, both inner and outer, a certain culture, the education in man of elements akin to cosmic consciousness and the abolition of elements hostile to it. In other words cosmic consciousness cannot be created in a man who does not possess the rudiments of it. But even in a man who has this potentiality, it may be developed or, on the contrary, not developed, but stifled and destroyed.
The distinguishing signs of men in whom cosmic consciousness may manifest are not studied at all. The first of these signs is a constant, or frequent, sensation that the world is not at all what it seems, that the principal and most important things in it are not at all those things which are regarded as of principal importance. Then there follows from this a sense of the unreality of the world and all its relationships, and a striving towards the 'miraculous' which, in this case, is sensed as the only thing real and true.
High mental culture, high intellectual achievements are not in the least an indispensable condition. Examples of many saints who were often not in the least intellectual men, but who nevertheless undoubtedly achieved cosmic consciousness, show that cosmic consciousness may develop on a purely emotional basis, i.e. in that case on the basis of religious emotion. In the same way cosmic consciousness may be achieved through creative emotions -in the case of painters, musicians, poets. In its highest manifestations art is a way to cosmic consciousness.
But equally in all cases the opening up of cosmic consciousness demands a corresponding culture, a corresponding life. In all the examples given byBucke, in all the examples that could be added, one cannot find a single case where cosmic consciousness opened up in conditions of inner life opposed to it, i.e. at moments of absorption in external life with its struggle, its interests and its emotions. For the appearance of cosmic consciousness it is necessarythat the centre of gravity of the whole of man should be in self-consciousness and not in the sense of the external.
If we imagine Dr Bucke himself being in conditions quite different from those in which he was at the moment of the manifestation of cosmic consciousness, in all probability his illumination would not have come at all.
He passed the evening reading poetry in the company of men of a high intellectual and emotional development and was returning home full of the thoughts and emotions of that evening.
But if, instead of this he had spent the evening playing cards in the company of men of everyday interests and everyday conversation, or at a political meeting; or if he had spent it standing at his lathe in a factory on a nightshirt; or if he had been busy writing a newspaper leader in which he did not believe himself and no one else would believe, one can say for certain that no manifestation of cosmic consciousness would have come to him, for it undoubtedly requires a very high degree of freedom and concentration on the inner world.
This conclusion concerning the necessity of a special culture and definite inner and outer conditions does not at all mean that cosmic consciousness can manifest in any man placed in appropriate conditions. There are people probably the overwhelming majority of modem humanity -who are totallydevoid of this possibility. And if this possibility is lacking, it cannot be created by any amount of culture, just as no amount of culture can make an animal speak in the human tongue. The possibility of manifestation of cosmic consciousness cannot be artificially grafted. A man is born with it or without it. This possibility may be suppressed or developed, but it cannot be created.
Not everyone can learn to distinguish the true from the false. But even those who may have this ability will not get it as a free gift. It is the result of great labour, great work, demanding daring both in thought and feeling.