Richard Maurice Bucke

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Richard Maurice Bucke

Richard Maurice Bucke (18 March 183719 February 1902), often called Maurice Bucke, was an important Canadian progressive psychiatrist in the late nineteenth century. An adventurer in his youth, he went on to study medicine, practice psychiatry, and befriend several noted men of letters. In addition to writing and delivering professional papers, Bucke wrote three book-length studies: Man's Moral Nature, Walt Whitman, and – his best known work – Cosmic Consciousness, a classic in the modern study of mystical experience.

Sourced[edit]

Man's Moral Nature (1879)[edit]

Man's Moral Nature : An Essay (1879) Full text online
I dedicate this book to the man who inspired it — to the man who of all men past and present that I have known has the most exalted moral nature — to Walt Whitman.
  • I dedicate this book to the man who inspired it — to the man who of all men past and present that I have known has the most exalted moral nature — to Walt Whitman.
    • Dedication
  • All things, man included, are parts of one great whole. The object of this chapter is to point out the most obvious and most natural divisions of this whole, which we call the universe. These divisions can never be absolute; the whole is too truly one whole for that, but they are sufficiently real for our present purpose.
    • Ch. 1 : Lines of Cleavage
  • Man reacts upon and toward the external universe in three ways, namely, by his active nature ; by his intellectual nature ; by his moral nature — that is, he acts upon it, thinks about it, and feels toward it.
    • Ch. 1 : Lines of Cleavage
  • It is alone that part of the external universe which we call material which acts on man through his senses — that part of which we ordinarily feel our knowledge to be the surest; but in reality, strangely enough, as will soon appear, this is one of the aspects of the external world, of which we can know nothing.
    • Ch. 1 : Lines of Cleavage

Cosmic Consciousness (1901)[edit]

There occurs an intellectual enlightenment or illumination which alone would place the individual on a new plane of existence ... To this is added a state of moral exaltation, an indescribable feeling of elevation, elation and joyousness ... 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 little while now and we shall be again together and with us those other noble and well-beloved souls gone before. I am sure I shall meet you and them; that you and I shall talk of a thousand things and of that unforgettable day and of all that followed it; and that we shall clearly see that all were parts of an infinite plan which was wholly wise and good.
    • Dedication
  • Cosmic Consciousness ... is a higher form of consciousness than that possessed by the ordinary 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 say the upper half of the animal kingdom. By means of this faculty a dog or a horse is just as conscious of the things about him as a man is; he is also conscious of his own limbs and body and he knows that these are a part of himself. (2) Over and above this Simple Consciousness, which is possessed by man as by animals, man has another which is called Self Consciousness. By virtue of this faculty 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. ... 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. ... Cosmic Consciousness is a third form which is as far above Self Consciousness as is that 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 ... 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 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.
    • First Words.
  • 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 present writer that to pass in review, even briefly and imperfectly, instances in which the condition in question has existed would be worth while.
    • First Words.
  • Our descendants will sooner or later reach, as a race, the condition of cosmic consciousness, just as, long ago, our ancestors passed from simple consciousness into self consciousness.
    • First Words.

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