Earlier this year, I presented this paper to the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, and I now have it published in the latest volume of Scriptorium. The paper examines the history of the experience of what has been termed cosmic consciousness, and how esoteric Freemason W.L. Wilmshurst believed that Freemasonry could teach us the pathway to achieve the experience.
The paper is free to download as a pdf direct from my academia profile by clicking here, and the complete abstract can be read here:
The term cosmic consciousness has been used by authors such as Psychiatrist Dr Richard Maurice Bucke and Solicitor and esoteric Freemason Walter Leslie Wilmshurst to describe the experience of becoming one with the Divine. Indeed, Bucke described the term Cosmic Consciousness in his book of the same name, first published in 1901, as ‘a higher form of consciousness than that possessed by the ordinary man.’ Bucke had experienced cosmic consciousness himself, which he described as occurring after spending the evening with friends reading the poetry of Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Browning and Walt Whitman. After leaving his friends for home, he suddenly found himself ‘wrapped around… by a flame-coloured cloud’, though it seemed ‘the light was within himself’. Bucke immediately felt ‘a sense of exultation, of immense joyousness accompanied, or immediately followed, by an intellectual illumination quite impossible to describe.’ Bucke goes on to say that ‘his brain streamed one momentary lightning-flash of the Brahmic Splendour which has ever since lightened his life.’ The experience changed his life forever, and Bucke said that ‘upon his heart fell one drop of Brahamic Bliss, leaving thenceforward for always an aftertaste of heaven… and [he] knew that the Cosmos is not dead matter but a living Presence, that the soul of man is immortal…’ Indeed, Bucke mentioned that he had learned more in those few seconds when he had experienced cosmic consciousness, than he had done in years of study. Walter Leslie Wilmshurst, wrote a paper entitled ‘Notes on Cosmic Consciousness’, which was published in the Occult Review in March 1924, where he expressed his thoughts on cosmic consciousness, describing it in a similar fashion to that of Bucke. Indeed, Wilmshurst believed that Freemasonry could teach us the pathway to achieve such an experience. This short paper will explore the history of such experiences and will discuss Wilmshurst’s ideas.