Monday, November 19, 2007

I'm Unconscious

Dr. R.M. Buckle, 1901:
''I had spent the evening in a great city, with two friends, reading and discussing poetry and philosophy. We parted at midnight, I had a long drive in a hansom to my lodging. My mind, deeply under the influence of the ideas, images, and emotions called up by the reading and talk, was calm and peaceful. I was in a state of quiet, almost passive enjoyment, not actually thinking, but letting ideas, images, and emotions flow of themselves, as it were, through my mind. All at once, without warning of any kind, I found myself wrapped in a flame-colored cloud. For an instant I thought of fire, an immense conflagration somewhere close by in that great city; the next, I knew that the fire was within myself. Directly afterward there came upon me a sense of exultation, of immense joyousness accompanied or immediately followed by an intellectual illumination impossible to describe. Among other things, I did not merely come to believe, but I saw that the universe is not composed of dead matter, but is, on the contrary, a living Presence; I became conscious in myself of eternal life. It was not a conviction that I would have eternal life, but a consciousness that I possessed eternal life then; I saw that all men are immortal; that the cosmic order is such that without any peradventure all things work together for the good of each and all; that the foundation principle of the work, of all the worlds, is what we call love, and that the happiness of each and all is in the long run absolutely certain. The vision lasted a few seconds and was gone; but the memory of it and the sense of the reality of what it taught has remained during the quarter of a century which has since elapsed. I knew that what the vision showed was true. I had attained a point of view from which I saw that it must be true. That view, that conviction, I may say that consciousness, has never, even during periods of deepest depression, been lost.''

Dr. Buckle was the Canadian psychiatrist who first described a state that he called ''cosmic consciousness'', coining the phrase. Needless to say, I've never achieved cosmic consciousness and have had no experiences like the one Buckle describes here. Sometimes I get the feeling that we're supposed to be dismissive of such experiences after we've gone to college. You expect me to buy this stuff? I've read Nietzsche!

Instead, I often think that I've missed out on a whole realm of human experience. Call it mysticism, gnosticism Sufism, cosmic consciousness, or whatever you want, it's been a locked door for me. I often think that there is a whole other sort of wisdom from the sort I'm supposed to be cultivating in academia. Does anyone have any experience with this sort of thing, or interest in it?


Holly said...

Did Buckle happen to mention what they'd been drinking at dinner...?

Personally, I'm fascinated by this. I understand I could probably purchase it in small plastic bags, but it seems more rewarding to have it sneak up on me after a really good evening out.

Presumably, the world would be a very different place, if any significant percentage of the total population tapped into it.

Rufus said...

I've always wondered how it would change my daily life if I didn't believe in death. Honestly, I think it would be a tremendous relief. It's strange to me that so few Americans believe in mortality, but they seem to worry more about dying than I do.

I do think that there's something to Leary's Eight-circuit model of consciousness. Most of the time I feel like I'm using about one-half a percent of my brain. But I have no idea how to tap into it either and haven't even heard of anyone using LSD for at least a decade.

The Stash said...

Hello guys, i stumbled on your blog while i was looking for an image and have found it insightful enough to continue reading it.

I'm not an academic by any stretch of the imagination, so please, be kind.

I actually had an experience like this once before. It was right before the birth of my daughter, I was 25 at the time. I believe most people call it a "moment of clarity".

I don't believe you can get there through drugs or through medication, I could be wrong. I would say that this does run dangerously close to madness in most people and I don't know the pressures that change the outcome. I would love to see a study on when this happens most often in people and note the difference in age, lifestyle and environment that brought about this scenario.

It's an amazing experience and sensation, you feel a oneness with all things around you. Like all things are equal and all things are alright, regardless of individual safety. I yearn for another chance of experiencing that again.

I hope I don't sound like a blathering hippie...

Holly said...

Stash, pretty nifty. Hopefully this won't seem unbearably prying, but... what were you actually doing, at the moment that this happened?

Rufus said...

Stash- it sounds pretty incredible to me too. It's fascinating how consistent these experiences have been across cultures and throughout history. The first thing I thought of when reading your comments was of the Hindu Atman. Anyway, I definitely envy you.

I actually got the Buckle quote from a book called 'The Varieties of Religious Experience' by William James. You might want to check it out- it's recently been reprinted and it's a great book.

The Stash said...

As i said, it didn't last a moment, it was about a three week stretch. It appeared my life had a purpose and it all made sense. I was in a state of flow for whatever i put my mind to.

I believe it's caused through social pressures and time or something there of. I didn't have any visions of spiritual beings or deities.

Holly, I believe i was just reading a book when it came over me. After thinking about it some more, it seems that it was entirely perceptional, nothing changed but my perception of actions, events and people. Now why that happened eludes me. It could boil down to what Dan Gilbert has to say here ""

It's nothing to be jealous about though. There's a website called "". I'm wondering if it's just certain experience that push us over the edge to see the whole not just the parts of our reality.

-The Stash-