Last week I wrote about the possibility of obtaining knowledge not from our normal five physical senses, but from something beyond them. Such knowledge has been called by various names, such as intuition, extrasensory perception, etc.
But there is another type of knowledge higher than this, which is more difficult to describe in words. And much fewer people have experienced it, unlike intuitive knowledge of something mundane or physical.
This type of knowledge or awareness has also been called by various names by different cultures, such as cosmic consciousness in the West, samadhi in Indian yoga philosophy and satori in Japanese Zen Buddhism.
However, there is a fundamental difference among these mystical states. Cosmic consciousness, for example, cannot be obtained deliberately or consciously. It usually comes spontaneously, without deliberate effort nor intention. Samadhi is a state of enlightenment attained through years of mental discipline, meditation and even fasting. Samadhi is the ultimate goal of yoga, satori the ultimate goal of Zen practice.
Samadhi is achieved when the human mind unites with the universal mind. Satori, on the other hand, is achieved when one bypasses the logical mind and achieves oneness with universal truth.
In cosmic consciousness, one suddenly realizes the unity or oneness of the whole of the universe, that there is no distinction between object and subject, that everything is really one. One also gets the feeling that all of this knowledge of the world appears useless and of no consequence or value at all. And that there is a higher awareness that is more valuable than anything else.
Such a state of cosmic consciousness may last for only a few seconds or minutes, or for several days. One who experiences it is forever transformed. He or she is no longer the same person. And all knowledge of the world seems to be inconsequential, in comparison with this new and higher level of awareness.
This, I believe, happened to me quite unexpectedly in 1975, when I knew nothing about such things as cosmic consciousness, ESP or mystical phenomena.
I couldn’t remember any more the details, as it happened a long time ago, but I knew I was in a meditative state. And I was alone at home, thinking of nothing in particular.
Then, without warning, my mind was transported to another level of understanding or another universe, like nothing I have ever experienced before. Everything became connected to everything else, that there was no longer any distinction between me and everything else in the universe, that everything had become one or part of that universal one.
It was mind-blowing. Even nonliving things, like stones, minerals, water, were all alive and communicating with one another. Subject and object became indistinguishable.
I didn’t know what hit me that day. I kept such experience from everybody else, reluctant to talk about it because I couldn’t explain it.
Then, many years later, I read Dr. William James’ “Varieties of Religious Experience,” which explained it as a religious mystical experience.
But my experience was nothing religious at all. It was not connected to any religion. It was beyond all religion.
Again, many years later, I came across the book of Richard Bucke on cosmic consciousness. The many examples of people who have experienced cosmic consciousness somehow resonated with me and I knew then that was what I had, although I could not compare myself with those famous people.
P.D. Ouspensky, a famous Russian mathematician and mystic who was a long-time disciple of Gurdjieff, described his experience with cosmic consciousness in his book, “A New Model of the Universe.”
“I am reading the chapter on levers. And all at once a multitude of simple things, which I knew as independent and having nothing in common became connected and united into a great whole. A stick pushed under a stone, a pen knife, a shovel, a seesaw, and all the things one and the same, they are all ‘levers.’
“In this idea there is something both terrifying and alluring. How is it that I did not know it? Why has nobody spoken about it? Why I am made to learn a thousand useless things and not told about this? All that I am discovering is so wonderful and miraculous that I became more and more enraptured, and I am gripped by a certain presentment of further revelations waiting me. It is as though I already feel the unity of all and am overcome with awe at the sensation.”
Bucke, author of “Cosmic Consciousness,” described his experience with this elusive and fleeting type of knowledge and listed down its characteristics as follows: “Its sudden appearance, a subjective experience of inner light, moral elevation, intellectual illumination, a sense of immortality, loss of fear of death, and loss of a sense of sin.”
In his book, Bucke listed down some 35 individuals who had experienced cosmic consciousness, such as Jesus Christ, Plotinus, Mohammed, Buddha, William Blake, Francis Bacon, Walt Whitman, Socrates, Swedenborg, Ralph Waldo Emerson, etc.
Bucke’s experience of cosmic consciousness seems to have some moral or religious dimensions. I believe, however, that because all becomes one, cosmic consciousness is beyond religion and morality. From my limited experience of it, all of reality appears to be one and the same thing.
He considers cosmic consciousness the next stage of human evolution and development.