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Noetic Gnosis: Cosmic Consciousness
by Beatrix Murrell
From: email@example.com (Beatrix Murrell)
Date: Sun, 3 Sep 1995 15:44:55 GMT
Subject: Noetic Gnosis: Cosmic Consciousness
Used with permission of the author
So often we read or consider "gnosis" in religious terms, but
I think today more of us are pondering gnosis within the context
of "cosmic consciousness." I would like to articulate a little
on this particular phenomenon of gnosis.
R.M. Bucke wrote a treatise in 1902 entitled COSCMIC CONSCIOUSNESS.
His premise is that during the course of humanity's evolutionary
development there are three forms of consciousness.
- Simple Consciousness, our instinctual consciousness.
- Self Consciousness, that self-awareness that allows a human
to realize hirself as a distinct entity.
- Cosmic Consciousness, a new developing faculty at the
pinnacle of our evolution.
Dr. Bucke catalogued this newest form of consciousness in his book.
But what about the experience itself? From his catalogue of those
he believed to have had this experience, he presented an outline:
"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 sees and knows that the cosmos...is in fact...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 as immortal as God is; 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 every individual is
in the long run absolutely certain."
"The person who passes through this experience will learn in the
few minutes, or even moments, of its continuance more than in months
or years of study, and he will learn much that no study every taught
or can teach. Especially does he obtain such a conception of
*the whole*...Along with moral elevation and intellectual illumination
comes what must be called, for want of a better term, a sense of
Evelyn Underhill takes up the banner in her MYSTICISM. Talking
of the mystical side of ectasy, she stresses that it "represents
the greatest possible extension of the spiritual consciousness in
the direction of Pure Being: the blind intent stretching here
receives its reward in a profound experience of Eternal Life. In
this experience the departmental activities of thought and feeling,
the consciousness of I-hood, of space and time...all that belongs
to the World of Becoming and our own place therein...are suspended.
The vitality which we are accustomed to split amongst these various
things, is gathered up to form a state of pure apprehension...a
vivid intuition of the Transcendent."
Underhill proceeds: "This is that perfect unity of consciousness,
that utter concentration on an experience of love, which excludes
all conceptual and analytic acts. Hence, when the mystic says that
his faculties were suspended, that he *knew all and knew nought,*
he really means that we are so concentrated on the Absolute that he
ceased to consider his separate existence...so merged in it that
he could not perceive it as an object of thought, as the bird
cannot see the air which supports it, nor the fish the ocean in
which it swims. He really *knows all but thinks nought, perceives
all, but conceives nought.*"
Marsha Sinetar, in her book ORDINARY PEOPLE AS MONKS AND MYSTICS,
refers to this mystical ecstasy...this cosmic consciousness, in terms
of the Peak Experience (Gnosis).
"The peak experience is critical to any discussion of the mystic's
journey, since through it and because of it the individual gains an
overarching and penetrating view into what he is at his best, into
what he is when he simply *is.* The peak experience means that the
person experiences himself *being* rather than becoming. He also
experiences direct...the Transcendant nature of reality. He enters
into the Absolute, becoming one with it, if only for an instant.
It is a life-altering instant which many have described as one in
which the mind stops, as a time in which the paradoxical change/
changeless nature opens up to a person."
Sinetar contines: "The peak experience expands the individual's field
of consciousness to include everything in the universe...he feels
he *has* everything because he experiences everything within. This
field is what author Joseph Chilton Pearce calls the *crack in the
cosmic egg.* Although Pearce is also talking about the metanoia...
the transformation of an individual's entire believe system which
accompanies the peak experience or the moment of illumination...he
writes of the exquisite inshight which makes *all things new again,*
the unifying, integrative moment which provides the individual with
a glimpse of the connectiveness of all things...the micro-macro web
of the universe, interrelationships of all people and things."
Both James Redfield and Alan Watts provide beautiful metaphoric
descriptions of this peak experience, this achievement of cosmic
Redfield, in his THE CELESTINE PROPHECY, allows his central character
the experience. This character says that "I watched the limbs of
the trees sway gently in the breeze [and] experienced not just a
visual perception of the event, but a physical sensation as well,
as if the limbs moving in this wind were hairs on my body."
Proceeding, "I perceived everything to be somehow part of me. As I
sat on the peak of the mountain looking out at the landscape falling
away from me in all directions, it felt exactly as if what I had
always known as my physical body was only the head of a much larger
body consisting of everything else I could see. I experienced the
entire universe looking out on itself through my eyes.
Alan Watts, in his last treatise THE BOOK, says it in a similar
fashion: "Thus when the line between myself and what happens to
me is dissolved and there is no stronghold for an ego even as a
passive witness, I find myself not *in* a world but *as* a world
which is neither compulsive or capricious. What happens is neither
automatic or arbitrary...it just happens, and all happenings are
mutually independent in a way that seems unbelievably harmonious."
Watts carries forth that in "immediate contrast to the old feeling,
there is indeed a certain passivity to the sensation, as if you were
a leaf blown along by the wind, until you realize that you are both
the leaf and the wind. The world outside your skin is just as much
you as the world inside...they move together inseparably. Your body
is no longer a corpse which the ego has to animate and lug around.
There is a feeling of the ground holding you up, and of hills lifting
you when you climb them. Air breathes itself in and out of your
lungs, and instead of looking and listening, light and sound comes
to you on their own. Eyes see and ears hear as wind blows and water
flows. Time carries you along like a river, but never flows out of
the present; the more it goes, the more it stays...and all space
becomes your mind."
Now that some outlines of this Cosmic Consciousness, this Noetic
Gnosis, have been presented...let's look at this experience from some
other perspectives, beginning with questions.
What if this Cosmic Consciousness actually *is* another evolutionary
step for the human mind (as Bucke believes)? The experience does
seem historically recent...traceable back only a few millennia in time.
Is this new form of consciousness more of an in-road into the
Consciousness of the Cosmos...the Ground of All Reality? Is this
Noetic Gnosis, this Cosmic Consciousness, total or complete? Being
human, it is doubtful...but perhaps maybe it is *more* in terms of
grasping Cosmic Reality.
Working with the laws of evolution, are we parhaps being beckoned by
the Ahead, the Omega...Teilhard's concept of the Ground of Cosmic
There seems an evolutionary movement afoot, moving from the religious
construct to the cosmic construct. Yesterday's "seers" were often
persecuted in their own time, later restored either to sainthood or
even relegated to being sons of God. Translating from the "noetic
gnosis" of such special people, lesser souls built whole institutional
religious systems (and power hierarchies) around these supra-conscious
experiences. Eventually, through this translation, so much of the
experience of the initial gnosis became lost. Still, perhaps not
entirely totally! These great religious systems, built upon a
teacher-prophet-founder's gnosis, have served to perpetuate humanity's
cultural and moral evolution.
But, alas, dissolution sets-in. Our present era is witness to this
eroding dissolution of our old religious traditions and institutions.
Yet the Peak Experience, the Noetic Gnosis, continues...but not yet
having found a new place within a new societal container system.
Currently there seems to be no perceptable translation of Noetic Gnosis
into "something." So wher might supra-conscious awareness head?
Presently it looks diffused, but maybe not for long. Consider
Teilhard's conception of a Noosphere...not only in terms of empirical,
intellectual knowledge but also a spiritual knowledge synthesizing
into a Great Consciousness Base of the Planet. We seem to have the
necessary ingredients already in place: the advanced communications,
an on-going spiritual revolution...New Age, New Consciousness
Movements, etc...an integration of studies through systems research
and interdisciplinary programs, and a world community of minds coming
together via the Internet.
Though still partial, perhaps our individual consciousnesses are
slowly here and there evolving into supra-consciousness, Noetic Gnosis,
that will ultimately become the forerunner for what will become
the Earth's Noosphere. If possible, than it just as possible that
other Noetic Congregations will rise forth from the presumed higher
life-forms throughout the Cosmos...to become the *whole unfoldment*
of Cosmic Consciousness!