When I was in my twenties I read a book called Cosmic Consciousness by a 19th-century psychiatrist named Richard M. Bucke. Dr Bucke had had an amazing vision that descended on him out of the blue. It only lasted a few moments, but he spent the rest of his life trying to understand what had happened. In his book he described it as an overwhelming sense of “oneness with the cosmos”, utter “exaltation”, and “intellectual illumination” that felt absolutely real yet completely blissful.

He named his experience “cosmic consciousness”. Bucke believed that cosmic consciousness was not supernatural but ...


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