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The origins of the New Age movement … RM Bucke

In 1870 the psychiatrist R M Bucke had an extraordinary experience that transformed his understanding of the relationship between consciousness, wellbeing and mundane life. He described the experience of “Cosmic Consciousness” as follows:

“All at once without warning of any kind… there came upon me a sense of exultation, of immense joyousness accompanied or immediately followed by 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 world, of all the worlds, is what we call love, and that the happiness of each and is in the long run absolutely certain…” 

This experience compelled Bucke to write what has now come to be understood as the first new age bestseller, called “Cosmic Consciousness”. In it he proposed that almost every major influential figure in human cultural history, from Confucius to Lincoln, was motivated and influenced by transient experiential states of higher consciousness similar to the experience that he had had. He postulated that humanity was undergoing a collective evolution in consciousness which would lead to the advent of “a new age” of human awareness and behaviour. Bucke predicted that in the New Age people would be able to systematically access supramundane states of consciousness in such a way that their everyday, mundane behaviour was positively transformed for the benefit of personal and collective social wellbeing. RM Bucke is now widely acknowledged as the originator of the modern New Age movement.

About Dr Ramesh Manocha

Dr Ramesh Manocha MBBS BSc (med) PhD is a GP, educator and researcher. His PhD was completed at the Royal Hospital for Women and focused on the scientific evaluation of meditation and the mental silence experience. Ramesh is currently a senior lecturer at the Department of Psychiatry at Sydney University and is also the founder and convenor of Generation Next, a national circuit of professional development seminars for education, health and welfare professionals. View all posts by Dr Ramesh Manocha →
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