This anonymous scientist has a Ph.D. in Chemistry and was a government researcher who authored some 60 publications in his field during the 50s and 60s. He is now 89 years old and retired.
I find it particularly interesting that this scientist has stayed with the paradox of having seen, at the deepest possible level of experience, that the world is perfect and all to the good in his Cosmic Consciousness (CC) experience, but has continued to wrestle with the horrors of modern life, such as Hitler’s murder of his mother. Most of us have a difficult time with paradox and tend to go to one extreme of belief or the other to avoid the conflict, but modern psychological studies have shown that one of the major signs of real maturity is an increased ability to tolerate and work with conflict and paradox, rather than suppress it.
Readers may want to compare this experience with Allan Smith’s.
Cosmic Consciousness Experience at Age 16
CC Experience, Part 1.
The year was 1927 and I was 16 years old. I was sitting in our living room and had tuned into a certain radio station to listen to “Die Schoene Muellerin,” a group of songs by Franz Schubert.
The reason I had tuned in this program was that I wanted to learn to appreciate and enjoy classical music. Almost everybody I knew enjoyed, or pretended to enjoy, classical music and I felt that I was missing something because it was almost painful for me to have to sit through any musical performance of classical music.
I was listening to the music and looking through the open window at a tree in the garden, when something strange happened. I felt that I had left my body and had become one with the tree in the garden, with the pebbles on the garden paths and with everything else in the universe. I felt some mild amusement seeing my body sitting there in the living room. I had a feeling of indescribable bliss, a feeling that everything was, is, and forever will be as it should be, and could not be any other way, and that time did not pass, that the future was contained in the past and the past contained in the future, and there was only one time, time present.
I don’t know how long this state of ecstasy lasted. It might have been a few seconds or several minutes. One thing I am sure of is that it could not have lasted for more than half an hour, because the Schubert program I had listened to was still on. But the music that came over the radio waves now was no longer the classical music that I had found so boring. It was heavenly music such as I had never heard before.
The above description does not do justice to what I experienced. Much later, some 40 years later, I found a much better description in R. M. Bucke’s Cosmic Consciousness. Here is an excerpt: “….there came upon me (R. M. Bucke) a sense of exultation of immense joyousness accompanied or followed by an intellectual illumination impossible to describe. Among other things, I not merely came 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 then; I saw that all men are immortal; that the cosmic order is such that without any doubt all things work together for the good of each and all… 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 century which has since elapsed. I knew that what the vision showed was true…”.
Contributor’s Comments on the Experience
CC Experience, Part 2, 1927 -1957
The memory of my CC experience slowly faded away over a period of about 3 years. For a while I was able to conjure up this experience and put myself into a “trance,” so to speak. If at that time I would have had access to LSD, I almost certainly would have become a drug addict. But in Vienna in the 1920s, psychedelic drugs, Yoga, transcendental meditation (TM), etc., were not known, at least not as far as I was aware of it.
What added to my frustration was that I was not able to talk to anybody about my experience. I was certain that my parents would have taken a dim view of my story and probably would have arranged for me to be psychoanalyzed, because psychoanalysis at that time was the accepted cure for persons who suffered from such delusions. Eventually I came to believe that my experience was the result of changes that take place during puberty. There was, however, a problem with this theory.
I had assumed that every boy would have had, at one time or another, a similar experience. But when I talked to my schoolmates and inquired, ever so carefully – I did not want to make a fool of myself – about their “experiences,” all I got was blank stares. I only had two explanations for their responses. Either they were too embarrassed to admit to such an experience, or they wanted to pull my leg. Eventually I stopped asking, but I never stopped hoping that some day I would meet somebody with whom I could talk about my experience. In the course of years I developed a technique of probing people I met who, I sensed, might have had a similar experience.
But it wasn’t until 1957, 30 years later, that I met Herb. Herb was a chemist who had come to our research group and I was showing him around our laboratory. He had served in WWII in an army detachment that had the difficult and dangerous task of advancing ahead of the main force to scout and to blow up bridges. There was something about him that told me that he may understand if I asked him whether he ever in his life had an experience similar to mine. Without hesitation and without blinking an eye he told me yes, he had a very vivid and profound experience when he was in the army. His experience occurred at the age of 32, and he was surprised that mine came at the relatively young age of 16.
CC experiences happen, he told me, relatively frequently but as a rule usually in the 30s and not in the teens. He also told me to read R. M. Bucke’s classic Cosmic Consciousness, which I did. It was an eye-opener. I finally knew that I was not alone, and that CC experiences, while not common, were part of human nature. Then I read Tart’s Altered States of Consciousness and a lot about Transcendental Meditation (TM) and psychedelic drugs. I began to wonder: Was there a difference between spontaneous and drug (LSD) induced CC experiences?
It wasn’t until the “Tucson II” Conference, “Toward a Science of Consciousness 1996,” that I found an answer to my question. There I attended a talk by A. L. Smith and C. T. Tart entitled “A first person comparison of cosmic consciousness and psychedelic experiences.”
It is now September 2000, and 73 years have passed since that day of my “epiphany” in 1927. What remains in my memory today is but a faint afterglow, like the cosmic background radiation left over from the blinding fire ball of the big bang.
When I retired in 1978 I had collected so many books, files, reprints and references on determinism that I had run out of bookshelves and filing cabinets.
Something had to be done about that. So I decided to put down on paper all the ideas on determinism and the meaning of my life that had been running around in my head since that CC experience.
After Hitler and the Holocaust – my mother was killed in an Ausswitch gas oven – not much was left of the beauty, peace and bliss of my dream/experience except that cosmic feeling that everything was the way it had to be and could not be any other way. It was easy for me to find confirmation of that part of my dream/experience in math, cosmology, evolution, science and even in my own field, chemistry. The great discoveries made in these fields in my lifetime provided me with incontrovertible evidence that the universe and I, as an integral part of the universe, were not here by accident but as the result of a series of law-determined and, therefore, predetermined events.
But that certainty, that everything was as it had to be, was only part of my dream/experience. Where was the other part that everything was in harmony and that all things worked together for the good of each and all? Where was the Grand Design I felt I was a part of?
Over the years I had collected poems which described better than I could have done the interconnectedness and interdependence of everything in this universe.
These poems are reminiscent of descriptions of cosmic consciousness experiences, conveying a feeling of being at one with the universe and of time standing still. Such CC experiences are described by Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist mystics and reported in books such as Mysticism, Sacred and Profane by R .C. Zaehner, The Variety of Religious Experience by William James and Cosmic Consciousness by R. M. Bucke.
“In the heaven of Indra, there is said
to be a network of pearls, so arranged
that if you look at one you see all the
others reflected in it. In the same way
each object in the world is not merely
itself but involves every other object
and in fact IS everything else.”
(Sir Charles Eliot, Japanese Buddhism, Barnes and Noble, 1969, pp. 109-110)
“To see the world in a grain of sand
And heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour”
“Every individual substance involves
in its perfect notion the whole universe,
and everything existing in it, past,
present and future.”
(Leibniz, G. H. R. Parkinson, Leibniz Philosophical Writings, J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, London 1973, p. 90)
“Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past’
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Points to one end, which is always present.”
“I celebrate myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loaf and invite my soul,
I lean and loaf at my ease…observing a spear of summer grass.”
(Walt Whitman, Leaves Of Grass)