Do Africans have cosmic consciousness?


Bucke, Richard Maurice (1901). Cosmic Consciousness. Philadelphia: Innes and sons.

Ozodi Osuji

      Based on an experience that he had, this 36 years old Canadian Psychiatrist authored a book he titled Cosmic Consciousness.

      One evening he was with a bunch of friends; they read the famous poets of his time, such as Shelly, Yeats and Whitman. Around midnight he left to go home. This was in the nineteenth century when people travelled by horse buggies. So, he was returning to London in this buggy when he felt at peace with himself and with life in general; he felt that life is good and was happy. Suddenly, he felt like he was surrounded by a cloud of fire, and he looked and realized that the fire was inside him, not outside him. This episode, he said, lasted for a few minutes but during those few minutes he said that he learned more than he had learned all his life; he knew for certain that the universe is not composed of dead matter but is alive and meaningful and that life is eternal, permanent, and changeless; he felt blissfully happy and joyous. Thereafter, he drifted back to his normal self-consciousness, living from his five senses and seeing the universe those senses show him, the three-dimensional universe of space, time and matter, a place we are born, grow old and decrepit and suffer and die. He said that for a long while, though, he basked in the afterglow of the experience he just had.

      What was the experience? He read many books and thereafter called it Cosmic Consciousness. His book is an attempt to describe what cosmic consciousness is.

      According to him, cosmic consciousness is an experience that makes one’s consciousness transcend one’s usual self and  one feels one with the entire universe and in that experience knows that life is not what physicists tell us; we are not living in an accidental universe composed of matter that is careening to self-destruction; instead, life is meaningful, there is a reason why things happen to each of us; in the long run, everything will work out well for all people. 





     Based on his studies, he categorized consciousness into three types; first, is what he called animal species consciousness; each animal species, he said, is aware of its kind and is aware of its body and does feel pain; some animals do take wonderful care of their offspring, but to the best of our knowledge, animals are not ratiocinative and do not have language; they do not seem to have the type of intelligence that human beings have, intelligence that disposes them to struggle to understand their world and build civilizations.

     The second level of consciousness is what he called self-consciousness; this is the type found in human beings. Each human being, he said, is aware that he has a self that is separated from other selves and although he is living in the universe he feels apart from it; this is the consciousness that makes us reflect on our actions and wonder whether what we did is right or wrong; it is also the consciousness that makes us posit gods that we feel  will protect us if we obeyed them and punish us when we disobey them. Human beings have a sense of sin and feel ashamed of their nakedness and hide it; where did they get that sense of shame and guilt (we all know about the Jewish cum Christian Garden of Eden mythology but is that the origin of our sense of sin?).

     The third level of consciousness is what he called cosmic consciousness; now only a few human beings, such as Buddha, Lao Tzu, Jesus Christ, and Mohammed, he said, have attained this level of consciousness; but he sees it as evolutionary and in millions of years all people will attain it. In cosmic consciousness one transcends species consciousness and self-consciousness and knows oneself to be one with the entire universe and feel connected to all things and loves all things as one loves one.

      Dr Bucke said that people who are going to have cosmic consciousness tend to do so early in their lives, it is seldom had  after age forty (Mohammed was 40 years old in 610 AD when he had his encounter with the angel Gabriel  who he said dictated the Koran to him; Jesus had it before age thirty, Buddha had it at age 34, and Bucke had it at age 36). Dr Bucke implied that those who have this experience are advanced people, that they are more developed than the rest of humanity and thus the rest of humanity does not know what they are talking about.

     William James, in his book, Varieties of Religious experience, said the same thing; Evelyn Underhill, in her book, Mysticism, agrees.

     Indeed, in our present world, psychologists tend to suspect that those who claim to have had this unitive experience have brain disorder, epilepsy or a hole in their brain’s frontal lobe.

     When I had it, a psychologist friend of mine asked me to go see a neurologist to see if I had developed some kind of brain tumor that made me leave my body, travel in darkness, travel towards a point of light, and when I was at the gate of  the world of light forms I was standing with my mother who had recently died; she asked me if I wanted to join their world or go train my children and I chose to return to go train my children. My German atheistic psychologist friend made so much fun of my experience that to shut her up, I told tell to leave my room and go outside and smoke her cigarettes and drink her wine.

     Dr Bucke believes that human beings are progressing from animal species consciousness towards self-consciousness, us today, and in the future will reach cosmic consciousness; something will change in our brains to make us have these experience and from it know that life is eternal.

     He said that the experience is a very natural experience and those whose brains have reached the point of refinement that can manage it, will experience it; folks do not need to flagellate themselves before the false gods that religions invent and through which they control the masses.

     The man engaged in idealistic thinking; he sees the progress of science and technology making it possible for us to provide all human beings with decent economic living and banish poverty; riches and poverty, he said, are the two sins of society; he sees us living in cooperative socialist societies where we know that we are connected to each other and serve each other’s needs; people will no longer be just animals struggling for survival at the expense of other animals.

     What the man said about the future society reminds one of what one read in Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto, from each according to his abilities and to each according to his needs. Marx waxed poetic and said all people’s needs will be met in his communist society so that folks work only a few hours a day and spend the rest of their time reading and studying science and writing poetry and life is beautiful.

    American capitalists who like to see the masses living in great poverty so that the owners of capital exploit them have not read Dr Bucke; Dr Milton Friedman, the great apologist for capitalism ought to have read Bucke!

     As a social democrat, and mixed economist, I tend to believe that Friedman and company are in the heart of hell, for they encouraged America to tolerate the obscene poverty in the land of the rich, a place of homelessness where a few live in multi million dollars mansions.


     The reason that I decided to write this brief comment on Dr Bucke’s book is what he said about Black people. Like most English men of his time, they tended to classify humanity into levels of development.

      For some reason, the European have always seen the Asian as more philosophically developed than white folks, so Dr Bucke said as much and saw white folks as close to Asians.

    In IQ tests designed by the white man, the average Asian scores 115, the average white person scores 100, the average black person scores 85; at Scholastic Aptitude Tests designed by the white man, out of 1600 possible points, the average Asian scores 1250, the average white person scores 1150 and the average black person scores 850; if you use raw scores to admit people to universities, American and European Universities would be the preserve of Asians!

      Without describing the offensive stuff that the man said about Africans, one can put it thus: they are closer to animals and are not yet capable of spiritual development. Their religion is of the primitive variety where they pray to an imaginary God in the sky and ask him to give them wealth so that they do not have to work for it. This is infantile religion; adult religion is that which teaches people to care for each other.

     In Africa folks do not care for each other, folks live self-centered lives; they steal from each other, sold each other to Arab and European slave buyers, all to make money.

     As we talk, in Nigeria folks kidnap folks and hold them hostage for monetary ransom; they kill people like they are flies; Nigerian politicians see government as a place they go to steal from, not a place from which they work for the good of the public. Another name for Nigeria is Criminals’ Empire.

     Dr Bucke, despite writing beautiful stuff about the future of humankind, has a negative impression of Black folks. One wonders whether he even thinks that Africans will reach his visualized future El Dorado or whether they are cursed to be stuck in the jungle?

     I am not really going to try to refute what the man said about Africans. However, I would like to ask a question, why is it that those who observe the human races always place Asians at the top, Europeans in the middle and Africans last and, indeed, have contempt for Africans.

    David Hume, remember him, the epitome of empiricism, logical positivism and science was so afraid of Asians that in the 1700s he predicted that Asians would take over world civilization; as for Africans he saw them as incapable of civilization. Edward Gibbons, in his magnificent work, the Decline and Fall of Rome, said that Africans are incapable of real religion, that they have not initiated any world religion; Buddha initiated Buddhism, Jesus Christ, whom Europeans see as white, initiated Christianity, and Mohammed initiated Islam. What universal religion has an African initiated, the man asked?

     If you know why the rest of the world disparage Africans, please educate me. And since this is a universal perception of Africans, what would Africans do differently to get the rest of humanity to see them as on the same playing field with them?

     The reader should bear in mind that if folks see Africans as spiritually dense (Nigerian pastors have so bastardized Christianity that they actually see it as serving the purpose for their flock to give them money to live well while the folks live in abject poverty), they will continue discriminating against them; you may ask people to respect you all you want but if they assess your behavior as self-centered, they are not going to respect you.

     What country is craving for Africans to come live in it; white folks go to India and China to recruit them to come work and live in the USA, Canada and Europe but bundle Africans into the next available plane and send them back to Africa.

     At present, Ukrainian refugees are welcomed with open doors while Haitian refugees are whipped and sent back to Haiti. Why is this so?

     And do not tell us that Africans built ancient Egypt, for, whereas that may or may not be true, the Africans of today do not seem able to run their countries and run everything they touch to the ground and then blame whoever they can for their incompetence.

     Something needs to change in Africa and the Black world for the rest of the world to take them seriously.

      If you are an African, have you ever applied for a job in the USA? Do you really think that white employers would employ you, if not pressured to do so by affirmative action laws? They would rather employ dogs than you. And you know why, they believe that you are not intelligent.

     Are you intelligent? Have you shown it in governing Africa right?


     Dr Bucke gave us a litany of human beings who have experienced cosmic consciousness, including Blaise Pascal, and many Asians but did not include an African who have had that experience.

     Do Africans have cosmic consciousness, aka unitive experience of oneness with the entire universe? Write about Africans who have had such experience and demonstrate how thereafter they treated all humanity as one family, lovingly.

Ozodi Osuji

April 25, 2022

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