Richard Maurice Bucke (1837-1902) Richard Maurice Bucke

Richard Maurice Bucke is a figure situated at an early intersection of literary criticism, comparative mysticism, and psychiatry. He is perhaps best known in literary circles as Walt Whitman's biographer, doctor, literary executor, and disciple. However, Bucke was also a pioneer in the field of mental health, instituting a wide variety of reforms in the London, Ontario asylum where he served as superintendant. As the author of Cosmic Consciousness (1901), one of the first works to place mystical experience in a secular, psychological framework, Bucke was also one of the pioneers in the study of comparative mysticism. Bucke's own mystical experience of "cosmic consciousness" was used by William James as an example in The Varieties of Religious Experience and has since become one of the classic accounts used by scholars of mysticism. However, many of the scholars who use Bucke's experience as an example fail to understand the profound and far reaching effect which Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass had on Bucke's experience, how he chose to express it, and the ideas that it opened up and authorized for him.

Early Life




© 2002 Steve Marsden