The Faces of Reason: An Essay on Philosophy and Culture in English Canada, 1850-1950

By Leslie Armour; Elizabeth Trott | Go to book overview

TEN
THE SELF -TRANSCENDENCE OF REASON, AND EVOLUTIONARY MYSTICISM

Richard M. Bucke and William D. Lighthall

BUCKE AND LIGHTHALL hold a curious but important place in this story: Bucke Cosmic Consciousness1 has had a continuous and large audience in Canada, the United States, and England since its publication in 1901, shortly before his death. The first edition of 500 copies sold out slowly, but word of it spread and, through a variety of publishers, it has remained in print ever since. Lighthall, as poet, anthologist, and literary organizer exercised a lasting influence on Canadian literature.

Yet Carl Klinck Literary History of Canada contains only one mention of Bucke--a casual remark in an essay by Northrop Frye.2 In the chapters which form the telephone book of Canadian philosophy, he is altogether omitted. Lighthall's name is scattered through several essays in that massive volume, but he, too, is missing from the list of philosophers--though philosophers as different as John Laird and F. C. Schiller seem to have found something of interest in his work.

There are evident reasons for this. Neither Bucke nor Lighthall was a professional philosopher, though Lighthall frequented philosophy conferences and is reputed to have corresponded with a good many "professionals." Bucke was a physician and the director of a large mental hospital. His contributions to the treatment of mental illness continue to be remembered. Lighthall was a lawyer, a patron of the arts, a friend of learning, and, beyond doubt, a learned man.

____________________
1
Richard Maurice Bucke, Cosmic Consciousness ( Philadelphia: Innes & Sons, 1901; reprint paperback ed., New York: E. P. Dutton, 1969).
2
Carl F. Klinck, general editor, and Alfred G. Balley, Claude Bissell, Roy Daniels, Northrop Frye. and Desmond Pacey, eds., The Literary History of Canada: Canadian Literature in English, 1st ed. ( Toronto: University, of Toronto Press, 1965), p. 832. ( Second edition published by University of Toronto Press in 3 vols., 1976.)

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