The theory of cosmoses draws a similarity between worlds. If man is a micro-cosmos, he mirrors the worlds above and below him. As his consciousness expands, he will perceive the similarities and gain a deeper insight into his place in the universe, indeed, into reality, seeing the unity within the seeming multiplicity. Man will perceive the meaning of the ancient Hermetic aphorism: As Above so Below and As Within to Without.
Hence the term cosmic consciousness: first, the self-consciousness of man as being a micro-cosmos, and then the objective consciousness of being made in the image of greater worlds. Only when man attains self-consciousness can he be considered a complete cosmos; only then does the door to objective consciousness – or cosmic consciousness – open.
Cosmic Consciousness in Myth
The similarity between worlds is better expressed in myths and imagery than in logic, which is why most ancient teachings taught in story form. In outlining the journey of man from sleep towards cosmic consciousness, we will draw from the Biblical creation myth as illustrated in the Byzantine mosaics of San Marco in Venice. However, we will be interpreting the inner meaning of this story rather than taking it literally, unprejudiced by Judeo-Christian preconceptions (for a deeper explanation on why the Bible has an inner and outer meaning, visit Ancient Wisdom).
The standard definition of the Greek word ‘Cosmos’ is:
- the world or universe regarded as an orderly and harmonious system;
- a complete, orderly and harmonized system;
- order and harmony.
The common denominator among these three definitions is ‘order’ and ‘harmony’. Strictly speaking then, a man able to maintain order and harmony within himself may be considered a cosmos. In contrast, a man whose inner world is chaotic and disharmonious is incomplete. Rodney Collin further refines the definition of ‘cosmos’ by borrowing from the Book of Genesis: to live up to the criteria of a ‘cosmos’, man must mirror the world above him, just as Adam was created in the image of God.
Cosmic Consciousness in the Book of Genesis
The Creation of a Cosmos
The Old Testament creation myth begins with a disorderly and chaotic world. In other words, the earth is not a cosmos. Through a sequence of six days, during which God systematically puts the world into order, separating its elements from each other and giving them form, God creates a harmonious universe.
This myth, stripped off its religious connotations, describes the creation of a cosmos.
The Creation of a Micro-Cosmos
To crown his creation, God creates a Man in his own image. This is the passage Rodney Collin refers to in the opening quotation of this page. While God has created innumerable creatures in the course of six days – cattle, beasts of the field, fish and fowl – man is the first instance in which he replicates Himself.
Man created in the image of God is a critical moment in the creation myth. The San Marco mosaics show God as Christ animating a naked man that shares his facial features. ‘Animate’ comes from the Latin ‘Anima’ or ‘soul’. By breathing into man the breath of life, God made man a living soul.
But what is man’s special feature? Let us note that, whereas a dog would qualify as being a cosmos by the standard definition, it falls short from Collin’s refinement. Having not being created in the image of God, and being unable to perfect and transcend itself, a dog – or any other creature – is incomplete.
A dog is capable of awareness; man is capable of consciousness.
The Potential of Consciousness
At the completion of creation, man is, therefore, endowed with a special quality, a potential yet unfulfilled. At face value, he roams the earth just as any other creature, with no evident advantage over the rest of creation.
However, this transcendance doesn’t mean that man is a god. According to George Gurdjieff, cosmoses aren’t identical. Being made in the image of isn’t the same as being made a God. On the eve of the last day, the preeminent Sabbath that ends the creation, man’s ability to transcend himself is yet to be made manifest. How will man fulfill his potential of being a Micro-Cosmos?
Continue reading: Consciousness in the Micro-Cosmos