Disciples Visitor Center Script: Maurice Bucke
Wednesday December 02nd 2009, 12:28 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Maurice Bucke Maurice Bucke pic 2

Maurice Bucke was born Richard Maurice Bucke in England 1837. His parents migrated to Canada where he was raised in a large farm working family. At age 16 he left home, traveling south through North America. When Maurice was 20 he was the sole survivor of a California silver mining party. He survived by walking over the snow topped mountains which claimed one of his feet and several toes.

Shortly after Maurice made his recovery he received an inheritance which allowed him to attend medical school. After graduation he worked as both a ship surgeon and a small town Dr. but Maurice’s true calling was with psychiatry. After further traveling and studying Maurice finally moved back to Canada where he married and had 8 children. He then landed his dream job as a superintendent of the asylum for the insane.

Although Maurice was a Dr. he had a strong passion for literature and an even greater appreciation after he read “Leaves of Grass” for the first time in 1869.  It’s rumored that Maurice enjoyed the book so much that he had it memorized in its entirety. In 1872 after reading poetry with friends Maurice claimed to have an epiphany which brought him to a better understanding of life. He’s quoted in saying he was “lifted to and set upon a higher plane of existence”. It was this experience that later led to the writing of his most popular book Cosmic Consciousness, which claimed there was 3 stages in the development of consciousness the simple consciousness of animals, the self consciousness of humanity, and cosmic consciousness where the most successful and spiritual people reached. These people included the likes of Jesus, Muhammad, Dante, and yes of course Walt Whitman. Maurice’s claim that Whitman was higher in spirituality and importance gave him a lot of criticism.

Maurice’s break through theory of mental development wasn’t so far fetched as many ideas of the time revolved around evolution after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species.

In Philadelphia on business Maurice looked Whitman up and the two became close friends. In 1880 Whitman spent the summer with Maurice in Canada, observing the behavior of the mentally challenged. It was from this experience that Whitman wrote “Sunday with the Insane” in Specimen Days.

In addition to writing the cosmic consciousness Maurice also authored Whitman’s first biography in 1883. Maurice’s biography of Whitman was actually a collaboration of the two men. Whitman advised him in his writing and also wrote some portions of it himself. Whitman even stood in as editor to his work because he was always uncomfortable with Maurice’s inclination to portray him as a demi-god. Instead Whitman emphasized his own personality.

After the collaboration the two men stayed close friends and Maurice acted as Whitman’s private physician after his stroke in 1888 and continued to be until his death. After Whitman’s death Maurice lived for 10 more years until he slipped on a patch of ice and died from head trauma at 65.

Works Cited

Kaplin, Justin.Whitman Poetry and Prose. The Library of America Edition. Copy right       .          1996. Walt Whitman (1819–1892).  Prose Works. 1892. I. Specimen Days,              .           “Sunday with the Insane” p. 902-903

Nelson, Howard. The Walt Whitman Archive. Disciples: Biography, Richard Maurice


Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 22 July 2004. Wikimedia Foundation. 10 Aug. 2004

2 Comments so far
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It is interesting to see a spiritualistic approach inspired by Whitman’s work. While Whitman never really supported any creed, his verse on nature and on the body and the self could be congruent to these concepts.

Comment by lizmoser 12.03.09 @ 7:30 pm

Im thankful for the blog post.Much thanks again. Really Cool.

Comment by Aurora Ridings 01.14.12 @ 11:25 pm

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