The modern image of bodies being magically transported into heaven has been around since the mid 1700’s, but the actual concept has been around for several thousand years. While modern interpretations of the rapture envision a collective experience happening worldwide at the same time, the reality is that the rapture is an individual experience and has been happening to people since long before Jesus walked the earth.
The word rapture means to be caught-up, an abduction of sorts, to be seized, especially by a mystical or spiritual experience. The subject fascinated Richard Maurice Bucke, head of the London Psychiatric Hospital in Ontario, Canada. Twenty years of research resulted in his classic book, Cosmic Consciousness, published in 1901 (currently still in print). His description of the classic mystical experience, where one suddenly finds him, or herself, in the presence of God and all physical surroundings vanish, is totally consistent with the historical use of the term rapture.
In essence, Paul’s experience on the road the Damascus is just such an experience, and is included in the book, Cosmic Consciousness. Many founders of religious organizations have had these mystical experiences, including the Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad, Saint Francis of Assisi and Paramahansa Yogananda. Many of our most popular writers and poets, such as Walt Whitman, Shakespeare, Emerson, and Yeats have also had these experiences and have entered into a much higher level of understanding as a result of pursuing their spiritual insights from being raptured in this manner.
That tradition continues today with the founder of the Gnostic Wisdom Foundation having had such a rapture experience and his pursuance of the spiritual truths revealed, both within that state, and in successive spiritual experiences. This state of Cosmic Consciousness, known by the newer term of Christ Consciousness, is identical with the Buddhist concept of spiritual enlightenment.
While many instances of Christ Consciousness and enlightenment are associated with the classic mystical experience, far more people enter into the experience of Christ Consciousness through study and constant spiritual growth without the mystical experience. The gradual path is by far the more common method of enlightenment. In many ways, it is like the Hollywood star that becomes an overnight success after 17 years of hard work. There is a great deal of learning, individual practice and dedication that goes into becoming enlightened and attaining this level of consciousness. Many people would see the process as one of sacrifice, but it is a matter of releasing the worthless to make room for the valuable: sacrificing the illusion to acquire what is real.
The essence of the Christ Consciousness is the realization that oneness is the only reality, truth is the only value, and love is the only power.