- February 2017, #48
February 2017 - The War and The World, The Wisdom of the Overself, Chapter X
Although the copyright date on this book is 1943, the subject of this chapter is eerily relevant today. War is still manifesting in the world, but PB points out the source lies in the hidden side, the active unseen forces. He has written extensively about the causes and effects of war in several volumes: Volume 9 of the Notebooks, (Human Experience) and Chapter VIII, “The Evil in Our Time” in The Spiritual Crisis of Man are recommended study for a deeper understanding.
In the first para on p. 217 of “The War and the World” PB writes: “The chequered surface of history is largely a tale of tears and chance but its depths are a revelation of evolutionary unfoldment working alongside of karmic readjustment. There is a just logic in the sequence of historic events but it reveals itself only if we examine them by the doctrine of karma.” It goes on to point out that a metaphysical understanding is helpful to unwind the thorny knot.
Page 218: “They must take a different road and seek redemption from their past thinking. If they could get hold of right principles, they could not go far wrong in practical details. Action is but a reflection of attitude. The solutions of all our sociological and economic problems, for example, do not ultimately lie within sociology and economics alone but much more in psychology. Indeed, it may even be affirmed that without a re-education of mankind in meditational practices and philosophic truth - which includes psychology - all reformers labour largely in vain. The roots of our troubles lie in the imperfections of human nature and in the fallibility of human knowledge. Philosophy is not an aimless, useless study: it leads to right thinking, which is one of the most essential precedents of right living. It can offer not only a profound analysis of the past but also sound proposals for the future.”
Page 222: “During the course of our long planetary history, the general moral evolution rises and falls like a series of ascending arcs, but the terminal of each arc is spiral-like on a higher level than the terminal of the preceding one. Consequently, collective humanity always tends to show forth its worse characteristics before it shows forth its better ones. Such a terminal is being passed today and it is the business of the evil powers to make the most of their chance. Those who, through selfish bias, wishful thinking, undeveloped intelligence, or un-awakened intuition cannot understand the deeper significance of the present war will not also understand that the essential forces operating on both sides are far more than merely nationalistic, political or military ones. It is still more of a climacteric war of ideas and ideals of the unseen powers of Light and Darkness.”
This chapter continues with sub-headings of “The Social Crisis” and “The Personal Crisis.” We read on pages 227 and 228: Mankind is emerging from a tradition which once served it but now hampers it. The collapse of a debilitated culture, the break-up of a small-hearted economic order, the disintegration of an effete social order, and the decay of an outworn political order are inevitable historical processes, however excellent and worthy all these orders may have proved themselves in the past. Within the structures of these systems, valuable as they originally were on their own level, a spiritually progressive human life has now become less and less possible for the billions of human beings on this planet. …. A new world will be born out of the old one. This is an event which none can avert. It will be worse in some ways but better in others. To the extent that we plan this world unselfishly to suit worthwhile ideas and ideals, it will be a better one. To the extent that we let the crucial situation selfishly take its own course, it will be a worse one.” We will continue this topic in the next eteaching.
- December 2016, #47
December 2016 - The Notebooks, v. 4, pt. 2 - The Body (cont.)
The focus in this eteaching is on Diet http://paulbrunton.org/notebooks/5/3 and Exercise http://paulbrunton.org/notebooks/5/5
While this brief review cannot do justice to the wealth of information PB gives on diet in particular, the emphasis he places on it is too important not to note. In the section on Diet he writes: "The greatest of all diet reforms is the change from meat-eating to a meatless diet. This is also the first step on the spiritual path, the first gesture that rightness, justice, compassion, purity are being set up as necessary to human and humane living, in contrast to animal living." (ch. 2, para 5) He reveals the depth of his conviction concerning vegetarianism when he says, "If there is any single cause for which I would go up and down the land on a twentieth-century crusade, it is that of the meatless diet. It may be a forlorn crusade, but all the same, it would be a heart-warming one." (Ibid., para 6) "Why should we abstain from meat-eating? (a) Cultivated land if planted with vegetables, fruits, and nuts will yield much more food for an overpopulated world than it could yield if left under pasture for cattle and sheep. (b) The ghastly work of slaughter of these harmless innocent creatures, can be done only by hardened men, whose qualities of compassion and sympathy must inevitably get feebler and feebler. How many housewives could do their own butchering? (c) In terms of equal food value, the meatless diet costs less. (d) Animals which suffer from contagious diseases pass on the germs of these diseases to those who eat their flesh or parasites. (e) Meat contains excretory substances, purines, which may cause other, non-communicable diseases." (Ibid., para 11)
Chapter 6, "Breathing Exercises," covers many aspects of the benefits of deep breathing which the reader may want to try. Instruction such as Breathing Exercise to Improve, Control and Prevent Colds (ch. 6, para 11) and Breathing Exercises to pacify mind and body (ch. 6, para 17) are useful examples. He writes: "The reader should pay particular attention to the goals and dangers of breath control as they are listed several places in this chapter." (Ibid., para 19)
Chapter 9, "Postures for Prayer," gives meaningful information and instruction on "Seven Sacred Postures for Philosophic Prayer." (ch. 9, para 2) This includes graphic sketches of the postures. He writes, "...the exercises depolarize the physical body’s earthward gravitation and render it more amenable to the entrance of spiritual currents." (Ibid.) He names these exercises: 1) Standing and remembrance; 2) Stretching and worship; 3) Bowing and aspiration; 4) Kneeling and confessions; 5) Squatting and submission; 6) Prostrating and union; and 7) Gesturing.
- October 2016, #46
October 2016 - “The Body” from The Notebooks, Volume 4, Part 2
The information in these pages is a broad collection that brings together teachings of the East and the West on how to treat the body so that it serves the quester well and efficiently. PB invokes the present-day understanding of the connection between mind and body and asserts that both are mental in essence; in other words, he presents a philosophic understanding of Body. He has compiled his research into 9 sections ranging from a 19-page Prefatory to 8 sections on The Body, Diet, Fasting, Exercise, Breathing Exercises, Sex and Gender, Kundalini, and Postures for Prayer. He writes, “This thing, this fleshly body, which ascetics have hated and saints have despised, is a holy temple. The divine Life-force is always latently present in it and, aroused, can sweep through every cell, making it sacred.” (page 2 of section titled “The Body”)
The necessity of discipline is emphasized in the Prefatory. “On this Quest it is needful to calculate strength of will.” (p.12)
“The body is to be his servant, a willing and obedient servant. But it can carry out his bidding properly only if it is trained to do so, and easily only if it is strong and healthy.” (Ibid.)
“All through history, spiritual guides and religious prophets, ethical teachers and enrapt mystics have told humanity to elevate ideals, conduct, thought; to discipline self, passion, emotion; but they have seldom told humanity what practical procedure to adopt to make such drastic changes possible.” (Ibid.)
“If a man is told to be good, he is given counsel that may yet be worthless to him. If he is taught the Law of Recompense and told why it will profit him to be good, the counsel may appeal (should he be a reasonable man) but he may still lack the strength of will to implement it: he needs to be taught how to be good. The purification of the body is the first step in this direction.” (p. 12)
“Anyone who takes philosophy seriously enough will have to take to its discipline. This will assault his formed habits just as much as its psychology will assault his self-conceit. His way of living—his diet, sleep, and rest, for instance—will have to be examined and when necessary reformed.” (Ibid.)
“The Quester who is not hard with himself and not willing to reform his habits will not go so far or so quickly as the one who is both. Great yearnings for a better state are not enough; he must do something to gain it.” (p.13.)
“No ascetic discipline need be carried to an unnecessary extreme, nor further than its proper intention - which is to give physical self-control… If he is called upon for any of these abstentions in Philosophy, it is because they give strength to his will, protection to his meditations, purity and fitness to his body.” (p. 16-17)
“Modern existence is too often cluttered with too many material possessions. These demand care and attention, time and energy, thought and feeling, which the average Quester is rarely able to find enough of to provide for study, reflection, and meditation anyway. Somewhere he will probably have to sacrifice something if he is to gain them for his spiritual need. A time usually comes when he finds it desirable to reorganize his way of life so as not to be encumbered by so many things.” (p.17)
- September 2016, #45
September 2016 -"Rebirth" from The Wisdom of the Overself (2015 ed.), Ch. 7, “The Scorpion of Death,” Section 4
This could be read as a dialogue between the individual and the higher self, much like the one between Arjuna and Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. PB calls this section “Rebirth,” not “Reincarnation,” and this points towards a higher understanding of the process we call death and what lies beyond. To the somewhat frightening aspect of confronting the relative truth of our existence, the teaching speaks of the necessity of recognizing the transiency of life and death. The first paragraph on page 157 reads,”If anything changes and passes away, it is because it turns into something else.” Questions previously asked were “who,” “what,” “where”; now they include “why” “whence” “whither.” Once these questions are understood, a different understanding arises.
“Rebirth” includes a recall of previous chapters of The Wisdom of the Overself and reminds us that we need a metaphysical background to understand the mystery of life and death. Near the bottom of page 161, PB refers to the 5th chapter, “The Metaphysics of Sleep.” He explains, “…humanity can attain its fullest spiritual Self-realization only in the wakeful state of the physical world. Because the after-death regions here described are the equivalents to the dreaming and sleeping states only, it becomes needful for the imperfect spirit to return to earth again, where alone it can find the adequate conditions for its further progress. This is the final justification of rebirth.” When he explains once more the identification of the ‘I’-thought with the body-thought, which always arises second, he points out the initial error from whence our ignorance arises. The first paragraph on page 160 brings up the analogy of death to sleep when it explains that, “Each morning we reappear out of blank nothingness with all our personal character and particular tendencies intact.”
Page 158 explains, “For the released consciousness is only partially released by the critical transition of death. The multitude of expressions which it has gained during its incarnation have worn certain deep furrows of desire and habit. These tendencies attach themselves to and colour it completely. Not having yet understood that there is an ultimate and impersonal purpose to be attained in passing through these experiences in the earth-world, it has developed an excessive interest in them.”
The person asks, “Do we come back?” Well, no, if you mean “me”, the ego we identify with in body consciousness - no ‘we’ do not. Following the thread of the process, PB explains on page 157 that “those who ask for personal survival after death during an endless eternity are unconsciously asking for the everlasting survival of all their moral faults and defects, all their mental incapacities and limitations. This in turn implies that they are asking for the fixation of error and the stabilization of evil and ignorance.” Page 158 speaks of asking for ”the progressive change of personality, for evolution from the worst to the best, even though this involve a gradual letting go of the imperfect characteristics and traits of a particular personality and its gradual transformation into a diviner and grander being.”
Pages 158-9 deal with karma: “all [ties] are mental ties and so long as they exist, the ‘I’ necessarily continues to feel the need of the physical body which formed them.” Mentalism teaches that ”thought being creative, it will be driven by its own forces to return to earth again. All these ties need a new incarnation for their working out and adjustment. No world becomes real for us until we experience it, which means until we think it… Therefore, the spirit is inwardly impelled to think the space-time characteristics which will bring the earth back into its consciousness. Before this can happen, however, Nature so ordains matters that it has to pass through the intermediate period corresponding to dream wherein the earthly experiences just completed are first mentally digested.”
On page 159 we learn that” both mentality and perspective are, in the final analysis, results gained from former births. No experience is ever lost. All the innumerable memories of innumerable lives are subconsciously assimilated and transmuted into wisdom, into conscience, into tendencies, and into intuitions which spring from men know not where but which nevertheless influence their characters and lives….We cannot jump the hurdles which bar us from the winning post…. The one essential is right direction. There is no standing still. We must develop or degenerate.”
- August 2016, #44
August 2016 - The Inner Reality, Chapter 11 - Realization
“ THE GENERAL SUBJECT of the discourses in this final section of the Bhagavad Gita is the realization of the supreme being of man.” (p.165)
The knowledge spoken of here is that of “the Knower who dwells in all bodies.” PB calls this the Witness-Self. The whole Truth includes the knowledge of both the inner self and the external universe, the latter including the mental and spirit-worlds, but they are not the One Reality because the whole Truth is found only when you find the Overself. When you discover the supreme unity presented as both the inner self and the outer world, there is “no sense of duality, no divorce between spirit and matter. There is only one Reality in truth which cannot be divided into two.” The goal is the Truth which embraces everything. This is freedom because when you “learn to live in the material world by this higher light, you create no further destiny. .. Bondage to destiny is in the mind.” (p.166)
Some of the virtues which will aid the seeker are listed with the admonition that “no virtue in itself will ever give you understanding; the most it can do is to prepare you. Most essentially you need meditation, or mind-stilling and reflective inquiry.” PB lists humility as the first quality you need and non-injury follows. Helpfulness and compassion tend to dissolve the strength of the personal ego. He writes that “patience is hard to acquire….You must be confident that one day the great reward and grand results must come, and they will come at the right time. The precise time is dictated by destiny. Patience means that one must never desert this quest, even when conditions seem hopeless. You will find that because you stick to the path, help will come to you.” Steadfastness follows uprightness and service of the teacher. “You have to go through a stage of discipline in order to bring the body and mind to heel.” (pp. 167-8)
The description of the inner self which you find in meditation is different from the ultimate Self. “It is undivided because it is One, yet, strangely, it seems divided because every being and creature and plant has a fragment of that life,… an appearance which does not exist in actuality… We see the form die and change… but what has become of their life? It has returned to the Overself.” (pp. 169-70)
“That which seems to be carrying on in the world is simply Nature.” Nature is simply the cosmic mind which creates the forms around us. “The Overself itself has nothing to act for… We must not lose sight of the ultimate truth that the whole of this world is nothing but a mental appearance, because the Overself has nothing to act for on its own behalf. It is itself self-sufficient.” (p. 171)
“The Bhagavad Gita is one of the few scriptures in the world which definitely and purposely explain the principles and practices of the gospel of inspired action…. The disciple has a basis for life, for it is based on reality. He stands firm, for he feels no more doubt.” (p.182)
“The final lesson is that Divinity is everywhere. Everywhere God can be found, and God is good.” (p. 182)
- July 2016, #43
July 2016 - The Inner Reality, Part 3
The following para is a portion of a study guide prepared by Anna Bornstein, with PB’s assistance and comments, for a Swedish edition of The Inner Reality. The study guide will be listed on the website, www.PaulBrunton.org, in the section "Publications."
Bhagavad Gita, “The Lord’s Song”
This text describes the scene on a battlefield before the battle is to begin – one of the Indian avatars (divine incarnations) named Krishna instructs the young prince, Arjuna, who is the leader of the good forces which are fighting those who represent the forces of wickedness. The book is a mixture of bits of history and mythology and deals with a period at least 5,000 years ago, so it is now difficult to separate one from the other. The story may also be taken symbolically as representing the spiritual teachings given by the god Krishna to his devotee, prince Arjuna.
There are different teachings given in each chapter of the Gita. Krishna describes the different paths to the highest human goal, telling Arjuna to choose from them, but one of the reasons for this teaching is to show how to do one’s duty in the world and yet not be dragged down by it – inwardly, one must seek the highest goal.
SCRIPTURE OF THE YOGIS:
“The second portion of the Bhagavad Gita is illumined by the high revelation that the Overself exists everywhere, and that the whole of human struggle is really an unconscious quest for the satisfaction its protection alone offers. … One must practice meditation not only at set times but unceasingly, remembering the benefit of aspiration….When you can hold sacred self-remembrance continuously you have succeeded in your meditation. ... To succeed in your quest you must turn the mind inward, keeping it at rest in the heart center, while with the surface mind you are living the active life (p. 149).”
By penetrating the cosmic illusion with which Nature confronts us and understanding that this illusion exists only in our minds, we can be led to Truth. “Eventually science will be forced to the conclusion that force is a current which exists in your own mind (p.151).”
“If you make Truth your goal, you are looking for the very highest. You will find that Truth brings its own reward, because all other benefits troop after it. As Jesus said: ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and all these things shall be added to you.’ That is the root of the whole matter (p. 151).”
PB explains, “It is the great cosmic illusion which deceives you into thinking that this material world is real. Learn to still your mind by the daily practice of meditation. Since it is thought which produces illusion, it follows that when you can empty the mind of thought and achieve mental stillness, you are able to examine the world and observe its real nature (p.152).”
“The body and mind working together create in you the sense of being a separate person or individuality. Yet in the silence of meditation or at unexpected moments you sometimes catch a glimpse of another being in you which normally escapes attention. You feel it to be universal and impersonal. At such moments you are near the cosmic consciousness. You sense it without actually knowing it….
“If you begin to think steadily about what you really are in your innermost nature, the time will come when you find the answer to the question, “What am I?” The sole way by which it can be found is not by external vision or observation, but by entering into conscious unity with your reality (p.153).”
This section continues for several more pages, each sentence bringing light into us. PB’s modern words help us on our way to understanding truths that sages of all ages have sought to bring to mankind.
- June 2016, #42
June 2016 - The Inner Reality, Part 2
The next two PB eTeachings deal with the three chapters in The Inner Reality titled:
“The Scripture of the Yogis: 1. Renunciation,”
“The Scripture of the Yogis: 2. Revelation,”
“The Scripture of the Yogis: 3. Realization.”
They are PB’s commentary on the Bhagavad Gita.
“The Bhagavad Gita is one of the few scriptures in the world which definitely and purposely explain the principles and practices of the gospel of inspired action.” These words from The Inner Reality (p.182) indicate the high regard Paul Brunton has for this Indian classic which tries “in a remarkable manner” to satisfy the ideals of both the East and the West. He reveals in selected representative lines the esoteric meaning rather than the religious meaning in the Gita. He writes: “The beautiful simplicity and lofty quality of this Indian bible bring it into favourable and complementary light alongside of the New Testament. Krishna not only represents the embodied spiritual teacher, but he is ultimately the Overself within man, the God within who can illuminate all dark corners and answer all questions.” (p.128)
In the first section, “Renunciation,” the disciple receives the teaching to fight, i.e., to act, but asks, “Why shouldn’t I retire and let others perform the action? Life is obviously a dream; therefore I will sit still and watch the dream go by.” (p. 131) PB comments that while this indicates an advanced understanding, it does not include the realization that whatever you do, you cannot refrain from acting, since you are involved in mental action and cannot escape your thoughts. “Therefore be inwardly the witness of life, as you wish to be, but do not be afraid of it.” (p. 131) Since we have been sent here on earth, we cannot shirk the calamities of material life. We can, however, evade the conventional reaction to them. The Gita states:
Thy concern is with action alone, never with results. Let not the fruit of action be thy motive,
nor let thy attachment be for inaction. Steadfast in devotion do thy works,
O disciple, casting off attachment, being the same in success and failure. (p.131)
The ascetic and the would-be yogi may try to banish all thoughts, but the sage is not trying to do anything. “He understands and accepts thoughts, but he is not at their mercy, for he realizes what they really are and controls them effortlessly and spontaneously.” (p. 134)
The disciple desires to know why, “if understanding the truth is so necessary, he should be asked to plunge into activity.” (p. 134) The teacher replies:
“ In this world a twofold path was taught by Me at first, that of devotion to knowledge and that of devotion to action.” (p. 135)
The teacher describes the path of action. He stresses the performance of duty and the repayment of the debt which one owes to Nature. PB writes that “the real problem for the spiritual man is how to render efficient service and give himself up to his work in this feverish contemporary world, and yet remain loyal to his inner call.” (p. 135)
The teacher inculcates sacrifice, but it is a peculiar kind of sacrifice. It is a sacrifice of service. You must serve because it is right to serve, act because it is right to act, and then sacrifice the result of your actions to destiny. This path is appropriate for modern day life. It is PB’s belief that ancient wisdom must unite with modern science. (p.135)
PB concludes the first section with this quote:
“A divine purpose pulsates through the whole of Nature. He who learns the art of right meditation will ultimately put himself into harmony with that purpose, which will thenceforward use him as a holy instrument in his labours among the strayed sheep of mankind. The universal awareness of the one Overself as being present in all others, automatically brings him into perfect sympathy with all others, and therefore makes him yearn to bring them all into their own self-awareness. Because they are living in a physical world and in a physical body, the best way he can reach them is through physical means, which means a life of inspired activity.” (p. 135)
- April 2016, #41
April 2016 - The Inner Reality, Part 1
This new edition of Discover Yourself is a treasure trove of ideas for those new to PB’s writings, and for long-time readers a reminder of the comprehensive scope of teachings in this small volume. Looking within brings deeper and more spiritual meaning. Although Paul Brunton (PB) wrote this book in the late 1930s, it is perhaps even more relevant today. He provides a practical framework for spiritual development that includes one of the best guides to meditation--both for readers who have a Christian background as well as people who are simply interested in deepening their spiritual life and appreciating the East-West mystical teachings of Jesus and Krishna.
On page 7 of the “Prefatory,” PB expresses his hope : “Just as a slender ray of light creeping from the East betokens a broader dawn, so a man’s interest in these ideas may betoken the dawn of a deeper understanding of them.” And his belief that “by the time sensitive readers have gone through part or all of my books, there will remain a legacy of definite and vital experience, not only through reading their pages, but through the quiet rumination which should follow.”
Chapter II opens the dialogue with the vital question, “What is God?” It examines the variety of ideas that people hold about God: from a personal to an impersonal God. Scientists find that life exists everywhere and is present in every atom of matter throughout the universe. They picture God as this infinite power and life-current. Orthodox religion has usually pictured a personal God, an individualized Being Who rewards the adherents of that particular faith because they worship and praise Him. Much of the confusion in the religious world arises out of its dependence on feelings alone, unchecked by reason. The power which man has found in religion, the power to help him and to lift him up has come from man himself. He himself has given himself the guidance, help, exaltation and spiritual consolation which he believed he found in his church or in his faith or in his idea of God. When man has learnt to build a quiet church inside his own heart and to be a ministering priest to his own self, religion will have done its true work (pp. 10-11).
Other chapters in The Inner Reality include “A Sane Religion,” which explores how religions develop historically. It points out, “It is impossible to live entirely in the past when we seek for Truth. The present is just as real, just as useful, on this quest.”….” religion must be a personal thing, - a relationship between yourself as an individual, and God the Infinite Spirit- not between you and any organized institutions”. …“God is a spirit, so you must find God as spirit; it is something that needs no external demonstration”. ..”You can find it inside your own heart and in the secrecy of your most intimate feelings”. … “The only way in which religion can be established is by worship, not by argument or discussion”…. (pp. 23-24).
Chapter IV unfolds “The Mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven” as Jesus first explains his message to the world in The Sermon on the Mount, albeit in parables and similes. PB comments that the essence of the Sermon in contained in the beatitude with which it opens.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” The meaning of the Seven Beatitudes (combining the first two and the last two) can be understood only from the esoteric standpoint which means an initiation, the beginning of a new life, a new outlook, and a new understanding and is brought about only after you have learnt something of the art of meditation (p. 52).
The next two PB eTeachings will continue to explore teachings in The Inner Reality. Readers are invited to read and study along with us. A study guide prepared by PB will be posted shortly on the website.
- March 2016, #40 Part B
“THE SEARCH AFTER TRUTH”
from The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga, chapter 7(North Atlantic Books, 2015)
The tool with which a philosopher must needs work is his mind. The ancient sages did not permit a man to begin philosophic studies until he had put his mind into proper shape so that it could function efficiently (p.156) ….Western thinkers have made admirable attempts but they have failed to win success partly because they lacked this tool of a yoga-equipped, ego-purified and body-subdued mentality with which to force open the shut gate of truth (p.157).
The success of the ancient sages did not come from blindly believing the words of some personage; it did not come from yielding to the consolations of some religious book; it did not come from mystic intuition, that appeared suddenly and involuntarily; it did not come from the satisfactions of elementary yoga alone but also after long-laboured metaphysical thinking followed by the supreme yoga which swept the ego into the Universal All and stilled both thinking and feeling (p. 164) .
He (the philosopher) seeks a rock-like impregnable position. He rejects nothing in advance but he questions everything in the end to enquire if it be true, whereas unenlightened men deliberately divorce intuition from any contact with reason whilst unenlightened mystics deliberately refuse to submit their “truth” to any test. He will not be so foolish as to repel an intuition, for instance, but he will be ready to accept it only after he has controlled, examined and confirmed it.Thus mentally fortified he will so use his own intuitions or expert authorities that they may become a most useful help (p. 164).
Fidelity to reason does not debar but admits faith therefore, only it demands that we should test our beliefs and discover if they be true. It likewise accepts the existence of spontaneous intuition but asks that we check our intuitions and ascertain whether they be correct, not hesitating to reject them where found unsatisfactory. It unhesitatingly admires the unusual tranquility to be found in mystic meditations but counsels that we enquire rigorously whether the feeling of reality which it gives us be reality. It always approves of the exercise of logic in the organization of thinking but it points out that the operations of logic are strictly limited by the amount of available data and that at best logic can only rearrange in an orderly manner what we already explicitly or implicitly know. In short, it seeks firm verification (pp.164-165).
Now how can we test our beliefs, check our intuitions, enquire into the reality of meditation experience, know whether our logic is dealing with all possible facts or not and eliminate the errors of every one of these methods? There is but a single answer to all these queries, a single means of satisfying our doubts concerning them, and that is - we must begin and end with the canons of reason as the sole criterion of judgment. For it is only by critically reasoning upon them that such examinations can be fruitfully carried out (p.165).
A thorough conviction and an unassailable grasp of true principles can only be reached through the adequate exercise of thinking power intently concentrated and raised to its highest degree. No other method of approach can yield such an enduring correctness in every instance. And it will eventually be the sole means of obtaining world-wide agreement amongst all peoples and in all places on this globe, because reason cannot vary in its conclusions about truth; it is universally verifiable and will remain so a hundred thousand years hence. Such variations will however belong to what pretends to be reason. And they will also exist whenever reason is unjustifiably limited to the experience of waking state alone (p.165).
- February 2016, #39 Part A
The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga
One may well ask, “What is the Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga?” Paul Brunton offers explanation of how mastering yoga practices of quieting the lower mind and using reason to reach the higher mind can lead the sincere seeker to truth. He writes in Chapter VII, “It will now be clearer why, when describing the qualifications needed by the philosophic enquirer, great emphasis was laid upon the elimination of the ingrained human tendency to view things from an egoistic platform (p. 184).
The Arbitrament of Thinking Power
The weary traveler may well be provoked into asking whether the human mind is at all capable of solving ultimate problems. This is an important question…..Its answer involves the answer to other questions, such as “How do I get knowledge?” “What is meant by knowledge?” “Which kind of knowledge is true?”—all of which must be dealt with by the philosopher if he is to walk warily in the light and not dubiously in darkness…It is to the honour of Immanuel Kant that he was the first Western thinker to raise the question whether man possessed a mental instrument fit for knowing truth. He came to a negative conclusion. Fortunately we need not be so pessimistic for we shall find, as the ancient Indian sages found, that only the best awaits us in the end and that the riddle of life can be solved with man’s present resources. …. (pp.176-178).
The very occurrence in man of the desire to know, the need to understand, whether it take the form of belief or not indicates that ignorance is likewise there. Hence it is better to recognize that he must take to a different path if he would gain knowledge and this he can do only by beginning with doubt. Unless he introduces the element of courageous questioning into his everyday conceptions he cannot hope to learn more about their validity (p.183).
God has endowed us all with—in however feeble a degree—with thinking power, with the potential capacity to discriminate and reason for ourselves. Should we not, therefore, use His gift and not scorn it?... (p. 180).
Authoritarianism has its undeniable place and is indeed absolutely indispensable for regulating the affairs of society. We are studying the question from a higher dimension altogether, that of philosophy, the search for ultimate truth and for the time beingthe reader must drop the lower dimension of thought completely; otherwise he will mix the issues and bewilder his mind (Ibid.).
There must be adamant refusal to be overawed by authority. There must be an attitude which keenly probes and dissects every dogma which is set up for consumption; there must be a freedom from the ancient prejudices and irrational predilections implanted by heredity, environment, and experience; there must be the courage to resist the emotional pressure generated by conventional social forces, a pressure which carries most people along the stream of untruth, dissimulation and selfish interest (pp.180-181).
(To be continued)
- January 2016, #38 Mystical Practices
This excerpt is only a portion of the “Two Essays” found in Volume 8 of the Notebooks. It is given in hopes that the reader will continue the reading and be encouraged to pursue the mystical practices.
My Initiations into the Overself
The reluctance to put in the present chapter arises partly because it touches private, intimate, and sacred moments, and partly because it will necessarily be so prolific in first-person pronouns that it will sound far too egotistic. Its very virtue may appear as its vanity. But I know from wide experience that such a narration will help those who are already seeking the Overself to recognize certain important signs on their own way, to learn where the correct path should lead them, and, above all, to confirm them in the necessity of hope. I believe, too, that it may give those who are not questers but ordinary people more faith that God does exist and more trust in the ultimate beneficence of God's World-Idea. If it serves also in such ways, it can only do a little good to write and release this record.
Although a writer never really knows how much good or how much harm his work does (for the reports of its results are few and far between), if his aim is to serve he need not be concerned about those results. He would do his best and find peace in the thought that man and fate will take care of them. So I follow the practice and counsel of an old Greek monk, Callistus Telicudes, who wrote: "One ought not to keep what is learned by Meditation, but one should make notes of it and circulate the writings for the use of others." This is why I communicate these inner experiences to those who might be helped, to those who might receive more vision of and more belief in life itself.
Before I reached the threshold of manhood and after six months of unwavering daily practice of meditation and eighteen months of burning aspiration for the Spiritual Self, I underwent a series of mystical ecstasies. During them I attained a kind of elementary consciousness of it.
If anyone could imagine a consciousness which does not objectify anything but remains in its own native purity, a happiness beyond which it is impossible to go, and a self which is unvaryingly one and the same, he would have the correct idea of the Overself.
There are not a few persons who have known infrequent occasions when their ordinary mentality seems to lapse, when their feeling for beauty and goodness seems to expand enormously, and when their worldly cynicism falls away into abeyance for a short time. The place may seem perfect for this experience, but it may also seem quite the opposite--such as a noisy metropolitan street. There are many other persons who have known the beauty of a great musical symphony and felt its power to draw the emotions into a vortex of delight or grandeur. Such persons can more easily imagine what this rapturous emotional mystical experience is like. But they may not know that under the ordinary human consciousness there is a hidden region whence these aesthetic feelings are drawn.
It was certainly the most blissful time I had ever had until then. I saw how transient and how shallow was earthly pleasure by comparison with the real happiness to be found in this deeper Self. Before my illumination the solitary scenes of Nature's grandeur usually served as my greatest form of inspiration. I could become so absorbed in admiring such beauty that I would feel swallowed up in it for a period of time and fall into a tranquil state. After my illumination I no longer became totally absorbed in such scenes. They remained something separate from me: I was detached from them. The emotional exaltation they aroused was less or lower than the peace and joy I felt in the Overself. Yet this spatial detachment did not prevent me from enjoying nature, art, and music to an even greater and more satisfying extent than previously. The detachment gave me freedom, release from some personal limitations, and enabled me to feel and understand beauty in a larger and deeper way. I even became more attentive to detail.
The glamour and the freshness of those mystical ecstasies subsided within three or four weeks and vanished. But the awareness kindled by them remained for three years. I then met an advanced mystic--an expatriate American living in Europe--who told me that I was near the point where I could advance to the next and higher degree of illumination and that, at such a period, most aspirants undergo certain tests before they succeed in gaining the degree.
NotebooksCategory 12: Reflections > Chapter 1: Two Essays > # 2, pages 7,8,9.
- December 2015, #37 Philosophy and Mysticism
Life is not a matter of meditation methods exclusively. Their study and practice is necessary, but let them be put in their proper place. Both mystical union and metaphysical understanding are necessary steps on this quest, because it is only from them that the student can mount to the still higher grade of universal being represented by the sage. For we not only need psychological exercises to train the inner being, but also psychological exercises to train the point of view. But the student must not stay in mysticism as he must not stay in metaphysics. In both cases he should take all that they have to give him but struggle through and come out on the other side. For the mysticism of emotion is not the shrine where Isis dwells but only the vestibule to the shrine, and the metaphysician who can only see in reason the supreme faculty of man has not reflected enough. Let him go farther and he shall find that its own supreme achievement is to point beyond itself to that principle or Mind whence it takes its rise. Mysticism needs the check of philosophic discipline. Metaphysics needs the vivification of mystical meditation. Both must bear fruit in inspired action or they are but half-born. In no other way than through acts can they rise to the lofty status of facts.
The realization of what man is here for is the realization of a fused and unified life wherein all the elements of action, feeling, and thought are vigorously present. It is not, contrary to the belief of mystics, a condition of profound entrancement alone, nor, contrary to the reasonings of metaphysicians, a condition of intellectual clarity alone, and still less, contrary to the opinions of theologians, a condition of complete faith in God alone. We are here to live, which means to think, feel, and act also. We have not only to curb thought in meditation, but also to whip it in reflection. We have not only to control emotion in self-discipline, but also to release it in laughter, relaxation, affection, and pleasure. We have not only to perceive the transiency and illusion of material existence, but also to work, serve, strive, and move strenuously, and thus justify physical existence. We have to learn that when we look at what we really are we stand alone in the awed solitude of the Overself, but when we look at where we now are we see not isolated individuals but members of a thronging human community. The hallmark of a living man, therefore, ought to be an integral and inseparable activity of heart, head, and hand, itself occurring within the mysterious stillness and silence of its inspirer, the Overself.
The mistake of the lower mystic is when he would set up a final goal in meditation itself, when he would stop at the "letting-go" of the external world which is quite properly an essential process of mysticism, and when he would let his reasoning faculty fall into a permanent stupor merely because it is right to do so during the moments of mental quiet. When, however, he learns to understand that the antinomy of meditation and action belongs only to an intermediate stage of this quest, when he comes later to the comprehension that detachment from the world is only to be sought to enable him to move with perfect freedom amid the things of the world and not to flee them, and when he perceives at long last that the reason itself is God-given to safeguard his journey and later to bring his realization into self-consciousness--then he shall have travelled from the second to the third degree in this freemasonry of ultimate wisdom. For that which had earlier hindered his advance now helps it; such is the paradox which he must unravel if he would elevate himself from the satisfactions of mysticism to the perceptions of philosophy. If his meditations once estranged him from the world, now they bring him closer to it! If formerly he could find God only within himself, now he can find nothing else that is not God! He has advanced from the chrysalis-state of X to the butterfly state of Y.
If there be any worth in this teaching, such lies in its equal appeal to experience and to reason. For that inward beatitude which it finally brings is superior to any other that mundane man has felt and, bereft of all violent emotion itself though it be, paradoxically casts all violent emotions of joy in the shade. When we comprehend that this teaching establishes as fact what the subtlest reasoning points to in theory, reveals in man's own life the presence of that Overself which reflection discovers as from a remote distance, we know that here at long last is something fit for a modern man. The agitations of the heart and the troublings of the head take their dying breaths.
This quote is found in two places in TheNotebooks of Paul Brunton:
- November 2015, #36 A Search in Secret Egypt
From Chapter l8 –"I Meet An Adept"
A Search in Secret Egypt has been newly reprinted by North Atlantic Books. The first edition in 1936 has been expanded in the 2015 volume to include different photographs from PB’s private collection, and readers will find the editorial "Notes" in the final pages very interesting. The addition of a "Commentary on the Epilogue" as given by the author helps to explain the symbolism in this intriguing teaching. The following passages refer to this new edition.
Paul Brunton describes taking the bridle path over the Libyan Mountains to the terraced cliff temple of Deir el Bahri where he noticed a stranger squatting on a low boulder. He beheld a radiant vision of light as this utterly unusual man spoke….(see p. 328.)
The high grade yogi… explained how the ways of some men cross and crisscross at the bidding of unseen forces and how seeming coincidences may be prearranged links in a chain of causes destined to have certain effects. Without the slightest vanity but as a mere statement of an existent fact he referred to himself as an Adept (p. 330)…. He called himself Ra-Mak-Hotep and explained that for him the name means only one thing: at peace."Egypt is not my home. Today the whole world is my home. Asia, Africa, Europe, and America - I know all these lands and move through them. I am an Easterner in body only, for in mind I belong to no single country and in heart I belong only to Peace." He spoke somewhat quickly, forcibly and feelingly, yet it was quite obvious that all his feelings were under perfect control.
For more than an hour we talked of spiritual things, sitting on the hilltop under a sun whose light still glared in one’s eyes and whose heat still caressed one closely. Yet I forgot those conditions in my absorbed interest in this man and his words. He told me of some matters which concerned the world, and of many others which concerned only myself. He gave me precise instructions and special exercises in connection with my own efforts to arrive at a degree of spiritual equilibrium and enlightenment beyond that which I had so far attained. He spoke frankly and critically, even sternly, of certain obstacles in my path, arising out of my personal faults. Finally he fixed an appointment with me for the following day, near the Roman altar, inside the colonnade that stands on the Nile bank at the Temple of Luxor.
Without rising from his rocky seat, he bade me farewell, excusing himself from further conversation on account of his being extremely busy and with much to do at the moment….
The descent of the hill was steep and slithery; I made it on foot down the rock and rubble, holding the donkey’s rein in one hand. When we reached the base I mounted the saddle and took a last look at the peak, which loomed up so portentously.
Ra-Mak-Hotep had not even begun his return journey. He was evidently still squatting on that bleak hilltop. What could he be doing up there, to keep him "extremely busy" while sitting as immobile as a statue? Would he still be there when the shadows of dusk deepened over the pink terraces of the Libyan Hills? (pp. 331-332.)
- October 2015, #35 The Cyclic Nature of Life
- In the final chapter of A Search in Secret India, I provided some hints of the cyclic nature of life, writing of how "every life has its aphelion and perihelion" (paraphrase). Now the time has come to particularize this statement and cast some light on the great mystery of fate and fortune. The knowledge of this truth renders a man better able to meet all situations in life, both pleasant and unpleasant, in the right way. "With an understanding of the auspicious and inauspicious issues of events, the accomplishment of great Life-tasks becomes possible," taught a Chinese sage. According to the Chinese wisdom, Tao, in its secondary meaning, is the divinely fixed order of things; under this there are four cycles of history. The first two are "yang" and the last two are "yin." This law of periodicity refers to individual lives no less than to cosmic existence. Every human life is therefore subject to periodical changes of destiny whose inner significance needs to be comprehended before one can rightly act. Hence the method of grappling with destiny must necessarily vary in accord with the particular rhythm which has come into the calendar of one's life. Every situation in human existence must find its appropriate treatment, and the right treatment can only be consciously adopted by the sage who has established inner harmony with the law of periodicity.
The sage seeks to do the right thing at the right moment, for automatic adjustment to these varying fortunes. This is called, in the Chinese Mystery School teaching, "mounting the dragon at the proper time and driving through the sky." Hence I have written in The Quest of the Overself that the wise man knows when to resist fate and when to yield to it. Knowing the truth above of the ebb and flow of destiny, he acts always in conformity with this inner understanding. Sometimes he will be fiercely active, other times completely quiescent, sometimes fighting tragedy to the utmost, but at other times resigned and surrendered. Everything has its special time and he does not follow any course of action at the wrong time. He is a free agent, yes, but he must express that freedom rightly, because he must work, as all must work, within the framework of cosmic law. To initiate the correct change in his activities at the incorrect time and amid wrong environing circumstances would be rash and lead to failure; to start a new and necessary enterprise at the wrong moment and amid the wrong situation of life, would also lead to failure. The same changes, however, if begun at another time and amid other conditions, will lead to success. The sage consults his innermost prompting, which, being in harmony with truth, guides him to correct action in particular situations accordingly. We can neither dictate to him as to what he should do, nor prescribe principles for his guidance, nor even predict how he is going to respond to any set of circumstances.
The proper course of action which anyone should adopt depends ultimately upon his time and place both materially and spiritually. In short, human wisdom must always be related to the cosmic currents of destiny and the divine goal. Man must be adaptable to circumstances, flexible to destiny, if his life is to be both wise and content. Unfortunately, the ordinary man does not perceive this, and creates much of his own unhappiness, works much of his own ruin. It is only the sage who, having surrendered the personal Ego, can create his own harmony with Nature and fate and thus remain spiritually undisturbed and at peace. As Kung-Fu-Tze (Confucius, in Western parlance) pithily says: "The superior man can find himself in no situation in which he is not himself." The wise man defers action and waits if necessary for the opportune and auspicious moment; he will not indulge in senseless struggles or untimely efforts. He knows how and when to wait and by his waiting render success certain. No matter how talented he be, if his circumstances are unfavourable and the time inopportune to express them, he will resign himself for the while and devote his time to self-preparation and self-cultivation and thus be ready for the opportunity which he knows the turn of time's wheel must bring him. He puts himself into alignment with the hidden principle which runs through man and matter, striking effectively when the iron is hot, refraining cautiously when it is cold. He knows the proper limits of his activity even in success and does not go beyond them. He knows when to advance and when to retreat, when to be incessantly active and when to lie as still as a sleeping mouse. Thus he escapes from committing serious errors.
The above is from Perspectives,“From Birth to Rebirth”, p. 118-120
- September 2015, #34 Progressive Stages of the Quest
Progressive Stages of the Quest (The Working of Grace)
Excerpts from essay found in Volume 3, Practices for the Quest, chap. 9, para 67
If a man has conscientiously followed this fourfold path, if he has practiced mystical-meditation and metaphysical reflection, purification of character and unselfish service, and yet seems to be remote from the goal, what is he to do? He has then to follow the admonition of Jesus: "Ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you." We are all poor. He is indeed discerning who realizes this and becomes a beggar, imploring of God for Grace.
He must pray first to be liberated from the heavy thralldom of the senses, the desires, and the thoughts. He must pray next for the conscious presence of the Overself. He should pray silently and deeply in the solitude of his own heart. He should pray with concentrated emotion and tight-held mind. His yearning for such liberation and such presence must be unquestionably sincere and unquestionably strong. He should begin and close - and even fill if he wishes - his hour of meditation with such noble prayers. He must do this day after day, week after week. For the Overself is not merely a concept, but a living reality, the power behind all his other and lesser powers.
No aspirant who is sincere and sensitive will be left entirely without help. It may appear during temptation when the lower nature may find itself unexpectedly curbed by a powerful idea working strongly against it. He may find in a book just that for which he has been waiting and which at this particular time will definitely help him on his way. The particular help he needs at a particular stage will come naturally. It may take the form of a change in outward circumstances or a meeting with a more developed person, of a printed book, or a written letter, of a sudden unexpected emotional inspiration or an illuminating intellectual intuition. Nor is it necessary to travel to the farthest point before being able to gather the fruits. Long before this, he will begin to enjoy the flavor of peace, hope, knowledge, and divine transcendence (p. 217, hardcover edition).
The value of repentance is that it is the first step to set us free from a regrettable past; of amendment, that it is the last step to do so. There must be a contrite consciousness that to live in ego is to live in ignorance and sin. This sin is not the breaking of social conventions. There must be penitent understanding that we are born in sin because we are born in ego and hence need redemption and salvation. It is useless to seek forgiveness without first being thoroughly repentant. There must also be an opening up of the mind to the truth about one's sinfulness, besides repentance, an understanding of the lesson behind this particular experience of its result.
This primary attribute is extolled in the world's religio-mystical literature. "Despair not of Allah's mercy," says the Koran. "What are my sins compared with Thy mercy? They are but as a cobweb before the wind," wrote an early Russian mystic, Dmitri of Rostov. "Those who surrender to me, even be they of sinful nature, shall understand the highest path," says the Bhagavad Gita (p. 219).
We do not get at the Real by our own efforts alone nor does it come to us by its own volition alone. Effort that springs from the self and Grace that springs from beyond it are two things essential to success in this quest. The first we can all provide, but the second only the Overself can provide. Man was once told by someone who knew, "The Spirit bloweth where it listeth." Thus it is neither contradictory nor antithetic to say that human effort and human dependence upon Divine Grace are both needed. For there is a kind of reciprocal action between them. This reciprocal working of Grace is a beautiful fact. The subconscious invitation from the Overself begets the conscious invocation of it as an automatic response. When the ego feels attracted towards its sacred source, there is an equivalent attraction on the Overself's part towards the ego itself. Never doubt that the Divine always reciprocates this attraction to it of the human self. Neither the latter's past history nor present character can alter that blessed hope-bringing fact. Grace is the final, glorious, and authentic proof that it is not only man that is seeking God, but also God that is ever waiting for man (p.220).
- August 2015, #33 Realizing Soul
Realizing Soul: From Intuition to an Inspired Life
By Paul Brunton
The following E-Teaching is extracted from the special compilation of PB quotes freely offered daily (now in nineteen languages!) at www.paulbruntondailynote.se. The Swedish "Friends of Paul Brunton" administers this service. Robert Larson, a long-time student of PB teachings and publisher of PB in Sweden, selected and arranged the teachings for Realizing Soul from the four years of translated daily quotes. We are grateful for his long service to the philosophic ideal through his selfless sharing of PB's wisdom teachings. Here are a few quotes to contemplate (original The Notebooks of Paul Brunton reference category, chapter, and selection follow each quote if you want to read more on any of these topics here: www.paulbrunton.org/notebooks):
The spiritual self, the Overself, has never been lost. What has happened is that its being has not been recognized, covered over as it is with a multitude of thoughts, desires, and egocentricities. (22-3-1)
...That which he has been seeking so ardently has been within himself all the time. For there at the core of his being, hidden away underneath all the weakness, passion, pettiness, fear, and ignorance, dwells light, love, peace, and truth. The windows of his heart open on eternity, only he has kept them closed! He is as near the sacred spirit of God as he ever shall be, but he must open his eyes to see it. Man's divine estate is there deep within himself. But he must claim it. (22-3-3)
Intuition is the voice which is constantly calling him to this higher state. But if he seldom or never pauses amid the press of activity to listen for it, he fails to benefit by it. (22-1-159)
We blunder in life and make endless mistakes because we have no time to listen for the Overself's voice-Intuition. (22-1-125)
The promptings that come from this inner being are so faintly heard at first, however strong on their own plane, that we tend to disregard them as trivial. This is the tragedy of man. The voices that so often mislead him into pain-bringing courses--his passion, his ego, and blind intellect--are loud and clamant. The whisper that guides him aright and to God is timid and soft. (22-1-201)
It is worthwhile giving all his attention to any feelings which he may meet unexpectedly within himself and which show an unusual relaxation, a release from tenseness, a freedom from care. They are to be caught on the wing, not allowed to escape and pass away. They are to be nurtured, cherished, and developed. They may be silent voices from the higher self, drawing his attention to its own existence. (3-3-65)
What is more private, more intimate, than intuition? It is the only means they possess wherefrom to start to get mystical experience, glimpses, true enlightenment. Yet they insist on seeking among those who stand outside them, among the teachers, for that which must be searched after and felt inside themselves. (22-1-285)
The discovery of its presence makes possible a form of communication between person and Overself which is passive, not active. That is, he is directed guided or corrected in and through his human faculties, intuitively. The person acts, does, thinks, speaks, and decides as if he were doing so completely alone. But he is not: he is responding to the Overself, to the effects of its presence, now unhindered by his ego. (22-1-8)
He feels the Presence of something higher than himself, wise, noble, beautiful, and worthy of all reverence. Yet it is really himself--the best part come at last into unfoldment and expression. (22-0-2)
Is he fully open to intuitive feelings that originate in his deeper being, his sacred self? Or does his ego get in the way by its rigidities, habits, and tendencies? The importance of these feelings is that they are threadlike clues which need following up, for they can lead him to a blessed renewal or revelation. (22-1-169)
The teacher Mooji says of Realizing Soul: "[Paul Brunton's] observations, spiritual insights, and pointings reveal a laser-sharp eye that directs us back to that which is obvious within ourselves, though obviously overlooked-the Divine Self."
Realizing Soul has been published by Larson Publications USA (www.larsonpublications.com) and sells for $14.95. You can read more about it on the PBPF website www.paulbrunton.org.
- July 2015, #32 The Body
The Prefatory to "The Body," Volume 4, Category 5 of the Notebooks is well worth studying for every seeker after truth. The following are quotes from this 16 page essay:
It is reasonable to suggest that we ought to understand something of the nature of the world in order to live in it more successfully and more harmoniously. The part of the world that is closest to us and most important for us is the body through which we experience it. To neglect that body or to ignore its needs is not necessarily a spiritual attitude. If it were, then there must have been an error in the Divine Creation! It has its own value, place, and purpose in the Divine World-Idea…. Through it the soul, sent by the World-Mind to gain experience and obtain growth, lives and functions in this world. Without it, how could the soul get the necessary range of experience to bring into manifestation its potential powers of thought, imagination, understanding and decision at the lower level, and of ultimate consciousness at the higher level? (Page 7.)
On this plane the body is indeed the only medium of our existence and is not to be disconnected from our higher aspirations. A complete and competent spiritual instruction ought not to be so foolish as to neglect or overlook the physical frame of the disciple being instructed, but should see it with its several organs and higher senses as it truly is; that is, as an expression of Infinite Intelligence through which one can gather the experience needed to become fully aware of his relation to that Intelligence. There is another and usually much less considered point of view to this matter: the body contains countless little lives which look to us as their protector and leader and guide, which need and should get from us kindly attention. Knowledge of the laws which govern its sustenance, health, and functioning and which affect those lives is, therefore, a necessary step on the Quest and a necessary human duty. (Page 8.)
It was easy in earlier days to set up an opposition between body and soul when so little was known about the mind-body relationship. But in these days, when the influence and moral character of malfunctioning organs, nerve plexuses, and endocrine glands is scientifically better known, when psychosomatic medicine is tracing a connection between negative thoughts and physical sicknesses, the place of the flesh in the life of spiritual aspiration is better understood - although hardly better than it has been understood by the developed adepts of the ancient East and by a few seers of the modern West. This understanding reveals how susceptible the mind-force is, how the millions of tiny microorganisms which work together in a single community are the body. It is in truth and fact the Temple of the Spirit, a holy dwelling place wherein we are slowly learning lesson after lesson in the art of unfolding characteristics and awareness which bring us closer to our Godlike Goal. How could philosophy fail to respect it? (Page 8.)
If a man is told to be good, he is given counsel that may yet be worthless to him. If he is taught the Law of Recompense and told why it will profit him to be good, the counsel may appeal (should he be a reasonable man) but he may still lack the strength of will to implement it; he needs to be taught how to be good. The purification of the body is the first step in this direction. Anyone who takes philosophy seriously enough will have to take to its discipline. This will assault his self-conceit. His way of living - his diet, sleep, and rest, for instance - will have to be examined and where necessary reformed. A real Truth-seeker is not only willing to search for and try out new ways but is actually eager to do so. The story of his regime is one of the dynamic reaching for the new, the untried. (Page 12.)
To read the complete essay on the PBPF website see: http://paulbrunton.org/notebooks/5/1
- June 2015, #31 The Ancient Mysteries
Paul Brunton's writings cover a broad range of topics ranging from human life experience to abstract philosophy. A Search in Secret Egypt transports the reader into the ancient past. PB says on p. 185, "the Mysteries became the most exclusive institution of antique times, and the secrets revealed behind their well-guarded doors were always imparted under solemn oath that they would never be divulged."
The ancient civilizations inherited these Mysteries from a remote antiquity and they constituted part of a primitive revelation from the gods to the human race. Almost every people of pre-Christian times possessed its institution and tradition of the Mysteries. The Roman, the Celts, the Druids of Britain, the Greeks, the Cretans, the Syrians, the Hindus, the Persians, the Mayas and the American Indians, among others, had corresponding temples and rites with a system of graduated illuminations for the initiates. Aristotle did not hesitate to declare that he considered the welfare of Greece secured by the Eleusinian Mysteries, Socrates remarked that "those who are acquainted with the Mysteries insure to themselves very pleasing hopes against the hour of death." Among the ancients who have confessed or hinted that they had been initiated into the Mysteries, we may list the names of Aristides the orator, Menippus of Babylon, Sophocles the playwright, Aeschylus the poet, Solon the law-giver, Cicero, Heraclitus of Ephesus, Pindar and Pythagoras. (p. 185-6.) Today Ju-jitsu in Japan and Freemasonry carry remnants of the institutions which have their roots in Egypt.
The Mysteries demonstrated that a man's normal worldly nature could be temporarily paralyzed by a profound lethargic sleep, and his usually unnoticed psychic or spiritual nature awakened by processes known only to the hierophant…the finite mind of man was drawn into contact with the infinite mind of his superior divinity. He was able for a while to enter into silent, spell-bound communion with the Father of All, and this fleeting contact of incomparable ecstasy was enough to change his entire attitude towards life. …. The highest doctrine of the Egyptians, that which was the theoretical basis of the loftiest degrees of initiation, was that the soul of man must eventually return to the divine Being from which it was first rayed out, and they termed this return "becoming Osiris." (p. 190.) PB points out that this was the noblest and most impressive revelation then possible to Egyptian man, and still possible, albeit through other ways, to modern man. (p. 186-8.)
Scientific, psychical and psychological research is changing the Western world's attitude towards matters which were once dismissed as fanciful nonsense. Such research is lifting the ideas of the ancients out of the undeserved contempt in which they have lain while younger notions sprang to lusty manhood. We are beginning to detect sanity in the apparent insanity of the ancients. We are beginning to discover that their knowledge of the powers and properties of the human mind was in some directions superior to ours…Our best scientists and foremost thinkers are joining the ranks of those who believe there is a psychic basis to life. What they think today, the masses will think to-morrow. The first great message of the ancient Mysteries -'There is no death '- although always susceptible of personal experiential proof by a mere few, is destined to be broadcast to the whole world. The idea of survival does not necessarily imply that we shall all scramble out of our coffins at some uncertain future date. To confuse ourselves with the fleshly houses wherein we reside is hardly creditable to our intelligence. (p. 191.)
History moves in cycles, that which has been shall be again; gloom and chaos are once more upon us, while the innate urge of man to re-establish communication with the higher worlds troubles him anew. Wherefore it is the writer's hope that conditions may be found, circumstances may be propitious, and the right persons forthcoming to plant a modern version, entirely altered to suit our changed epoch, of those Mysteries once more in each of the five continents of our world. (p. 193-4.)
- May 2015, #30 The Quest
- from Volume 2, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton
PB has a great deal to say about this topic. In Chapter 1 of Volume 2, he calls the Quest "the most important adventure in human experience." (para #77) He says, "We ought perhaps to have particularized the significance of this word, for many men and women are engaged on the food-quest, the pleasure-quest, and so on; only a few, however are on the Philosophical Quest." (#40) He speaks of the quest as "an adventure as well as a journey " (#49), and calls this adventure, "spiritual mountaineering." (#52)
Para #17 is a personal favorite. It reads, "It is a quest to make a life of better quality, both inside and outside the self, in the thoughts moving in the brain, in the body holding that brain, and in the environment where that body moves." Para #54 continues, "Its ideals offer an invitation to nobility and refinement. 'Become better than you are!' is its preachment. 'Live more beautifully than you do!' is its commandment." (#54)
"He who stands on the threshold of this Path is about to commence the last and greatest journey of all, one which he will continue to the end of his days. Once begun, there is no turning back or deserting it, except temporarily. And since it is the most important and most glorious activity ever undertaken, its rewards are commensurate." (#78)
The above references are from Chapter 1, Volume 2, of the Notebooks of Paul Brunton.
Chapter 3, The Independent Path, is a "must read" for aspirants. Para #22 says: "He must walk at his own pace, not society's hasty trot. He must choose his own road, not the most trodden one. The way of life which his neighbours follow does not suit him, so he must alter it. He holds the desire to fashion himself creatively into something better than he is at present, something nobler, wiser, and more perceptive. But they hold no such desire, are content with static existence."
In Chapter 6, Self-Development, PB gives a general description:
- How am I to start upon this process of true self-knowledge? The answer begins with this: first adopt the right attitude. Believe in the divinity of your deeper self. Stop looking elsewhere for light, stop wandering hither and thither for power. Your intelligence has become falsified through excessive attention to external living, hence you are not even aware in which direction to look when you seek for the real Truth. You are not even aware that all you need can be obtained by the power within, by the omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient Self. You have to change, first of all, the line of thought and faith which pleads helplessly, "I am a weak man; I am unlikely to rise any higher than my present level; I live in darkness and move amid opposing environments that overwhelm me." Rather should you engrave on your heart the high phrases: "I possess illimitable power within me; I can create a diviner life and truer vision than I now possess." Do this and then surrender your body, your heart and mind to the Infinite Power which sustains all. Strive to obey Its inward promptings and then declare your readiness to accept whatsoever lot it assigns you. This is your challenge to the gods and they will surely answer you. Your soul will be slowly or suddenly liberated; your body will be granted a freer pathway through conditions. You may have to be prepared for a few changes before the feet find rest, but always you shall find that the Power in which you have place an abiding trust does not go into default. (#1)
- April 2015, #29 The Downfall of Materialism - Chapter XII
The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga
Continuing our inquiry into the study of philosophy we next consider materialism. Having accepted that externally experienced things are thoughts, we question whether or not they exist.
We do not deny the existence of a single thing that forms part of our world-experience but we must get our minds clear about this problem for it brings up an important difference between the meaning of real and the meaning of exist. An illusion is recognized as experienced but realized as not real. PB points out "Therefore to appear is one thing, whereas to be is another.
We must learn to take care to distinguish between the two concepts….nobody can deny that objective things exist for they are perceived by the minds of men, who also regard them as unquestionably real, but in both these cases the philosopher is entitled to question not their existence but their reality." (pp. 349-50)
The chapter continues: We must first find a definition (of reality) that will hold always. Few people care to define so scrupulously; they want to judge by feeling or by temperament alone. The consequence is that they imagine reality, they study their own idea of it only, and thus lamentably fail to avoid deceiving themselves into accepting what merely pleases them, not what is true… The fact finally known for what it is, is the reality; whereas the final knowledge of the thing is the truth. This is correct only from the standpoint of practical affairs and until we reach the Ultimate. Then there are no two things, but unity, and hence no distinction between truth and reality….For as the ancient Indian philosophers -not mystics-have rightly said: that is real which can not only give us certainty about its existence in its own right beyond all possibility of doubt and independently of man's individual ideation but which can remain changeless amid the flux of an ever-changing world. Such a reality is, after the pursuit of ultimate truth, the foremost pursuit of philosophy whether it be labeled "God," "Spirit," "Absolute," or otherwise.
He encourages the reader to ask the question, not what has become of the millions of human beings who have died or the prehistoric palaces of unrecorded kings… "But what has become of THAT which appeared in the forms of those men and buildings ...Our own enquiry into it must take us not only through the appearances of matter but also beyond the workings of mind. This is the enquiry into ultimate permanent reality; this is philosophy."
"When it shall be our good fortune to come into the fuller understanding of such reality we shall find as the old sages found, that this puzzling world does not stand in startling contradiction to it as we fear. For in a subtler sense which we do not grasp at present the one is not less real than the other. The world is not essentially an illusion. Ultimately it is as real as the world of this unnameable uniqueness that is the true God. Things, therefore, are not themselves illusory but it is our apprehension of them, as furnished by the senses, which is illusory. Nobody need worry over the loss of matter. It is something which we have never possessed and consequently the loss is not a real one. The world which has been revealed by our thoughts is the only world we have known, although it is not the ultimate world that we shall know. Therefore, the truth robs us of nothing. He who flees the world in ascetic disdain flees from reality; he should correct himself first and thus learn to understand aright what is that something which appears as the world. What it is, what that ultimate reality means to the life of man, is the second quest of philosophy after the quest of truth, because we soon find that both quests are involved in one another. And this is, therefore, the second reward which philosophy holds out to man, that he shall learn how to live consciously in reality rather than blindly in illusion. (pp. 353-4.)
- March 2015, #28 The Philosophical Discipline
- Chapter 1 of The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga points out that the distressful condition of the human race is the ignorance of three fundamental questions: What is the meaning of the world and experience? What am I? And what is the object of existence? PB writes, "I perceive with startling precision that the bursting of this integument of ancient ignorance will do more than anything else to make enduring peace descend on our troubled earth….When men learn to think rightly they will act accordingly, not before. Their deeds can never be greater than their ideas, for the unheard declarations of the mind decide the noisy journeys of the feet." (HTBY, p. 11)
What is involved in learning to think rightly? People are now more ready to apply reason to life than they formerly were although they are not ready enough to make such an application play a vital part in their existence." (p. 13) The new picture is blurred and vague, even amorphous, but this is because it belongs to the domain of philosophy. "For there has been a gradual process of abstraction, a transition from the empiric standpoint to the metaphysical, a growing tendency for science to become part of its own field of investigation and to turn matter and mechanism into concepts." (Ibid., p.16)
"Colossal sins stain the pages of religious history which must be dealt with frankly yet constructively by the light of philosophy." (p. 69) The individual hears that "a practical method-mystical contemplation-exists whereby he may experience for himself the beauty and peace of an ever-present divine spirit in which formerly he could believe but never knew. (p. 71) However, "The inability to obtain satisfactory and convincing answers to such questions as fullness of experience and love of knowledge will eventually arouse, must lead the thoughtful enquiring mystic who has not settled down into smug self-laudation or conservative quiescence, to a wilderness where he will walk in lonely bafflement for a time, just as once he may have walked into the wilderness of doubt, despair and skepticism when he emerged from the self-contradictions of dogmatic religion. (p.82)
The elementary position of all religious and mystical systems becomes clear, therefore, when they are co-ordinated in the larger conceptions of philosophy. [Within] it lies a new land, vastly mysterious and hardly trodden. It is the region of the third degree, the empire of the supreme wisdom open to man. Yet he will not know how close he is to it unless a guide now appears to make the revelation and to escort him farther. The guide may be an ancient one and speak to him across the generations through the inscribed pages of a manuscript or the printed pages of a book. Or he may be a living one to speak to him face to face. The first is a chart which may take him slowly some of the way while the second will take him quicker and farther….The new acolyte of the Absolute must now struggle incessantly, first toward his own final position and then for the beneficent liberation of others under the authoritative command of a superior power-TRUTH! (p. 83)
All page numbers refer to The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga.
Read More about PB's views on the philosophical discipline in a new edition of The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga which has been updated to incorporate the author's final revisions. It includes a new introduction plus supplementary reading material selected from the author's archives by the Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.
- February 2015, #27 Meditation, Part II
References to Meditation permeate the early books of PB. E-teaching #26 was based on teachings from The Wisdom of the Overself. The Notebook Series, Volume 4, Part 1, Meditation, and Volume 15, Part 1, Advanced Contemplation, offer information and techniques helpful to pursuing the practices in greater depth. Reading the "Editors' Introduction" in both volumes for an overview is recommended. Volume 4 (Category 4) focuses on Fundamentals, Visualizations, Mantrams and Affirmations, Mindfulness and Mental Quiet, (the Long Path) while Volume 15 (Category 23), Advanced Meditation, explores the redirection of ego to the Overself, with the focus on living inside the stillness of the Overself, often referred to as "the Short Path."
The paras, which PB terms "Detached Intellections," are to be read slowly and reflected upon. The words are specific and practical but inspiration is present between the lines. Examples of helpful advice in Meditation include: "Constant practice is more important for success in meditation than any other single factor." (V. 4, Part 1, #404, p. 124.) "First seek in your meditation for the Overself, then, when you feel something of its presence, then only, may you make any effort to help other persons by the powers of thought and prayer."( Ibid. #411, p.125.) "Always close your meditation or end your prayer with a thought for others, such as: "May all beings be truly happy."(Ibid. #413, p. 125.)
Several paras on the three stages of meditation: 1) Concentration, 2) Meditation, and 3) Contemplation are in both volumes. PB offers guidance in the passage from one stage of meditation to the next. He says the will must be used in the first two stages for the attention to penetrate deeper and deeper. "…It is only when the frontier of the third stage is reached that all this work ceases, and that there is an abandonment of the use of the will, a total surrender of it, and effortless passive yielding to the Overself is alone needed." (V. 15, Part 1, #54, p.176.) The descriptions of entering into this final stage are beautiful and mysterious. "We enter into paradise when, in contemplation, we enter into awareness of the Overself." (Ibid, #96, p. 182.) "There is a great calm in this state: not a great rapture, but a patient attentive repose in the higher power." (Ibid, #101, p. 182.)
"This identification with the Overself is the real work set us, the real purpose for which human life in the world serves us. All else is merely a comfortable way of escape, a means of keeping us busy so that conscience need not be troubled by the central duty to which we are summoned."(Ibid. #36, p. 8.)
"If, in his earlier days when on the Long Path, he practised daily checking his personal feelings where they were negative, hostile, or condemnatory in the relationship with others, or when they interrupted his inner calm in the relationship with himself, now on the Short Path he abandoned this training. It was no more the really important thing, for it had been just a preparation of the ego for that thing-which was to forget and transcend the ego by transferring attention to the remembrance of his divine being, his Overself." (Ibid, #45, p. 9.)
- January 2015, #26 Meditation
Yoga is a twofold term, meaning both the process and the result to which that process leads. Yoga as a set of mental practices to be followed is one thing and yoga as the unified condition of mind which is the final fruit of those practices is another thing. Yoga as a process calls for constant efforts to achieve inwardly-turned mental concentration and as a result it yields its practiser a serene condition where thoughts subside and thus reveal the diviner background which their activity hides. When the mind is active we have thoughts; when it is still the thoughts vanish….Yoga in its best sense is simply the deliberate attempt to accomplish this task and thus become conscious of the so-called 'unconscious.' From The Wisdom of the Overself. p. 362
The key to success in yoga is fashioned partly from the natural capacity for concentration which we bring to the task, partly from the energy with which we pursue it but more especially from repeated and regular self-training. Said so supreme an authority upon this subject as the Buddha: "Nothing know I that without exercise would be more inflexible than the mind. Nothing know I that by being exercised would become more flexible than the mind…..The student cannot afford to leave its practice to chance moments or to occasional empty ones…..Habit rules human life. The man who has learnt the secret of creating new habits is able to control that which controls life. And among the best habits a man can make is that of meditation.
We would not only emphasise but over-emphasise the value and urgent necessity of introducing this habit into modern life….These exercises should in the beginning be practiced daily at the same place and at the same hour but when enough progress has been made this rule may be ignored and the work may be done at any time and in any place….The first hindrance is noise…Hence a silent convenient spot should be chosen. The second is the active movement and sudden intrusion of other persons. He must be undisturbed during the practice period and this is best ensured by locking himself in a room. The third hindrance is a fidgety swaying or fitfully turning body. This is most serious when it affects the head. Therefore it is better to keep the spine erect….A fourth hindrance is ill-health….Modern students who have to get rid of hindrance of ill-health must avail themselves of all the knowledge and help, orthodox and unorthodox, which exists today, not forgetting that this is a region where personal karma is often particularly active….Emotional upsets, moods of despair and depression, feelings of passion or bitterness, even a too flighty imagination - these will also interfere with the work. Therefore the student must at the beginning of his practice strive to drop all thought of his personal affairs, to exclude all memories, whether pleasant or painful, to withdraw attention from the day's business or interests and to universalize his outlook during the period set aside for it. …Another psychic hindrance is impatience. Consequently the virtue of patience must become theirs if they are to eat the fruits of their sowing one day. Every aspirant must, from the beginning of this practice, impress his mind with the sure hope that if it is unremitting and done with deep interest, results will be sure to show themselves…. The first and last steps of yoga are steps in concentration. The perfect concentration of attention is one of the essential keys to success. Ibid., pp. 364-367.
This topic of meditation is deemed so important that the next eteaching will continue with it. Many inspiring paras on meditation are found in Volume 4 of The Notebooks of Paul Brunton.
Read more also in the PB e-teaching #7 on Mysticism.
- December 2014, #25 Initiation into Mystical Experience
In The Wisdom of the Overself, the first paragraph of Chapter XIII asks "Can I come into a personal relation with this transcendent reality? Can I transform the theoretical understanding which has so far been gained into a practical and conscious realization?" The second paragraph affirms that such a relationship and transformation can undoubtedly be consummated. It is, indeed, the goal of all philosophic endeavour.
PB warns that whatever is expressible by words is only a thought construction and as such subject to all its limitations, although he reminds the reader that while previous analysis in The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga was an attempt to "shatter the materialism and illusion embedded by ancient habit in man through his use of language and to silence his unreflective utterance of such words as matter, time, sight, experience, and Spirit, thus leading him to eventually change his views, the ultimate purpose is to show that what can be put into words is only the graven image of reality, never reality itself." (p. 355, The Wisdom of the Overself)
"The absolute Mind is called unknowable only in the sense that neither the senses nor the intellect can directly know it. We may seek it through a quite different approach. …Where reason fails miserably to think the Overself because it cannot, it may however become the Overself by humbly merging into it. When this happens luminous being supplies the answer which limited thinking cannot. We must ourselves become absorbed, and with us all our baggage-train of thoughts, in that which is the hidden basis of both thinking and experience. The attempt to know the hidden observer must alter into an attempt to become it. That is to say, the distinction between the observer and the observed must disappear, the object of thought must dissolve into primal Thought itself, knowledge and being must unite with each other. (p. 359).
The term 'insight' is used for it (this process) primarily because he who possesses it can see what is, not merely what appears, can see into the inner reality behind the world-appearance, which our image-making faculty has super-imposed upon it, can clearly feel the internal life essence within all the transient planetary forms. Sight is a function of the body, understanding is a function of the intelligence but insight is a function of the Overself. In the ancient hidden teaching the use of this faculty was originally called 'opening the eye of transcendental knowledge.' (p. 360).
Thus we have reached the point where only some kind of trans-intellectual, that is some kind of mystical experience, can make sense of our declaration that this Mind is conscious and realizable in a positive sense. A reference to the dictionary gives the meaning of 'realize' as "to feel as vividly or strongly as if real: to bring home to one's own experience: to acquire as the result of labour or pains." Consequently we must now journey to the fresh waters of such a personal realization of Mind and leave behind the dry desert of merely thinking about it. (p. 361).
PB continues with an explanation of the three stages of meditation. The next e-teaching will explore more about these practices. We encourage the reader to study this valuable chapter where he explains how to learn the art of retreating from the sensuous and surface existence.
- November 2014, #24 The Real World
The chapter titled "The Unveiling of Reality" from the Wisdom of the Overself offers insights into the 'Real World.' The 'Real World' is not the world of common perception. Examination finds the everyday world a world of change and restlessness. Ancient teachings of both the East and West confirm a constant reality, an ultimate reality, one which may be approached by study, reason, and mystic practice. On Page 344 The Wisdom points out that Hegel saw and Goethe grasped the elusiveness of Reality. It says "... this elusiveness is due more to our ignorance of what to search for than to our inability to attain it. The metaphysics of truth fills this lack and the philosophic insight sees clearly where unillumined thinking fails to see it at all."
Page 342 asks the question, "What is Reality?" and discusses two marks of reality:
...It (Reality) cannot be something which is here today and gone tomorrow. It must be something which over-passes the periphery of time. The first mark of reality is that it has always been in existence. Something of this universe, whether it be visible or invisible, whether it be so-called matter or so-called spirit, must have had an everlasting existence. For if the contrary were the case, if nothing whatsoever had even once been the condition of universal history, then the universe could never have arisen for out of nothing only nothing can emerge. Even the most primitive intelligence demands some reason to account for things. Therefore the original 'something' must have always existed and must still exist. This we may call the ultimate reality. It is the never-ending origin of the All. It is Mind.
There is no thought of anything without a corresponding negation of that thought, without an opposing contrast. Hence no idea is ever alone but a second one is always alongside it. It can never exist by itself. It may be said that the second mark of reality is that it should be able to exist by and in itself. It should be in no need of anything beyond itself upon which it must depend. Its strength should lie in its self-sufficiency. What it is in itself and not as it reacts differently on different observers, is the Real. This lifts it quite out of the space-time world of relativities. Neither the three transient states of consciousness nor the numerous transient ideas generated by mind can therefore be the Real. They are always dependent and never self-sustained. We must seek deeper for their unknown everlasting ground. Because we have found both the wakeful and dream worlds to be nothing but the movement of thought-forms and because the enduring unchanging element not only of those worlds but also of our own self, has been found to be the element of undifferentiated Mind, then this alone constitutes their reality. (p. 343-344).
The chapter continues to explore these ideas in depth. The following is a quote to take into meditation:
"There is a world of real being which humanity has yet to find and to love: This is the unwritten task set us by life; this is the meaning of earthly existence for all." (pg 349)
When the student sincerely approaches mind and invites deep reflection on the subject of Reality, he will find he has engaged in the most worthwhile study he could possibly pursue.
- October 2014, #23 Egypt
A Search in Secret Egypt, one of the early travel books, transports the reader into magical Egypt and researches Egypt's pre-history. Paul Brunton describes sitting before the crouching Sphinx, watching the ethereal colours of the dying sun, and asks "…. who can receive the sacred message which is given him by the beautiful mysterious afterglow of an African sunset, without being taken into a temporary paradise? So long as men are not entirely coarse and spiritually dead, so long will they continue to love the Father of Life, the sun, which makes these things possible by its unique sorceries. They were not fools, those ancients, who revered Ra, the great light, and took it into their hearts as a god." (p. 1).
Brunton calls the Sphinx "the grave stone guardian of ancient secrets, emblematic of the Silent Watcher of our world." and describes the dream of the young prince, (later Pharaoh Thothmes IV), who was commanded to clear the sand away by Heru-Khut, the Rising Sun Spirit or god of the Sphinx. Thothmes later recorded the dream in hieroglyphic characters upon the red granite stele which today lies between the paws of the Sphinx. (p.15.)
The book reveals that the men who carved the Sphinx and founded the world's oldest civilization had emigrated from Atlantis. Brunton writes, "It was a tremendous and astonishing thought that the Sphinx provided a solid, visible and enduring link between the people of to-day and the people of a lost world, the unknown Atlanteans." (p.19). He recommends probing the rituals of the Incas and the Mayas who built pyramidal Temples of the Sun throughout ancient America and encourages research into The Great Pyramid. PB further states, "The purpose of the Sphinx had now become a little plainer. The Sphinx was the revered emblem in stone of a race which looked upon Light as the nearest thing to God in this dense material world. Light is the subtlest, most intangible of things which man can register by means of one of his five senses. It is the most ethereal kind of matter which he knows ….. 'The spirit of God moved upon the face of the Deep,' wrote Egyptian-trained Moses. 'And God said, Let there be Light: and there was Light.' Not only that, it is also a perfect symbol of that heavenly light which dawns within the deep places of man's soul when he yields heart and mind to God; it is a magnificent memorial to that divine illumination which awaits him secretly even amid the blackest despairs. Man, in turning instinctively to the face and presence of the sun, turns to the body of his Creator." (pp.20-21).
A Search in Secret Egypt whets the appetite of the reader drawn to the study of ancient cultures and provides food for thought about modern day connections.
Quotes taken from A Search in Secret Egypt, Special Illustrated Edition, 2007. Published for Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation by Larson Publications.
Originally published: New York: E.P. Dutton, 1936.
- September 2014, #22 Grace
In The Secret Path PB writes: The awakening to spiritual consciousness is something which cannot be developed by a mechanical and measured system alone. "Art happens!" declared Ruskin, and so does spirituality. The aspirant carries on certain practices, whether meditation or relaxation, whether self-observation or self-remembering; carries on his effort of Interrogative Reflection, and one day the true consciousness seems to come to him quietly, gently but surely. That day cannot be predetermined. It may come early in his efforts; it may come only after long years of disappointing struggle. For it depends upon a manifestation of Grace from the Overself, of a force deeper than his personal will, which now begins to take a hand in this celestial game. … The word Grace is not one I am over-keen to use. It has so many unpleasant and theological connotations, that, could I find a better, I would throw it aside. But I cannot. So I shall endeavour to assign it a meaning based on ascertainable spiritual experience and not on blind belief. (p. 92).
To obtain this Grace we must ask for it. This is not to say that asking is done by verbal action alone. That may suffice for some; for others, the request may be uttered mentally only. But for most of us we must ask with our whole life. Our course of action, our sacrifices of the primrose path, our surrender of time even, should show and express this great desire. And we may even be forced down on our knees, at unexpected hours of the night or day, to pray that the Light be granted us. If this happens do not resist or resent it. Yield, and if you feel an urge to weep when praying for the Overself's Grace, then let the tears flow as copiously as they come forth. Do not hold them back. There is great spiritual merit in weeping for the visitation of a higher power. Each tear will dissolve something that stands between you and the divine union. Never be ashamed of such tears, for they fall in a good cause. ….(p. 93)
When Grace raises from our own Overself the latter sets up a certain urge in the heart and begins to lead our thoughts into certain channels. We become dissatisfied with our life as it is; we begin to aspire to something better; we commence a quest for a higher Truth than the belief which has hitherto held us. We imagine - and naturally - that the change is due to a developing mind or, sometimes, by changing circumstance. But not so. Veiled behind the mystery that is Life moves the unseen Overself, the august Being who has thus strangely interrupted our mortal sleep. The very quest for Truth was simply a quest for the Overself. Mayhap we find a worthier philosophy of life and thus come a little closer to true self-realization. But the uplifting thoughts and moods of that changing period - whether a week or years-are merely a manifestation of Grace, or if I may put it paradoxically, the results of an inner movement made by the Motionless. (p. 93).
Suggestions for further reading: The paperback version of Perspectives includes an Index which lists many references to Grace found in the notebooks. Also see The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, vol. 12: The Reverential Life.
- August 2014, #21 Self Development/Unique Path
This month's PB eteaching begins with the question: What am I? "What am I?" is such an ancient and perennial question only because it has to be answered by each individual for himself. If he finds the true answer, he will find also that he cannot really transfer it to another person but only its idea, its mental shadow. That too may be valuable to others, but it is not the same."
Notebooks, Category 1: Independent Path>Chapter 3: #1
About the often misunderstood concept of ego, PB says: "Because the Overself is already there within him in all its immutable sublimity, man has not to develop it or perfect it. He has only to develop and perfect his ego until it becomes like a polished mirror, held up to and reflecting the sacred attributes of the Overself, and showing openly forth the divine qualities, which had hitherto lain hidden behind itself."
Ibid., Category 1: Self-development>Chapter 5:#12
-In every individual there is an original, mysterious, and incalculable element, because his past history and his prenatal ancestry in other lives on earth have inevitably been different at certain points from those of other individuals. His world-outlook may seem the same as theirs, but there will always be subtle variations. There is no single path which can be presented to suit the multitudinous members of the human species. There is no one unalterable approach to this experience for all men. Each has to find his own way, to travel forward by the guidance of his own present understanding and past experience - and each in the end really does so despite all appearances to the contrary. For each man passes through a different set of life-experiences. His past history and present circumstances have constituted an individual being who is unique, who possesses something entirely his own. It is partly through the lessons, reflections, intuitions, traits, characteristics, and capacities engendered by such experiences that he is able to find his way to truth. Therefore he is forced not only to work out his own salvation but also to work it out in his own unique way. Every description of a mystical path must consequently be understood in a general sense. If its expounder delimits it to constitute a precise path for all alike, he exaggerates. Although there is so much in life which the aspirant shares with other beings, there is always a residue which imparts a stamp of individuality that is different from and unshareable with the individualities of all others. Consequently, the inner path which he must follow cannot be precisely the same as theirs. In the end, after profiting by all the help which he may gain from advanced guides and fellow-pilgrims, after all his attempts to imitate or follow them, he is forced to find or make a way for himself, a way which will be peculiarly his own. In the end he must work out his own unique means to salvation and depend on himself for further enlightenment and strength. Taught by his own intelligence and instructed by his own intuition, he must find his own unique path toward enlightenment.
Each case is different, because each person has a different heredity, temperament, character, environment, and living habits. Therefore these general principles must be adapted to, and fitted in with, that person's particular condition.
- July 2014, #20 Solitude and Leisure
- Selected from
A Message from Arunachala
by Paul Brunton
The following quotes are from the chapter, "Solitude and Leisure" in one of the lesser known PB books, A Message from Arunachala. The inspiring thoughts are beautiful and powerful, reaching places in mind and heart and are worth remembering every day.
"Your self is sacred; be true to it." (p. 147)
"To know the Overself is to know the deep unmoved rest which is at the center of our being." (p. 154)
"We spend so much of our leisure doing nothing which really matters, that there is little of it left to do the one thing that emphatically does matter." (p. 155)
"A wise solitude thus fosters the soul's growth, keeps the mind clear of petty thoughts and matures the fine quality of mental independence. Go your way alone and you walk a path that shall indeed arrive somewhere. For solitude is not loneliness, boredom, or sadness. To be lonely is to be amongst those that do not understand. But in solitude you can people your place with thoughts, if you wish, whilst you always have yourself, your Overself, for company…. (p. 146)
"Peace is a costly privilege - to be fought for, attained and won. It comes only from the conquered mind. (p. 159)
A hundred multifarious activities now compete with each other for our time. All seek to rob us of the minutes that might be devoted to the high purpose for which we were born on this planet. "The hours perish and are laid to our charge," is the warning admonition inscribed in Latin on the clock-dial of an old college building at Oxford. Our day has only twenty-four hours upon its dial; we get them free of charge, whether we want them or not; and if we were to yield to all the opportunities which are made upon our time we should never make a start with the divine work that faces us, much less arrive at its completion. Each day brings its precious gift of time. Shall we fling away our opportunity through indifference, or shall we account for it honourably? For once we have been taught our true worth and glimpsed our divine possibilities, we will hug time as very life. To waste time is therefore to waste life, but to improve it with musing over matters eternal is to improve life. Those that kill time may live to mourn it. The camera cannot catch any scene for us unless and until we focus it upon the scene. The mind cannot catch hold of the Overself within unless and until we focus it in the direction of that divine being. We spend every hour and every day focusing the mind upon both the important and trivial activities that arise; can we not change around and concentrate for a brief period daily upon the superior reality of the Overself? For if we do, a time will surely come sooner or later when the deeper existence in the depth of the heart will reveal itself to us.
Our use of leisure is significant. Let us turn it then, to a higher purpose and a diviner value. (p. 162)
These quotes are from the E.P. Dutton publication, 1936
Read more about PB's views on solitude and leisure in the Notebooks, Volume 3: Relax and Retreat.
What is the PBPF doing these days?
The Spring/Summer PBPF Newsletter is available to read:
The Short Path to Enlightenment: Instructions for Immediate Awakening by Paul Brunton
(see http://paulbrunton.org/store.php for a full description)
Larson Publications is now offering a special pre-publication discount!
- June 2014, #19 The Short Path
- The Short Path to Enlightenment is the latest publication of the Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation. We selected the relevant PB teachings on the Short Path from The Notebooks of Paul Brunton and gathered and arranged them in one inspiring and instructive book.
As stated in the Preface: Paul Brunton's many books not only describe the Short Path, but place it in the context of the whole range of spiritual endeavor, including the development of reason and ethics, purification of the emotions, concentration, and so forth. His extraordinarily knowledgeable and broad view help orient spiritual seekers, so they can discern how the Short Path dovetails with mystical practices with which they might be familiar.
The following are selections from The Short Path to Enlightenment and each ends with its location in The Notebooks of Paul Brunton. The source category, chapter, and paragraph number are indicated for each selection to facilitate further study of the topics (see paulbrunton.org/notebooks/).
What Is the Short Path?
The Short Path offers the quickest way to the blessings of spiritual joy, truth, and strength. For since these things are present in the Overself, and since the Overself is present in all of us, each of us may claim them as his own by the direct declaration of his true identity. This simple act requires him to turn around, desert the dependence on personal self, and look to the original Source whence flows his real life and being, his true providence and happiness. Disregarding all contrary ideas that the world outside thrusts upon him, disdaining the ego's emotions and desires concerning them, he "prays without ceasing" to that Source. That is, he keeps himself concentrated within upon it until he can feel its liberating qualities and expand in its sunny glories. (23-1-60)
This notion that we must wait and wait while we slowly progress out of enslavement into liberation, out of ignorance into knowledge, out of the present limitations into a future union with the Divine, is only true if we let it be so. But we need not. We can shift our identification from the ego to the Overself in our habitual thinking, in our daily reactions and attitudes, in our response to events and the world. We have thought our way into this unsatisfactory state; we can unthink our way out of it. By incessantly remembering what we really are, here and now at this very moment, we set ourselves free. Why wait for what already is? (23-1-1)
The Short Path uses (a) thinking: metaphysical study of the Nature of Reality; (b) practice: constant remembrance of Reality during everyday life in the world; (c) meditation: surrender to the thought of Reality in stillness. You will observe that in all these three activities there is no reference to the personal ego. There is no thinking of, remembering, or meditating upon oneself, as there is with the Long Path. (23-1-98)
The unfulfilled future is not to be made an object of anxious thought or joyous planning. The fact that he has taken the tremendous step of offering his life in surrender to the Overself precludes it. He must now and henceforth let that future take care of itself, and await the higher will as it comes to him bit by bit. This is not to be confounded with the idle drifting, the apathetic inertia of shiftless, weak people who lack the qualities, the strength, and the ambition to cope with life successfully. The two attitudes are in opposition.
The true aspirant who has made a positive turning-over of his personal and worldly life to the care of the impersonal and higher power in whose existence he fully believes, has done so out of intelligent purpose, self-denying strength of will, and correct appraisal of what constitutes happiness. What this intuitive guidance of taking or rejecting from the circumstances themselves means in lifting loads of anxiety from his mind only the actual experience can tell. It will mean also journeying through life by single degrees, not trying to carry the future in addition to the present. It will be like crossing a river on a series of stepping-stones, being content to reach one at a time in safety and to think of the others only when they are progressively reached, and not before. It will mean freedom from false anticipations and useless planning, from vainly trying to force a path different from that ordained by God. It will mean freedom from the torment of not knowing what to do, for every needed decision, every needed choice, will become plain and obvious to the mind just as the time for it nears. For the intuition will have its chance at last to supplant the ego in such matters. He will no longer be at the mercy of the latter's bad qualities and foolish conceit. (18-4-145)
To find out more about the June publication of The Short Path to Enlightenment: www.paulbrunton.org/store.php
- May 2014, #18 Tablets of Forgotten Truth
- Selected from
A Search in Secret India
by Paul Brunton
The many inspiring passages in A Search in Secret India are worth reading and rereading. In later years PB wrote, as an inscription in the book, "What am I? The answer is a quiet smile." The following are some passages from Chapter XVII of the book, entitled Tablets of Forgotten Truth :
It seems to me that the presence of men like the Maharishee ensures the continuity down history of a divine message from regions not easily accessible to us all. It seems to me, further, that one must accept the fact that such a sage comes to reveal something to us, not to argue anything with us. At any rate, his teachings make a strong appeal to me for his personal attitude and practical method, when understood, are quite scientific in their way. He brings in no supernatural power and demands no blind religious faith. The sublime spirituality of the Maharishee's atmosphere and the rational self-questioning of his philosophy find but a faint echo in yonder temple. Even the word "God" is rarely on his lips.
He avoids the dark and debatable waters of wizardry, in which so many promising voyages have ended in shipwreck. He simply puts forward a way of self-analysis, which can be practiced irrespective of any ancient or modern theories and beliefs which one may hold, a way that will finally lead man to true self-understanding.
But how divorce oneself from the age-old tyranny of thoughts? I remember that the Maharishee has never suggested that I should attempt to force the stoppage of thinking. "Trace thought to its place of origin," is his reiterated counsel, "watch for the real self to reveal itself, and then your thoughts will die down of their own accord."
All that is truly grand in Nature and inspiringly beautiful in the arts speaks to man of himself. Where the priest has failed his people the illumined artist takes up his forgotten message and procures hints of the soul for them. Whoever can recall rare moments when beauty made him a dweller amid the eternities should, whenever the world tires him, turn memory into a spur and seek out the sanctuary within. Thither he should wander for a little peace, a flush of strength and a glimmer of light, confident that the moment he succeeds in touching his true selfhood he will draw infinite support and find perfect compensation. Scholars may burrow likes moles among the growing piles of modern books and ancient manuscripts which line the walls of the house of learning, but they can learn no deeper secret than this, no higher truth than the supreme truth that man's very self is divine. The wistful hopes of man may wane as the years pass, but the hope of undying life, the hope of perfect love, and the hope of assured happiness, shall ultimately find a certain fulfillment; for they constitute prophetic instincts of an ineluctable destiny which can in no way be avoided.
He who looks within himself and perceives only discontent, frailty, darkness and fear, need not curl his lip in mocking doubt. Let him look deeper and longer, deeper and longer, until he presently becomes aware of faint tokens and breath-like indications which appear when the heart is still. Let him heed them well, for they will take life and grow into high thoughts that will cross the threshold of his mind like wandering angels, and these again shall become forerunners of a voice which will come later - the voice of a hidden, recondite and mysterious being who inhabits his centre, who is his own ancient self.
From A Search in Secret India, first published 1934, reprinted 1977 by Samuel Weiser, Inc., NY, NY. Page numbers are from the 1977 edition.
- April 2014, #17 PB’s Glimpse
- Selected from
A Search in Secret India
by Paul Brunton
The following is from A Search in Secret India, chapter XVII. PB tells us what it is like to stand apart from thinking and go into stillness, to see the mind withdraw into itself and watch the world fade off "into shadowy vagueness."
"Finally it happens. Thought is extinguished like a snuffed candle. The intellect withdraws into its real ground, that is, consciousness working unhindered by thoughts. I perceive, what I have suspected for some time and what the Maharishee has confidently affirmed, that the mind takes its rise in a transcendental source. The brain has passed into a state of complete suspension, as it does in deep sleep, yet there is not the slightest loss of consciousness. I remain perfectly calm and fully aware of who I am and what is occurring. Yet my sense of awareness has been drawn out of the narrow confines of the separate personality; it has turned into something sublimely all-embracing. Self still exists, but it is a changed, radiant self. For something that is far superior to the unimportant personality which was I, some deeper, diviner being rises into consciousness and becomes me. With it arrives an amazing new sense of absolute freedom, for thought is like a loom-shuttle which is always going to and fro, and to be freed from its tyrannical motion is to step out of prison into the open air.
I find myself outside the rim of world consciousness. The planet which has so far harboured me, disappears. I am in the midst of an ocean of blazing light. The latter, I feel rather than think, is the primeval stuff out of which worlds are created, the first state of matter. It stretches away into untellable infinite space, incredibly alive .
I touch, as in a flash, the meaning of this mysterious universal drama which is being enacted in space, and then return to the primal point of my being. I, the new I, rest in the lap of holy bliss. I have drunk the Platonic Cup of Lethe, so that yesterday's bitter memories and to-morrow's anxious cares have disappeared completely. I have attained a divine liberty and an almost indescribable felicity. My arms embrace all creation with profound sympathy, for I understand in the deepest possible way that to know all is not merely to pardon all, but to love all. My heart is remoulded in rapture.
How shall I record these experiences through which I next pass, when they are too delicate for the touch of my pen? Yet the starry truths which I learn may be translated into the language of earth, and the effort will not be a vain one. So I seek, all too roughly, to bring back some memorials of the wonderful archaic world which stretches out, untracked and unpathed, behind the human mind."
In a footnote at the end of chapter XVII (p. 310, revised edition, 1985), PB says:
"The reader should not be misled into believing that such an experience remains continuous and permanent; it is only a temporary but valuable raising of consciousness which passes away. It is of the category which I have called "Moments of Illumination." The nature of such a glimpse is explained in the last chapter of my book The Spiritual Crisis of Man. To establish oneself on, and keep this high level it is essential in most cases to work on oneself and develop the right conditions within oneself. For the philosophical enlightenment see The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga and The Wisdom of the Overself."
- March 2014, #16 Peace
- Selected from
A Hermit in the Himalayas
by Paul Brunton
In A Hermit in the Himalayas, PB reflects on peace. He says:
Not that there is any real end to the turbulence of political classes and the harassments of racial differences. We shall have a pacified world when we have pacified hearts-not before. The ancient Sages who gave this simple formula to mankind are now-a-days denounced as impractical idealists. But if the final test of a policy is its results in material affairs, we must confess that this peaceless world has not improved on them. The spiritual emptiness of our epoch and the poverty of our inner resources express themselves clearly enough in the chaos, the distress we see everywhere around us, and the dolorous servitude which we give to unworthy ideals and unworthy men.
The world's development of egotism and intellect has given it a fictitious sense of practical wisdom. But the sages who spoke to former times spoke out of a knowledge of humanity's history profounder and more accurate than any which our book-delving historians can ever hope to have. For the paltry few thousand years which we can record-and that with much guesswork-represent but the tail-end of mankind's lengthy past. When a man- he never pretended to be anything more than that- like Buddha proclaims and re-proclaims that "Hatred ceases not by hatred; hatred ceases only by love," he is not a mere sentimental idealist, voicing his well-meaning but futile emotions. He is every whit as practical as the business man who keeps his ears glued to the telephone and his eyes to the papers on his desk. For Buddha, like all great Sages of his status, sees the pitiful tangle of wars without end that dismayed the pre-historic epoch as it has dismayed the historic epoch. He sees these things in the universal vision of the planet's past which the gods hold before him, as in a mirror. And he is shown how the threads of cause and effect in humanity's affairs are tied by invisible hands in such a way that an inescapable justice, an equalizing re-adjustment, is forever at work. He sees, too, that a spiritual Power is back of the universe whose expression in one form is a sublime benevolence, and that this power is eternal. He knows that hatred brings pain, both to the hated and the hater, and that therefore both hatred and its corollary of suffering can never cease until benevolence takes its place. And because the Power which prompts us ultimately to practise benevolence is an eternal one, and above all an inescapable one, he preaches the advisability of yielding to it now and thus saving much needless suffering. Is he or the hater impractical?
Precisely the same vision of life is given to Jesus. In a world of dry formalists and barren religionists, given over to the doctrine of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, Jesus condenses and re-affirms this truth. He, too, is shown the vision of the universe and the laws which secretly govern the beings who dwell upon it….
Destiny will take charge of the nations and teach them what they need to learn. The most practical course open to me is, therefore, to concentrate my energies and direct my attention into a channel where they can be most economically used.
Such a channel exists in myself. The best starting- point from which to reform the world is undoubtedly my own self. The best way to spread the spirit of benevolence is to begin with myself. Let me, then, compose my thoughts and silently repeat the Buddhist formula for world well-being, whose spirit if not whose words is:
"To the four quarters of the world, I send compassion. To the north, south, east and west, above and below, I send compassion. To all living creatures upon the earth, I send compassion."
My mind softly dwells upon this gentle theme; the emotion of pity passes through me; and when the final benedictory word is pronounced, I feel no less blessed myself.
The Hermit in the Himalayas, Chapter 3, pp. 35-36. Samuel Weiser, N.Y., 1972
- February 2014, #15 Nature
- Selected from
A Hermit in the Himalayas
by Paul Brunton
PB eTeaching #15 - Nature
...My excursions into stillness have led to a distinct sense of closer touch with my surroundings. In the poet Shelley's phrase, I feel "made one with Nature"... .And as this unifying spirit penetrates me more and more, a benign sense of well-being appears to be one result. I and all these friendly trees, this kindly earth, those white glistening peaks which rim the horizon, are bound up into one living organism and the whole is definitely good at its heart. The universe is not dead but alive, not maleficent but benevolent, not an empty shell but the gigantic body of a Great Mind. I feel sorry for those materialists who, quite honestly but upon limited data, find Death to be the king of the world and the Devil to dwell at the heart of things. Could they but still their overactive brains and align themselves with Nature's panoramic personality, they would discover how wrong they are...
For Nature has a will to outwork in us and only by desisting for a time from the continuous exercise of our own wills can we acquaint ourselves with her purpose. If however, we do this we may learn with surprise that she also has a way of silently yet forcefully attaining this end before our eyes, once we help her by such selflessness. And then her aims and our aims become one, interblent. Ambitions are then transmuted into aspirations and the things we once wanted to achieve for our own individual benefit alone become achieved, almost effortlessly, through us for the benefit of others as well. To co-operate with her in this way is to give up carrying the burden of life and to let her carry it for us; everything becomes easy, even miraculous... The mysterious manner in which this growing sense of unity commingles with a sense of utter goodness is worth noting. It arises by no effort of mine; rather does it come to me out of I know not where. I feel the fundamental benignity of Nature despite the apparent manifestation of ferocity... In short it is a matter of doing nothing in order to allow something to be done to me. Harmony appears gradually and flows through my whole being like music...
How many of our sufferings arise, then, from our resistance? Nature places a gentle finger upon us at first but we turn roughly away. The call to entrust our lives to a higher Power comes in the softest of whispers, so soft that unless we withdraw for awhile and sit still we can hardly hear it, but we stop our ears. Submission, which would bring us peace, is farthest from our thoughts. The personal self, with its illusive reality, deceives us, and, deceiving, enchains us. All of which is but the price we pay for our desertions of Nature's way. With her, harmony; without her, discord and consequent suffering...
I cannot adequately explain the reverence in which I hold Nature. It is to me the universal temple, the universal church... Nature's voice is to be heard within; her beauty may be discerned without; but her beneficent harmony lives both within and without us...
But if I die tonight, then let these words be found in my journal and published broadcast to the whole world:
Nature is your friend; cherish her reverently in your silent moments,
and she will bless you in secret.
All excerpts are from Chapter 4, pp. 45-48, A Hermit in the Himalayas, by Paul Brunton, Samuel Weiser, NY, 1972.
- January 2014, #14 Creativity
- Selected from
The Spiritual Crisis of Man & The Notebooks of Paul Brunton
by Paul Brunton
PB eTeaching #14 - Creativity
The infinite Mind did not suddenly decide to become creative. It always was and always will be so. All the infinitude of this cosmos is a kind of mirror reflecting the infinitude of the Godhead whence it comes. All Nature is but a parable of the primeval reality which transcends it. From the human standpoint the most important characteristic of the World-Mind is its creative ability. We see the infinite and boundless cosmos consisting of universes, galaxies, and solar systems coming into existence by its means. This creative ability is also the most important characteristic of the human being. It manifests in a variety of ways, whether through the half-blind act of self-reproduction or the fully conscious act of logical intellectual creation, whether in the inspirational production of an artist or the mechanical ingenuity of an inventor. The creative energy displays itself also in the human being's destiny which, for better or for worse, it is making every day. Whether he remains in darkness and ignorance or whether he enters into light, peace, and power, lies within each individual's own hands. (The Spiritual Crisis of Man)
"How am I to start upon this process of true self-knowledge?" The answer begins with this: first adopt the right attitude. Believe in the divinity of your deeper self. Stop looking elsewhere for light, stop wandering hither and thither for power. Your intelligence has become falsified through excessive attention to external living, hence you are not even aware in which direction to look when you seek for the real Truth. You are not even aware that all you need can be obtained by the power within, by the omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient Self. You have to change, first of all, the line of thought and faith which pleads helplessly: "I am a weak man; I am unlikely to rise any higher than my present level; I live in darkness and move amid opposing environments that overwhelm me." Rather should you engrave on your heart the high phrases: "I possess illimitable power within me; I can create a diviner life and truer vision than I now possess." Do this and then surrender your body, your heart and mind to the Infinite Power which sustains all. Strive to obey Its inward promptings and then declare your readiness to accept whatsoever lot it assigns you. This is your challenge to the gods and they will surely answer you. Your soul will be slowly or suddenly liberated; your body will be granted a freer pathway through conditions. You may have to be prepared for a few changes before the feet find rest, but always you shall find that the Power in which you have placed an abiding trust does not go into default. (The Notebooks, Category 1, Chap. 5, Para. #1)
Since the gift of creativity belongs to all of us and is usable in all spheres of a man's life, he can do much to mold that life if he exerts strength and holds to determination. (The Notebooks, Category 14, Chap. 1, Para 109)
- December 2013, #13 The Independent Path
- Selected from
The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, v. 13, & The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga
by Paul Brunton
PB E-Teaching #13 - The Independent Path
PB wrote in Category 20 (Vol. 13 of The Notebooks): I am a student of philosophy. During my journeys to the heavenly realm of infinite eternal and absolute existence, I did not once discover any labels marked Christian, Hindu, Catholic, Protestant, Zen, Shin, Platonist, Hegelian, and so on, any more than I discovered labels marked Englishman, American, or Hottentot. All such ascriptions would contradict the very nature of ascriptionless existence. All sectarian differences are merely intellectual ones. They have no place in that level which is deeper than intellectual function. They divide men into hostile groups only because they are pseudo-spiritual. He who has tasted of the Spirit's own freedom will be unwilling to submit himself to the restrictions of cult and creed. Therefore I could not conscientiously affix a label to my own outlook or to the teaching about this existence which I have embraced. In my secret heart I separate myself from nobody, just as this teaching itself excludes no other in its perfect comprehension. Because I had to call it by some name as soon as I began to write about it, I called it philosophy because this is too wide and too general a name to become the property of any single sect. In doing so I merely returned to its ancient and noble meaning among the Greeks who, in the Eleusinian Mysteries, designated the spiritual truth learned at initiation as "philosophy" and the initiate himself as "philosopher" or lover of wisdom.
This from The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga: The tool with which a philosopher must needs work is his mind. The ancient sages did not permit a man to begin philosophic studies until he had put his mind into proper shape so that it could function efficiently. This preliminary phase consisted in a practical course in the yoga of mental concentration often coupled with a parallel course in ascetic self-abnegation. (Long Path - editor) Both courses, however, were usually temporary and continued only so long as they were necessary to bring the mental faculties to a reasonable degree of concentrative competency, and the pupil's character to a reasonable degree of self-detachment, sufficient to undertake the difficult task of philosophical reflection.
Our task is to learn wisdom from all experience, from pain as from pleasure, from cruelty as from kindness, and to express in the arena of everyday life just what we have learnt. In this way everything that happens gives us a better foothold for future living.
For the philosophy of truth is taught in a particular and peculiar way. It begins to lead men to truth by pointing out their error, by showing where they think or talk nonsense, by causing them to unlearn illusory knowledge and then by reminding them that penetration to a deeper level of enquiry is possible and desirable. It is established in the mind of its student not so much by the affirmation of what is as by the elimination of what is not.
The ancient Indian teaching postulates three stages of evolution through which the mind of man must pass, three progressive attitudes towards life. The first is religion and is based on faith, the second, mysticism, is controlled by feeling and the third, philosophy (which is inclusive of science), is disciplined by reason. Nor can it be otherwise for man's understanding of the world must necessarily grow parallel to his mental capacity.
The ultimate purpose of the Indian esotericism was to lead men to detect the essential meaning of human life, to help them gain insight into the real structure of the universe and to point out the grand sun of absolute truth shining on the horizon of all existence.
- November 2013, #12 The Quest
- Selected from
The Quest of the Overself
by Paul Brunton
The Twelfth PB E-teaching - The Quest
The equipoise derived from mental quiet cannot be overpriced. Hospitals could be made emptier, asylums could be less filled and countless homes become far happier if it were universally practiced.
In these days of muddle, conflict and horror, the possession of a balanced mind, interior calm and mellow wisdom, of a sense of genuine values, will not prove to be without advantage. America, as a country palpitant with physical and mental activity, has more need of this quality of internal stillness than even Europe. Agitation, undue haste and over-anxiety vanish from the vocabulary of being when mental quiet is resorted to. It provides men with a fortifying philosophical outlook which makes them more efficient and not less.
The wise man turns all opposition into opportunity. The faults of those with whom he is thrown into inescapable contact become sharpening-stones for his own virtues. He meets their irritability with the sublime patience which wells up as soon as he switches attention to the inner self. He does not worsen matters by dwelling overmuch on negative critical thoughts. He lives his beliefs and converts principle into practice. He will not merely commend his friends and loved ones alone to the kindly care of the Overself, but also his enemies. He knows that we gain more than we lose by forgiving. Those who nourish hatreds are blind, and perceive not that they shall pay for their retention of ancient wrongs. Thus he becomes a secret envoy of the Overself to all whom he meets; within his mind there is a divine message to each of them, but unless they humbly claim it, the message remains unborn.
The potentialities of inspired action, of frictionless activity, are little known. We do not realize how immense an achievement is possible to the centralized man. Divinity and practicality are not necessarily incompatibles. The modern mystic can regard life as a participant, not merely as a percipient. He is not afraid to plunge into action. He knows that if he pays attention to thought, the actions will take care of themselves, and that whatever is conquered in mind is already conquered in deed and must bear right fruit as a tree bears apples. He does not need to deceive himself or others by adopting monkish asceticisms which belong to the needs of former epochs. The world is his monastery. Life is his spiritual teacher. Its experiences are the doctrines for his study.
Men plunged deeply in the world's affairs have found their way to the Overself. They hold an inward calm amid the turmoils of business. There is need at this critical hour in world history for more such spirit-illumined men who will harmonize the secular with the sacred, who can assimilate a subtle spirituality to their complex modern natures, and who will break through the chrysalis of public opinion to bespeak their inward light. There is need of men who seek the service of mankind as much as their own success. "Produce great personalities, and the rest follows", cried Walt Whitman.
The starting point of this quest is where we find ourselves and what we are. The finishing point is the same. Religion, mysticism, art, science and philosophy are indirect paths only, for the issue of self-confronting cannot ultimately be evaded. Hence we can never bestir ourselves too early for the task. The work must ultimately succeed because the infinite is inherent within us as salt inheres in seawater. The travail of dis-identification is not necessarily tedious but equally it is not a hobby for idle hours. No adventure is really so lofty.
These inspiring words are from The Quest of the Overself, pp. 290-293. Note that PB's use of 'man' in his writings refers to mankind, and the root word of man comes from the Sanskrit manas, mind. Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary also gives a derivation from the Sanskrit Manu, "the progenitor of the human race and giver of the religious laws of Manu in Hindu mythology."
Read more on this topic in The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, Volume 2, "The Quest."
- October 2013, #11 Karma Part 2
- Selected from
The Wisdom of the Overself
by Paul Brunton
PB E-Teaching #11- KARMA, Part 2
By detaching a fragmentary part of our daily program for the simple purpose of stilling the mind, 'going into the silence' and aspiring intensely for the divine Light to pass into and through us for the blessing of mankind, a mental channel may be opened to attract higher forces to our earth. This practice is best done in an unobserved place or at the window of a room whilst seated in a chair with legs uncrossed, for it should be followed at dawn or sunset facing towards the sun. It should be continued until a feeling of loving response arises, which feeling can come within ten or twenty minutes in most cases.* Here is a chance for those who have felt the need of a high and holy Cause in whose service they could lose themselves and for which they could forget themselves. If grace for the individual man is procurable only by a change of thought, that is a veritable repentance, it is equally true that grace for a whole people is procurable on the same terms.
*For full detailed instructions see "The First Meditation" in Chapter XIV, The Wisdom of the Overself.
They (mankind) possess today an opportunity not only to put wrongs right but also to attain a truer view of life, to comprehend that it is not meaningless but has an exalted purpose, that it is their privilege to co-operate in securing the fulfillment of this purpose within their own lives, and that their brief hours on the stage of universal existence could become the prelude to ineffable ones. Mankind have been estranged from the inner sources of truth and hope for so long that the more sensitive are now beginning to experience the thirsts and hungers of a veritable drought... .Human life is not a stagnant pool. There is a sacred Something back of us which demands and must have expression and growth, which must break through as inevitable as tomorrow's sun must destroy tonight's darkness.
The doctrine of historical cycles has warned us that there is no unimpeded progress toward perfection, that stagnation and retrogression inevitably make their contributions too, human nature being what it is. But it has also shown us that although there are always periods when mankind degenerates morally, there are at least as many other periods when it advances morally. And it is the latter which, in the ultimate reckoning, will have the last word. For karma tends to educate a man and his own Overself tends to draw him to itself.
All that wars against human unity, that would turn the hand of man against his brother, will one day infallibly perish. None of us dare hope to see such a day, for quick millenniums are the cheap delusions of wishful thinkers, but all of us may hope to find within ourselves even now this same sacred principle and thus assure ourselves of its truth. We may safely take our stand on the oneness of essential being. We may wait quietly for the World-Mind to reclaim its own progeny. For we are ever moving towards the morrow. If, meanwhile, we endeavour to co-operate reverently and intelligently with its plan, and at the same time aspire toward that region where the atmosphere is timeless, our patience will not sink into lethargy.
This is the grand goal towards which all living creatures are moving... There is no need to lose heart. No single defeat of true ideas and no violent devolution of revered ideals could ever be really definite in this ancient war of light against night. Hope is the beautiful message of the unknown goal, the star that blazes when all else is dark, the encouragement of the sublime Perfect to the struggling Imperfect.
- The Wisdom of the Overself, Chapter X, "The War and the World"
- October 2013, #10 Karma
- Selected from
The Wisdom of the Overself
by Paul Brunton
Dear Reader: The theme of the next two PB e-teachings is Karma. This teaching aims to discuss how karma works while the next one will show how the individual can cooperate with the positive effects of karma. In our studies of the chapter "The Birth of the Universe," in The Wisdom of the Overself we learned that the universe is an endless affair which arises out of a gradual process of manifestation. There has always been an eternal hidden reality in its background, World Mind. The mental impressions formed in the past reappear as the world and as individuals in the world; they are reincarnations of previously existent forces that go on developing themselves and mutually inter-act. Put another way, "As the ripples of Karma flow across the lake of World-Mind they move through both the universe and the individual at the same instant and, operationally, in the same way." pp. 56-57.
Nobody likes to impose a discipline upon himself and that is why everybody has to submit to a discipline imposed by karma. The seeds may have been sown during the present life and not necessarily during a past one. The first error which most people make when accepting the tenet of karma is to postpone its operation to future incarnations. The truth is that the consequences of our acts come to us if they can in the same birth as when they are committed. If we think of karma as being something whose fruits are to be borne in some remote future existence, we think of it wrongly. For every moment we are shaping the history of the next moment, every month we are fashioning the form of the month which shall follow it. No day stands isolated and alone.
Karma is a continuous process and does not work by postponement. But it is often not possible to work out these consequences in terms of the particular circumstances of this birth. In such cases ? and in such alone ? do we experience the consequences in subsequent births. Even those who accept the twin doctrines of re-embodiment and self-made karma, which are the most reasonable of all doctrines claiming to explain the principal vicissitudes of human fortune, are not infrequently hazy about the proper practical attitude to adopt as a consequence of this belief. It is necessary for them to understand first of all that although whilst evil endures we must accept the fact of its existence as the price to be paid for the self-limiting of an emanation from the Infinite into the finite, we need not therefore complacently tolerate its activity. Because we believe that karma operates to bring about sometimes approximate, sometimes adequate justice in the end, we must not therefore for example stand indolently aside from aggressive wrong-doing in passive trust to its operation. For karma needs to utilize instruments, and its effects do not spring miraculously out of the air.
The second point for their understanding is the place of free will in the practical application of this doctrine. For we weaken ourself and injure truth if we believe that all events are unalterably fixed, that our external lives are unchangeably pre-ordained, and that there is nothing we can do to improve the situations in which we find ourself. It is true that we are compelled to move within the circumstances we have created in the past and the conditions we have inherited in the present, but it is also true that we are quite free to modify them. Freedom exists at the heart of man, that is in his Overself. Fate exists on the surface-life of man, that is in his personality. And as man himself is a compound of both these beings, neither the absolute fatalist nor the absolute free-will position is wholly correct, and his external life must also be a compound of freedom and fate. No man however evolved he may be has entire control over his life, but then he is not entirely enslaved to it either. No action is entirely free nor entirely fated; all are of this mixed double character. ..We sew the tapestry of our own destiny, but the thread we use is of a kind, a colour and quality forced upon us by our own past thoughts and acts. In short, our existence has a semi-independent, semi-predestined character.
The Wisdom of the Overself, pp. 228-9
- September 2013, #9 Quotes
- Selected from
The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga
by Paul Brunton
QUOTES FROM THE HIDDEN TEACHING BEYOND YOGA by Paul Brunton
Dear Reader: This 9th PB e-teaching from The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga widens the perspective of the earlier presentations. PB writes that "whereas western thinkers usually claimed that nobody had discovered ultimate truth, the authors of old Asiatic books claimed that ultimate truth was certainly discoverable and that a few sages had definitely known it." The HTBY explains the steps the student should develop to prepare for the study of Philosophy, the love of truth. The result of this work brings not only the feeling of having reached truth but also gives the irrefutable knowledge of truth and arises out of the balance between knowledge and feeling. The following quotes give the student some ideas of the material, but devoted study and practice of these ideas are necessary to grasp the benefits.
Quotes from The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga
Every writer or teacher must perforce take up a different position according to the grade of development of the mind with which he is dealing... The purpose of these pages should not be misconstrued, They are designed to show a yoga-path suited to Western people... they show how to achieve certain satisfactions, but they do not attempt at this stage to solve the mystery of the universe... When peace of mind and concentration of thought have been gained, then only will one be fit and ready to embark on the quest of Ultimate Truth. We are still in the process of unveiling a subtle and startling wisdom which not one person in a million has yet grasped.
- Quote appears in both The Quest of the Overself and The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga
The sage has sought and found his basic happiness in the Mind, which is his inalienable possession and of which no catastrophe can rob him.
We may accumulate wealth if we wish to, possess property and estimate the usefulness of money, love, and family and friends, but the moment we permit these things to absorb our whole time so that we have neither mind nor time to give to the quest of understanding what we are here for, then they become a disguised curse and a source of latent suffering.
Struggle must continue while the world lasts but it will gradually be refined, modified, dignified and purged of its physical brutality. We must therefore admit with Socrates: "Evil, O Glaucon, will not vanish from the earth. How should it, if it is the name of the imperfection through whose defeat the perfect types acquire their value?" and with Buddha: "Struggle there must be, for all life is a struggle of some kind." But Buddha also pointed out that the conflict in life is not really between good and evil but between knowledge and ignorance. We must remember that the sages refuse to recognize evil as a positive independent existence but place it in the limited view of the man who believes in it. Our task is to learn wisdom from all experience, from pain as from pleasure, from cruelty as from kindness, and to express in the arena of everyday life just what we have learnt. In this way everything that happens gives us a better foothold for future living.
The practical lesson is: Change the prevailing tenor of your thoughts and you will help to change, in time, the prevailing condition of your affairs. Correct your mental and ethical errors and the correction will ultimately tend to become apparent in better character and improved environment. To a considerable extent man builds and changes his environment, constructs the history of his life and shapes his own circumstances by the simple power of mind for destiny is ultimately self-earned and mind- made. Karma shows how this can be so, and the doctrine of mentalism shows why this must be so.
Lastly we must learn through yoga-practice and philosophic reflection the art of being unruffled. For troubles must come, but as they come so will they go. The same power that brought them will also take them away. Fortune is a turning wheel. Meanwhile the mind should remain firmly anchored where it belongs - in truth, not in illusion. p. 390
- August 2013, #8 Individuality
- Selected from
The Wisdom of the Overself
by Paul Brunton
The 8th PB e-teaching deals with Individuality. The Wisdom of the Overself, chapter 3, speaks of individuality on many levels: karma is both general and specific. The individual and the world arise together at the same moment out of the past which trails behind both. The World Mind's memorization makes individual activity possible, subtly supports and sustains it. PB writes of a triune stream of life current, intelligence, and individuality that runs through the universe. In category 1 of the Notebooks he says a prime purpose of the Quest is to create a true individuality, where, at present, there is only a pseudo one. The following paras from Category 1 explain more on this fascinating topic.
In every individual there is an original, mysterious, and incalculable element, because his past history and his prenatal ancestry in other lives on earth have inevitably been different at certain points from those of other individuals. His world-outlook may seem the same as theirs, but there will always be subtle variations. There is no single path which can be presented to suit the multitudinous members of the human species. There is no one unalterable approach to this experience for all men. Each has to find his own present understanding and past experience-and each in the end really does so despite all appearances to the contrary. For each man passes through a different set of life-experiences. His past history and present circumstances have constituted an individual being who is unique, who possesses something entirely his own. It is partly through the lessons, reflections, intuitions, traits, characteristics, and capacities engendered by such experiences that he is able to find his way to truth. Therefore he is forced not only to work out his own salvation but also to work it out in his own unique way. Every description of a mystical path must consequently be understood in a general sense. If its expounder delimits it to constitute a precise path for all alike, he exaggerates. Although there is so much is life which the aspirant shares with other beings, there is always a residue which imparts a stamp of individuality that is different from and unshareable with the individualities of all others. Consequently, the inner path which he must follow cannot be precisely the same as theirs. In the end, after profiting by all the help which he may gain from advanced guides and fellow-pilgrims, after all his attempt to imitate or follow them, he is forced to find or make a way for himself, a way which will be peculiarly his own. In the end he must work out his own unique means to salvation and depend on himself for further enlightenment and strength. Taught by his own intelligence and instructed by his own intuition, he must find his own unique path toward enlightenment.
Each case is different, because each person has a different heredity, temperament, character, environment, and living habits. Therefore these general principles must be adapted to, and fitted in with, that person's particular condition.
- July 2013 - #7, Mysticism
- Selected from
The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga
by Paul Brunton
The subject of the 7th PB e-teaching is Mysticism, and it is from Chapter III, "The Religious and Mystic Grades," from The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga. In this section PB points out the important function that mysticism serves in our development and also its limitations. He writes that whatever good mysticism can do, there is much that it cannot do, yet wrongly claims to do, and says the social value of mysticism is as little as its individual value is great. Therefore, it cannot constitute a complete solution of the problem of human existence or offer a complete panacea for the malady of human suffering.
A SUMMARY OF MYSTICISM
Mysticism might be cryptically described as a mode of life which claims, without long and laudatory praises of God, to bring us nearer to Him than do ordinary religious methods; as a view of life which rejects the all-too-human God made by man in his own image and out of his own imagination, replacing it by a formless infinite divinity; and as a psychological technique which seeks to establish direct communication with this spirit, through the channel of interior contemplation.
Certain collective tenets of mysticism are not confined to any one faith, to any one country, or to any one people, and are roughly universal. These cardinal positions of the mystic's thought are five in number and may be briefly picked out and exhibited as follows. Mystics hold first that God is not to be located in any particular place, church or temple but that His spirit is everywhere present in Nature and that Nature everywhere abides in it. The orthodox notion that God is a particular Person among many other persons, only much more powerful yet still saddled with likes and dislikes, anger and jealousy, is rejected as childish. Pantheism is therefore the initial note to be sounded. Right thought hallows a place or makes it profane, and real sacredness dwells within the mind alone, Next they hold that as a corollary from the first tenet, God abides inside the heart of every man as the sun abides in all its myriad rays. He is not merely a physical body alone, as materialists believe, not a body plus a ghost-like soul which emanates from it after death, as religionists believe, but he is here and now divine in the very flesh. The heavenly kingdom must be found whilst we are yet alive, or not at all. It is not a prize which is bestowed on us in the nebulous courts of death. The practical consequence of this doctrine is embodied in the third tenet of the mystics, which asserts that it is perfectly possible for any man, who will submit to the prerequisite ascetic discipline, to enter into direct communion by contemplation and meditation with the spirit of God without the use of any priest or prelate as an intermediary and without the formal utterance of verbal prayer. This renders it quite unnecessary to lift upturned palms in suppliant adjuration of a higher Being. Silent aspiration thus replaces mechanical recitation. The fourth tenet is as obnoxious to official religion as the last for it declares that the stories, events, incident and sayings, which in their totality constitute a holy scripture, are merely a mixture of imagined allegories and actual happenings, a literary concoction whereby mystical truths are cleverly conveyed through the medium of symbolic myth, legendary personification and true historic fact; that the twentieth century indeed could quite justifiably write its new Bibles, its new Korans, its new Vedas afresh if it wished, for the divine afflatus may descend again at any hour. Mystics hold, fifthly, that their practices ultimately lead to the development of supernormal faculties and extraordinary mental powers or even strange physical ones, either as the gift of God's grace or as the consequence of their own efforts.
... The broadening effect of mysticism upon man's religious outlook is an incentive to tolerance and therefore a definite asset in this intolerant world ...
The fully developed mystic understands that God's sun shines on all alike, and that he is free to follow any particular creed or none. That which he seeks he must discover for himself and from himself by meditative introversion.
The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga, pp. 77-79
- June 2013, #6 The Immortal Overself
- Selected from
The Wisdom of the Overself
by Paul Brunton
The Immortal Overself
Just as it has been necessary to purify our ideas of what is meant by 'I';so it is now necessary to purify our ideas of what is meant by immortality. We did not deny the 'I.' We shall not deny God. We are not now denying immortality. But fallacious conceptions of it must be got rid of.
When the mind essence is recognized as the true ground upon which the whole structure of this 'I' has been built, it will also be recognized as something which is never born and consequently never dies, as what was is and shall be. It can then be seen that if all our memories involve time, they also involve as a background the existence of something in them which is out of time. This view of immortality as belonging to the higher individuality of Overself rather than to the lower personality will then replace the former one, which is ultimately doomed to suffer the anguish of frustrated desire whereas the true view bathes a man in increasing peace the better it is understood. When man continues firmly and unfailingly to identify himself in thought with this, his higher individuality, quite naturally he comes to share its attitude. And from this attitude the belief, 'I shall die eventually' is entirely absent. To imagine is to create. That which a man thinks, he becomes. Rightly thinking himself immortal, he consequently attains immortality.
The common conception of immortality would make it an indefinite prolongation of personal existence. The mystic conception would make it an indefinite prolongation of personal bliss. The philosophic conception, however, transcends both these notions because it discards the personal life and replaces it by its ultimate non-egoistic root, the individual Overself. ... It IS. It has life of itself. Consequently the body has to give up in death what it has previously received but the Overself never having had anything added to it, has nothing to give up. It cannot but be immortal for it is part of the World-Mind and what is true of that must be true of itself.
In the end these studies will reveal that the truth behind the world is its essential enduring reality and that the truth behind ourself is our own enduring divinity. In what way the one is real and the other divine is something which has to be dug out by hard labour. ... Let it be repeated therefore that because we are what we really are annihilation is not for us.
- May 2013, #5 The Metaphysics of Sleep
- Selected from
The Wisdom of the Overself
by Paul Brunton
PB E- Teaching #5 - The Metaphysics of Sleep
" The dream state is the key to the mystery of who he is, while the more advanced deep sleep state indicates what he is." - The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, Category 19, chapter 3, para 34
The Metaphysics of Sleep
We have already learnt that the mind is the principle in us which really sees, hears, tastes, touches and thinks; that these activities are only ways in which it reveals itself in wakeful and dream consciousness but nevertheless they are ways which do not exhaust its fullness. What we must endeavour to grasp is that this same mind is still present during sleep even though the other kinds of consciousness are not. The waking, dreaming and sleeping selves are not really three individual beings, separate by nature. When a particular one of them is expressed it hides the other two from us but this does not alter the fact that it is only one and the same mind expressing itself under three different sets of conditions. And only because it is always present, because there is no break in the continuity of the mind itself, do we naturally experience a sense of reality when awake or dreaming. How important and how precious therefore should it be to us!
We have indeed actually dipped deeper, as it were, into the basis of its being when we have slipped into slumber. We have returned nearer to its innermost reality. Thus, from this metaphysical standpoint, the third state of mind is the most valuable of all but from the practical prosaic standpoint, the least valuable of all. For alas! What is the use of being a millionaire if one is ignorant of the fact at the time? Sleep frees us from all the fears and pains which shadow life but it also frees us from all the hopes and joys which brighten it. This is because man then ceases to limit himself solely to the consciousness of the flesh. But he also ceases to possess the consciousness of anything at all.
... .Here the higher teaching steps in and explains that Nature has indeed given man this move-up closer to the reality of mind, but because he has not earned the right to it by his own effort, she soon takes it away from him again. For he has entered sleep carrying with him the deep mental seed-impressions of earthly desire, the strong emotional tendencies which bind him to physical life and the powerful egoistic chains which cannot co-exist with the freedom and integrity of the mind's own pure nature. Because he has not earned the right to a release from this bondage by his own personal effort, Nature does not allow him to enjoy the consciousness of his thought-free liberation during his sleep but only as a soothing afterglow during the few moment after his awakening.... Is this not a hint to man that were his thinking to be deliberately brought down to its lowest ebb, thus making his mental state during wakefulness as similar as possible to what it is during sleep, and were this to be achieved with complete intellectual understanding of all that his enterprise involves, he would consciously experience this same happy calm condition?
The Wisdom of the Overself, pp. 123-125
Read More about meditation and PB's views on mysticism in Volume 4 of the Notebooks
- May 2013, #4 The Secret of the 'I'
- Selected from
The Wisdom of the Overself
by Paul Brunton
The fourth PB e-teaching discusses the nature of the I. The following ideas are from "The Secret of the 'I'" chapter in The Wisdom of the Overself. Ramana Maharishi frequently referenced the "I" and a deeper "I-I" in his talks, and the 'I' was often a subject in Anthony Damiani's classes.
THE SECRET OF THE 'I'
The first of our thoughts is 'I'. All other thoughts follow its arising. It does not stand alone but instantly associates itself with the thought which next follows. And this is the body thought. Unfortunately it ends by limiting itself to the body too, which could never have come into existence at all but for its own prior existence. Thus this association has degenerated into a bondage of the "I'-thought to the body-thought. The only self man believes in today is his body. Consequently the original 'I' thought becomes converted into 'I am the body.'
After this there arises the world-thought. The 'I' unconsciously provides the particular space-time characteristics through which the world must first pass before it can emerge into its consciousness. Thus the 'I' veritably holds as its own thought both the body and then the world outside the body. But because it began by deceiving itself about its own relation to the body, because it took the body for what it is not, it ends by deceiving itself about the things outside and around the body and takes them for what they are not too. Hence the arising of a triple error: the world, the body and the 'I' are all regarded as non-mental.
The 'I' every man knows is indeed his self but it is not his ultimate self. When he discovers that his own personal existence is no less a thought-structure than that of his physical surroundings, that everything including himself has an imagined existence, he comes close, very close, to the gate of initiation into a higher world of understanding... ..Jesus told his disciples that when they knew the Truth it would set them free. They were already physically free so the liberation to which he referred could only have been a mental one. Gautama was called 'Buddha', which means 'awakened one', because he had awakened from the attachment to his own person which was as erroneous as the attachment of the dreaming peasant to his royal self. Then as now the mass of humanity were still so utterly sunk in their thought-made self as to take it for the final one.
The essence of this doctrine is that all these things are ultimately known by the mind, are known only as mental perceptions and therefore can only exist within such a conscious immaterial and untouchable principle of awareness as we know the human mind to be.
Once we comprehend this situation then it becomes possible to find the answer to questions like, why if the person is itself owned and is not the ultimate owner does it seem to own the self; and, why does it yield the feeling of being substantially our real self? The answer is that the witnessing self is present in hidden association or mystic immanence in the personal self and reflects into that self the feeling of its own real existence. Its presence in each one of us thus explains why it is that we have the sense of personal identity at all. But this does not warrant the materialistic illusion which substitutes the personality for what underlies and supports it.
Read about the I and the Witnessing Self, in Volume 14 of the Notebooks of Paul Brunton and in Standing In Your Own Way by Anthony Damiani.
- April 2013, #3 The Meaning of Mentalism
- Selected from
The Wisdom of the Overself
by Paul Brunton
THE MEANING OF MENTALISM
Chapter 2, pp. 32-22
After all, this world in which we live move and have our being every moment and every hour, comes to our notice only because our body is sensitive to it in five different ways, because we feel, see, hear, smell and taste it. ...But sense impressions are themselves meaningless if they are not supported by or given to an individual mind which has them. (ed.note: This is further developed in The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga.)
If the reality of the known world lies in sense-impressions, then the reality of such impressions lies in a living mind. The individual, therefore, stands behind the world, although, paradoxically, he is also included in the world.
This paradox must be cleared. For if we make the mind of an individual the sole source of his experience, then we fall into the piquant situation of making him the sole creator and governor of this vast and varied cosmos of shooting stars and circling planets. But this is an absurdity. His mind may issue a decree but a tree will refuse to turn into a river at his bidding. It stubbornly remains a tree. Therefore it is clear that there must be another factor somehow present underneath the individual experience of the world, a creative and contributive factor which is as beyond his control as it is beyond his consciousness. It is to the united activity of these two elements - the individual and the unknown super-individual - that we must look for an intelligible explanation of the existence and structure of the experienced world. Thus although we started with sense-impressions as our view of what is real in the experienced world, we are compelled to conclude with a super-individual mental factor as our final view of what is real in it.
What shall we call this supreme Mind? Such a nebulous term as God must first be defined before it can properly be used. But it has already acquired so many different meanings in so many different intellects that a definition which will be satisfactory to all is difficult perhaps impossible to find. Therefore we are justified in using a self-explanatory term. And such a term?the World-Mind will henceforth be used throughout this book to indicate this universal Intelligence. Put into poetical language, the World-Mind is the Soul of Nature.
- March 2013, #2 Meditations on Grace Part 2
- Selected from
The Gift of Grace: Awakening to Its Presence
by Paul Brunton
Meditations on Grace, part 2
Out of the grand mystery of the Overself, the first communication we receive telling us of and making us feel its existence, is Grace.
Grace is here for all. It cannot be here for one special person and not for another. Only we do not know how to open our tensioned hands and receive it, how to open our ego-tight hearts and let it gently enter.
Judge a work of art by analysing its effect. Does it leave you feeling better or worse, inspired or disturbed, calmed or restless, perceptive or dulled? For every opportunity to behold great paintings or listen to inspired music or read deeply discerning literature is itself a kind of Grace granted to us.
When the inspired sentence is read, the sensitive mind comprehends that it is no longer merely reading words. It is also receiving the grace of the Presence.
Such is the wonder of grace that the worst sinner who falls to the lowest depths may thereafter rise to the loftiest heights. Jesus, Buddha, and Krishna have plainly said so.
The fact of Grace being an unpredictable descent from above does not mean that we are entirely helpless in the matter, that there is nothing we can do about it. We can at least prepare ourselves both to attract Grace and to respond aright when it does come. We can cleanse our hearts, train our minds, discipline our bodies, and foster altruistic service even now. And then every cry we send out to invoke grace will be supported and emphasized by these preparations.
The attitude of expectancy and hope in the matter of seeking illumination is a correct one. But the hour when this Grace will be bestowed is unpredictable; therefore, hope must be balanced with patience, and expectancy with perseverance. Meanwhile, there is all the work one can handle in attending to the improvement of character and understanding, the cultivation of intuition and practice of meditation, the prayers for Grace, and in self-humbling beneath the Will of the Overself.
- March 2013, #1 Meditations on Grace Part 1
- Selected from
The Gift of Grace: Awakening to Its Presence
by Paul Brunton
Meditations on Grace, part 1
Grace may be defined as the Overself's response to the personal self's aspiration, sincerity, and faith, lifting up the person to a level beyond his ordinary one.
Grace is always being offered, in a general way, but we do not see the offer; we are blind and so pass it by. How can we reverse this condition and acquire sight? By preparing proper conditions. First, mark off a period of each day--a short period to begin with--for retreat from the ordinary out-going way of living. Give up this period to in-going, to meditation. Come out of the world for a few minutes. What Grace does is to draw one?s attention away from oneself, from the ego, to the Overself. It is grace which inspires our best moves, and which enables us to make them.
As the light of Grace begins to fall upon him, he becomes aware of the tendencies and propensities, the motives and desires which obstruct or oppose the awakening into awareness of the Overself.
When one has reviewed a problem from all its angles, and has done this not only with the keenest powers of the mind but also with the finest qualities of the heart, it should be turned over at the end to the Overself and dismissed. The technique of doing so is simple. It consists of being still. In the moment of letting the problem fall away, one triumphs over the ego. This is a form of meditation. In the earlier stage it is an acknowledgment of helplessness and weakness in handling the problem, of personal limitations, followed by a surrender of it (and of oneself) to the Overself in the last resort. One can do no more. Further thought would be futile. At this point Grace may enter and do what the ego cannot do. It may present guidance either then, or at some later date, in the form of a self-evident idea.
The awakening to spiritual need, although often productive of longing and sadness, is also often a sign of the preliminary working of Grace. The fact of Grace being an unpredictable descent from above does not mean that we are entirely helpless in the matter, that there is nothing we can do about it. We can at least prepare ourselves both to attract Grace and to respond aright when it does come. We can cleanse our hearts, train our minds, discipline our bodies, and foster altruistic service even now. And then every cry we send out to invoke grace will be supported and emphasized by these preparations. You may know that the work of Grace has begun when you feel an active drawing from within which wakes you from sleep and which recurs in the day, urging you to practice your devotions, your recollections, your prayers, or your meditations. It leads you from your surface consciousness to your inner being, a movement which slowly goes back in ever-deepening exploration and discovery of yourself.
If you could penetrate into the so-called unconscious levels of your mind, you might find, to your utter amazement, that your enemies, critics, or domestic thorns-in-the-flesh are the very answer to your prayer for Grace. They fully become so, however, only when you recognize them as such, when you perceive what duty or what self-discipline they give you the chance to practice.
When you feel the urge to weep for no apparent reason you should not resist, as it is a sign of the working of Grace upon you. The more you yield to this urge the more quickly will you progress. This is an important manifestation although its inner significance will not be understood by the materialistic world. When your aspiration rises to an overpowering intensity, it is a sign that Grace is not so far off.
When the grace descends, whether from some action or attitude of one's self, or apparently without cause from outside one's self, if it is authentic, it will seem for the brief while that it lasts as if one has touched eternity, as if life and consciousness are without beginning and without end. It is a state of absolute contentment, complete fulfillment.
When the ego's total submission is rewarded by the Overself's holy Grace, he is granted pardon for the blackest past and his sins are truly forgiven him. From The Gift of Grace: Awakening to Its Presence by Paul Brunton, collated and edited by Sam Cohen. Published for the Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation by Larson Publications, www.paulbrunton.org.
To read more on the topic of grace in The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, go to http://paulbrunton.org/notebooks/18/5.