Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 20: What Is Philosophy? > Chapter 5: The Philosopher
Although what Zen announces as "direct penetration to Reality" is what matters most, is the Goal of goals, no man's achievement will be any the worse, and each will certainly be all the better, at least as a human living in a society of other humans, if, along with it, scholarship and contemplation at depth, practical competence and metaphysical capacity, sharpness of reasoning and sensitivity to intuition, coexist completely.
The higher perception then unites with the intellectual function and the spiritual illumination does not cease despite the activity of thoughts.
In this unique state, which belongs only to the higher phases of mysticism, there is, at one and the same time, intense feeling but also intense thought, divine love in the heart and inspired understanding in the head, steel-hard strength in the will yet sublime surrender of it. The whole self is engaged in this holy communion and not merely a part of it.
If this attainment of radiant, inward glory is rare, it is not only because few consciously strive for it but also because few know the law governing the attainment itself. And that is a twofold law of balance and wholeness.
The goal of self-elimination which is held up before us refers only to the animal and lower human selves. It certainly does not refer to the annihilation of all self-consciousness. The higher individuality always remains. But it is so different from the lower one that it does not make much sense to discuss it in human language. Hence, those who have adequately understood it write or talk little about its higher mysteries. If the end of all existence were only a merger at best or annihilation at worst, it would be a senseless and sorry scheme of things. It would be unworthy of the divine intelligence and discreditable to the divine goodness. The consciousness stripped of thought, which looks less attractive to you than the hazards of life down here, is really a tremendous enlargement of what thought itself tries to do. Spiritual advance is really from a Less to a More. There is nothing to fear in it and nothing to lose by it--except by the standards and values of the ignorant.
A fuller life will recognize not only the spirituality of man but also the individuality of man.
Resurrection--to die and live again--is a symbol. It means to leave the ego and enter the Overself in full consciousness.
He will unite with the Divine first by completely disappearing into it, then by discovering his higher individuality in it.
When the two selves become one, the inner conflict vanishes. Peace, rich and unutterable, is his.
He has extended his consciousness to the Overself, displaced the ego from its age-old tyranny, and become the full human he intended to be.
We who honour philosophy so highly cannot afford to be other than honest with ourselves. We have to acknowledge that the end of all our striving is surrender. No human being can do other than this--an utterly humble prostration, where we dissolve, lose the ego, lose ourselves--the rest is paradox and mystery.
Whether this other world of being is something into which he has advanced or into which he has retreated may be arguable. What is not arguable is that it is a world which the unequipped or the undeveloped cannot enter.
He may not rightly call himself a philosopher before he has gathered up and combined every single qualification needed for the title.
When he can speak out of a daily experience of the Overself, when it is something actual and present to him as a reality and not a mere theory, he may correctly call himself a philosopher.
Only when the Overself has illumined every side of his personal being can he be said to have a complete illumination. Only then has he attained the sagehood of philosophy.
It is out of such a splendid balance of utter humility and noble self-reliance that the philosopher gets his wisdom and strength. He is always kneeling metaphorically before the Divine in self-surrendering renunciation and often actually in self-abasing prayer. Yet side by side with this, he is always seeking to develop and apply his own intellect and intuition, his own will and experience in life. And because they are derived from such a balanced combination, this wisdom and strength are beyond any that religion alone, or metaphysics alone, could give.
Spirituality achieves its finest flowering in the individual who is emotionally adult, intellectually developed, and practically experienced. Such a well-rounded and admirably balanced growth is always best.
The philosopher will be a karma yogi to the extent that he will work incessantly for the service of humanity and work, too, in a disinterested spirit. He will be a bhakti yogi to the extent that he will seek lovingly to feel the constant presence of the Divine. He will be a raja yogi to the extent that he will hold his mind free from the world fetters but pinned to the holy task he has undertaken. He will be a gnana yogi to the extent that he will apply his reflective and reasoning power to a metaphysical understanding of the world.
From that moment when he understands human problems with the wisdom of the Overself, his thinking will become illumined from within, as it were. He will comprehend clearly the inner significance of each problem that presents itself.
When brain and heart are inspired and united, wisdom and love become perceptible.
In the philosopher, the sense of living in the Overself is continuous and unbroken.
In observation a scientist, at heart a religious devotee, in thought a metaphysician, in secret a mystic, and in public an efficient honourable useful citizen--this is the kind of man philosophy produces.
He only is worthy of the name philosopher who not only possesses a knowledge of mentalism, and understands it well, but who reverently lets the higher power be ever present in, and work through, him. Otherwise he is only a student of philosophy.
His thoughts are guided by the Overself, his emotions inspired by it, and his actions expressive of it. Thus his whole personal life becomes a harmoniously and divinely integrated one.
A man acts philosophically when wisdom and service become the motive power behind his deeds. These are the two currents which must flow through his external life.
He will be active and creative if the infinite inspires him to that end, or he will repose in utter stillness if its direction is to that one. In this rhythm he will live and through it achieve the dynamic balance which philosophy prescribes. The movement from one end of the spiral to the other will then be no change of being for him but only a change of focus.
The philosopher has as little use for artificial professional sanctity as for morbid body-hating asceticism. Enlightenment must become "natural"--a living fact of the whole being--and its possessor inconspicuous. Neither the one nor the other is to be advertised publicly in any way.
The philosopher is a religious devotee inasmuch as he finds the Real sacred and holy. He is a respecter of science, one who tests theory against fact, belief against observation. He is a lover of aesthetic beauty, seeking its higher forms in nature, poetry, music, and other arts. He is a metaphysician, transcending materialism by responding to intuitive intelligence.
The true philosopher is conscious daily of the blessed inward life of the Overself, indescribable in its serenity, loveliness, strength, and sacredness. Keeping the mind in equilibrium, in a state of equipoise which remains undistracted and undisturbed by external forces and events, becomes perfectly natural in time, and is a state in which he continues until death. It is not a monotonous condition as some might believe, but one of such satisfaction that we can only faintly envisage it in comparison with our material joys deprived of their emotional excitements.
He is a philosopher who realizes to the full, and continually feels, the presence of divinity not only within himself but also within the world.
His wisdom must be equal to calamity or prosperity, the bad or the good--to all situations, in fact.
He has awakened from the dream of material reality, dissipated the illusion of the I's personal consciousness.
He is a complete person who takes in the artist's contribution to beauty, the scientist's contribution to facts, the metaphysician's contribution to truth, the religionist's contribution to faith, and the humanist's contribution to goodness.
Because he has now enlarged his thought of self to include the Overself, it does not follow that he is therefore to disregard the personality and neglect its needs.
Emotion may point to one road, reason to another, and conscience to a third. Only in the matured philosopher does this trinity become a unity, does this inner conflict come to an end.
Wisdom blooms like a flower in the soul of one who follows this path.
The flower grows into a balanced and complete entity. This is the way he is to grow. It is perfect in itself, and nothing need be added to it. This is the ideal he is to realize.
In his practical life he will evidence a compassionate heart but a clear head, a strong will but a sensitive intuition.
He is a scientist to the extent that he respects fact, a metaphysician to the extent that he wants reality, a religionist to the extent that he recognizes a higher power.
Although he dwells in the Eternal, he lets the passing hour take from him what it needs. This is balance.
By starting to live from the core itself, we start to live harmoniously, undivided and whole.
The true philosopher does not fall into the errors of either ill-informed mystics or dogmatic materialists. The one glorifies either the ancients or the Orientals as being all-wise, thus idealizing what he has no experience of since it is so distant in time and space. The other ridicules this attitude and glorifies the moderns or the Westerners instead.
The philosophical attitude will appear in balanced judgements formed after clear and careful thought, in the harmonious way whereby idealism is tempered by realism.
Every act will then be in harmony with his own higher self. Wherever his attention may be focused and whatever the level on which it may be engaged, he will never become sundered from his deep lodgement in it. He will inwardly dwell in a hidden world of reality, truth, and love. None of his deeds in this earthen world of falsehood and animosity will ever violate his spiritual integrity.
Neither the life of action nor the life of reason is able to satisfy him, nor even their combination, however good it be. He comes, in time, to the last question and, with the finding of its answer, to the life of intuition. Henceforth he is to be taught from within, led from within, by something deeper than intellect, surer than intellect. Henceforth he is to do what needs doing under the influx of a higher will than his merely personal one.
The trained philosophic mind can quickly discern whether a statement of doctrine originates from the personal intellect, the personal emotions, or the spiritual Overself.
The philosopher's self-control is naturally achieved and durably settled. It hides no inner conflicts and leaves no harmful effect behind.
When he has silenced his desires and stilled his thoughts, when he has put his own will aside and his own ego down, he becomes a free channel through which the Divine Mind may flow into his own consciousness. No evil feelings can enter his heart, no evil thoughts can cross his mind, and not even the new consequence of old wrong-doing can affect his serenity.
In the true philosopher the distance between the thought of a right deed and the deed itself is nil. There is no inner conflict in such a man, no wavering between the lower nature and the higher ordinance. What he knows, he is. His wisdom has become welded into his moral outlook and practical activity. There are no schizophrenic dissociations or unconscious complexes. Righteousness is a profound instinct with him.
It is not that he sees beauty where others see ugliness--on the contrary, he recognizes the place of ugliness and its inevitability in this Yin-Yang existence--but that he sees all things, including ugly things, as manifestations of divine Mind.
There is a charm which emanates from goodness, a vigour which radiates from truth, and a peace which belongs to reality.
The philosopher does not hold any views. Views are held by those who depend on the intellect or the emotions alone for their judgements. His dependence is on the intuition, the voice of his higher self.
The philosopher lives in a great serene equilibrium upon whose boundaries rage and envy, greed and frenzy beat in vain.
He is above moods, neither exuberant nor restrained but always equable.
He combines the simple purity and direct honesty of a child with the discretion and prudence of an adult.
Sanctity is deep within him but his conduct and speech are never sanctimonious.
He will act according to the pressure of circumstances and the necessity of upholding principles. At times he may be so wrapped up in his own studies and meditations as to seem cut off from society altogether. But at other times he may keep so busy in the world as to seem one of its most eager members.
If such philosophy is lived by him, what he says cannot be valueless. Out of the deep stillness within there will emerge genuine truth, invisible substance, measured quality, or he will hold his peace and say little or nothing.
His conduct shows a calmness which seems invulnerable and a detachment which seems implacable.
In his mind he separates time and its trifles from the Himalayan massiveness of the Eternal. If he is forced by conditions to plan ahead for a few months or a few years, he never allows them to force him into deserting this inner loyalty to the timeless Now.
The philosophic mind is a civilized one. It is free from narrow prejudices, tolerant even when it disagrees, informed by wide studies, calm and controlled even in the encounter with provocative untruth, exaggeration, or fanaticism.
We would not expect an enlightened man to utter careless statements.
The discovery of a philosophic truth is, in time and as it is lived, a deeply felt thing even though its expression or communication may be quiet and composed. The stoical side of the philosophic character does not destroy the warmth of this feeling. It will be present in the communication itself as freshness and originality, as if heart were speaking to heart and, for those who need it, head to head.
A higher viewpoint will insert itself into thoughts and decisions; it will show up faulty ideas and defective decisions for the things that they are because it will show up the lower source whence they have arisen.
He feels released from the strain and tension of everyday life, for in its midst an enormous sense of well-being permeates him.
The divinely inspired mind may function in meditation or in action. If it has achieved the philosophic degree, there will be no difference between the two states.
He is a practical optimist. He turns rosy dreams to reality. He catches the bright but cloudy fancies of the optimist and ties them down to earth. He keeps his head among the stars but his feet are firmly planted on the ground.
He combines somehow the sophistication of the man of experience with the simplicity of the monkish ascetic.
The term yogi in the East has for centuries been almost synonymous with a man who has withdrawn from social life. Yoga aims at the suppression of thinking as a goal in itself, which means that it aims at conscious trance (for this is the only thought-free state apart from deep sleep) and hence at an inactive life. A philosopher is free to live like a yogi if he is led to do so or, on the contrary, to use both a developed thinking activity and a practical existence. Activity will then be quite spontaneous, not with the spontaneity of impulse or passion, but with that derived from the absence of merely animal motivation. It will indeed be inspired living.
He will possess the trained mentality and disciplined character which reacts swiftly to urgent situations, calmly to dangerous ones, and wisely to unexpected ones.
Having passed through the stage of lunacy which is communal and individual life today, he is at last enjoying the true normalcy of sanity, which yields its effects in comprehension and serenity.
He feels the truth deep within himself: his ideas are warmly held, not coldly intellectualized. Yet despite this love for them, the intellect is not absent, only it is put into a kind of balance with the heart so that light and power are combined.
He is idealistic without being fanatical, realistic without being materialistic, reformist without being obsessed.
When the full range of philosophic knowledge, experience, worship, and presence is gone through, the man ceases to seek: he is at peace.
He senses the power of the ever-accompanying Presence: it makes him sturdily independent.
The philosophic ideal is not to achieve a self-conscious spirituality but rather a natural one.
He will be more spiritual in an authentic sense than some others who, deliberately and consciously, try oft and long to be otherworldly.
A philosopher is not necessarily a man who lectures on philosophy, be it genuine wisdom or mere academic and scholarly word-spinning. He is a man who knows that life is not only for thought about it, and for insight into its deepest reality, but also for living. He is withal as sensitive as a mystic and feels nuances beyond the ordinary, but he cultivates calmness in the midst of normal activity and remains unflappable.
There is a singing joy in the Presence and a mental ease in the awakened consciousness.
The man whose thinking is unbiased by prejudice and whose feeling is untainted by selfishness is invested with a moral authority which others lack.
Attention is forever being caught by some thought or some thing, by some feeling or some experience. In the case of the ordinary man, consciousness is lost in the attention; but in the case of the philosophic man there is a background which evaluates the attention and controls it.
The enlightened man may outwardly appear to live like others, a normal and ordinary life, but whether he does so or not, there will always be this vital difference between him and ordinary men: that he never forgets his true nature.
The results in consciousness will be to gain a new understanding of the world. The savage who sees and hears a cinema for the first time may believe that he is seeing flesh-and-blood people, but the civilized man who sees and hears the same film will know that he is seeing only their pictures. Again, whereas one man will believe the picture-people's environment to be of the same fixed size in space as the screen on which the perspective appears, another will know that--being made only of light and light in itself being quite formless--the perception of their spatial character is really a variable one. Great as is the difference in understanding between these two men, the difference between the world-understanding of the civilized man and that of the man possessed of this insight is even greater.
In the philosopher intellect is ruled by intuition whereas in the ordinary man intuition is dulled by intellect.
The Stoic, whose highest lights are his ethical principles, may attain cold neutral peace. The philosopher, who lives by trans-egoic awareness, finds a gracious tranquillity.
All men are subject to some effect from the people around them but only philosophers are able to be fully conscious of the influences impinging on them and to reject part or all of them if necessary.
Such a man can feel as joyfully enthusiastic about impersonal ideas as other men can feel only about personal fortunes.
Such a man is not plagued in society by self-consciousness.
He who has attained to this utter calm of the Overself, or come near enough to feel it every day, individualizes himself out of the crowd and finds his own soul. He no longer has to be with the majority to feel at ease.
The practical difference between a fool and a philosopher is that the first is always impatient with the second, whereas the second is always patient with the first.
Like men speaking in different languages, they are unable to establish any real intercourse with one another. Yet there is this difference, that whereas the philosopher has a clear enough perception of what is in their hearts they cannot comprehend what is in the philosopher's.
If they cannot make any inner contact with one another, the fault is not the philosopher's but the crowd's. He is ever ready to give every man he meets a mental handshake, ever ready to accept all people for what they are. Moreover, he is inwardly laid by his higher self under obligation to benefit mankind by what he knows and is.
His eyes look upon the same world as other men's but he sees much in it which they do not see.
It is the difference in world-view which explains why one man fills his heart with anger and hate at exactly the same mistreatment under which another man fills his heart with forbearance and forgiveness.
Philosophy takes into account the whole personality of man. The sage knows more about human nature than the psychoanalyst for, besides noting the structure of human behaviour, he takes into account both karmic factors of cause and effect and the higher reaches of the mind.
Sects who cling to their little fanaticisms with blind fervour show thereby their lack of balance. The philosopher also clings to truth with even more fervour because he sees what it is that he is clinging to, but he does so calmly, maintains a considerable self-effacing equilibrium, and keeps a large tolerance. He knows too that the truth is substantiated by observed fact, by the highest kind of feeling, by the oldest religion and the newest science.
Do not put a tag on the philosopher. To the observer staring at him and his life, he is a bundle of contradictions and inconsistencies. But whereas he reconciles them, they cannot.
Is the philosopher affected by his surroundings like everyone else? He is, so far as they report their nature to his senses. But there the likeness ends. For his mind then steps in to work constructively on the report and to interpret it philosophically.
He lives in the world like other men and beholds all but, unlike other men, accepts all.
The philosophic attitude is to be in the world but not of it, to hold necessary useful or beautiful possessions but not to be held by them. It knows the transiency of things, the brevity of pleasures, the movement of every situation. This is the way of the universe, the ebb and flow of life, the power of time to alter the pattern of every existence. So the philosopher adjusts himself to this rhythm, learns how and when to let go and when to hold on, and so retains his inner equilibrium, his inner poise and peace. During stormy times he stands firm as a rock, he studies their meaning and accepts their lesson; during sunny times he avoids identifying himself with the little ego and remembers his true security is in the Overself.
He knows full well how illusory the form of the world is, yet he keeps this knowledge in perfect balance with his duties responsibilities and tasks in that world. He does what needs doing as effectually as any man of action, yet is inwardly as detached as any idle dreamer.
Those who think that philosophy ends in a torpid indifference to life are in error. Rather does it end in a proper evaluation of life, which balances calm indifference against keen interest, so as not to be lost in either.
The aim is to develop an equable disposition which does not alternate misery with joy, friendliness with antipathy, or extreme with extreme. This is not the same as an inert apathetic disposition.
Some part of his mind and heart will always be elsewhere, out of all this activity, above and detached from it all.
It is not that he becomes a mere onlooker at life--although during the pre-philosophic period this temptation is present--but that the difference between absolute reality and relative existence becomes all too plain.
The ordinary man who loves comfort and desires possessions, property, or position is not acting wrongly. He is wrong when he lets himself get tied to them and suffers intensely at their loss. The philosopher may also have these things, but there is this difference: that he will be inwardly free of them.
The philosopher's duty leaves him free to live in the world or leave it. There are no compulsive rules for him. But if he decides to stay, or is compelled by his need to earn a livelihood, he will take care not to be of the world.
A perfect degree of impersonality is unlikely to be found because it is generally unsought and ordinarily unattainable. But a large measure of it may be arrived at.
The modern philosopher cannot fail to be a most paradoxical gentleman. He works as actively and apparently as ambitiously as other men, relaxes with entertainment or with the arts, but withal keeps his innermost self aloof and detached from the scenes and agitations around him.
In the philosophic experience, feeling is there and must be there, as it is with the unphilosophical. But it is more and more impersonalized--that is the vital difference. Yet it is a difference which repels, chills, or even terrifies some persons when the philosopher comes under their observation.
If the intellect of the philosopher is a developed one, it will be active in the creation of ideas if he is working with them, or of images if he is working in an artistic pursuit. But, in either case, he will still be detached from them, unbound by them, free to pursue them or to drop them.
The so-called dehumanized coolness of the philosopher is frightening to some, while to others its lack of negative passions and animal wraths is felt as a silent accusation, is catalytic in causing a feeling of guilt to arise--and so his company becomes uncomfortable.
He will grow into a great-hearted man with a clear insight into human motivation and a calm acceptance of men and women as he finds them. Something of Nature's patience in working out her evolutionary scheme will enter into his soul. When he thinks of those who have wronged him, he will spontaneously and effortlessly forgive them.
He will look at experience from a new centre. He will see all things and creatures not only as they are on earth but also as they are "in heaven."
He takes people just as he finds them and events just as they happen. He does not outwardly express any desire for them to be different from what they are. There are at least two reasons for this attitude. First, he knows that the divine thought of the universe contains the idea of evolution. So he believes that however bad people may be, one day they will be better; however untoward circumstances may be, divine wisdom has brought them about. Second, he knows that if he is to keep an unruffled peace inside him, he must allow nothing outside him to disturb it. Because he regards the outer life as being as ephemeral as a dream, he is reconciled to everything, rebellious against nothing.
Another characteristic of the philosopher is his capacity to see the point of view of all, of the sinner and the criminal, the weak and the ignorant, equally with that of the saint and the sage. This is born partly out of his developed intelligence, partly out of his profound impersonality, and partly out of his wide compassion. This leads to the consequence that when seeking practical remedies for social wrongs, or redress for private ones, he seeks beneath the surface for ultimate causes. A merely superficial view, which may deceive millions of people, is rejected by him. The punishment of a crime without accompanying ethical education, for instance, he regards as clumsy and inefficient brutality. Prison punishment, especially, should be set in a framework of ethical instruction which includes the doctrine of karma. Without such a setting its deterrent effect is not sufficient to make it more than a half-success and a half-failure.
The philosophic attitude, being a truth-seeking attitude, never criticizes merely for the sake of criticizing, and never seeks to uncover what is bad in a thing without seeking at the same time to uncover what is good. Its critical judgements are fair, never destructive but always constructive. Whatever it attacks because of the error and evil it contains, it also defends because of the truth and good it contains.
Even if he finds it necessary to give cautionary criticism, it will be philosophically balanced, truly constructive, and entirely free from condemnation.
His attitude is always fair and unbiased, because his sincerity is illumined by knowledge.
The philosopher will be patient with the moral and intellectual deficiencies of others. He will arrive at this patience not by a long training, but by immediate insight.
Feeling this sympathy with his fellow-beings, understanding why they act as they do, he can no longer bring himself to fear, hate, or condemn them.
A tender, world-embracing compassion overwhelms him.
He is able to determine precisely what ethical principle is their guiding and dominant force, and what mental status they have reached. Yet paradoxically enough, the greater clarity with which he can now view the souls of others does not diminish his tolerance but, on the contrary, increases it. For he understands that everything and everyone are the result of the previous experience which life has given them, that they cannot help being other than what they are, and that all occupy a certain place at some stage or other in the universal evolutionary scheme--even those who are actuated by devilish and evil characteristics. Instead of placing himself in inward opposition to the wicked and thus setting up conflict, he silently pities them in his own heart, for he knows that the karmic law will reflect back to its perpetrator suffering for every evil deed. On the other hand, he will not hesitate impersonally to perform a drastic punitive duty should it be his duty to do so according to his position in the outer world.
The philosophical attitude maintains fairness and courtesy even toward those who attack philosophy.
If the world is merely indifferent to these ideas he is not troubled. If it is actually hostile to them, he is understandingly tolerant, calm, and compassionate.
This is the paradox of the philosophic attitude, a paradox which few of its critics understand, that it directly faces or analyses its problems and yet turns away from them in utter unconcern. It is able to do this only because it functions on two levels, the immediate and the ultimate, because it refuses to leave either one of them out of its picture of life.
He will know R E A L I T Y, and know it too as his own ultimate being, indestructible and ever-existent. Amid the most prosaic surroundings, deep in the core of his own heart there will be perfect calm for himself and goodwill for all others.
He has discovered the strength which comes from self-control, the peace which comes from stilled thoughts, and the happiness which comes from the true self.
He enters into the mastery of philosophy when he not only sees its truth but also feels it fully and loves it deeply. He has attained peace of mind, yes, but he is still a human being, has known suffering and sometimes even tragedy, has blundered and groped his way through a necessary apprenticeship. He has acquired knowledge, yes, but with it a paradoxical sensitivity.
At last he will have reached a point where his thinking can be utterly free of past periods and present influences, where it can embody his own research and its independent results, where it is the voice of his own source.
He attains the beatitude of knowing his higher self.
His own fine balance not only saves him from falling into any one-sidedness but also allows him to recognize unhesitatingly and value justly whatever is worthwhile in all the sides of a subject or a situation. It keeps him inwardly free to admire without exaggeration or to criticize without prejudice.
The sanity with which he negotiates life's practical problems is impressive.
The philosopher, and the philosopher alone, can sincerely believe and accept two opposite points of view at the same time.
He will not gladly bear any label, for he considers truth a state of being rather than a set of dogmas, and he prefers the freedom to search and hold it to the shackles of sectarian connection. But if the world insists on his identifying himself, he will take the name of philosopher, as being broader, more universal, and less restrictive than any other. It is a name which links and limits him to no religious denomination, which detaches him from all intellectual schools, and which puts him under no organizational, party, or sectarian roof.
The philosopher has liberated himself from all the mental cages which are offered by time and tradition to seeking man. He is not the representative of any organized religion nor the advocate of any denominational sect nor the missionary of any proselytizing cult. He appreciates the past history of religion and extracts what he can find of value in it, but he refuses to let it burden him with what is not. He is determined to remain free from its debris and to find his way to the original source of truth.
When he reaches this understanding he will no longer look to any personage for inspiration, he will no longer take any guru at his self-asserted or disciple-asserted value; he will be attached only to principles, to Truth itself. Thus at long last he will achieve liberation from guru-hunting and find true self-sufficing peace.
Only the philosopher can move through the narrow world of conventional religions and remain strong in individuality and free in mentality. The same truth which gives him faith in religion also saves him from its limitations.
As the member of a social community he may prefer or find it necessary to wear a badge, to be joined to some religious organization, or he may not. But as a philosopher he cannot put such limits on his mind, faith, or practice, cannot commit his inner freedom into the hands of other men.
The philosopher is usually happier if his spiritual freedom is expressed in outer freedom from ecclesiastical cages or cultists' groups. That is why he is reluctant to identify himself with any single organized church or mystical society. But if particular circumstances or special service or inner direction call him to it, he will not refuse to surrender this outer freedom.
He is the true philosopher who neither falls into the trap of warring sectarianism nor allows others to push him into it, who looks for and accepts the flowering of what is best and truest in all the religions and movements, ideas and principles but himself remains unlabelled. He must refuse to restrict himself to or to conform with any single fixed and rigid faith. Whatever leads to a superior quality of consciousness is welcome, wherever it be found and whenever it originated.
The philosopher is usually too comprehensive in his outlook to confine his stand to one of two sides; he prefers to take a third position.
The philosopher more than other men is a cosmopolitan creature. He scorns the fierce nationalisms which run riot in the world and feels the truth of Jesus' message of goodwill towards all men.
If you have understood philosophy you will follow no spiritual leader, be he P.B. or anyone else.
The superior mind is marked by a universality of outlook which is the hallmark of development and spirituality.
The philosopher is non-partisan in the sense that he maintains his freedom to think independently and to make individual judgements throughout. He is free from bias and prejudice. If his conclusions happen to coincide with those of any group or denomination he will note the fact but does not necessarily support their other doctrines nor join their ranks.
All that is true and good and beautiful in every faith creed sect or school belongs to him yet he himself may belong to none.
When he has the confidence to speak from personal discovery and the authority to speak from a superior level, a few may then listen, but more will do so later.
Whatever the standpoint he will try to understand it even while seeing its falsity.
The man who finishes the Way must necessarily be solitary inwardly, for he has torn himself away from the common illusion.
The philosopher accepts his predestined isolation not only because that is the way his position has to be, but also because his physical presence arouses negative feelings in the hearts of ordinary people as it arouses positive ones in the hearts of certain seekers. The negatives may range all the way from puzzlement, bewilderment, and suspicion to fear, opposition, and downright enmity. The positives may range from instinctive attraction to a readiness to lay down life in his defense or service. All these feelings arise instantly, irrationally, and instinctively. And they are unconnected with whether or not he reveals his true personal identity. This is because they are the consequence of a psychical impingement of his aura upon theirs. The contact is unseen and unapparent in the physical world, but it is very real in the mental-emotional world. It is truly a psychical experience for both: clear and precise and correctly understood by him, vague and disturbing and utterly misunderstood by ordinary people as well as pseudo-questers. It is both a psychical and a mystical experience for those genuine questers with whom he has some inward affinity, a glad recognition of a long-lost, much revered Elder Brother. Unfortunately, despite the generous compassion and enormous goodwill which he bears in his heart for all alike, it is the unpleasant contacts which make up the larger number whenever the philosopher descends into the world. Let him not be blamed if he prefers solitude to society. For there is nothing he can do about it. People are what they are. Most times when he tries to make himself agreeable to them, as though they both belonged to the same spiritual level, he fails. He learns somewhat wearily to accept his isolation and their limitation as inevitable and, at the present stage of human evolution, unalterable. He learns, too, that it is futile to desire these things to be otherwise.
Even the philosopher who goes out of his way to avoid provoking anyone in any way--who never shows hate, passion, wrath, or resentment, who keeps his ego out of his dealings with others, and who in short does all he can to diminish the chances of disturbing them--even such a man will nevertheless be criticized, attacked, interfered with, or abused, in spite of his good thoughts and good deeds. Such is the evil in men and so widespread is it. But this will happen only if he ventures into any dealings or any relations with them, if he appears publicly among them to teach or serve in some way. It will not happen if he prudently remains aloof, apart, secluded, obscure, a hermit--or, if that be not possible, if he goes out of his way in order not to attract attention. In that case, he will enjoy his peace undisturbed by the world's opposition. But it would then also be the world's loss.
The more he advances in power and consciousness, the more he grows in humility. Now, when he has something really worth being vain about, he takes especial care to be inconspicuous and not to seem extraordinary or holy above others. This is one of the causes of his secretiveness.
This silence which enwraps him does so only where his spiritual life is concerned. It is not quite the pride of feeling inner greatness nor a way of protecting that life against sneering laughter or inquisitive intruders. It is the sense of a holiness around it, the attitude of reverence for it.
It is not an exclusiveness born of spiritual pride but of spiritual humility. For the philosopher feels profoundly that he must respect other people's viewpoint because it is the result of their own individual experience of life.
The philosopher's inner life is an isolated one. It would be very foolish to blurt out all that he believes, thinks, or knows in any and every company. He recognizes the graded character of human mentality. This recognition compels him quite often to listen without dispute and with all tolerance to statements embodying extremely limited conceptions, half-developed ideas, or wholly biased views. A consequence of this attitude is that he usually understands more than anyone guesses.
If he has to live among those to whom his inner life would be uncomprehended, he guards his words, practises secrecy, and meets them on their own level.
He who seeks truth beyond the horizon of common humanity thereby sets up a difference which is no less actual and deep because it is invisible. But it is not merely because he is conscious that he is different from the herd that the philosopher wears a mask of secrecy over the face of his philosophy: it is also because he is conscious that there is little he can do about it, that the long discipline of life will do better whatever is necessary to bring the herd into the same perception.
What he carries within his heart and mind is, he feels, to be treasured. It is a spiritual treasure. He winces away from showing it to those who may despise it or even hate it.
The philosopher is not interested in drawing attention to himself but only to his ideas, his discoveries, and his revelations.
He will keep all mention of philosophy to himself and break his silence only when true need to do so manifests itself. He will do his exercises and practices in secret, unobserved, so that he may remain undisturbed. Where he must depart from the norm in public, as in following a fleshless diet, he will try to behave inconspicuously and thus draw no attention to his departure. From the standpoint of conventional society, he will not ordinarily be known as a follower of philosophy. In the Japanese phrase, "he will walk the Path as if not walking it."
He accepts his inner isolation and learns to live in it, realizing that he can do nothing about it. The compensation for such acceptance is that his serenity remains impregnable.
Philosophy touches life at all points. The philosopher willingly comes into contact with all kinds and conditions of men--to observe, to study, and to learn. But there are times when he may not do this, may not expose himself to psychic infections or disturbances.
Why should he confide this knowledge to those who are likely to treat it with either disdain or disbelief? Hence at the first sign of these reactions he draws back and says no more.
It is by the maintenance of such secrecy that they succeed in avoiding conflict with the prejudice and narrowness, the dogmatism and intolerance prevailing among those around them.
The earlier philosophic training in self-restraint enables him easily to conceal from the world what ought to be concealed.
Neither his speech nor his manner will divulge his secret.
He always makes it a point to behave civilly and sympathetically to everyone; nevertheless, if he deliberately lives a lonely existence, if he withdraws from the society of evolutionary inferiors, it is not only because he has no spiritual interests in common and familiarity could only lead in the end to boredom, but also because promiscuous intimacy would expose them to the perils of overstimulation which the forces present in him bring about automatically.
He does not want others to think of him nor like him. He believes in evolutionary grades of human mentality and is willing to accept with indifference the variety which is one result.
Whenever he happens to be forced into closer contact with worldlings, he will be polite to them but that is the end of the contact. His inmost thoughts will remain unshared.
His silence and reserve, his secrecy, become a kind of fortress for his protection.
With many persons he will feel only half of himself, with all his finest inner life closed up, and shut in with them he is physically present but spiritually far off.
He who appears amongst humanity bearing the chalice of pure truth in his hands must expect insult and endure isolation.
He has no banners to unfurl, so sure is he that the eternal truths can take care of themselves. Men and movements can try to destroy the belief in them, but given enough time it will reappear.
Instead of proclaiming himself among the greatest of the Great, the philosopher confesses, "I am nothing." Instead of pretentiously gathering followers around his name as the High Prophet, he pushes them away, for this is related to his degree of inner development.
The glory of his achievement is balanced by the memory of his past failure.
He will remain indifferent whether he be calumniated or revered, sneered at or glorified.
Whatever his task or profession in the world may be, he will so contrive that it will become a labour for the good of his fellow creatures not less than for personal profit.
To know the truth, to express it crisply with full calm authority--this is to be his mission henceforth.
The free soul has brought his thought and actions into perfect harmony with Nature's morality. He lives not merely for himself alone, but for himself as a part of the whole scheme. Consequently, he does not injure others but only benefits them. He does not neglect his own benefit, however, but makes the two work together. His activities are devoted to fulfilling the duties and responsibilities set for him by his best wisdom, by his higher self.
The world is necessarily affected by his presence and activities, and affected beneficially. First, the mere knowledge that such a man exists helps others to continue with their efforts at self-improvement, for they know then that the spiritual quest is not a vain dream but a practicable affair. Second, he influences those he meets to live better lives--whether they be few or many, influential or obscure. Third, he leaves behind a concentration of spiritual forces which works on for a long time, through other persons, after he leaves this world. Fourth, if he is a sage and balanced, he will always do something of a practical nature for the uplift of humanity instead of merely squatting in an ashram.
He becomes in time, according to the measure of his development, a dynamic influence upon others. This is in part because people begin to see the benefits which he cannot hide, and in part because he wins their respect by the superior character which he manifests in times of crisis or difficulty. Among those who laughed derided or complained about his eccentric convictions, some live to tolerate or even accept them.
He will work from the Overself; he will move and serve the world from within his central being.
When he looks around at life from this fresh vantage point of the higher self, sensing the timeless while in the very midst of time, he becomes the bringer of an old-new hope for man.
He becomes an open channel through which flows the beneficent, educative, and redemptive power of the Overself.
In every situation where he is involved with other persons, he will consider neither his own welfare solely to the exclusion of others nor theirs to the detriment of his own. He will do what is just and wise in the situation, taking the welfare of all into consideration and being guided ultimately by the impersonal intuition of the Overself.
We may say of the true philosophers what one American author said of another American author. Herman Melville wrote in a letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne: "Knowing you persuades me more than the Bible of our immortality."
Whether he gives verbal form to the truth he has found is not, he discovers, important. Living it is his really important work and that he does spontaneously, naturally.
He becomes a centre of spiritual effluence.
The philosopher's view of Truth
Truth must be approached on its own terms. We are not to set up rules for finding it.
There are no statements of truth which can be called absolute on all levels of reference. Each is relative to the standpoint.
Although the pure truth has never been stated, nevertheless it has never been lost. Its existence does not depend upon human statement but upon human sensitivity. In this it is unlike all other knowledge.
There is but one God, one Truth, one Reality, although there are several different degrees in their perception by man.
The same doctrine which clarifies the game of life for one man, confuses it for another man. So long as truth is regarded from a personal standpoint this must inevitably be so. All schools of thought are tentatively correct if we assume the respective standpoints from which they look at a subject. The personal self possesses its own idiosyncrasies and peculiarities; its experience is circumscribed and it is guided by intellect, emotion, and passion alone. So long as we see things from this limited standpoint, so long shall we negate what others affirm, so long shall we now believe what we ourselves may later contradict. Yet the truth is more than a reconciliation of contradictory aspects, a bringing together of opposite tendencies. It is a final union which is higher than any of its separate elements. The process of attaining its height necessitates travelling a zig-zag path of alternating standpoints only at first. For when we leave the personal standpoint and win the higher self's insight, with its infinite perspective, we are able to harmonize all possible standpoints, we are able to give all other standpoints an intellectual sympathy without however regarding any one of them as possessing either universal or ultimate validity. But this need not lead to the silly conclusion that one standpoint is as good as another. For as one climbs up a hill the prospect varies, the outlook changes, and the field of view expands. He who has reached the crest is alone able to survey the whole landscape below, and to survey it accurately. Therefore the pilgrims of the Overmind refrain from letting themselves become covered by a crusted outlook, reserve their best exultations, remembering that ultimate Truth is of no party and yet of all, and hasten to that summit whereon they may stand serene, free at last from the noisy clamour of narrow minds. Then and then only the different world views which come into collision with each other in unphilosophical minds are spontaneously harmonized. Thus the simile of a search which we have used in the phrase "quest of the overself" is useful but does not cover the full implication of the undertaking which confronts aspiring man.
Is there a universal truth? Is there a doctrine which does not depend on individual opinion or the peculiarities of a particular age or the level of culture of a particular land? Is there a teaching which appeals to universal experience and not to private prejudice? We reply that there is, but it has been buried underneath much metaphysical lumber, much ancient lore, and much Oriental superstition. Our work has been to rescue this doctrine from the dead past for the benefit of the living present. In these pages we explode false counterfeits and expound the genuine doctrine.
This truth is fixed, changeless, and eternal; it towers like the Great Pyramid over the flat desert sands of all other knowledge. It initiates us into a world of abstract being which paradoxically is not less real than that whose face is so familiar.
To arrive at great certitude is to arrive at great strength. Truth not only clears the head but also arms the will. It is not only a light to our feet but is itself a force in the blood.
There is a buoyant cheerful quality in this truth; it acts as a tonic upon tired minds.
At the touch of truth falsehood goes, illusions fade, and deceptions--whether from within oneself or prompted by others--fall away.
Truth is the human knowledge of reality.
The coming of truth can be devastatingly cruel to some persons and immeasurably kind to others. Or it can be both to the same person at different periods of his life. It is not directly concerned with personal happiness.
Just as the sun can be seen only by its own light, so truth can be discerned only by its own self-revelation in the mind. That is, only by grace leading to insight. There is no other way.
The truth possesses its own force, but only for those who are ripe for its reception. The others can take nothing better than watery dilutions of it, nothing higher than elementary lessons in it, nothing subtler than symbolic revelations which obscure it.
Because this is the purest truth, it is also the most powerful truth. He who is possessed by it can do what others cannot. Therefore we cannot afford to water it down.
Truth is our only salvation, the final truth that in essence as Mind nobody is really disconnected from God, that the delusion of being alone and separate from the infinite life creates all our weaknesses, which in turn lead to most of our troubles, and that we are here to learn by experience what sort of stuff we are made really of.
Truth utters itself anew whenever a human mind comes fully to its self-discovery.
The depth of understanding at which men have arrived determines the grade of interpretation which life yields them.
Truth does not need man's support, for even if left unuttered it will survive and spread by the force which inheres in it. But man needs truth's support, for without it he remains insecure and peaceless.
Truth has always been present in the world but its acceptance has rarely been seen in the world.
All other questions resolve themselves in the end into a single one: "What is truth?" For this will not only have to include the world but also, and not less important: "What am I?"
Truth must be respected to the point of reverence before it will yield its deeper secrets. It must indeed be entangled with holiness.
This verity is trustworthy not because it is traditional ancient and venerable but because it is open to vindication by each man for himself.
All other truths need word or picture, demonstration or laboratory when they are to be conveyed to others, but the one truth which is an exception to this rule is also the deepest of all, the supreme wisdom. It comes to man, whether from another man or from God, only when the fullest silence reigns and when he himself is fully passive.
It has been said that man is too small mentally, too limited a creature, and too finite to be able to understand the supreme Absolute Being in all its greatness and grandeur. Therefore, however high his mystic experiences, he should be content with a kind of agnostic mysticism, a "thus far and no farther" in the realm of knowledge of this supreme entity. But there is some confusion on this subject. It has been the victim of speculation and miscomprehension. To get some clarity into it it is essential to free oneself from all religious and sectarian prepossessions--whether they be Indian or Western religions--and this is a service which philosophy alone can best render. Only after this is done can this subject be dealt with as it ought to be.
In the balanced mind which a philosopher trains himself to possess, and in the harmonious, felicitous working together of opposing qualities which he seeks to develop, the truth which he discovers--which must necessarily be the highest truth--will take the form of striking paradox.
Truth has too many sides to be held down fanatically in one alone. This may make it seem illogical, paradoxical, or contradictory. Do not ask any human mind to see what only a godlike mind can see--all sides all at once.
Paradox is an essential part of true religion, mysticism, and philosophy.
If the truth is that there is no truth, then those, like Jesus and Buddha, who claimed a transcendent insight were self-deceived fools.
Truth can frighten many by its high impersonality, but it can also warm their hearts by its putting order, and meaning, into life.
Truth is not only to be learned and known but also to be felt and worshipped.
"The teaching which slices through illusion," as the Oriental phrase puts it, is of course the Absolute Truth.
This truth can be confirmed by the great books of scriptural revelation, by the final conclusions of reason working at its highest impersonal level, and by the intimate facts of mystic experience.
The real Truth is so wonderful that it is what it is because "it is too good to be true" in the little mind's expectations.
It is a truth which can never be negated, save at the cost of letting in falsity. Nor can it be contaminated, save at the cost of letting in the ego.
Henceforth we must cease to associate truth with any particular race or people, country or man. Henceforth we must cease to look for it here or there. We must begin to comprehend its universality. It may manifest itself anywhere and amongst any people. Let us shed the delusion that Shangri-la has or ever had the monopoly of it.
What does it matter at this distance of time, either to us or to them, whether ancient Indians or modern Europeans have written down the truth? It does matter, however, whether we can recognize in both their literatures the truth as such and receive it into our minds.
Even if all written Truth vanished from the world, and all remembered Truth passed from men's minds or memories, a time would come again when someone, somewhere, somehow, and sometime would rediscover the knowledge.
Whoever claims to know Truth, God, Reality, must feel and love it too, or it is not Truth.
Most public attempts to interpret Truth to man have ended in misinterpreting it. This is sometimes because they have ended in compromises and sometimes because the interpreter's limitations got in the way.
Satisfaction invariably follows Truth, but Truth does not invariably follow satisfaction.
If he is seeking tranquillity alone he may get it, whereas if he is seeking truth the two together will be his reward.
It does not matter that philosophy is a lone voice now, for it is an enduring one. Other and more orthodox voices will make themselves better heard but they will also fade eventually into silence. The truth can never perish but its counterfeits and substitutes, must.
Truth can be neither antiquated nor modernized, but its formulation into words can.
Let us consider truth as an ever-receding horizon. Thus we achieve humility and keep the mind open for progress through these successive degrees.
These seven truths constitute the skeleton of a tradition which has been handed down from illuminate to pupil since prehistoric periods. The tradition itself is imperishable, being rooted in the divinity of human nature no less than in the sacred duty imposed upon the illuminati to preserve its existence among chosen inheritors prior to their own disappearance or death.
Truth does not display itself ostentatiously.
If any viewpoint has served its purpose but he refuses to advance beyond it, then it has become an obstacle in his spiritual path. The truth must be cautiously fitted to the receptivity of the learner. It is not everyone who can receive the same message. Hence we find it takes, in ascending degrees, the religious, the mystical, and the philosophical forms.
Philosophic truth has not merely a local or parochial significance, like some religions, but a universal one.
Even if only a single man in the whole world believes it, and all the others believe a falsity, truth still remains what it is.
The truth can take care of itself. Nothing can kill it although clouds of falsehood or illusion may obscure it. Therefore philosophers have ever been content to be denounced and reviled, while refusing to stoop to denunciation and revilement themselves.
Truth does not offer itself up to the call but awaits the right moment.
The persuasive character of truth exists only for those who are ready for it.
We may admire, respect, or even revere a man as a person, but still fail to admire--much less accept--his views. Truth forces us to separate personal emotion from clear reason, to deny sentimentality, to abandon intellect if intuition's light appears.
There are truths which are unalterable by the shifts of place, unmeltable by the discoveries of man.
These truths will continue to command the allegiance of remote posterity as they have commanded the allegiance of remote antiquity. Hence they may poetically be called eternal truths.
These truths must inevitably filter through from spirit into man's mind.
The great error of those who discover the relativity of truth, and are so overwhelmed by their discovery that they forget that it must be held together with other discoveries, is to overlook the progressive and evolutionary character of all conceptions of truth. It was so overlooked by the Sceptics' school of metaphysics in ancient Greece and by the Eel Wrigglers' school in ancient India. Life, experience, and reflection are at work in drawing us to higher and ever higher conceptions. Consequently these conceptions are emphatically not equal in value and we are emphatically not to evaluate all as alike. Philosophy does not fall into this error. While readily and fully acknowledging that all outlooks are relatively true at best, at the same time it sets up a distinctive outlook of its own. It shows that there is a definite ascent of progression through all these varying outlooks. They culminate in its own because its own is alone free and flexible, undogmatic and all-comprehensive.
He who wants the free Truth, unmixed with the suggestions and opinions of others, will not attach himself to any group: that is for complete beginners, who feel themselves too weak to search alone, who need the confirmations of others. Let them attach if they must but let them also regard it as a point of departure, not of arrival, not a stop.
If truth is unfathomable, those who claim its possession ought to remain silent. If its communication is however desirable for whatever reasons, including compassion, those who learn it ought to be warned in advance that they are receiving something else instead--symbolism or whatnot.
Truth is hard to come by, for not only must it be diligently sought after, but even when it is discovered the ego pushes its own beliefs and misinterpretations, dogmas and colourings, into the experience itself. Analysis and discrimination can only partly help to purify the result.
Finding the truth was the first great endeavour; holding on to it is as hard in its own way as the first.
The truth is not a form to be pictured--that merely shows how the physical body's senses dominate the mind--but a concept to be understood.
If we go far back in time and space, to Greece or India or China, we come close to the pure primordial truth. It is the same for Parmenides and for the Upanishads' seers.
Full knowledge of the Truth can be sudden or slow: the first way is through knowledge, the second through devotion and meditation.
Only the philosophically trained mind can respond, in complete truthfulness, to the Complete Truth that is the Overself's. All others can respond in part only, accepting some things, ignoring other things, even rejecting them.
It is a truth as fresh as this morning's shower yet, at the same time, as old as the Inca ruins at Cuzco.
Truth is a sword that hurts the sceptic, but a shield that protects the believer.
It is the conduct of children to accept truth only if it comforts them and to reject it when it disheartens them; to seek it when pleasant but to shun it when disagreeable. It is the conduct of adults to seek it for its own sake, whatever its effect upon their personal emotions may be.
If some aspects of the truth sadden us, other aspects cheer us.
Such truths can never become obsolete by time, although they may become hidden by it.
These truths belong to every mortal even though their discovery has remained in a select and enquiring group. They belong to no particular people, no special time. They are as ageless as they are universal.
They are paradoxes which discard outworn dogmas yet which attach themselves to ancient truths; which invite new modes of living yet offer practices which were known to the first Chinese emperors.
Truth existed before the churches began to spire their way upwards into the sky, and it will continue to exist after the last academy of philosophy has been battered down. Nothing can still the primal need of it in man. Priesthoods can be exterminated until not one vestige is left in the land; mystic hermitages can be broken until they are but dust; philosophical books can be burnt out of existence by culture-hating tyrants, yet this subterranean sense in man which demands the understanding of its own existence will one day rise again with an urgent claim and create a new expression of itself.
The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.