Archiving Preservation Project

Paul Brunton was a pioneer in developing a living philosophy of spiritual wisdom that provides a complete world view. A leading writer and researcher, he became known worldwide as an authority on Eastern spirituality, mysticism, and philosophy. Besides the books published during his lifetime, which sold around 2,000,000 copies in over 20 languages, he left us thousands of pages of unpublished original writing, letters, photos, and other invaluable materials. Preserving PB’s writings both physically and digitally for future generations has been one of the major PBPF tasks.

Phase one completed:

The Paul Brunton Archive Delivered to Cornell University's Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections (Carl A. Kroch Library)

On November 2, 2018, the first of two phases was completed with the delivery of the physical papers to Cornell. The second phase will be the completion of a searchable digital library allowing easy access to PB’s legacy from anywhere in the world. This is our challenge—to finish the digital collection during the next year.

Cornell University is ideal because it offers its resources to the general public and is very supportive of online databases. Its climate-controlled facility can best ensure the long-term preservation of the original papers (and support the digital files) so that Paul Brunton’s writings and research can be studied for generations to come.

The Foundation is grateful for the many years of dedicated effort by Timothy Smith (the PBPF Archival Chair), the great archival staff who brought the first phase to completion, the help of volunteers, and the generous support of donors. Working with Timothy, the PBPF archival staff presently includes: Lydia Dempsey (project manager), Jessica Elkins , Joshua Orkin, Emily Rothenbucher, Zoe Anderson, and Hannah Sumner.

There are six broad groupings within the collection:

Original Writings

(almost 25,000 pages)

The first group is PB’s own writings, which are primarily philosophic or mystical in nature. These original writings are without a doubt the material that is most important for students of spiritual philosophy.

“I have written down what I have learned and discovered over the many years of my life; if these ideas are helpful to you, you are welcome to them—but do not make the mistake of calling me a guru. We must all learn to think for ourselves in the end, so these words can only be a guide to your own work.” –PB

By and large PB wrote what he called “paras”—often a mere sentence or two, more rarely a paragraph. He wrote these down as quickly as they came to him, on whatever lay at hand. Some material was written in little notebooks or on free note-pads handed out by hotels; a lot was written in the margins of magazines, newspapers, even tickets to the opera! At regular intervals PB sent these paper slips to an assistant who typed and put them into one of the 28 categories that he had devised to organize the various aspects of spiritual life.


(11,872 pages)

The second group is PB’s correspondence. This largely consists of letters written to PB with an outstanding exception: his letters to his son Kenneth Hurst. The correspondence with Kenneth runs from 1930 right through to the end of his life. In addition, we have a much larger collection of correspondence gathered together as “Readers’ Letters” which includes some very remarkable correspondents.

Biographical and Secondary Material

(almost 5,000 pages)

The journals of Zohmah Charlot (a secretary from 1930s), Ed McKeown, and Timothy Smith from 1979 and 1980 are also in this group. We also have published articles, official documents, publication materials, and other ephemera, which provide a good deal of the biographical knowledge we have of PB.


(3,950 images)

The earliest photos were taken by PB during his travels, the later ones are of PB taken by various visitors. The early images show several temples in considerably better shape at the time PB visited them than they are at present—this is particularly true of his visits to Egypt, Angkor Wat and Tibet.

Bound Books

(271 works in 75 volumes)

The group is titled “Bound Books” because these are a set of books and articles (mostly from the 1930s and 1940s) that PB always had with him, even in the remote reaches of the Himalayas and the unpopulated deserts of Egypt. Since much of his transportation to these regions was by donkey, he removed any unnecessary pages from the books and rebound several books as a single compact volume, to lighten the donkey’s load. This collection is comprised largely of scholarly works on Hinduism, Buddhism, and contemporary Western Thought.

Unscanned Clips

(13 linear feet)

The unscanned clips are a massive collection of newspaper clippings that PB saved, and in many cases annotated. These give a picture of the world that PB was living in, and how the cultures of the time viewed philosophy and spirituality.

Phase Two tasks in progress:

Our goal is to make the collection accessible and accurate, to be able to guide people to what they are looking for. We are trying to be transparent to the collection, neither under or over emphasizing anything. At present the tasks we know we need to do are:

1. Incorporate all of PB's handwritten edits into the material digitized in India. This is actually our highest priority. It also remains a significant portion of the project, since we have at least 20,000 pages that still need processing.

2. Type the new material of PB's writings from Wisdom’s Goldenrod and other sources. It is around 5,600 pages, which we estimate will end up as 2,450 typed Word doc pages. After typing, much of this material will also need processing as part of Task #1.

3. Type all the letters. We have 3,902 separate letters, over 11,872 PDF pages. Of these, ~2,800 PDF pages have already been typed.

4. Complete the photo inventory. We are also attempting to identify subjects, date, and note the location of images wherever possible, especially when we have conflicting annotations. There are 3,950 images which have to be cross-referenced and collated.

5. Type all pre-selected journals and notes. This is ~1,100 pages of material, separate from the papers which were included into PB’s Writings in Task #2.

6. Continue updating our reference documents, as we continue to learn more about PB’s life while processing the collection. This includes our own image reference document of who's who; our biographies of all the folk mentioned by PB (currently standing at 2,462 individuals); and our timeline of where PB was when. The timeline is mostly filled out, except for his travels in India in the early 1940s and his travels prior to 1929 if any.

7. Print the archive copy for Wisdom’s Goldenrod. We are about 40% done with this. At this time, we estimate that we have 19,000 pages remaining to print, as well as 3,500 photos.

Coordinators:  Timothy Smith and Lydia Dempsey

Proofreaders:  Timothy Smith, Lydia Dempsey, Lou & Carol DeSarno, Joshua Orkin, Zoe Anderson, Hannah Sumner, and Thomas MCM Scott

*Volunteers interested in this project should contact Tim Smith ( 

TO DONATE: If you would be particularly interested in making a donation toward this project, please contact us, and we will be more than happy to discuss our plans in further detail with you.


Archiving Committee

Board Contact: Tim Smith
Members:   Lisa Berardino, Louis DeSarno, Tom Marino, Barbara Plaisted, Cleta Rudolph