Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 1: Overview of the Quest > Chapter 1: What the Quest Is

What the Quest Is

General description

The Quest not only begins in the heart but also ends there too.

It is an endeavour to lift to a higher plane, and expand to a larger measure, the whole of his identity. It brings in the most important part of himself--being, essence, Consciousness.

"Man Know Thyself!" There is a whole philosophy distilled into this single and simple statement.

Between the ordinary man who takes himself as he is, and the philosopher who does exactly the same, there stands the Quester. In the first case, outlook is narrow, being limited by attending to the inescapable necessities and demands of day-to-day living. In the other case, peace of mind has been established, the thirst for knowledge fulfilled, the discipline of self realized. In between these two, the Quester is not satisfied with himself, has a strong wish to become a better and more enlightened man. He tries to exercise his will in the struggle for realization of his ideal.

It lifts human consciousness vertically and enlarges human experience spiritually.

If the Infinite Being is trying to express its own nature within the limitations of this earth--and therefore trying to express itself through us, too--it is our highest duty to search for and cultivate our diviner attributes. Only in this way do we really fulfil ourselves. This search and this cultivation constitute the Quest.

It offers a conception of life which originates on a higher level.

The Quest is both a search for truth and a dedication to the Overself.

By "Quest" I mean the deliberate and conscious dedication to the search for spiritual truth, freedom, or awareness.

The inner meaning of life does not readily reveal itself; it must be searched for. Such a search is the Quest.

When a man begins to seek out his real nature, to find the truth of his real being, he begins to follow the Quest.

It is a call to those who want inner nourishment from real sources, not from fanciful or speculative ones. It calls them away from things, appearances, shows, and externals to their inward being, toward reality.

After such considerations, we are led to wonder what constitutes the reality behind the universe. This is a quest which takes us into religion, mysticism, and philosophy and the great mysteries of life, a quest which eventually confirms those celebrated words of Francis Bacon: "A little thinking may incline the mind toward atheism, but greatness of study bringeth the mind back again to God."

The quest we teach is no less than a quest for knowledge in completeness and a search for awareness of this Universal Self, a vast undertaking to which all men are committed whether they are aware of it or not.

The great central questions of life for the thinking man are: What am I? What is my true relation to, and how shall I deal with, my surroundings? What is God, and can I form any connection with God?

Every puzzle which fascinates innumerable persons and induces them to attempt its solution--be it mathematical and profound or ordinary and simple--is an echo on a lower level of the Supreme Enigma that is forever accompanying man and demanding an answer: What is he, whence and whither? The quester puts the problem into his conscious mind and keeps it there.

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.

It is a clarion call to man to seek his true self, a voice that asks him, "Have you found your soul?"

The quest is simply the attempt of a few pioneer men to become aware of their spiritual selves as all men are already aware of their physical selves.

It is a quest to become conscious of Consciousness, to explore the "I" and penetrate the mystery of its knowing power.

The secret path is an attempt to establish a perfect and conscious relation between the human mind and that divinity which is its source.

When a man passes from the self-seeking motives of the multitude to the Overself-seeking aspirations of the Quest, he passes to conscious co-operation with the Divine World-Idea.

It is, from another standpoint, a quest for his own centre.

It is the opening up of one's inner being.

The very idea of a quest involves a passage, a definite movement from one place to another. Here, of course, the passage is really from one state to another. It is a holy journey, so he who is engaged on it is truly a pilgrim. And as on many journeys, difficulties, fatigues, obstacles, delays, and allurements may be encountered on the way, yes! And here there will certainly be dangers, pitfalls, oppositions, and enmities too. His intuition and reason, his books and friends, his experience and earnestness will constitute themselves as his guide upon it. There is another special feature to be noted about it. It is a homeward journey. The Father is waiting for his child. The Father will receive, feed, and bless him.

It is a movement from the outward to the inward but it is effected only with much labour, through much despondency, and after much time.

The aspirant enters on the Quest of the heavenly kingdom from the first moment that he becomes willing to try to give up his ego. It does not matter that it will engage his whole lifetime, that success may only be found in some future incarnation. From that first moment he becomes a disciple of the Overself, and a candidate for the kingdom of heaven.

It is a brave struggle for freedom, a noble refusal to be the ego's puppet or the animal-self's victim, a fine resolve to win strength from weakness.

How shall he deliver himself from his weaknesses? How can he get free from his pseudo-self and let his true being reveal itself? How cease to negate and begin to affirm his own best values? The quest, with its practical disciplines and mystical exercises, is part of the answer.

It is a way of life which calls him to deny his closest pleasures and oldest habits. So it is and must be a hard way. But a time comes when he values it out of his own clearer perception, and follows it out of his own glad choice.

Many aspirants wrongly believe the quest to be a movement from one psychic experience to another or from one mystical ecstasy to another. But in fact it is a movement in character from animality to purity, from egoism to impersonality.

The Quest teaches a man the art of dying to the animalistic and egoistic elements in himself. But it does not stop with these negative results. It trains him also in the art of re-creating himself by the light of the ideal.

Coming to this Quest in the philosophic sense simply means coming to human maturity.

Who does not prefer joy to grief? The instinct is universal. There is a metaphysical basis for it. Individual beings derive their existence from a universal Being, whose nature is continuously blissful. This is dimly, briefly echoed in the satisfactions of earthly desires. The quest of spiritual fulfilment is really the search for a fuller and more lasting share in the Divine Peace, the true heaven which awaits us in the end, whether in the freedom of so-called death or in the confines of physical flesh.

The worldling seeks to enjoy himself. Do not think that the truly spiritual man does not seek to enjoy himself too. The difference is that he does it in a better way, a wiser way.

Here is a goal for men and women which can bring them the fulfilment of their best purposes, the happiness of being set free from their inward bondages, and the calmness of knowing their own soul.

The Quest is a veritable re-education of the self, leading in its turn to a noble transcendence of the self.

What is the quest but a process of moral re-education and mental self-conquest, a probing for and overcoming of those faults which keep the Light out of the mind?

What is the hidden metaphysical meaning of the Quest? It is that the infinite self in man finds that it cannot achieve adequate self-expression in the finite and imperfect life of the world. The ego may try as it will, do what it may, but the bliss, wisdom, serenity, and perfection that are the natural attributes of the Overself, in the end elude its every move. There is ultimately no alternative except to let go of searching and grasping the outer world, and retreat within. There, deep inside its own being the journey to enduring satisfaction will thenceforth be. This is the Quest leading to discovery of Overself.

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.

Some come to the truth in a roundabout way. The Quest is direct.

The quest is governed by its own inherent laws, some easily ascertainable but others darkly obscure.

It is a search for meaning in the meaningless flow of events. It is response to the impulsion to look beyond the ever-passing show of earthly life for some sign, value, or state of mind that shall confer hope, supply justification, gain insight.

This quest of the soul is ageless. Never has the human race been without it, never could it be without it.

It is not a new thing in human experience, but rather one of the oldest. Its long history in many lands makes impressive reading.

It is a method, a teaching, and an ideal combined for those who seek a genuine inner life of the spirit.

The quest means disciplined emotions and disciplined living, sustained aspiration and nurtured intuition.

It is not an ideal so far off that those who have realized it have no human links left with us. On the contrary, because it is truly philosophic, it skilfully blends life in the kingdoms of this world with life in the kingdom of heaven.

The quest is an adventure as well as a journey: a work to be done and a study to be made, a blessing which gives hope and a burden of discipline which cannot be shirked.

There is another kind of exploration than that which traverses deserts, penetrates jungles, climbs mountains, and crosses continents. It seeks out the mysterious hinterlands of the human mind, scales the highest reaches of human consciousness, and then returns to report routes and discoveries, describe the goals to others so that they also may find their way thereto if they wish.

The spiritual quest is not a romantic or dramatic adventure, but a stern self-discipline. Nevertheless there is an element of mystery in it which at times can be quite thrilling.

The quest is spiritual mountaineering.

It is not a path of anaemic joylessness for lean cadaverous votaries, as some think. It is a path of radiant happiness for keen positive individuals.

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.

It is an uncontentious teaching, knowing that it is, in practice, only palatable to those who come readily equipped for it.

It is not a doctrine of life only for ageing hermits, but quite as much for keen young men who wish to do something in the world. It is a practical goal which could also be a practicable one for millions who now think it beyond their reach, if only they would accept and act on the psychological truth that "thinking makes it so." It is a strengthening reassurance to minds awakening from the slavish dreams of lust that they need not stay slaves forever. It is not an asceticism that is happy only in making itself miserable, but a comprehension that weighs values and abides by the result.

The quest is a continual effort of self-release from inward oppressions and self-deliverance from emotional obstructions.

This quest is really a system of therapeutic training devised to cure evil feelings, ignorant attitudes, and wrong thinking.

The high teachers of the human race have given us goals and taught us ways to approach them.

It is not a subject for academic students of technical metaphysics or for professional followers of institutional religion--although they are welcome to all that it has to give them, to the richer form and the inspired understanding of their own doctrine. No--it is primarily for the ordinary person who is willing to heed his intuitive feeling or who is willing to use his independent thinking power.

It escapes pushing into recognizable and separate divisions, definitions, or groups.

Nature and Need of Mysticism

Let it be stated clearly that mysticism is an a-rational type of experience, and in some degree common to all men.

It is an intuitive, self-evident, self-recognized knowledge which comes fitfully to man. It should not be confounded with the instinctive and immediate knowledge possessed by animals and used by them in their adaptations to environment.

The average man seldom pays enough attention to his slight mystical experiences to profit or learn from them. Yet his need for them is evidenced by his incessant seeking for the thrills, sensations, uplifts, and so on, which he organizes for himself in so many ways--the religious way being only one of them. In fact, the failure of religion--in the West, at any rate--to teach true mysticism, and its overlaying of the deeply mystic nature of its teachings with a pseudo-rationalism and an unsound historicity may be the root cause for driving people to seek for things greater than they feel their individual selves to be in the many sensation-giving activities in the world today.

Mysticism is not a by-product of imagination or uncontrolled emotion; it is a range of knowledge and experience natural to man but not yet encompassed by his rational mind. The function of philosophy is to bring these experiences under control and to offer ways of arriving at interpretations and explanations.

Mysticism not so controlled and interpreted is full of pitfalls, one of which is the acceptance of confusion, sentimentality, cloudiness, illusion, and aimlessness as integral qualities of the mystical life--states of mind which go far to justify opponents of mysticism in their estimate of it as foolish and superstitious.

The mystic should recognize his own limitations. He should not refuse the proffered hand of philosophy which will help his understanding and train his intuition. He should recognize that it is essential to know how to interpret the material which reaches him from his higher self, and how to receive it in all its purity.

The belief that the neglect of actual life is the beginning of spiritual life, and that the failure to use clear thought is the beginning of guidance from God, belongs to mysticism in its most rudimentary stages--and has no truth in it.

The world will come to believe in mysticism because there is no alternative, and it will do so in spite of mysticism's historical weaknesses and intellectual defects. But how much better it would be for everyone if those weaknesses and defects were self-eliminated.

He has so learned the art of living that the experiences of everyday life yield up their meaning to him, and the reflections of daily meditation endow him with wisdom.

If it be asked, "What is the nature of mystical experience?" the answer given very tersely is, "It is experience which gives to the individual a slant on the universal, like the heart's delight in the brightness of a May morning in England, or the joy of a mother in her newborn child, in the sweetness of deep friendship, in the lilt of great poetry. It is the language of the arts, which if approached only by intellectual ways yields only half its content. Whoever comes eventually to mystical experience of the reality of his own Higher Self will recognize the infinite number of ways in which nature throughout life is beckoning him. The higher mystical experience is not a sport of nature, a freak phenomenon. It is the continuation of a sequence the beginning and end of which are as vast as the beginning and end of the great cycle of life in all the worlds. No man can measure it."

The Yoga Vasistha states, "There are two kinds of paths leading to liberation. Now hearken to them. If one should, without the least fail, follow the path laid down by a Teacher, delusion will wear away from him little by little and emancipation will result, either in the very birth of his initiation by his Guru or in some succeeding birth. The other path is where the mind, being slightly fortified with a stainless spontaneous knowledge, ceaselessly meditates upon it, and there alights true gnana in it, like fruit falling from above unexpectedly."

There are primary and secondary levels of mind and consequently primary and secondary products. The former are insights, the latter are intuitions.

Sages speak from the highest level; mystics contemplate, while genius speaks, writes, paints, and composes from the secondary levels.

Primary consciousness is exalted but calm; secondary consciousness is exalted but excited. The first does not change its settled mood, but the second falls into rapture, ecstasy, and absent-minded reverie.

Is the inner life irreconcilable with the world's life? Religio-mystical disciplines and practices are usually based on such a fundamental irreconcilability. Traditional teaching usually asserts it too. Yet if that be true, "Then," as Ramana Maharshi once sceptically said to me, "there is no hope for humanity."

It is a teaching which prepares him to find a deep inner life without necessarily deserting the active outer one.

It is a teaching which can guide us through this world without itself becoming worldly.

The term "spiritual" is very loosely used nowadays. It includes in its domain, but is not limited to, certain states of mystical consciousness, certain religious mental experiences, high moral attitudes, and non-worldly emotional reactions. Thus, one man may be called "highly spiritual" although he may not have had any mystical experience, when what is meant is that he is "highly moral."

The lower mysticism may cause a man to lose all interest in his external life, whereas the higher mysticism imparts a new because diviner interest. If the first may enervate him, the second will enliven him.

Nobody, not even its bitter critics, may question the purity and nobility of its ethics, however much they may question the accuracy of its metaphysics.

This is not a quest which tries to tempt prospective candidates with the offer of prosperity or to bribe them with the satisfaction of their desires.

This quest is not in the private jurisdiction of any particular group, sect, school, or religious following. That is a narrow concept which must be firmly repudiated. It is the quest of life itself, the need of self to comprehend its own being.

The Quest is not to be looked upon as something added to his life. Rather it is to be his life itself.

This tormenting feeling of the lack of a spiritual state in his own experience, will drive him to continual search for it. But his whole life must constitute the search and his whole being must engage in it.

If you take the widest possible view, all the different sections of his action and thought are inseparable from the amount of spirituality there is in a man.

The truth must pass from his lips to his life. And this passage will only become possible when life itself without the quest will be meaningless.

It is only the beginner who needs to think of the quest as separate from the common life, something special, aloof, apart. The more proficient knows that it must become the very channel for that life.

The Quest is not anything apart from Life itself. We cannot dispense with common sense and balance in relation to it. No single element in life can be taken too solemnly, as if it constituted the whole of life itself, without upsetting balance.

Its importance and practicality

The quest is the most important adventure in human experience.

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.

He cannot stake too much on the outcome of such exalted strivings. Even all that the world can offer falls far below what the quest can offer. If outer sacrifices and inner renunciations are called for, the compensation will be more than just. In the end he gains immensely more than he loses. So why not let go freely if the quest bids him do so?

The meaning and end of all such work is to arouse men to see certain truths: that the intuitive element is tremendously more important than the intellectual yet just as cultivable if pursued through meditation, that the mystical experience is the most valuable of all experience, and that the quest of the Overself is the most worthwhile endeavour open to human exertions.

If there is anything worth studying by a human being, after the necessary preliminary studies of how to exist and survive in this world healthily and wisely, it is the study of man's own consciousness--not a cataloguing of the numerous thoughts that play within it, but a deep investigation of its nature in itself, its own unadulterated pure self.

This is the higher cause that is really worth working for, the spiritual purpose that makes life worth living.

In first, the discovery of the Overself, and second, the surrender to it, man fulfils the highest purpose of his life on this earth.

Each man has only a limited fund of life-force, time, and ability. He may squander it on worldly pleasures or spend it on worldly ambitions. But if, without neglecting the duties of his particular situation, he realizes that these are changing and transient satisfactions and turns instead to the quest of the Overself, he begins to justify his incarnation.

The businessman who does not know that the true business for which he was put on earth is to find the Overself, may make a fortune but will also squander away a lifetime. His work and mind have been left separate from his Overself's when they might have been kept in satisfying harmony with them.

Every man has another and veiled identity. Until he finds out this mystical self of his, he has failed to fulfil the higher mission of his existence.

If you want to know the purpose of life, read Acts 17:2: "God made man to the end that he should seek the Lord."

It comes to this: Are we to worship man or God?

Life offers man a variety of meanings, but in the end one meaning comes to the top of all the others and that is the meaning which shall reveal the truth about his relation to God.

When he sees life whole and therefore sees it right, he will understand why Jesus said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all these things shall be added unto you," and why, if he is to insist upon any single renovation in human life, it must be its own self-spiritualization. If he is to put emphasis anywhere, it must be upon the rediscovery of the divine purpose of his earthly life.

The old Sanskrit texts tell us of the "little purpose" of human life and of the "great purpose." All know the one but few know the other; fewer still seek to realize it.

If men only knew how glorious, how rich, how satisfying this inner life really is, they would not hesitate for a moment to forsake all those things which bar their way to it.

We do not understand the depths of our own being, the mystery in which it is grounded. I speak for mankind in general, not for those few great ones who have banished illusion and ignorance.

What amid all the noise of the world is the hidden purpose of life, what kind of men are we ultimately meant to be? It is the business of great prophets to answer these questions.

Socrates: "I spend all my time going about trying to persuade you, young and old, to make your first and chief concern . . . for the highest welfare of your inner selves."

What grander ideal could a man have than to live continuously in the higher part of his being?

That which really is, as opposed to that which appears to be, behind all the countless objects of this varied universe, is one alone, beginningless, endless, the source of all, the parent of the "I"-consciousness. This truth provides the final hope for man. Somewhere along his way he will discover it, act upon it, and be redeemed. This will be his last conversion, his final salvation, his best quest. Then only will the horrors he has contributed to the race's history begin to fade out. All else is utopian chimera based upon wishful thoughts and fanciful imaginations.

When men acquire proper values, whether by reflecting over their experience or by listening to their prophets, they will recognize this truth--that nothing really matters except the search for the Overself. If this calls for the giving up of earthly obstacles, then they are worth giving up for it.

When he has become ripened by experience and reflection, he will accept this truth with the spontaneity of a biological reaction.

If some are to be aroused to its importance they must first be given something of its meaning.

"Having a human body one must think with one's heart on life's end." --Chinese text Fachi-yao Sung Ching.

This enterprise of the quest is the most serious in which a man can engage. We must treat it as such. But let this not cause anyone to lose the sense of humour.

In pursuing this integral quest, they have the satisfaction of knowing that they are pursuing the only quest which can bring them to a truth which is all-embracing and all-explaining.

The fact that so few have ventured on this quest offers no indication of what will happen in the future. If mankind could take any other way to its own self-fulfilment, this situation might remain. But there is no other way.

For him there must exist something more than merely being a member of the herd; there must be a higher direction leading to truth to satisfy the mind, to a nobler character to satisfy the conscience, to refined beautiful and gentler moods inspired by the arts, music, literature, and reverence. For him there must be a Quest.

This is the only way whereby man can impregnably demonstrate to himself the illustrious dignity of his true being. This is the only way he can obtain the power of living in and by himself, that is, of living in the only real freedom possible on this earth.

If consciousness is to be enlarged, if the mind's dark places are to be lit up, if a blessed inspiration for living, work, or virtue is to be discovered, then this self-quest must be started.

The Ideal is in these critical days no longer a mere wish: it has become the necessary.

It is not enough to know with the intellect that God is everywhere and everywhen. It is also necessary to establish a practical working connection with God, if we are to obtain the actual benefit of this knowledge. Moreover this, and this alone, will give absolute assurance.

He needs to recover his conscious relationship to the Overself: the subconscious one is never lost.

The vision of the world and the understanding of life which he receives from the lips or books of others will never be so true nor so real as that which he makes his own. What shall it profit a man if he hear a thousand lectures or read a thousand books but hath not found his Overself? The student must advance to the next step and seek to realize within his own experience that which is portrayed to him by his intellect. And this is possible only by his entry upon the Quest.

With every day that passes, a man makes his silent declaration of faith in the way he spends it. It is a poor declaration that modern man makes when he brushes aside all thought of prayer and meditation as something he has no time for.

To become so lost in this world of appearances, as so many have become lost, is to shut the door to the world of reality. This is why the lost art of contemplation is a necessity and must be regained if we are to open that door and let truth in.

What comes with the years and which is ascribed to the older people is the wisdom of practical living. This is merely information, knowledge from experience in practical affairs; it is not the wisdom which comes from the deeper being, the deeper self. That will arise only when one looks for it, aspires to it.

The profound meaning of life is not put before our eyes. We have to dig for it with much patience and much perseverance.

We must put a spiritual purpose into our lives.

The first duty of man, which takes precedence over all other duties, is to become conscious of his Overself. This is the highest duty and every other duty must bow before it. Even domestic happiness must not stand in the way of spiritual salvation when, and if, the two collide. The training which makes this possible may be largely unpracticable in his particular circumstances but it is never entirely so. The difficulty of performing this duty is not enough excuse to relieve him of it.

What a man sees and thinks is only an awareness gleaned by the shallower part of himself. There is his deeper being--indeed, the term "part" is quite inapplicable here--his real essence, the greater Consciousness from which thoughts and emotions emerge for their limited lives. To find and know this is a duty to which he must one day come.

The search for truth becomes, for such a man, neither a spare-time hobby nor an intellectual curiosity, but a driving moral compulsion.

The more deeply we understand the nature of man, the more reliably shall we understand the duty of man.

The risks of entering such a spiritual adventure may be quite formidable, but the risks of not entering it are unquestionably frightful. For the probabilities of wrong action and mistaken choice will still remain, with the painful karmic aftermath.

The man who fails to touch the Overself's beauty in this life and under this pressure can hardly be blameworthy, but the man who fails to try to touch it, is blameworthy.

Nobody really knows how to live correctly unless he knows the higher laws governing life itself.

Whether on college campus or life's school, the higher laws have to be learnt at some time, in some birth--whether by instruction when young or by experience when older. The fact of their existence may be disregarded at our own peril.

Man can come into the personal knowledge that there is this unseen power out of which the whole universe is being derived, including himself. But neither the animal nor the plant can come into this knowledge. Here we see what evolution means and why it is necessary.

The most important questions which a man can ask himself--What he is and What he is here for--must be answered before his life finds its proper course. Otherwise, in the higher sense, he remains a mere animal.

Both Hindu and Buddhist teachers concur in regarding the human creature as being the most fortunate of all living creatures, because he alone has the potential capacity and opportunity to become spiritually "aware."

Every life in the fleshly body represents an opportunity to obtain spiritual realization because man can only discover his divinity to the fullest whilst in the waking state.

The refusal to reach up towards the higher truth and power leaves problems basically unsolved and questions really unanswered, for the cosmic urge within must assert and reassert itself.

When a man comes to his real senses, he will recognize that he has only one problem: "How can I come into awareness of, and oneness with, my true being?" For it is to lead him to this final question that other questions and problems have staged the road of his whole life. This answered, the way to answer all the other ones which beset him, be they physical or financial, intellectual or familiar, will open up. Hence Jesus' statements: "Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all these things shall be added unto you," and "To him that hath [enlightenment] shall be given [what he personally needs]."

Because we have lost our way, these truths are once again as fresh and significant and important as if they had never before been known to humanity.

The earlier the age at which a man begins these studies and practices the better for him. To be born into a family where they already prevail, is to have an exceedingly good destiny. But however late in life anyone comes to them, it is never too late. He will have to contend with set ways and fixed habits that will need changing, it is true.

The middle-aged and the elderly should take to spiritual studies as a duty. They have come to a period of life when they can evaluate its experiences better than the youthful.

It is not too late at any period of life, even in old age, to obtain a firm footing upon the spiritual path and gain its satisfying rewards.

In the end we all must turn to the inner Source of all our best human sources, to the Guru of all the gurus, to the Overself. Then why not now?

NOW is the right moment to practise philosophy, to crush the ego, and to think positively.

He who lacks the capacity to worship something higher than himself, to revere something better than himself, is already inwardly dead before his body is outwardly dead.

The quest, with its ideas and goals, is essential to the awakened man. He could not live without it without feeling half-dead, empty and futile.

Suffering men resort to travel in order to forget their burdens, but ruefully find that memory paces the steamer deck beside them, the ego travels in their train, and mind lays its throbbing head upon the same hotel pillow. They may escape from the whole world but, unless and until thought is conquered, they cannot escape from themselves.

So long as man does not know the most important part of himself and the best part of his possessions, so long will he remain the blind creator of his own miseries and the duped plaything of his own trivialities.

If we choose to be endlessly preoccupied with external matters, business, and pleasure, if we will not turn lovingly in the only direction to which we must turn if we are to behold our divine self, then it is useless to blame life, God, or luck for our unhappy blindness.

Those who prefer their own ego's opinion to the Overself's impersonal intuitions, remain in the ego's darkness.

No man who denies the Real and rejects the True can attain happiness or peace of mind or have enough reason to be quite good.

The quest may seem a long and difficult affair: it is. But since even a little effort in travelling it brings a noticeable reward, while saving some avoidable suffering, and since the questless life is in comparison a useless effort to hold on to many illusions, it still offers enough inducement to make a start and exert oneself to enter on the first stage.

There is no other way to true happiness, as distinct from the false kind, than to follow the path which the higher power has set for him. This is to preach a hard doctrine but it is a true one.

What is the greatest need of man? I reply quite simply, Truth! For no other satisfaction will end his discontents.

So long as a man does not experience his real self, so long will he be unhappy. The possession of material things and the indulgence in material pleasures only alleviate and palliate this unhappiness, and then temporarily, and do not remove it.

The true mystic is always pleased to learn that an individual has started upon the spiritual quest in earnest. He knows that nothing else in life will yield such satisfaction, especially in these times of world crisis when the need for inner support is greater than ever before. There cannot be any true or lasting outward form of security today.

Most of his resources may carry a man through many situations because they are purely material. But they cannot carry him through all situations. There are others to meet for which he needs spiritual resources, and if he lacks them he will be in a sorry state.

It is true that property, money, and possessions give most men a sense of security. But it depends on them and they bring anxieties, cares, even fears, along with their comfort and support. They still need to find or to add a personal security which is independent of these externals, which is personal. This can come only from within. But it must be from a deeper level than their ordinary thoughts and emotions. They are too unstable, too subject to moods.

So long as a man is a stranger to his own divine soul, so long has he not even begun to live. All that he does is to exist. In this matter most men deceive themselves. For they take comfort in the thought that this attitude of indifference, being a common one, must also be a true one. They feel that they cannot go far wrong if they think and behave as so many other men think and behave. Such ideas are the grossest self-deceptions. When the hour of calamity comes, they find out how empty is this comfort, how isolated they really are in their spiritual helplessness.

Millions of other humans came into the world and after a relatively short existence disappeared. He will be no exception: his turn to vanish will also come. Thought, confronted with this terrible fact, must either despair, take refuge in the hopes of religion, or resolve to find out the truth behind the tremendous cosmic drama.

It is better to accept the loneliness of the quester than the complacency of the worldling who lives without any understanding of life's inner purpose.

Men and women try various ways to overcome their innate loneliness and with various results in the end. So long as the expedient used is something or someone outside themselves, their victories turn out to be illusions. There is no final way other than the Way which everyone has had to tread at last who ever succeeded in this objective, and which leads inwards to the Overself.

In their search for satisfactions outside of and apart from the Overself, men and women are really fugitives from it.

The response provoked in you by the entry of these ideas will determine your future.

We suffer from stagnation and imagine that existence in the intellect and body is enough; it is not. The primary emphasis must be laid on the living principle of our being, the central self which creates both body and intellect.

Here it is, the human creature put upon this round planet and left to make nothing from life, merely survive, or to make something out of it, and hold the great vision of the World-Idea, in company with the gods.

The making of money, the earning of a livelihood, and the attainment of professional or business success have their proper place in life and should be accorded it but--in comparison with the fulfilment of spiritual aspiration--ought to be regarded as having quite a secondary place.

No scientific technological advance, no political gain, no economic improvement will ever be enough in and of itself to provide a proper goal for human endeavour. It is easy to forget this in certain favourable periods, and if we do we come close to disaster in the end.

We use every possible moment to cultivate the uncertain fields of commerce or to grow the perishing flowers of pleasure, but we are unable to spare one moment to cultivate the certain fields of the spirit within ourselves or to grow the enduring asphodels of divine devotion.

The goals of progress are but imagined ones. There is only one goal which is undeniably real, completely certain, and authentically true--and that is an unchanging one, an eternal one. Yet it is also the one that has escaped mankind!

Here in this country, men are more eager to better their manufactures than themselves. They will accept their own imperfections quite smugly and contentedly, but the imperfections of their automobiles--never! Yet what is the use of their running from point to point on this earth if they do not even know why they are standing upon it at all?

Man as scientist has put under observation countless objects on earth, in sea and sky. He has thoroughly examined them. But man as man has put himself under a shallower observation. He has limited his scrutiny first to the body, second to what thinking can find. Yet a deeper level exists, where a deeper hidden self can be found.

He will discover that it is not enough to regard as good only that which is favourable to his physical life. He must complete the definition and sometimes even contradict it by adding that which is favourable to his spiritual life.

There is nothing more important in life than the Quest, and the time will come when the student discovers that there is nothing more enjoyable as well. This is inevitable in a Quest whose essential nature is one of infinite harmony and unbroken peace. No worldly object, person, or pleasure can ever bestow the satisfaction experienced in uniting with the Overself.

It is not the animal needs and their gratification but the realization of our divine possibilities which is the hidden justification of our presence in this world.

The ceaseless longing for personal happiness which exists in every human being is a right one, but is generally mistaken in the direction along which satisfaction is sought. For all outward objects and beings can yield only a transient and imperfect delight that can never be equivalent to the uninterrupted happiness of life in the Overself.

An existence which has no higher aims than purely physical ones, no nobler activities than merely personal ones, no inner reference to a spiritual purpose, has to depend only on its own small resources. It has failed to benefit by its connection with the power behind the universe.

That the truth of life must be deeper than what we see and hear and touch, is suspected by intuitive persons, believed or felt by pious persons, and directly known by wise persons. What the surface story tells us is not the whole of it, they say.

No one who ever gives the philosophic life a proper trial for a sufficient time is likely to desert it. Only the one who has never given it a fair trial, or who has failed to understand philosophy's real meaning, is ever likely to join the herd again and remain an unaspiring, insensitive, and prosaic creature.

Humans demean themselves by not caring for the dignity of their status, the ideals they ought to honour.

Our daily lives become mechanical, obedient to the world's demands, and our daily activities a constantly turning treadmill; but this only happens if there are no spiritual aims, spiritual aspirations, and spiritual practices to provide a resistance to this course.

We are regarded as odd people because we trouble our heads with the search for an intangible reality. But it never occurs to our critics that it is much more odd that they should go on living without pausing to inquire if there be any purpose in life at all.

A time comes in the intellectual growth of a man when he knows that he must put aside the trivialities of life and come to terms with the demands made upon him by his higher nature.

Those who wish to do something more than merely glide over the surface of mystical life, who wish to be fully at peace with themselves, must take to the quest.

To put one's own purposes in harmony with the universe's purpose is the most sensible thing he can do. Therefore there is nothing unpractical, irrational, or eccentric in the Quest. Only the unthinking crowd, who suffer blindly and drift tragically, may believe so. No one who has felt the inner peace, received the deep wisdom, and touched the rocklike strength which mark the more advanced stages, could ever believe so.

The moment we become convinced that the universal life has a higher purpose than the mere reproduction of the species, that moment our own individual life takes on a higher meaning, a glorious significance.

It is this that gives our poor personal lives their meaning and rescues them from their foamlike character.

Here is a concept on which the mind can linger, braced by its reminder of our human possibilities.

Those who move through life hopeless and dreamless, who see none of its beauty and hear none of its music, who have lost most of its battles and won none of its prizes, these can console themselves only by adopting a new set of values or by applying one if they merely theorized before. If they do this, the end can be a new beginning.

The discovery that there are higher concepts of human existence, that these have a validity not less than the meaner ones which are all that so many people know, may prove a turning point at any age. For the young it gives some guidance, for the old getting closer and closer to death it offers some hope.

So short a time, so small a gain, so high a quest. For what is best, serves better in the end.

The importance of this work is ignored by most people and unknown to many people. They believe it to be the preoccupation of time-wasting dreamers or ill-adjusted neurotics. If they do not treat it with such indifference they treat it either with open abuse or with contemptuous indulgence. But if they could understand that it penetrates to the foundations of human living and affects the settlement of human problems, they might be less arrogant in their attitude towards it. It is not less important to the individual than to society at all times but immeasurably more so in these grave, critical times.

It may be asked of what social use are those who make this quest their primary occupation, and therefore make their worldly occupation and way of life conform to it? First of all, they embody, and therefore carry on and keep alive, the very idea of the quest. Secondly, their very presence, by telepathic and auric existence, does touch the inner beings of those who come into contact with them and does leaven the mental atmosphere of those who do not--however minute the effect on any particular day. Thirdly, although each has to live and express the quest in the way referable to his temperament and circumstances, he does offer a model--in general terms--for others to see, an example from which to draw stimulation.

In choosing this Path, the aspirant has taken the first step toward a Divine Power whose possession, or rather whose possession of him, will, ultimately, enable him to become a real healer of suffering mankind.

The view that such an existence is selfish and unproductive, is a shallow one. It takes no account of the value of higher forces. For whoever, by this quest and practice, realizes the divine presence, does so not only for himself but for all others in that little part of the world confided to his care.

Who are the most important human beings in the world? Those who try to bring sanity to an insane world or those who try to perpetuate its condition?

Our artists can find new sources of inspiration in it. Our dying religious hopes can receive an influx of unexpected new life from it. The phoenix of Divine Truth can rise again out of the ashes of materialism strewn around us if we turn our faces to that direction where the sun rises in red dawn. Yet since the spiritual is the deepest part of our nature, the process of our absorption of spiritual truths is a slow and not obvious one.

He may be told contemptuously that that kind of truth and reality have no practical value for us living in the world as it is, active in the world and dealing with the facts as they are, not getting lost in dreams. That in several ways this is not so can be demonstrated without too much difficulty. But let it be said that such a supreme knowledge or experience may possibly serve higher purposes which our small minds cannot yet glimpse.

All that really matters is how one lives one's life. But relative-plane activities do not constitute all there is to living. Consciousness rises from the plane behind the mind, and this region, like the outer world, needs to be explored with competent guides--its possibilities and benefits fully revealed by each individual for himself. Living will begin to achieve its own purpose when one's outer life becomes motivated, guided, and balanced by the fruits of one's inner findings.

You do not demolish the case for mystics when you show up and censure the oddities and charlatanries, the unreasons and fanaticisms of a few mystical cults.

If the mystical life were nothing more than a way of forgetting the dark sorrows of earthly life, a means of escaping the hard problems of earthly life, it would still be worthwhile. If its emotional raptures were nothing more than make-believe, it would still be worthwhile. We do not disdain theatres and books, films and music merely because the world into which they lead us is only one of glorious unreality. But the fact is that mysticism does seek reality, albeit an inner one.

He is not only an actor giving a performance on the world-stage. He is also someone who must learn to live in the still centre of his being.

The history of mysticism is marred by imposture and fraud, superstition and credulity. Yet with all these defects it is still the history of a tremendous discovery.

This is the higher purpose of life; to this men must in the end dedicate themselves: for this they must work, study, and meditate.

Our whole life on earth is in the end nothing else than a kind of preparation for this quest.

As he advances on this quest his scheme of values may change. This is partly because he learns by experience what every man has to learn, quester or not, that all is passing and nothing is stable, that the fruits of desire may turn to ashes, and that every day brings him nearer to death and farther from life. But it is partly also what the non-questers too often fail to perceive, that existence is like a dream, ultimately hollow, and that without some sort of link, connection, communion, or glimpse bringing him nearer to the inner reality his life remains unfulfilled.

Men of the world are not supposed to dabble in mysticism, much less exalt it to the status of religion. Yet this is precisely what they need, and need urgently.

The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.