Grand truths and common speech
Born in the previous century, I may have less right to offer suggestions to those who are only one-third or one-quarter my age. For they live not only in a vastly changed world but also with less respect for authority, age, and the past. Perhaps there are only two reasons why I feel this venture should be made. The first is that, before and after the threshold of adulthood, I too was a protester and a rebel, with faith and illusions lost, with questions and doubts galore. The second reason is that, consequently, I became a seeker after truth and ranged far and wide in its quest, with results that seem to me to have a little meaning even for these times.
My writings are primarily for those who are uninterested in the arid verbal technicalities and remote learned subtleties which abound in the dull texts of professional philosophers. The spinning of such cobwebs profits nobody except academic bookworms. Until recently it was the fashion in academic university circles openly to ignore or covertly to sneer at the work of Russell, Joad, and other "popularizers" of philosophy. They were regarded as being superficial. Yet they are the very men who have succeeded in winning some respect for the subject, because they have succeeded in freeing it from cloudiness and making it clearly intelligible.
It seems to have been a chief part of my work to give some people their first inkling of the existence of these ideas and practices, and to orient other people towards an interest in India--its religious, mystical, or philosophic culture.
I have here given an account of a way of expressing spirituality in life which is fit for our time; however ancient be this way, I have described it differently because I speak a language and have to encounter environments which the ancients never spoke or encountered.
To make the most obscure truths easily intelligible, to translate the world-symbol into plain communication, is a noble work.
I tried to "demystify"--if the term may be invented--the hotch-potch, the disguises and the subtleties, the difficulties, the condensations and the circumlocutions which fill this literature, and to render it readable.
In these open times, when most information, many opinions, and much knowledge sooner or later finds its way into print, lecture, and discussion, there is no need to torment oneself with study of writings, antique or medieval, which deliberately clothe ideas in fantastic forms, in baffling symbolism, or hide meaning under layers of meaninglessness.
To put the once-abstruse truths of mentalism into works readable, understandable, and nontechnical--just as had been done with yoga--was a further effort I made with enthusiasm but now, so many years later, its importance seems even greater than it did then.
There are those who, stupefied by convention, do not comprehend that the question of the truth of these ideas is not to be settled by the fact that they are set down in an informal vivid way rather than in a prim academic one. They are set down in this way because the custodians of philosophy feel the democratic time-spirit and want to make them more accessible to the masses than they have been in the past. But this could not be done without taking mysticism and metaphysics out of their verbal mummy-wrappings.
To help restore a vanishing age of foolish imposture when man's evolution imperiously demands its very disappearance is the very reverse of my aim.
Dandapani, a guru, once said to me in India: "Although we are writing popular works for the man in the street, nevertheless let them be philosophically correct and metaphysically accurate even from the standpoint of advanced students. Let us not mislead the masses while simplifying our doctrine for them."
Blunt speech and plain writing have their place too, along with flowery prose and poetic colour; but in this matter of secret paths and unfamiliar quests and higher states of consciousness, they are even more indispensable than symbolic terms, metaphoric phrases, or enigmatic sentences.
In some of my later works I tried to clear up, through the aid of science and plain language, many of the mysteries which have been locked up in the old Upanishads beyond the understanding of modern people like ourselves.
The Indians have written the most important philosophic statement of all--"All is Brahman"--which I have transposed, possibly to their frowns, as "All is Mind." But one cannot go on repeating it all the time. There are other statements which need to be made, less important but still much to the point for us who have to live in the twentieth century.
In these writings it has been necessary to stress certain points and to pass lightly over others; to develop certain features, because the writing is primarily for a particular type of Western reader. The attempt was made to interest in Indian wisdom the general reader of literature who is thoughtful and a seeker after knowledge. It was also written in an attempt to clarify Indian wisdom for the few who are already interested in it, but who have not the time, patience, or opportunity to go more deeply into it.
In order to help others it is sufficient to bring forward the religious and mystical aspects of this teaching. Metaphysics gives an intellectual grasp of the same thing that religion gets hold of through faith. Mysticism gives an intuitive grasp of it and philosophy makes the individual wholly one with it--in life as in thoughts, in conduct as in feeling. The religious man believes in the truth of God's existence, the mystical man feels it intermittently within himself, the metaphysical man learns about it rationally, and the philosophic man believes, feels, knows, and applies it in action everywhere and at every moment. The average person, however, is far from philosophical and therefore is indifferent to philosophy's ideas. So it will be enough at first to make known the religious and mystical ideals and ideas.
The soul does not hunger for dry monographs, but for words that are alive, words that spring up from a profound devotion, inspiration, and dedication to the highest being. I have not the time nor the will to meander through a system of metaphysics--and neither, perhaps, has the average reader of today.
Perhaps my book may break a few of the glass houses of contemporary illusions.
There is always the temptation to oversimplify such an obscure and complex subject. But to do this would be to fall into a snare and to take the reader with one.
This work of reinterpreting the universal and perennial mystical philosophy is not to be regarded as being the same as propagating the doctrines of some mystical Oriental cult.
Must a mystic walk about looking like an early Christian martyr? And write his books accordingly?
The introduction of artistic style in the exposition of philosophical truth need not necessarily attenuate that truth, if it is carefully done. That is my aim. After all, so many "dry" expositions already exist that a change may interest people who otherwise pass the subject by. Art can rouse interest in an uninteresting theme. The Oriental philosophies are expressed generally in too cryptic and complicated a style. Paul Deussen has pointed out the great value of the artistic style used by the Greeks in the presentation of their philosophies, as compared with the syllogistic systematizing method used by the Hindus.
New philosophers are afoot in the world today. New words for old thoughts.
I prefer to say lightly what our wise ones say laboriously and heavily; that does not mean that I am less sincere than they.
There are certain matters which will inevitably arise more readily in the mind of a Westerner than of an Oriental, merely because the life and needs of the two are different. Hence I felt justified in going further and making explicit what was implicit in the teachings.
I am striking out a path of my own. Therefore my latest writings will not please many who do not understand that in this way I am carrying forward the quest and not, as they wrongly believe, departing from it.
My aim is to popularize truth, if possible, yet I shall take care not to pay the price of dilution or distortion for such popularization.
If a spiritual message is to find any acceptance among the educated or half-educated younger generation of today, it will have to be presented in an intellectual manner. The only explanation of mysticism which will satisfy the world today is a scientific explanation. Hence I have tried to explain these doctrines in such a way that the reader who understands one of them may advance to the next in a logical development. I have offered to lead him up the steps of irresistible logic towards truth.
I tried to make this exposition of philosophical doctrines easier to read than those expositions which I myself had to read.
It is true that my writings represent a simplification of the philosophy of truth and that therefore they do not adequately cover the ground, but this is not to say that they represent a distortion of it.
This teaching is presented as an independent one because its intellectual form and external practices are being organically re-created afresh in the light of altered conditions due to human evolution as well as to meet the needs of twentieth-century civilization.
Must every writer express the profoundest spiritual experiences in the most tedious sentences he can find?
We shall set up no new gods. On the other hand, neither shall we acclaim or deny the gods of the past.
My work is not only to state the old wisdom but even more to clarify it. Hence my work is not expository but clarificatory.
It would be an egoistic error for anyone to proclaim to our generation that he alone has found eternal laws, universal truths, and spiritual principles which the ancients did not know. But it would be only a simple statement of fact to say that P.B. was among the few writers in modern times to formulate these laws, truths, and principles in clear understandable language free from all mystery-mongering and cult-pushing.
We shall engage in no sterile polemics, nor invite men to winnow mere words. But those who seek new thoughts, finer experiences, and truer realizations will find this frontier open and free.
We do not seek to shine in the firmament of literature. We do not compete for a place among great writers. It is enough for this pen if it can communicate something of the knowledge we have gleaned, the consciousness we have gained of the possibilities of a transcendental existence for men. If therefore we are accused, as we often are accused by academic metaphysicians, disdainful mystics, superior yogis, and highbrow literateurs, of being nothing better than a journalist, we humbly plead guilty. Only it should be added in fairness that we have something quite celestial to report. Are these writings less true because they refuse to wear the sedate dress of academic respectability or because they refuse to conform to the stiff obsolete and feeble style which is supposed to be natural for mystics, metaphysicians, and philosophers? Are they to be condemned, as some reviewers have condemned them, because their ideas are conceived and expressed with an almost journalistic plainness of appeal to the man in the street? If this is to be the era of the common man, if the war has brought his right to a fuller life to belated recognition, if the higher teachings of mysticism and philosophy are to be placed at last within his grasp, are we not serving him by striving to make the abstruse simple, the abstract understandable, and the metaphysical interesting?
I must plead for patience. But I do this only to clear the ground of the debris of ages and to unfold mysticism at its best in a coherent and clear manner--the heretofore little-known higher mysticism which is utterly beyond such taints, defects, and blemishes.
Even ancient wisdom will serve us, provided it be presented in a form that is adequate to the cultivated modern mind.
I have taken the abstruse Tibetan teachings, for instance, and shorn them of their formidable subtleties, their Oriental names and terms, their technical words and foreign phrases.
I have excavated some truths out of the Orient's past and published a portion of them, but I have rejected many more as unsuited to my time.
Although we have rigidly set our face against taxing the eyes of readers with unfamiliar Sanskrit, there is no reason why, if the English language has absorbed so many merely marketplace Asiatic words like "curry" and "bungalow," it should not also absorb a couple of valuable metaphysical words like "karma" and "yoga" which, in any case, have already been granted this new linguistic nationality by dozens of Western writers.
Moreover such is the misuse of philosophical terminology by those who would dilute it with religion and such is the misunderstanding of Sanskrit words which have passed through the alembic of theological pedants and theosophical pundits that we shall have to re-define afresh every important technical term as it appears. Nor shall we hesitate to invent new words if necessary to explain our meaning where the old ones fall short of it, for the dictionary is our servant, not our master. And every word will be an English one. We soon weary of reading an article whose solid English pages are stippled with unfamiliar unintelligible Sanskrit words. The West will not absorb Oriental wisdom unless it is entirely presented in Western language.
Here it is in explicit language--not trying to impress you with enigmas or stun you with paradoxes.
We have to take the truth about God out of the monastery and relate it to the world today, the nuclear physical knowledge of today, and the altered ways and views of today.
The most effective method of propagating spiritual truth in this modern age is undoubtedly the radio. The printed word can only be a secondary medium. But propaganda is not quite the same as education. Radio propaganda is the most effective of all methods for bringing new ideas to people who have never heard them before, and for inspiring individuals with right feeling and enthusiasm. But the printed word is necessary where deep thinking and repeated reflection are required in order to master difficult points. Therefore the awakening of unenlightened people and the encouragement of enlightened beginners to spiritual truth is best done through the radio, but the instruction and assistance of more advanced students is best done through the printed word. An adequate scheme should cover both methods. The printed word is essential chiefly for the intermediate and advanced students who are scattered in various parts of the world in loneliness and isolation and who have no personal teacher to instruct them.
The West not only needed instruction in the art of meditation, but it needed specific instruction.
I wanted those books, in their humble measure, to be a grace to others--or at least to serve them in some way.
I have attempted to make clear to the man in the street certain subtle and recondite matters which are usually difficult enough to make clear even to specialized students of them.
I have tried to put in plainer language that which was so long withheld from the majority of people because it was deemed to be too philosophic for their understanding.
In all this writing I have sought not to found the latest church but to formulate the oldest intuitions.
An extract from H.P. Blavatsky's "Lucifer" magazine>: "If the voice of the mysteries has become silent for many ages in the West, if Eleusis, Memphis, Antium, Delphi, and Cresa have long been made the tombs of a Science once as colossal in the West as it is yet in the East, there are successors now being prepared for them. We are in 1887 and the nineteenth century is close to its death. The twentieth century has strange developments for humanity."
When I undertook to raise mysticism to sane acceptable and useful standards, I undertook a job which was crying out to be done.
I had to indulge the Western pride in its intellectualism and scientific achievement, or rather to seem to do so, while leading the Western reader to question its values and its deficiencies.
It had to be written at this point in the world's evolution, to lead people to look to God alone, not to organizations, churches, and half-illumined guides: hence the book could not have been written earlier.
The Western world does not want abstract metaphysics alone. It wants also tangible results, visible demonstration, and practical guidance. And because I wrote chiefly for my Western fellows, I endeavoured to bring this subject down from the rarefied atmosphere in which I found it in the East, and to make plain its bearing on common life.
The need for spiritual education
The books were written out of passionate feeling for truths and matters higher than those which ordinarily occupy people's minds. The hope was to make the readers feel something of what the writer felt and to establish the fact that there is a Reality beyond and behind existence, of which we are a part. The books had their own particular work to do. It was to awaken interest in it, to arouse the mind to the existence of man's higher goal, and to give both the impulse to search for truth and the urge to practise what the truth requires.
What seemed to be needed was to bring into mystical understanding and theory something of the precision which is so valuable a feature of modern science. Instead of getting lost in vague generalities or sentimental rhapsodies, as usually happened, a careful analysis of mystical technique and experience would surely be the most helpful service a writer on the subject could give his readers.
This kind of research has been a lifelong activity and not all the results have been reported. Perhaps it is because there is too much sectarianism in the atmosphere for a full, impartial, and free discussion. But the legacy of truth is needed, important, and at some unknown time it shall be made known.
I did not seek to become the formulator of such a unique and priceless message to mankind. Indeed knowing myself in weakness as well as strength, I naturally shrink from seeking such an immense responsibility and would rather have helped and served a worthier man to formulate the message. This is not to say that I underrate its value, its dignity, its public prestige. But all my previous attempts to evade the task having ended in failure, I now positively and affirmatively--no longer reluctantly and hesitantly--step forward to its accomplishment. I do so moreover with tranquil joy, for I am utterly convinced in the deepest recess of my heart, no less than in the logical thinking of my brain, that the teaching is so greatly needed in our time by those who have sought in vain for comprehensive elucidation of the problem of their existence, that I feel the help it will give them constitutes the best possible use of my energies, talents, and days in this incarnation.
I have not planted in vain. My teachings have already borne a little fruit. Although I have refused to set myself up formally on the teacher's dais, nevertheless teaching has somehow been going on. Through books, letters, interviews, and even meditations, men and women have been guided, counselled, instructed, perhaps inspired, upon this age-old quest of the Overself.
"Help me through written words to meet their need: the seekers, the baffled, and the hopeless."--A Writer's Prayer by P.B.
For a great peace filled my heart. The white splendour of a hope that had seemed a mirage now flamed out of the lost years. It turned the dark past into a lighted avenue that led up the Hill of Patience to the House of Fulfilment. So stick to this quest with the iron determination not to stop until you have realized the truth. Don't worry about the remoteness of the goal; leave all the results to fate and do the best you can. With proper guidance, the goal can be brought infinitely nearer than it seems. Those who know truth want to share it--what else do they care for? Make up your mind and progress from can't to can!
I consider it a God-sent privilege to myself and a possible source of blessing to others if I use properly the opportunity of transmitting these revelations.
My special work is not public addresses nor private interviews. It is writing--not writing a constant stream of letters, but words which thousands shall read. It is writing about the Quest, arousing people to follow it, guiding those upon it, and explaining the goals at the end of it. My special parish is people who cannot find truth in any existing institution, cult, religion, sect, or creed and who, therefore, can attach themselves to none.
To what better use can I put my pen than to give others the assurance that there is a Mind behind the world, a purpose behind their lives?
I have withdrawn from the world and now live in retirement, which is not to say that I live in inactivity. But I find that I can help others with less misunderstanding and with more smoothness by confining my efforts to the inner worlds of being and the outer world of occasional writings than by personal intercourse with them. It is easy for me to be in the world and yet not of it. But it is hard for some critics who do not know me--a knowledge which cannot be gained merely by meeting my body, for I habitually screen myself with ordinariness--to understand how this can be.
I have a function to perform: the published work is only the first part of it. The other part is independent, creative, original, constructive.
In earlier years I communicated verbally through the printed symbols of a published book, but in later ones silently through the telepathic emanation of a felt divine presence. Anyone, anywhere in the English-speaking world might read the one if he cared to, no one could receive the other unless he cared to do so.
To bring these magnificent truths to bed upon homely paper was sacred service to them, a worthwhile duty to humanity, and an aesthetic joy to myself.
I write, first, because my mind seeks such expression, which gives me joy and peace, and second, to be of service to others.
This book of practical guidance became necessary when men and women, finding no real personal help in rhetorical books, no actual and positive result after reading so many sonorous pages, asked for it.
"My Initiations": (a) There is the additional reason of leaving a testimony since I am nearing the period when age and death are often friends. There are others, either in this generation or in posterity, who will find themselves searching as I once searched, and to whom a clue, a map, a confirmation of the treasure's real existence may mean much.
(b) The time I spent analysing the delicate processes of meditation for the benefit of those who have yet to master its art, as well as the lengthy research and study made for the sake of developing theory and increasing knowledge, turned out later to be well spent, for the descriptions I was later able to give in published writings proved helpful to many who read them. And I see also that to record spiritual experiences and the steps leading to them with some of the detailed precision of a laboratory report may serve a useful purpose. It may guide those who are studying it as a new subject and encourage the seekers of a younger generation who are now pressing behind me.
The best of being a writer is the opportunity given to show man his true worth, to lift up his own idea of himself, to persuade him that trivial aims are not enough.
My inner labours do not express themselves wholly through these writings. Those who are intuitively sensitive to such ideas and personally sympathetic to their transmitter may be touched at times on a purely mental non-physical plane of being.
I have been telling others for years that their situations and experiences have meaning and purpose because all life has meaning and purpose. I garnered this lesson in my first flash of cosmic consciousness, but reason alone can tell us the same thing.
This book is made dedicate to that Sage of the Orient at whose behest these pages were written: to one incredibly wise and ceaselessly beneficent. And, further, I have wrapped this book in the bright orange-chrome coloured cloth even as you have wrapped your body in cloth of the same colour--the sannyasi's colour--the mark of one who has renounced the world as you have. And if the dealings of the cards of destiny bid me wear cloth of another hue, command me to mix and mingle with the world and help carry on its work, be assured that somewhere in the deep places of my heart, I have gathered all my desires into a little heap and offered them all unto the Nameless Higher Power.
People feel the need of some kind of communion or communication with the Higher Power, be it ceremonial worship, verbal prayer, or silent meditation. One whose job is to state in words the possibility of such communion, to describe its actual realization, and to portray its supreme upliftings of emotion and sublime openings of consciousness is as needed by the world as is any other worker whose contribution is useful, worthwhile, or needed.
"You will raise an ancient statue, now lying half-buried in the sand, and reveal it as a thing of worth." This was the prediction made to me by Brother M.
There is no special urge to bring others to repent, but there is a feeling that as a writer one can be used to bring them to inner quietude. It will make them better and happier persons, and they need to know that it can be found, felt, established, and that the time accorded to the search could hardly be better used.
Turn the work of service entirely over to the Master, refuse to accept any personal responsibility for it. Do everything there in His name alone. Hand all these people over to him.
We must not shrink from revealing this, the most sacred of all experiences, if it adds one more testimony to divine existence. For in this age of materialism and scepticism, existentialism and nihilism, every affirmation of the opposite kind has increased value--even illumination must be shared with those still in darkness.
He is never really isolated from the world. For his thoughts do telepathically reach those who value them, his written letters and published words do constitute some kind of communication and even conversation.
He does not know and does not need to know the various personal problems of disciples as and when each one arises. This is because he does not assume the role of a personal master, hence does not pry into their mental and emotional states. This does not mean that he is not helping them. He does. But he is able to do so without opening the doors of his conscious mind. The subconscious doors are always open and through them there enters each disciple's call and there emerges his response.
He is not the conscious leader of any movement, and yet a following of grateful and reverent people whom he has helped, awakened, or healed trails behind him. He does not try to give them guidance directly and yet they do receive it, however incidentally.
It is the business of my books to act as awakeners rather than as teachers, to make people aware of their higher possibilities and of the obstacles or limitations within themselves which hinder their realization.
He is not a guru, so he does not take anyone under his care. But he is ever ready to give to others if the Power bids him give inner help.
These thoughts are the progeny of fact, strict and scientific. I am no poet, giving to airy nothings a local habitation and a name!
It is not without its use to others to affirm, in a materialistic age, that this spiritual self is a matter of personal experience rather that of mere theory. One need not necessarily make such affirmation out of vanity.
In many cases the Brunton books have been the start of their spiritual education. They have been awakened and given direction. Afterwards they go on to find teachers, schools.
Some may get from this reading not only the intellectual help necessary to understand difficult points but also the good fortune of a spiritual glimpse.
To raise the half-buried, half-petrified figure of meditation from the desert sand, expose and clean it, explain and publicize it--this was only a first task. To advance further and awaken the juniors who undertook this inner work to the truth of mentalism--this was a second task.
I refuse to write letters under pressure of business and hurry the words and sentences because of lack of time. I prefer to reduce the size of my letters, perhaps to a single paragraph, perhaps to a single sentence, maybe even a short phrase; but if these are pregnant with meaning they will suffice.
It is better to make himself silent for some seconds at the beginning of the meeting--even though the other person is disconcerted by the silence--for then the host will receive a truer impression about the other's mental and emotional condition and may also receive from a still higher source some guidance as to how to deal with, and what to say to, the guest, the questioner, or the contact.
Out of the tranquillity and beauty of deep meditation, I have plucked for others a few exotic blossoms redolent with spiritual fragrance and offer them in the hope that they may bring from the mysterious region of their source some suggestion of the peace and truth I found there.
So I will play the part of the psychoanalyst for a moment and show the world its own subconscious.
I have no intention of wandering into the uncertain realms of metaphysical morals nor of flying in a balloon into the clouds of moral metaphysics.
I am less concerned in this book with proving my propositions than with laying them down and setting them firmly in our sight; for they are their own justification and need little evidence to reveal their truth.
The book will render you a service, even without changing your life and habits, by merely making you believe in the possibility of such a change.
I intend not only to leave marks on paper, but also on the foe of materialism. I hope to throw several stupidities prone on the platform of literary debate. I want to wield the two-edged sword of truth, whose razor-edged and lancet-pointed thrusts may serve to do for the cause of mysticism what several think but few say. I do not doubt but that I shall carry off not a few carcasses of priestly rancour and pleasure-soaked fatuities to the crematorium. But in donning the casque and visor and hacking for the benefit of public enemies, I shall not forget to keep the kindly smile and brotherly clasp for the benefit of private friends, the followers of inward light, and for all men of goodwill.
I was allowed to enter several retreats and homes where these teachers dwelt, and to stay or study for a while. They were the greatest seers and mystics of these times, and the uniqueness of my privilege becomes clearer every year--as none of the same high quality arise to replace them. This autobiographical note with its seemingly egotistical details, is necessary to help explain why these books were written.
My writings were never intended to be didactic and I never intended to be a teacher. They serve the purpose of enabling me to share ideas, not to impose them.
My work is to awaken intuition and to instigate research. It is to affirm the precepts of truth as well as to argue the logic of it.
Readers of my books have occasionally written to me in the hope I can prove to them that the doctrines there presented are true. This I regret being unable to do. I can prepare a powerful case, and in some instances have tried to do so; but, like all cases, a trained mentality should be able to demolish them. This is as it must be, but it should be remembered that the powers of the logical intellect are--and must always remain--limited by the amount of factual material and experience available to it. There is only one way anyone can be certain of the truth of these statements. He must take to the Quest and keep on the Quest, until the Overself reveals itself to him. Indeed, more people know in their own personal histories the concrete proof of these statements than the public generally dreams of.
Experience alone may have already taught them several philosophic truths, but these writings may help people become more fully conscious of them. Such are the power and beauty of universal ideas that some people may arrive at them immediately by intuition as soon as the eyes read them on a printed page but others only ultimately after a long and toilsome course of study. Then there are those who will feel an intuitive response to these statements even where they cannot yield an intellectual one. Conversely, there are others who will yield intellectual assent although no inward stirring certifies their judgement. But all types will know that they have been lifted to higher levels of thought and conduct as a result.
I now want to help such keener spirits to move forward on the path and find a fuller life, that of truly universal being, that of the Overself as the ALL, and not merely as the sacred spirit in man.
I conceded the truth of mysticism in order to lead the reader to give up his self-identification with the material body. I advocated the practice of yoga in order to discipline his mind into utter calmness and thus prepare it for the study of higher truths later on.
I have never been in want of a subject on which to write. Philosophy is as wide as the world and its research has been my ruling power.
If we point to the spiritual sphinx of our time, we at least attempt to answer its riddle.
A book like this must necessarily savour somewhat of egoism in the writer, and that cannot be helped. The truth is that we all are egoists, only some are unpleasantly so while others retain a refined feeling of considerateness.
I have never thought of my book-writing as a branch of commerce; it has always been a part of my ideal of service.
I have several excuses for continuing to inflict my screeds upon the public. One of them has been well put by Arthur Machen: "When you are condemned by the gods to write," he said, "you can't leave off." Another is that I wrote down these creative ideas not only because of the wish to assist other seekers but also because of the struggle to work out my own intellectual salvation. Much of my writing has not only been an attempt at communication but also an effort to work out my personal salvation. I wrote for myself as well as for others. For, as explained in so many prefaces, I am only a student of these matters and not a master. In the words of Saint Paul, "I count not myself to have attained." This is partly why I seem to have fallen into inconsistency. But every growing thing is inconsistent with its former self. Consistency belongs to the cemetery alone. Between the time when I wrote the first book and the time when I wrote the tenth book, there was an advance in capacity and an evolution in outlook. The shift of emphasis and the transference of interest which my writings show are the natural result of fuller inner maturation and further outer experience.
The third excuse may appear less credible in a cynical and self-centered world. Yet it happens to be true. And it is true only because I feel the presence and command of the Overself continually beside me, not because of any virtue in my own self. But for this I would certainly be as cynical and self-centered as so many others. Grinding overwork has tyrannized my head and hands for years. I have long promised myself freedom, but know that I shall probably never take it. Yet freedom is already there, I have only to stretch forth my hand and it will lie within my grasp. Why then do I submit to unending slavery? The answer can be given in a single word--compassion! Those whose personal malice prevented them from believing this during my lifetime will have to believe it as soon as I have gone. And I shall not be sorry to go. But that is another story. If I can persuade or at least encourage some people to tread a higher path rather than a lower one, to look for guidance to spiritual rather than materialist sources, to think rightly about God as well as their fellows, it will make me feel that one of my life-tasks has been accomplished. So it is something real for me to want others to have it, too. Also, this realization seems to me to be just what we have been put on this earth to find--all the other activities such as earning a livelihood and feeding the body being merely the accessories which enable us to exist here in order to do so. I have written about it not to obtrude my own personality but in obedience to an overwhelming inner urge. The task itself is an inspiring one. It is not an exaggeration to say that sometimes I felt as if I were bringing humanity messages from another world. Starved souls have found nourishment in these pages that speak of the Overself. These writings have instructed some in the noble truths of philosophy and consoled others in the sad hours of affliction. They have propagated themselves over all the continents. However lightly and however imperfectly, their truths have entered the thoughts and their ideals have suffused the hearts of hundreds of thousands. I have tried to transmit aureoled concepts to my own generation, to lodge new-old spiritualizing tenets in its mind.
This book tells not only of what man did for himself but also of what Grace did for him.
I do not wish to clothe men in a new faith but rather to get them to stand as giants and shake off the ropes which keep them imprisoned. I want to get them to depend on a fourth dimensional life now that the old existence has utterly failed them.
I conceive my work to be the blowing of smouldering coals of aspiration into burning flames of inspiration, expressible and visible in the end as altruistic action.
Those earlier books were written not so much to convince others as to show the very real need of a contemplative life to be brought in to counterbalance the active one, not to lead people into monasteries and ashrams for the remainder of their lives as world-renunciates, but to lead them into themselves.
I would not trouble to disturb the calm repose of white paper with the following thoughts if misapprehensions concerning their subjects were not so widespread.
The work of securing reforms in the social economic and political spheres may seem desirable, but the philosopher feels (and knows) that he must leave all such activities to the men who can perceive nothing higher, nothing more important, than that. He is ironically aware that never before in human history were so many reformers at work as in the past hundred years, so many improvers of other men or of the environmental conditions around them, yet never before were so many menacing situations of appalling possibility the end result of all this work as is the case today. For himself, he thinks he can better use his limited time in seeking to learn and stating for others those higher laws of being which govern men. Without this knowledge they are merely blundering about in the dark and hurting themselves continually.
It is well to raise a literary statue to these few principles which the times have obscured and human weakness uncomprehended.
It is during such a time of general bewilderment and cultural crisis that we eagerly gaze at the horizon for new teachers who shall proclaim the eternal gospel of the divine significance and purpose of human existence, who shall lead us to the loftier hope and nobler faith without which we cannot live but merely exist as animals exist. Yet such teachers do not appear. It therefore behooves us, who are mere students, blundering wayfarers, to remain silent no longer, but speak, however stammeringly, the broken words whose truth we do know.
We prefer to open our holy war in a quiet way, rather than strike the air with the sword of argument to make much battle but little victory.
I felt that this was a primary task--that someone needed to call the attention of laymen, not only of theological students or religious aspirants, to this now uncommon, obscure, unfamiliar, and neglected yet important side of the spiritual life.
What else can I do than drop some words into a mind willing to receive them?
Does not my own privacy require that I leave others alone and not try to take on their affairs or problems?
It gladdens me whenever he remembers that he has untiringly sustained men's faith that the divine soul, the Holy Ghost, does dwell in them.
My writing is both a form of sharing knowledge and a way of teaching it at one and the same time. It is a response to my natural desire to pass on to others some ideas that have taken their place in my pattern of life-meaning, but it is also an attempt to explain and propagate those ideas for the benefit of these others.
It is not for me to lead men or organize movements. I can only stimulate intuition and arouse thought, inspire ideals and explain the higher laws.
Whatsoever I have done in the way of attempting to explain the inexplicable experiences of the Overself has been done against my own will and desire, even as my much more illustrious and ancient namesake sank his own personal prejudices and set out on the dangerous task of converting the Graeco-Roman world to the Christian gospel which he had himself discovered with such dramatic unexpectedness. The parallel runs still more closely, for just as Saint Paul confessed that he was going forth "as a liar yet telling the truth" so I feel that few will give credence to the plain records of divine experiences nowhere to be seen in the marketplace and of apparently supernatural phenomena nowhere to be found in the laboratory, which it has been my unsought task to write down. And if this comparison with one who after all was but a tent-maker by vocation be not too presumptuous, I have at least freed myself from the other man's preoccupation with calling men to follow Christ and to join the Christian church, for I call men to follow no other Christ than the quiet Christ-Self rooted deep in their hearts and to join no other church than the unseen one.
My work is curiously compounded of a thinker's and an expositor's, a mystic's and an interpreter's, a researcher's and a teacher's.
I am trying to found an independent school of thought and not a crystallized school of instruction, to lead the free and mystical tendencies of my time into a wider direction and not to take in hand the individuals displaying them.
I must say at once that I do not claim to represent any teacher anywhere of any time, nor orthodox system of religion or metaphysics, mysticism or occultism. None of the representatives of any, very old or more recent, can therefore rightly say that I am giving an incorrect exposition in this writing.
With more than forty years spent in these studies and with the observation of thousands of people engaged in their practical application, I have become familiar with most of the leading mystical ideas. What is better is that I have also watched results in practice all over the world. Out of this experience, certain definite conclusions have formed themselves and forced my acceptance. The fact that I belong to no special group, no particular religion, no separate organization, but keep my mind open for truth from any direction with complete independence, has doubtless helped the formulation of these conclusions.
I have no use for, so do not keep, my own birthday anniversaries; hence I see no reason for abandoning this view in regard to my friend's anniversaries. The only birthday I like to remember is not the conventional one which emphasizes awareness of the body nor the false one which identifies the "I" with it, but the true one which celebrates a spiritual illumination. That is a day not to be forgotten which awakened the mind to its timeless existence in Mind. Birth into the kingdom of heaven is the only anniversary worth troubling about.
I detest those long lingering hesitant and indecisive farewells: they irritate and annoy: they waste time uselessly: they are even worse when the performance is given in public or on the telephone. If there is no other way to take one's leave, no more reasonable and graceful form of exit, I prefer to bolt abruptly. It may appear unkind but it is better for everyone concerned in the end.
I could not endure the self-righteousness of those who live in the ashrams, for it was as ugly and hard as the pharisaic, as the self-righteousness of the narrow sects.
I held to my individual position, because I wrote and spoke about the necessity of a free search for truth; my position among the groups I visited and the teachers I listened to was an anomalous one.
Because my research is independent, because I have no ties to any cult, group, creed, or organization, I have been free to arrive at unbiased conclusions. When I began any study or investigation, I gave up my independence of judgement; but when I approached the end, I resumed it.
I am by nature a wanderer, a gypsy. But there is no utopian meaning behind my travels. I am not searching for any colony or monastery, group or co-operative, where all live harmoniously together in a paradisal relationship. Only young dreamers and naïve inexperienced enthusiasts look for such places in this world.
As a writer I have been my own master. As a student of truth I ended as my own guru.
Because I was not a monk, I was able to write for the general public--who also refuse to go so far as to take the vow.
Something seemed to ask me, "Do you want to have your ego catered to and pampered like a child, primarily seeking its outer comforts, or will you give up the ego altogether and find peace? The choice you make at this crossroads will also determine the outer fortunes coming to you."
Not all the techniques were learned from traditional sources. Some I was forced to originate in the endeavour to provide material suitable to modern seekers.
I have accumulated an experience in these matters that is unique.
Paul Brunton is trying to do something new. He went to India to learn from the most perceptive Indians, not to copy their followers. Yet the latter at times lack the wide tolerance of their teacher. Merely and politely to disagree with them is denounced as immense arrogance. "Who are you," these followers shout, "to dare to have an opinion contrary to the divine word of our Holy One?" Brunton has the highest regard affection and reverence for these Indian teachers, and especially for the ones who freely initiated him into their knowledge and inner circle. But this regard does not necessarily mean that he is obliged always to agree with them and always to think along with them. Indeed, they did not agree with each other. Those who might deem it ungracious of him to criticize their doctrines at certain points, should know that he speaks not only on his own personal behalf but also with certain sanctions--derived from the most ancient esoteric initiatory Oriental traditions- -behind him. Paul Brunton also has something of his own to give. He cannot merely copy these others in living or echo them in writing. He too must be himself just as they were themselves. He may be their friend but he cannot be their follower. If it is for others to be that, he rejoices; but if he is to be true to the light which has come to him, he must shed it by himself, however small it be in contrast to theirs. He may be but a candle to the suns of other guides, but to hide it because their light is greater would be to disobey his own inner voice. There was a time when this same voice bade him give forth the message of a few among those he had sought out and studied with. He gladly did so. But now its bidding is different. He has to speak the Word which he alone can speak, for every individual is unique. Every man is born to be himself, to undergo a set of experiences which in their entirety no one else has undergone. He alone of all the human race has just the mental and emotional psyche which he has.
Although I was already travelling the road to the self-discovery of these truths, it is true that an apparently fortuitous meeting with an extraordinary individual at Angkor saved me from some of the time and labour involved in this process. For he turned out to be an adept in the higher philosophy who had not only had a most unusual personal history but also a most unusual comprehension of the problems which were troubling me. He put me through strange initiatory experiences in a deserted temple and then, with a few brief explanations of the hidden teachings, placed the key to their solutions in my hands. But after all it was only a key to the door-chamber itself, and not the entire treasure. These I had to ferret out for myself. That is, to say, I was given the principle but had to work out the details, develop the applications, and trace out the ramifications for myself. I was provided with a foundation but had to erect the super-structure by my own efforts. And all this has been a task for many years, a task upon which I am still engaged.
I have attempted to think out anew, and on the basis of my own experience and not that of men who lived five thousand years ago, what should be the attitude of a normal modern man toward life. Such blessed independence may be scorned by some, but it is a birthright which I jealously guard.
The conventionalists will be able to make nothing of a man whose nonconformity and intractability are entirely spiritual and therefore entirely inward. They will be able to make nothing of a man who belongs to no religious affiliation, no political party, yet who is more devout than any affiliate, more concerned with humanity's welfare than any politician.
We shall read these old texts not to treat them as final authorities but to verify our own thought, and we shall quote them only to illustrate it.
I have played the vivisector to a representative selection of these cults. Scalpel in hand, I examined their histories, their progenitors, and their followers.
Henceforth I shall give the full strength of my devotion not to any ashram or any personality in India's living present, but only to those great principles of truth which are expressed in the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and other books belonging to India's dead past.
Nevertheless, and paradoxically, this protracted and disappointing experience had been necessary for my spiritual education. I therefore thank Fate for having sent it to me. It strongly revealed the futility of expecting to find truth in an institution and not by one's own solitary striving. It delineated the limitations of discipleship as against the vital need for individual effort, for the disciple is often satisfied that he is progressing when he is merely copying his master by wearing the same clothes, eating the same food, and parrot-like uttering the same phrases. In this tropically enervated country it was a common and dangerous delusion that you had only to find a master and then sit down, basking in the sunshine of his presence, while he wafted you into Nirvana for evermore.
Half a century has passed since I went, Sunday morning after Sunday morning, to that quiet Quaker "Meeting-house," as the parishioners of that Buckinghamshire village called their church building. Here George Fox, William Penn, and other pioneer Friends also worshipped. A few months later I left England again to pursue those strange researches in the Orient which destiny had allotted me. Not since then have I been so faithful and regular in religious attendance, going only when the mood is on me, and even then irrespective of what creed that particular house of worship belongs to--be it mosque, church, or temple.
It is very different to criticize, not as an opponent or detractor, but as one who is himself a believer, who accepts the ideal, the practice, and the teaching but wants only to push them higher, farther, and wider, to make them more complete. It is unfortunate, and cannot be helped, if this makes me no believer in the orthodox sense.
I have witnessed with amazement the names and lives of yogis living in my own time becoming the source of unjustified legends.
The fierce independence I have maintained for so many years, the stubborn refusal to part with my freedom at the bidding of any cult or clique, has contributed, I believe, to my salvation.
Why should I trouble to drive a golf-ball or sit up nightly over a pack of printed cards? Was it for this that I was born? I am a yogi. I am busy with a game of a higher sort. "If a man does not keep pace with his companions," says Thoreau, "perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."
I have had opportunities to reach records and meet men not readily accessible to ordinary seekers.
He is one of those strange beings who prefers the fate of being a Crusoe among the crowd, a mystic who seeks the society of materialists, and a hermit who haunts the homely hearths of the metropolis.
He has had to take a line of his own and withdraw from crowded paths. No party, institution, or cult claim his allegiance. It is certainly a harder way to travel. There is, however, this consolation--that he is not exactly traversing a wilderness, that a few loyal hearts and discerning minds accompany him in such self-sought exile.
I have walked with these holy men through both shady mountain forests and steaming jungles, and learned a little of their notions.
Sometimes in the still night hours, while the others slept, we--the teacher and myself--could talk alone more privately.
I do not belong to any school any more than does my Master. I am an individualist.
In my verdant days I would wander around begging a few crumbs of Truth from the table of haughty mandarins who were far older than myself.
I had come across this wise man by accident. Therefore I would travel onwards and make some more accidents.
I think of myself as being, along with a few others, part of the spearhead of the modern trend in mysticism.
As I am an individual isolated from every party, movement, tradition, and sect, it would appear that my contribution to social betterment will be trivial and insignificant, a mere voice in the wilderness. In most other spheres of activity this would be true enough, but in the sphere of truth-seeking and truth-proclaiming it no longer holds good. For the very fact of being dissociated from every conventional influence, every orthodox and traditional group, sets one free to find and give out the truth in a way that these others cannot dare to follow. It raises the value of my results.
I believe in constructing my philosophy of life independently out of my own experience, not out of someone else's theories.
A man is known by the company he keeps away from! I saw that the Rubicon of my spiritual life had to be resolutely crossed and my boat burned behind me; that the last tight-holding threads of an entire cycle of outer and inner life had to be cut and cut forever.
I am no crusader for a queer cult or creed. My sole aim is to bring before my fellows some little stressed points of worth in the ancient culture of mysticism, and if I support that culture so largely, I do so with a clear recognition of the frailties and follies into which many of its followers have sadly fallen. This temperate attitude towards the old learning and this critical reserve towards its degenerate successors will make me little acceptable to the narrow-minded. But I do not care. Truth is my aim and truth takes a wider orbit than any group of people with their little ideas.
If my starting point was the same as that of most other mystics around me, my finishing point was not. I was compelled by the nature of my experience to take a different and independent position. The change that was worked in me could not be kept out of my writings.
I am opposed to all forms of totalitarianism, communism, and regimentation. I have witnessed its consequences both under the communistic government and ashram management. I would not submit myself to it nor ask others to do so. Consequently, I am opposed to any colony or group organization being formed which might allow this to happen, whether under a leader with messianic complexes, or under a committee.
Louise Maunsell Field, writing a review of A Search in Secret India in a New York literary journal, once asked a pertinent question. She said: "The sympathetic reader, following Paul Brunton's experiences, his encounters with other Masters more or less resembling the Maharishee [Ramana Maharshi], cannot but wonder how much influence these Indian mystics have on the teeming millions of their fellow countrymen. Can the intensely spiritual, somewhat rarefied atmosphere wherein they live and move penetrate the lives and thoughts of those many others?" This same question kept on coming into my mind, too. I was forced in the end to give it a negative answer. But this very answer was one of the contributing causes which led me to seek and find the higher teaching.
A pundit guide was indispensable for study. It would be quite useless for me or even for the average educated Indian to approach India's literary heirloom and search for her subtlest traditional wisdom without the help of one of these scholarly exponents. Yet it would have been equally useless to place myself in the hands of the average conservative pundit, for he generally followed a cramped religious line or at best a scholastic approach to the question of truth, whereas I had now lost most of my interest in such an approach--although I readily granted its usefulness to others--and could only view things honestly from a rational and scientific angle. Both the selection of suitable texts and the quality of his interpretations would be coloured by the nature of his belief: he would expect me to swallow his whole pantheon of untenable superstitions, as well as many other matters that offered affronts to reason. The verbal protest of disbelief on my part would immediately certify me as unfit and unworthy to profit by his assistance and place me with the outcastes beyond the sacred shrine of his learning. Nor would I care to hurt the man's conscientiously held religious feelings in such a way. How then could I hope to find the books I cared for when he would disdain them for those that suited his personal taste?
Working at his own original ideas in an individual and distinctive way, such a person will go farther than the herd man. He can bring fresh helps, devise better techniques, and serve human uplift. The brave determination to go his independent way and not be a mere sheep ambling behind the group may cause him to lose in some matters but to gain in other ones.
I became a keen resurrectionist, with the ancient wisdom as the object of my activities. But all this was done as a freelance--independent of any school, group, or organization--and therefore without the bias or restraints, the prejudices or constrictions which follow them.
Having made a deep and full research, and having done so outside the limitations imposed by sect or school or guru, I started as an independent, but accepted several teachers on the way, who held different views, and have remained within this independence ever since.
I have no organization of any kind to sustain or advocate my teachings.
I am not a follower of any cult, Eastern or Western, although my creative, independent, and unorthodox synthesis stretches over the ideas of both hemispheres.
All these experiences, disheartening though they were at the time, were not without their useful results. For they aroused me to the folly of pursuing a path of servile imitation and awakened me to the necessity of starting on a path of creative independence.
From the knowledge picked up earlier and stored in his head or books, from the experiences of his present life made the subject of reflection, he had generated a kind of wisdom which supported him. From the old thoughts he had drawn out new ones. But the longing was for thought-free Peace, thought-transcending Being.
Whatever value there has been in my work of Oriental research, whatever virtue its results possess for the Western reader, derives mostly from the independence with which I approached it, from the lack of bias for or against any particular cult, religion, or school among the many to be found in the Orient.
The challenge of synthesis
Such a grand synthesis became the object of my intensive search the more I perceived the fragmentariness of available teachings and the more I discovered the limitations of accessible teachers. But I could not find it and in the end had to construct my own.
It is an error to assume that I am a propagandist for any new Western system or old Indian philosophy. The world's present need is not a new Western system of thought but Western thinkers; not an old Indian philosophy, but Indian philosophers.
This is not a personal teaching, peculiar to its author alone. Its fundamental tenets have been taught since the hoariest antiquity, in the Far, Middle, and Near East, as well as in the great Mediterranean cultures. It is true that they were not taught to the generality of people, but that was only because the latter had not reached the needed educational standard to understand and welcome it. It is true also that the author has adapted the teaching to the modern situation but that still leaves its essentials unchanged.
Once I took it upon myself to interpret Oriental mysticism to the West. Now after long experience and longer thought, I find it necessary to stand aside from all the dead and living sources of knowledge with which I had established contact, if I am not to misinterpret Oriental mysticism. I am compelled to walk in lonely isolation, even though I respect and honour not a few of those sources. What I learnt and assimilated from them stood finally before a bar of my own making. For I thought, felt, walked, worked, and lived in terms of a twentieth-century experience which, seek as I might, could not be found in its fullness among them. However satisfactory to others, their outlook was too restricted for me. Either they could not come down to the mental horizons of the people who surrounded me, or else they came down theoretically with their heads and not with their hearts. This does not mean that I question their immediate correctness; it means that I question their ultimate usefulness.
It would be as absurd to deduce that I am now inconsistently rejecting mysticism as it would be absurd to declare that I reject the first three letters of the alphabet, merely because I refuse to limit my writing to the combination of ABC alone. I am trying to say that the whole content of mysticism is not identifiable with what is ordinarily known as such; it exceeds the sphere of the latter to such an extent that I have preferred to return to the ancient custom and call it philosophy.
They alone will comprehend the purport of this volume who can comprehend that it does not only seek to present the pabulum of an ancient system for modern consumption but that it has integrated its material with the wider knowledge that has come to mankind during the thousands of years which have passed since that system first appeared. Consequently we offer here not only a re-statement but also an entirely new and radically fresh world-view which could not have been reached historically earlier.
If we study the history of human culture we shall begin to discern signs of an orderly growth, a logical development of its body. Truth has had different meanings at different periods. This was inevitable because the human mind has been moving nearer and nearer to it, nearer and nearer to the grand ultimate goal. And when we watch the way knowledge has mounted up during the last three centuries we ought not to be surprised at the statement that the culmination of all this long historical process, the end of thousands of years of human search, is going to crystallize in the new East-West philosophy which it is the privilege of this century to formulate. Here alone can the relative interpretations of truth which have been discovered by former men, rise to the absolute wherein they merge and vanish. This means that although truth has always existed, its knowledge has only existed at different stages of development, that we are the fortunate inheritors of the results gathered by past thinkers, and still more that we are now called to complete the circle and formulate a finished system of philosophy which shall stand good for all time.
All the conflicting doctrines which have appeared in the past were not meaningless and not useless; they have played their part most usefully even where they seemed most contradictory. They were really in collaboration, not in opposition. We need not disdain to illustrate the highest abstract principles by the homeliest concrete anecdotes, and we may describe them as pieces in a jig-saw puzzle which can now be fitted together, for now we have the master pattern which is the secret of the whole. Hence all that is vital and valuable in earlier knowledge is contained in the East-West philosophy; only their fallacies have been shed. A full view of the universe now replaces all the partial views which were alone available before and which embodied merely single phases of the discovery of Truth. Thus the analytic movement which uncovered the various pieces of this world puzzle must now yield to a synthetic process of putting them together in a final united pattern. Culture, on this view, is the timeless truth appearing in the world of time and therefore in successive but progressive periods. Only now has it been able to utter its latest word. Only now does philosophy attain its maturest completion. Only now are we able to reap the fruit of seven thousand years of historical philosophy. Only now have we achieved a world-system, a universal doctrine which belongs to no particular place but to the planet. Knowledge has grown by analysis but shall finish by synthesis.
Not one but several minds will be needed to labour at the metaphysical foundation of the twentieth-century structure of philosophy. I can claim the merit only of being among the earliest of these pioneers. There are others yet to appear who will unquestionably do better and more valuable work.
Henceforth the background of this teaching will be, nay must be, a universal one. It shall resist those who would label it Eastern because they will not be able to deny its Western contents, form, and spirit. It shall resist those who would label it Western, because they too shall not be able to deny its Eastern roots and contents.
Even my former books were mostly based on the old outlooks, the old limited viewpoints which the new knowledge transcends.
Whatever I owe to their traditions and however much I may have associated with their leading contemporaries, it is the conclusions of my physical and spiritual maturity which should surely count most now. And those conclusions differ in important theoretical and practical matters. I cannot therefore truly call myself an adherent of their schools or an exponent of Oriental yoga.
The unerring Wisdom of Providence separated me with pain and protest from limited standpoints, aroused me with shocks from India's glamour, only to unite me with pleasure and agreement to a global standpoint, illumine me with insights into real spirituality, remind me of the worth and need of Christ's message of love.
Although it is by no means a complete exposition, it is at least an indispensable foundation upon which such an exposition may later be set up by more competent hands. As such it may serve my contemporaries for the time being.
If I revolted against what was practically undesirable in Oriental tradition, it became inevitable that I should sooner or later pass also through a process of re-examination and revaluation of their metaphysical bases.
Such reputation as I may achieve will rest, I hope, much more on the philosophic system to be unfolded in this and future works, than on my rescue of yoga from disappearance with the disappearing old culture of the East.
The formulation of this grand synthesis is my chosen mission, both as a researcher and a writer.
The revelations which have come to mankind hitherto have been fragmentary rather than whole.
I wait and work for the hour when this Synthesis shall have articulated itself.
This work of synthesis will never be finished, for the materials which go into its making are never complete.
The new cultural synthesis that is to be created must include religion, mysticism, and metaphysics but must not stop with them. It sees that they are only a small part of the totality needed, albeit an important one.
I saw that I must work in full independence of all mystical schools, all Oriental traditions, while yet studying them sympathetically. I saw too that the combination of selected factors in their separate teachings was necessary as the resultant whole must be combined with my own personal revelation and reflection. Their theory and training, even the secret initiations given me by their masters, were not to be the finalized result but only the foundation for it. I saw that this would have to be the form in which I could best fulfil my own large aspirations as well as best give them what I had dedicated myself to give.
I came at last to the perception that the goal of a satisfying doctrine could only be reached if I taught myself something beyond what my teachers taught me. One thing became clear and that was the necessity of uniqueness in the synthesis which must be made. I had to remain utterly independent.
The experiences, the revelations, the inspirations, and the reflections of Asia's greatest minds have poured into this wisdom.
All my previous life and travel, all my researches and experiences have been leading up to this fuller and culminating revelation that I have been asked to communicate to the world of seekers.
Such a united system of knowledge and practice has been sorely lacking; here it is made available at last. When the old wisdom of the Orient is joined with the newer wisdom of the Occident, the century's need will be truly met.
He does not belong to the modern Occident, with its harsh strident materialism and glittering superficial soulless existence. He does not belong to the modern Orient, either, with its pitiful imitation of the West, its incredible superstitions and exaggerated piety, and its hybrid bewildered society.
Thus, designed for helpful service and dedicated to human enlightenment, they have only begun to outline a grand system which unites in itself the three aspects of intellectual quality, moral sublimity, and practical applicability. They are the product of a profound historical necessity.
Our group has become an organism, not an organization. It is a living growth, not a mechanical formation. It stands for the formulation of an East-West old-new outlook. Its books exist for the exposition of what is universally applicable in ancient knowledge, not in ancient foolishness, conjoined with what is worth keeping in modern civilization.
The reference to the three books mentioned in the second chapter of The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga should not be misunderstood. They were mentioned merely to illustrate one of the ways in which I was introduced to this teaching. There were other ways, too. And these three texts contain only fragments of the hidden teaching; none is final or exhaustive. Again, important aspects of it were not written down but have been transmitted privately. Let nobody think I am engaged in any kind of revival work. The circumstances and habits, the outlook and aspirations of those who lived when these texts were written are quite foreign to us. It would be as foolish to adopt such teaching in its entirety as it would be to ignore it altogether. Today's need is not merely a synthesis of modern scientific ideas with ancient mystical ones, not merely a dovetailing of Oriental and Occidental teachings, but virtually a new creation to fit the new age now about to dawn. I therefore do not advocate the study of old Sanskrit texts as an essential goal but merely as an incidental means and then only for those who like to do so. There are new forces penetrating this planet's atmosphere today and they demand a new inspiration, new thinking, and a new way of living. We have today what no previous generation has ever possessed.
I am not a mere transcriber of Hindu thought. Some Hindus and their Western converts who believed so once see their mistake now, and many others will see it later before my pen is through with its job. I must forestall any Indian critic here and now, by reminding them that I am teaching this not as an Indian tradition but as a universal one. The present fact is indeed that I no longer regard myself as an exponent of any particular ancient Indian system. I wish to speak only of such knowledge as lives within me, as I have arrived at through my own thinking, experiment, and research, but which is nevertheless firmly based upon a reformulation of the hidden wisdom of Asia. I claim no special merit for original doctrine but only for original synthesis of existing doctrines. My talents have been employed in the direction of choice rather than invention. Yet this was no small matter. If I escaped with my sanity it was only at the cost of gigantic efforts which may render smooth the path of those who shall follow when I have gone. That which guided me through this labyrinth was the light of my own philosophic experience.
Three centuries ago there was created at the great monastery of Tashilhunpo a gilded figure of the then Grand Lama of Tibet. It was physically modelled and psychically magnetized in his presence. In the course of time the statuette belonged to the late (thirteenth) Grand Lama at Lhasa. Through a close friend of his, it passed into the possession of the writer. Now it sits silently on his desk, half-smiling at the bustling mechanically aided literary activities which are a vivid and visible symbol of the renewal of an age-old knowledge stirring out of long hibernation. Is there not a profound significance in this conjuncture of ancient Asiatic and modern Occidental attitudes? For these two currents of calm contemplation and practical service flow, I hope, through my pages towards a common goal and bring about in the hearts, minds, and actions of those who respond to it a better understanding of life's activity. Nevertheless my emphasis is modern because this iconoclastic century is compelled to live chiefly for the shining hour rather than the buried past.
My ultimate aim is to effect a synthesis of West-East thought. Truth is universal. The West has a good enough light of its own, and spiritual traditions that are fairly satisfactory for those who like them. It is purely a matter of personal temperament that I go East at times to pick up more pebbles of Truth.
Such is his independence that no group or party dare claim him. Thus he may seem to possess a merely personalist view. Yet the fact is he strives more than all others for a genuine and magnificent universalism. He is above the littlenesses of factional, partial, or sectarian views.
I do not belong to that small and sentimental band of avowed propagandists for Eastern culture. I have not forgotten and do not intend to forget the values I learned in the West.
My work has been to cut new patterns, clear untrodden paths, and clean blackened windows. It has been a pioneer's work, and has met with a pioneer's fate. Some have appreciated it but others have jeered at it.
All this was a kind of training, ripening the mind and broadening its experience for the task in which I have at last engaged myself--the intellectual shaping of a great synthesis and its transposition to the literary plane.
I conceived my work to be not only to reject, select, and fit together these various segments of the circle of truth, but also to provide the missing ones.
The desire of intelligent seekers in the West today is for a balanced doctrine and practical technique which will be free from all occult mystification or religious bigotry, which will satisfy the cravings of the heart and yet reconcile them with the conflicting claims of the head, and which will be suited to the needs of modern people. Is it not possible, out of the rich mystical and philosophic past of mankind and out of the creative resources of present-day human intelligence, boldly to bring to birth a comprehensive explanation of the world and a practical method of self-discovery, which can be followed by men and women who still work at their daily tasks in the world?
No one person has yet put the whole of philosophy together. I was privileged to receive its tradition in those limited circles where it has been kept alive by voice or pen; but what I received, in various places and under different masters, was separate fragments. My published views are founded partly on my experience and my own revelation, and partly on the authority of other and higher men.