Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 18: The Reverential Life > Chapter 4: Surrender


In the end we have no choice. The head must bend, consentingly, to the higher power. Acceptance must be made. Some kind of communion must be established.

When we can fully accept the truth that God is the governor and manager of the universe, that the World-Mind is behind and controlling the World-Idea, then we begin to accept the parallel truths that all things and creatures are being taken due care of and that all events are happening under the divine will. This leads in time to the understanding that the ego is not the actual doer, although it has the illusion of doing, working, and acting. The practical application of this metaphysical understanding is to put down our burdens of personal living on the floor and let Providence carry them for us: this is a surrender of the ego to the divine.

If you identify with the little ego alone, you may believe and feel that you have to solve your problems alone. In that case, the burden will be heavier than it need be. But if you recognize that this planet has its own governor, the World-Mind, you need not feel forlorn, since you are included in the world.

Every problem that worldly men solve in a strictly worldly way leads to new ones. On this plane it has always been so. There is only one way to gain a final solution--transfer the problem to the celestial plane.

The ego does not give itself up without undergoing extreme pain and extreme suffering. It is placed upon a cross whence it can never be resurrected again, if it is truly to be merged in the Overself. Inner crucifixion is therefore a terrible and tremendous actuality in the life of every attained mystic. His destiny may not call for outer martyrdom but it cannot prevent his inner martyrdom. Hence the Christ-self speaking through Jesus told his disciples, "If any man will come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."

Are we to wander with all our burdens from a hapless birth to a hopeless death? Or shall we surrender them?

It is when a man breaks down and finally admits that he cannot go on, that both he and his life must change--it is at such a moment that he is close to the guidance and help of the Overself, if only he can recognize them and is willing to accept them.

When life in the world becomes so formidable or so frightening that in desperation or bewilderment, panic or mental unbalance, the idea of suicide seems the only way out, then the time has come for a man to cast his burden on the Higher Power.

There is a panacea for all troubles. It is to turn them over to the Overself. This is a daring act; it will demand all your faith and all your understanding, but its results are proven. They are not available, however, for the lazy drifters and idle dreamers, for the insincere would-be cheaters of the Overself, and for the superstitious seekers of something-for-nothing.

Blessed are those who can find or keep this faith that, in spite of all unpleasant contradictory appearances, the course of human life will in the end be upward and the goal of human life will be spiritual self-fulfilment.

To try solving his problems by himself, without resort to a higher power, is to bring to bear upon them all his ignorance and unwisdom, all his faults and deficiencies, all his incapacities and maladjustments. How, using such imperfect tools, can he bring about a perfect result? How, for instance, can a muddled confused mind bring about any other than a muddled confused result of the efforts to solve his problems? How can his own unaided efforts be other than antagonistic to a correct solution?

He will come to the point where he will give up the burden of always trying to do something for his spiritual development, the burden of believing that it rests entirely upon his own shoulders.

The higher guidance may not be recognized or felt until after all efforts end in frustration, until the intellect retreats and obeys, until planning ends and surrender begins.

If you cannot see the proper way to deal with your problem, if making a right decision or coping with a difficult situation seems too much for you, if all the usual guides to action prove insufficient or unhelpful, then it is time to hand the trouble over to the Superior Power.

When a sensitive man loses faith in his own goodness, and even his own capacities, to the point of despairing hopelessness, he is really ready to pray properly and practise utter dependence upon the Higher Power's grace. When he realizes that the evil in himself and in other men is so deep and so strong that there is nothing below the surface of things he can do, he is forced to turn to this Power. When he abandons further trust in his own nature and clings to no more personal hopes, he really lets go of the ego. This gives him the possibility of being open to grace.

When a person is converted from one religion to another which is more ancient, more grandiose, or when a sceptic turns religious before dying, it is because he has reached a point when he feels helpless and his defenses have broken down. He must depend on other men, on other powers than his own, for now he has none. He is like a man lost in the desert, eager to accept anyone, any living thing, as a rescuer. What has happened? The profounder answer is that his ego has been completely crushed and he is ready to surrender.

The surrender of every problem as it arises to the higher self, the renouncing of personal will in the matter, and the readiness to accept intuitive guidance as and when it comes provide a superior technique and yield better results than the old ways of intellectual handling and personal planning alone.

So long as he is more afraid of giving up the ego than he is desirous of gaining the consciousness beyond it, so long will he dwell in its gloom.

He who has not learned to lower his head before the higher power, to surrender his personal aims to the World-Idea, to submit his desires to the need for self-governance, will suffer in the end.

Having worked to the utmost upon himself, but finding that a stable spiritual consciousness still eludes him, he has no recourse except to submit his further development to a higher power than his own will and then wait and let it work upon him.

Submit to the World-Idea--or suffer. Resign yourself to the higher course of things: go along with it--and be at peace!

When the ship on which the Muhammedan mystic Ibrahim ibn Adham was travelling was endangered by a storm, his companions begged him to pray for help. He retorted: "This is not the time to pray, it is the moment to surrender."

What the Hindus call detachment and what the Muhammedans call submission to God's will are really one and the same.

If we concentrate attention only on the miseries and distresses which afflict us, then we have to depend on our own intellect to find a way out of them. If, however, we turn concentration in the opposite direction, that of the Overself, and deposit our troubles there, we gain a fresh source of possible help in dealing with them.

When it seems humanly impossible to do more in a difficult situation, surrender yourself to the inner silence and thereafter wait for a sign of obvious guidance or for a renewal of inner strength.

In the end, after many a rebellion, he learns to trust God and accept his lot, like a tired old man.

To surrender is to know one's own incompetence and to put one's life in wiser hands.

No one finds that the pattern of his experience of life conforms to what he wished for in the past or wishes for now, so everyone in the end must learn acceptance.

The passage from black despair to healing peace begins with learning to "let go." This can refer to the past's crippling pictures, the present's harsh conditions, or the future's grim anticipations. To what then can the sufferer turn? To the Overself and its divine power.

The resignation which is advisable when circumstances are unalterable need not be a grim and hopeless one.

He has tried to manage his life by himself through all these years, but the results have been too deplorable too frequently. Is it not time to let the Overself take over?

When he has exhausted every means of finding a right and reasonable solution to his problem, it is time to hand it over to the higher self. Let him not indulge in self-pity under the delusion that he is indulging in self-abasement. There is a total difference between the two emotional attitudes, for the first will only weaken his capacity for the spiritual quest whereas the second will only strengthen it.

Avoid self-deception

There are great dangers in falling into a supine attitude of supposed submission of our will, an attitude into which so many mystics and religionists often fall. There is a profound difference between the pseudo-surrendered life and the genuine surrendered life. It is easy enough to misinterpret the saying "Thy will be done." Jesus, by his own example, gave this phrase a firm and positive meaning. Hence this is better understood as meaning "Thy will be done by me." A wide experience has revealed how many are those who have degenerated into a degrading fatalism under the illusion that they were thereby co-operating with the will of God; how many are those who have, through their own stupidity, negligence, weakness, and wrong-doing, made no effort to remedy the consequences of their own acts and thus have had to bear the suffering involved to the full; how many are those who have failed to seize the opportunity presented by these sufferings to recognize that they arose out of their own defects or faults and to examine themselves in time to become aware of them and thus avoid making the same mistake twice. The importance of heeding this counsel is immense. For example, many an aspirant has felt that fate has compelled him to work at useless tasks amid uncongenial surroundings, but when his philosophic understanding matures, he begins to see what was before invisible--the inner karmic significance of these tasks, the ultimate educative or punitive meaning of those environments. Once this is done he may rightly, and should for his own self-respect, set to work to free himself from them. Every time he patiently crushes a wrong or foolish thought, he adds to his inner strength. Every time he bravely faces up to a misfortune with calm impersonal appraisal of its lesson, he adds to his inner wisdom. The man who has thus wisely and self-critically surrendered himself may then go forward with a sense of outward security and inward assurance, hopeful and unafraid, because he is now aware of the benign protection of his Overself. If he has taken the trouble to understand intelligently the educative or punitive lessons they hold for him, he may then--and only then--conquer the evils of life, if at the same time of their onset, he turns inward at once and persistently realizes that the divinity within offers him refuge and harmony. This twofold process is always needful and the failures of Christian Science are partially the consequence of its failure to comprehend this.

Most people who state that they have submitted their financial affairs to a higher power find things going from bad to worse. This point must be clarified. There is not actual surrender, but only self-deception, if it is made before reason, will, and self-reliance have been exhausted. There is no such easy escape out of difficulties, financial or otherwise, as mere verbal assertion of surrender. Education comes by negotiating difficulties, not by running away from them in the name of surrender. True surrender can only be made when one is mature enough. Life is a struggle for all; only the wise struggle ego-lessly, but they struggle all the same. They have to because the adverse element in Nature is forever at war, tearing down where they build, stimulating strife where they give peace, and enslaving minds where they lead to freedom.

There are those who believe that the mystical surrender to God's will means that they are to sit with folded hands, inert and lethargic. They believe also that to co-operate with Nature, to alter or to interfere with it, is blasphemous. It is not for them to try to make other men better, although they do try to make themselves better. Because they see that they can do little in every direction, they decide to do nothing. The humility behind this view must be appreciated, but the lack of rationality may not.

Giving up the ego does not require us to give in always to other people. That would be weakness.

This surrender of the future does not imply idleness and lethargy. It does imply the giving up of useless worry, the abandonment of needless anxiety.

If anyone refrains from using his own initiative and depends on the Overself for answers to his questions, for solutions to his practical problems before he is psychologically ready for such dependence, then he invites trouble.

The intuitive sensitivity of the artist and the discriminating intellect of a scientist are needed to keep that delicate balance which knows when to assume responsibility for one's own decision, action, and life and when to shift this responsibility to a higher power. The novice's statement that he commits his life into God's hands is not enough, for obviously if he continues to repeat the same foolish judgements and the same guilty conduct as before this commitment, his life still remains in the personal ego's hands. If his commitment is to be effective, it must be accompanied by the duty of self-improvement. Surrender to a higher power does not relieve him of this duty; on the contrary, it compels him more than ever before to its carrying out. The shifting of personal responsibility is achieved only when the awakening of consciousness to the higher self is itself achieved. The mere desire and consequent say-so of the aspirant does not and cannot become factual until then. He may seek to relieve himself of the pressure of obligation and the irritation of obstacles by this device, but the relief will be merely fictional and not factual.

Such a prudent aspirant will surrender himself to no exterior organization but only to the interior Overself. He will permit no human group to annex his will and direct his thought, for they are to serve the Divine alone.

Surrender to the Higher Self is one thing; apathetic resignation to life is another. The one act gives birth to, or is the consequence of, mystical intuition. The other merely shuts out or prevents the arisal of such intuitions.

All talk of doing God's will becomes meaningful only if we are ourselves aware of God's existence. All talk of trust in God is meaningless if we are ourselves unaware of God's presence.

This practice must not be abused. It is premature and wrong to try to hand over a problem to the higher power before it has been thoroughly analysed and impersonally related to the causative factors within oneself.

We render much lip service to the theme of doing God's will; hundreds of writers, speakers, and clergymen utter its praise; but how few take a practical opportunity of giving it real expression by giving up the ego.

It is correct that we may trust absolutely to the higher power. But mystics should first be sure that they have found it and are not merely trusting some subconscious aspect of their ego. Otherwise they will be abusing the principle of inner guidance, falsifying the doctrine of inner light, even though they feel they are acting correctly in their own judgement.

It is a bias of certain religious persons to attribute to the will of God what is plainly the work of ego, or weather, or circumstances.

We must look within ourselves for the deliverance of ourselves. Nowhere else can we find it and no one else can effect it.

If the problem is really handed over to the Higher Power he is released from it. This lifts the feeling of being burdened with it. But if the feeling still remains, then he has deceived himself, has not truly committed it except outwardly in mumbled words.

If he is to surrender the conscious will, it should be only to the divine will.

The surrender to the Overself must not be misinterpreted as surrender to lethargy, to lack of initiative, or to absence of effort. It means that before initiative rises and before effort is made, a man will first look to the Overself for inspiration. When such inner guidance and rational thinking speak with united voice, then he can go forward with a plan, a faith, or a deed, sure and unafraid and confident.

To cast our ultimate reliance on the universal mind which, supporting all things as it does, can well support us, is a rule that works unfailingly. Only it must not be practised prematurely, for then the man will have the mere show of the thing instead of the real thing itself. He must first prepare for such a relation by developing himself sufficiently.

Such resignation does not mean that he shall let himself be always put upon, that he shall uphold truth, principle, justice, and goodness for others but deny them to himself.

This turning of a problem or a situation over to God may be real humility but it may also be a cowardly evasion of an unpleasant decision or difficult act.

Why do these religio-mystics worry about anything happening against God's will? Do they not believe that, regardless of what they or others may do, everything will happen in conformity with that will anyway?

This blind abject apathy of many fatalistic Orientals is based, not on real spirituality, but on fallacious thinking. "Because the whole universe is an expression of God's will, and because every event happens within the universe, therefore every calamity must be accepted as expressing God's will." So runs the logic. The best way to expose the fallacy lurking in it is to place it by the side of a countersyllogism: "Because the whole universe is an expression of God's will, and because every individual resistance of calamity happens within the universe, therefore such resistance is the expression of God's will!"

There is a right and a wrong way of surrendering the outer life. To surrender it to one's own sorry foolishnesses or hallucinations, and call them God, leads to disaster. Yet this is precisely what many beginners in mysticism do.

Self-surrender does not mean surrender to someone else's ego, but rather to the Overself. Merely giving up one's own will to perform the will of somebody else is personal weakness and not spiritual strength; it is to serve the fault and negative qualities of other persons rather than to serve their spiritual life.

He is to turn it over to the higher power. He may do this for wrong motives to evade harsh facts and escape unpleasant consequences. In this case there will be no contact and no success.

Self-surrender should not signify merely letting others do what they wish with him or to him, but rather letting the higher nature work within and through him.

It is easy to ignore the fact that the cause of one's failure is one's own shortcoming, to cover incompetence in the management of earthly life by loud reiteration of trust in Providence--in short, to deceive oneself.

When dependence upon grace becomes total, when all effort is believed to be useless, when personal striving is renounced entirely, then the very belief which should have been fortifying becomes paralysing.

"It never consists in a sluggish kind of doing nothing so that God might do all," dryly wrote John Smith, seventeenth-century English philosophical mystic, about this struggle for truth and goodness within men's souls.

It is not a slavish and sentimental putting up with all that happens which is required.

Let no one confuse the calm delightful irresponsibility of such a planless life with the vague indolent irresponsibility of selfish or unbalanced men. There is a wide chasm between them.

"Trust your life to God" is an excellent maxim. But it does not mean, as some seem to believe, "Think foolishly or behave wickedly and trust to God to enable you to escape the painful karmic consequences of your wrong thought or action." If that were true the educative value of experience would be lost and we would go on repeating the same sins, the same errors. If that were true we would not grow up morally or mentally.

Accept responsibility

The ordinary mystic who has surrendered his will to the Overself is like a man floating downstream in a boat with his eyes turned up to the sky and his hands folded in his lap. The philosophic mystic who has surrendered his will to the Divine is like a man floating downstream with his eyes gazing ahead, on the look-out, and his hands keeping firm hold of the rudder to steer the boat. The first man's boat may crash into another one or even into the riverbank at any moment. The second man's boat will safely and successfully navigate its way through these dangers. Yet both men are being supported and propelled by the same waters, both mystic and philosopher have given their self and life to the Divine. Nevertheless, the consequences are not and cannot be the same. For the first despises and refuses to use his God-given intelligence.

To be truly resigned to the will of God--a demand made on the Muhammedan, the Hindu, and the Christian alike--does not necessarily mean blindly accepting all that happens as perfect, unquestionable, or best. According to the occasion, it may mean one or another of these things. But it may also mean looking with open eyes and intelligent mind at the course of events in order to understand them impersonally and then, this achieved, comprehending that given the factors and persons involved, only this could have happened.

It is for him to do whatever practical wisdom calls for in each situation but, having done that, to relinquish the results to the higher power for better or for worse.

It is true that every happening in the outer life can be accepted as being good for the inner life, that the most calamitous situation can be taken as God's will for us. But it is also true that unless we ask--and correctly answer--in what sense it is good and why it is God's will, we may fail to seek out and strive to correct the fault in us which makes it good and providential. For each situation presents not only the need and opportunity of recognizing a higher power at work in our life, but also a problem in self-examination and self-improvement.

The indispensable prerequisite to mystical illumination is self-surrender. No man can receive it without paying this price. Any man in any degree of development may pay it--he has to turn around, change his attitude, and accept the Christ, the higher self, as his sovereign. But once this happens and the Grace of illumination descends, it can affect the self only as it finds the self. An unbalanced ego will not suddenly become balanced. An unintellectual one will not suddenly become learned. His imperfections remain though the light shines through them.

There is surely room for both surrender and self-reliance in a healthy life.

Where is the evidence that this trial, this suffering, was really the divine intention towards him, and not the consequences of his own stupidity or his own weakness?

If a man can give up his fears and anxieties to the higher self, because he is convinced that it is better able to manage his problems than the egoistic self, because he believes in trusting to its wisdom rather than to his own foolishness, yet does not evade the lessons implicit in those problems, his surrender becomes an act of strength, not of weakness.

It is right to say resignedly that it is God's will when we find ourselves in misfortune. But to content ourselves with such a half-truth is dangerous. It blinds our present perceptivity and bars our future advancement. Without perceptivity, we cannot accurately read the situation. Without advancement, we repeat mistakes and duplicate sufferings. A wiser statement would add the second half-truth, whose absence imperils us: that we ourselves often are largely the cause of our misfortune, that God's will is only the universal law of consequences bringing us the results of our own thinking or doing, our own tendencies or nature. Yes, let us submit to the divine will, let us surrender in acquiescence to what it sends us. But what will it profit us if we do so blindly, dumbly, and without comprehension? Is it not better to remember that it sends us what we have earned or what we need, either for self-perfection or self-purification? And, remembering, should we not seek out the lesson behind what is sent us and thus be able to co-operate intelligently with it? Then the Overself's will truly becomes our own. Are we not as aspirants to be distinguished from the multitude in several ways and not least in this, that we must try to learn from our experiences instead of letting them be useless and futile?

Swami Ramdas states in his autobiography: "It is beyond Thy humble slave to know the reason. Every move Thou givest to the situation of Thy servant is considered by him to be for the best." There are two statements here which are questionable and arguable. Every move? For how many of them arise as a direct result of his own character or capacities or tendencies or of those he associates with? How many situations are of his own direct personal making? If any particular situation in which he finds himself is caused by karma out of a previous birth, it is an inevitable one, not necessarily the best one from a practical viewpoint. It just had to happen. Of course, he could turn it to good by adopting the philosophical attitude toward it, but then that is true of every possible situation without exception. Where all of them may be regarded as the best, none is. The word then loses its meaning.

What are the correct facts behind Ramdas' claim? Because he surrendered his life to God, and sincerely renounced the world in doing so, God certainly guided or helped him in return at certain times, and brought about situations on other occasions. To this extent Ramdas' faith was fully justified. But because Ramdas' human self was still the channel through which he had to express himself, the individual temperament, characteristics, and intellect contributed also to giving a shape to the other situations or developments. His unfamiliarity with Western civilization led quite directly to certain results of his world tour. Had he been more familiar with it, these results would have been markedly different. Yet Ramdas told me personally that God had arranged every step of his way on this tour! This is not, of course, a personal criticism of Ramdas, who is one of my beloved friends, but a brotherly discussion of a topic on which he has often written or spoken and always in this manner. His conclusions seem to me, in the light of both the philosophic instruction I have received and the observations of mystical circles I have made, to be confused. It is not beyond us to know the reason for some situations; indeed, it is part of our development to learn the reason. And it is not God who intervenes in every petty incident or trivial circumstance of His devotee's life.

Those who refuse to exercise the reasoning faculty with which the divine World-Idea has endowed them will certainly believe that it is "God's will" for mishaps, disappointments, frustrations, or ill health to happen to them which, by proper thought or care, could have been avoided or diverted. They have been confused about the fact that outside of limited free will, God's will is inescapably and compulsively acting upon them, but within that limited freedom their own will may reign as it chooses.

"Trust in God but keep your powder dry" was as useful a maxim in a recent century as "Trust in God but keep your arrows sharp" might well have been in an earlier one.

We ought not to expect man to give what he is not yet ready to give. Only in the measure that he recognizes a higher purpose to be fulfilled will he renounce the ego which hinders that fulfilment.

Insofar as the whole of his future must be surrendered to his Higher Self, the planning of it through his ego-mind cannot be allowed. He resigns himself to God's will in this matter because he realizes that it will bring him only what is best for him or only what is needed by him or only what has been earned by him. He believes that God's will is a just will. Yet within the frame of reference of the intuition which may come to him as a result of this self-surrender, he may allow the intellect to plan his course and to chalk out his path. The intellect may function in the arrangement of his personal life, but it must function in full obedience to the intuition, not to the ego. Hence if he makes any plans for the future, he does so only at the Higher Self's bidding.

Where, despite his best efforts, he finds that he cannot control the course of events, he should accept it as being the higher will, the ordained destiny. Where he can control it, he should seek to learn from and obey the inner voice in what he does.

Before we can do God's will we have to find out what it is.

Where he depends on things events or persons too excessively, they may take an unfavourable turn and he will be thrown back on himself again and again. This kind of experience, taken to heart rightly, may quicken his spiritual progress; but taken wrongly, it may only arouse personal bitterness. If he intelligently accepts the suffering that the Overself, under the law of recompense, brings him, the evil will be transmuted into good. If he blindly clings to a completely egoistic attitude, he fails to show his discipleship.

That is true willpower which acts from the deepest part of our being, which sets the ego aside instead of expressing it. Not only can it thrust heredity aside and master surroundings, but then only is "Thy will" done by us.

Both ordinary mysticism and philosophic mysticism teach surrender to God's will, in any situation. But whereas the first is content to do so blindly, the second adds clear sight to its surrender. The first is satisfied with ignorance because it is so happy, so peaceful as a direct result of surrendering the ego's will. The second likewise enjoys the happiness and peace but uses its intelligence to understand the situation.

Having handed his life over to the higher power, he has handed his future over, too. But although much that will happen to him will not be of his own planning, he need not paralyse his will and negate his reason. They have their place and may be used, especially to work out the details of what he is led to do by intuition, or by inner guidance.

The process

His destination is also his origin. But if you say that he was born in the eternal Spirit, the question arises how can time, which is placed outside eternity, bring him to eternity. The answer is that it does not bring him there, it only educates him to look for, and prepares him to pass through, the opening through which he can escape. Need it be said that this lies at the point where ego surrenders wholly to Overself?

So few seem to know that surrender of the ego--what Jesus called denying self and also losing life--must be absolute. It does not stop with the more obvious and grosser weaknesses, the so-called sins. It must include surrendering the clinging to religious organizations and beliefs, religious dogmas, and groups. The attachments which hold us to the self are not only concerned with material possessions and material things. They are also concerned with social conventions and prejudices, with inherited habits and traditions. We remain deluded by the self until we are denuded of the self.

He is to sacrifice all the lower emotions on the altar of this quest. He is to place upon it anger, greed, lust, and aggressive egoism as and when each situation arises when one or another of them shows its ugly self. All are to be burnt up steadily, if little by little, at such opportunities. This is the first meaning of surrender to the higher self.

No candidate could enter the King's Chamber and be initiated therein into the Greater Mysteries without stooping in emblematic submission beneath the low doorway at its entrance. For no man may attain adeptship without surrender of his personal egoism and his animal nature.

From the day that he abandons the egoistic attitude, he seeks no credit, assumes no merit. Hence Lao Tzu says: "Those most advanced in Tao are the least conspicuous of men."

Attempt to use no personal power. Rather get into meditation and quiet the person more and more until you can get away from yourself altogether. Turn the matter over to the Overself in the perfect faith that it has all the power needed to handle the situation in the best way. Having done that, do nothing further yourself, refrain from the slightest interference. Simply be the quiet spectator of the Overself's activity, which you will know to be occurring by its visible results, for its processes are mysterious and beyond all human sight.

Do not let the ego try to manage your worldly life. Do not let it even manage your search for truth! It is faulty and fallible. Better to cast the burden on the higher self and walk by faith, not knowing where you are going, not seeing what the future is.

Release your problems. Work in the Silence--until the Silence rules. The Infinite Intelligence will then take over your problems--to the extent that you release them to it.

When the ego is truly given up, the old calculating life will go with it. He will keep nothing back but will trust everything to the Overself. A higher power will arrange his days and plan his years.

But before he can even attempt to surrender the underself, he must first begin to feel, however feebly and however intermittently, that there is an Overself and that it is living there deep within his own heart. Such a feeling, however, must arise spontaneously and cannot be manufactured by any effort of his own. It does not depend on his personal choice whether he experience it or not. It is therefore an unpredictable factor; he cannot know when it is likely to come to him. This indeed is what makes this quest so mysterious. For such a feeling is nothing else than a manifestation of grace. Hence an old Sanskrit text, the Tripura, says: "Of all requisites Divine Grace is the most important. He who has entirely surrendered to his larger self is sure to attain readily. This is the best method." Without the divine grace (Faiz Ullah), the Sufis say, man cannot attain spiritual union with Him, but they add that this grace is not withheld from those who fervently yearn for it.

The more he becomes conscious of that thing in himself which links him with the World-Mind, the more he becomes conscious of a higher power back of the world's life, a supreme intelligence back of the world's destiny. It is consequently back of his personal destiny, too, and bringing him what he really needs to fulfil the true purpose of his earthly existence. With this realization he becomes content to surrender it to God's will, to abandon all anxiety for the future, all brooding over the past, all agitation over the present.

No man can penetrate into the being of the Overself and remain an ego-centered individual. On the threshold he must lay down the ego in full surrender.

The moth which throws itself into the candle's flame has practised self-annihilation. The man who lets himself be used by the Overself does the same, but only to the extent that he lets go.

You will have turned over the matter or problem if certain signs appear: first, no more anxiety or fretting about it; second, no more stress or tension over it; third, no more deliberating and thinking concerning it.

The extraordinary thing is that when, putting aside the ego-desires, we selflessly seek to know the divine will for us in any given circumstances, the answer brings with it the strength necessary to obey it.

If he wants the full Grace he must make the full surrender. He should ask for nothing else than to be taken up wholly into, and by, the Overself. To ask for occult powers of any kind, even the kind which are called spiritual healing powers, is to ask for something less than this.

Whatever happens in the world around him, he will so train his thoughts and feelings as to keep his knowledge of the World-Idea, and his vision of its harmony, ever with him.

The student should not habitually think that the problems with which he believes himself beset are really as grave as they appear. If he can let go, relax, and surrender his entire life with all its circumstances, and even all its aspirations, to the Higher Power, he should then patiently await the outcome of this surrender, in whatever form it manifests itself.

If he really surrenders his life to the Higher Power and turns over his sense of responsibility to It, he will be unable to act selfishly in his relationship with others, but will consider their welfare along with his own.

If he turns his problem over to the Overself in unreserved trust, he must admit no thoughts thereafter of doubt or fear. If they still knock at his door he must respond by remembering his surrender.

He will learn to live by faith where he cannot live by sight, to accept happenings against which the ego rebels and to endure situations which reason denounces.

Jesus said, "Take no thought of the morrow." What did Jesus mean? If we know to whom Jesus was speaking and the path along which he was trying to lead his hearers, we shall know also what he meant. It was certainly not that they should do nothing at all for the morrow; it was not that they should give no attention to it. It was that they should not fret and worry over the morrow; they should accept the duty imposed upon them to take care of the morrow, but reject all anxiety as to its outcome. They should not think that their little egos must manage everything, but they should have some faith also that the higher power can operate in their lives.

The real meaning of the injunction, so often delivered by spiritual prophets, to give up self is not a humanitarian one and does not concern social relations with other men. It is rather a psychological one, a counsel to transfer attention from the surface self to the deeper one, to give up the personal ego so as to step into the impersonal Overself.

"I tell you that the very holiest man in outward conduct and inward life I ever saw had never heard more than five sermons in all his days," was the testimony of old Dr. John Tauler. "When he saw how the matter stood he thought that was enough, and set to work to die to that to which he ought to die, and live to that to which he ought to live."

The real meaning of these constant injunctions to practise selflessness is not moral but metaphysical and mystical. It is to give up the lower order of living and thinking so as to be able to climb to a higher one.

Humbly recognizing our dependence on it, we must open our minds and offer our hearts to God.

He renounces the possession of his own thoughts and the performance of his own deeds. Henceforth they belong to the higher self.

It is the poor ego which worries and struggles to come closer to perfection. But how can the imperfect ever transform itself into the perfect? Let it cease its worry and simply surrender itself to the ever-perfect Overself.

The shoulders of the aspirant must be strong enough to bear the bitter blows of destiny without getting bowed down. He has placed his life utterly in the hands of the gods, and he must be ready to suffer with a sublime fortitude.

Whether in the artist's adoration of beauty or the mystic's aspiration toward the Glimpse, there must be willingness to turn from the present state to a fresh one. This is behind that denial of the ego, to which Jesus referred.

If the ego is led into surrender to the Overself, must it also be led to the guillotine? Can it not continue to live upon this earth, purified and humbled as it now must be, sharing a new inner life with the Overself?

All that he seems to be must dissolve to let the new self arise.

We achieve a total surrender of the ego only when we cease to identify ourselves with it. In this aspiration is the key to a practical method of achievement.

We may know God only by losing self, we may not lose self without experiencing pain. This is the inner meaning of the crucifixion.

If a problem or a life is to be handed over to the Higher Power for management or guidance, this can only be done if the faith is there to force a real turning-around from ego to counter-ego, from intellect or passion to inner quiet.

He is to receive passively what Grace bestows positively. Hence the need of a surrendered attitude.

Practise referral of doubts, questions, needs, requests to the Higher Power. Do not depend on the ego alone.

To surrender life to TRUTH is to desert the baser standards of conduct which have hitherto held us. It means that henceforth we will no longer consult our own comfort and convenience, but will accept the leading of the inner Master, no matter into how hard a path he may direct us.

"There is a principle which is the basis of things, which all speech aims to say, and all action to evolve, a simple, quiet, undescribed, undescribable presence, dwelling very peacefully in us, our rightful lord; we are not to do, but to let do; not to work, but to be worked upon; and to this homage there is a consent of all thoughtful and just men in all ages and conditions."--Emerson

To turn to the Higher Power and to wait patiently for its direction or support is a good practice but it must be remembered that one can only turn to a Higher Power by turning away from the ego.

He begins with turning his problems over to the higher unseen Power: he ends by turning himself over to it. This is what is also called "surrendering to God" and "taking refuge in Him alone."

The finite mind of man can not take possession of the Infinite Power any more than the little circle can contain the large one. At the point where the two come into contact there must be surrender, self-surrender, a willingness to let go of its own self-centre, its own instinct of self-preservation.

To die to one's self is to let go of all attachments, including the attachment to one's own personal ego. In some ways it is like the act of passing away from the fleshly body.

It happens by itself, this mysterious point where his own activity stops, when he surrenders to the feeling of the grace which suddenly comes within the glimpse of his horizon, when its presence is unmistakable surrender, offered of its own accord at the bidding of thinking, but gently and peacefully.

What it is necessary for him to do is really to surrender his fears and anxieties, whether concerning himself or those near and dear to him, or those who, he thinks, want to hurt him. He should surrender all these to God and be himself rid of them. For this is what giving up the ego truly means. He would then have no need to entertain such negative thoughts. They would be replaced by a strong faith that all would be well with him. To the extent that he can give up the little ego with its desires and fears, to that extent he invites and attracts divine help in his life.

It may be helpful for him to try a new angle on his spiritual problems. This is to stop striving and to wait with surrendered will for the higher power. This power is there within him and without him and knows his need. Let him stop being tense, stop working and striving. Let him even stop studying for realization of this presence, but let him just ask prayerfully for it to take hold of him.

The surrendering of his life to the Overself does not depend wholly upon his own efforts. He cannot bring it about as and when he wills. He can bring about the prerequisite conditions for this manifestation. He can fervently yearn for it, but the last word depends upon the Overself, upon Grace. The Grace comes in time if it is wanted strongly enough, and then he steps out of the shadows into the sunshine and a benign assurance is born in the heart. Of course this can never be the result of metaphysical striving alone but only of a coordinated, integral effort of thought, feeling, and action. But whoever can arrive at it will surely be able to endure life's problems as well as, and perhaps much better than, he who has to endure and struggle without it.

We struggle to find God, we long after what seems unattainable, and we must hold nothing back, must yield all, surrender all, until the ego melts with every fetter that belongs to it.

This humble self-surrender is not the same as the supine resignation of the coward. On the contrary, it is an attitude of the brave.

To believe in the powers of the Overself is to believe rightly, but to suppose that those powers can be attained without complete self-suppression is to believe superstitiously. Few are ever able to exercise them because few are ever willing to pay the requisite price.

If we turn ourselves over to the higher power, surrendering our personal spiritual future to it, we must also turn over the personal physical future, with all its problems, at the same time.

"Whatever you do, offer it to Me," said Krishna. This implies constant remembrance of the Higher Power, which in turn saves those who obey this injunction from getting lost in their worldly life.

He who surrenders his future to the Higher Power surrenders along with it the anxieties and cares which might otherwise have infested the thought of his future. This is a pleasant result, but it can only be got by surrendering at the same time the pleasurable anticipations and neatly made plans which might also have accompanied this thought. "Everything has to be paid for" is a saying which holds as true in the realm of the inner life as it does in the marketplace. The surrender of his life to the Higher Power involves the surrender of his ego. This is an almost impossible achievement if thought of in terms of a complete and instant act, but not if thought of in terms of a partial and gradual one. There are parts of the ego, such as the passions for instance, which he may attempt to deny even before he has succeeded in denying the ego itself. Anyway, he has to make clear to himself the fact that glib talk of surrender to God is cancelled if he does not at the same time attempt to surrender the obstructions to it.

When a man consciously asks for union with the Overself, he unconsciously accepts the condition that goes along with it, and that is to give himself wholly up to the Overself. He should not complain therefore when, looking forward to living happily ever after with a desired object, that object is suddenly removed from him and his desire frustrated. He has been taken at his word. Because another love stood between him and the Overself, the obstruction had to be removed if the union were to be perfected; he had to sacrifice the one in order to possess the other. The degree of his attachment to the lesser love was shown by the measure of his suffering at its being taken away; but if he accepts this suffering as an educator and does not resent it, it will lead the way to true joy.

The Inner Being will rise and reveal Himself just as soon as the ego becomes sufficiently humbled, subdued, surrendered. The assurance of this is certain because we live forever within the Love of God.

Within his heart, he may call or keep nothing as his own, not even his spirituality. If he really does not want to cling to the ego, he must cling to nothing else. He is to have no sense of inner greatness, no distinct feeling of having attained some high degree of holiness.

Once he grasps that the higher part of his being not only knows immeasurably more than he what is good for him, but also possesses infinitely more power than he does to bring it about, he is ready to enter upon the surrendered life. He will no longer complacently assume that his imperfect mentality is wise enough to guide him or his faltering ego strong enough to support him. He will no longer predetermine his decisions or his doings. He realizes that other forces are now beginning to enter his life and mind, and his part is not to obstruct them but to let them do their work. The more his own passivity meets their activity, the better will this work be done.

Its effect

From the time when the Overself holds this ego in its enfolding embrace, he sees how its divine power brings great changes in his life, renders great service to others, and effects great workings in their outlook without his own effort in such directions. Therefore he cannot help concluding that it is competent to do all that is required to be done, that the ego may remain utterly quiescent, the body utterly still, and the whole man unemployed, and yet every need can be safely left to the Overself for attention. Thus, without an attempt to render service, nevertheless service is mysteriously rendered. It suffices if he leaves all activity to It, does nothing himself, and plays the role of an unaffected spectator of life.

He who has the courage to put first things first, to seek the inner reality which is changeless and enduring, finds with it an ever-satisfying happiness from which nothing can dislodge him. This got, it will not prevent him seeking and finding the lesser earthly happinesses. Only he will put them in a subordinate and secondary place because they are necessarily imperfect, liable to change and even to go altogether. And then if he fails to find them or if he loses them after having found them, he will still remain inwardly unaffected because he will still remain in his peace-fraught Overself. This is as true of the love of man for fame as it is true of the love of man for woman. The more he looks in things and to persons for his happiness, the less he is likely to find it. The more he looks in Mind for it, the more he is likely to find it. But as man needs things and persons to make his existence tolerable, the mystery is that when he has found his happiness in Mind they both have a way of coming to him of their own accord to complete it.

He who puts himself at the Overself's disposal will find that the Overself will in turn put him where he may best fulfil his own divine possibilities.

The unfulfilled future is not to be made an object of anxious thought or joyous planning. The fact that he has taken the tremendous step of offering his life in surrender to the Overself precludes it. He must now and henceforth let that future take care of itself, and await the higher will as it comes to him bit by bit. This is not to be confounded with the idle drifting, the apathetic inertia of shiftless, weak people who lack the qualities, the strength, and the ambition to cope with life successfully. The two attitudes are in opposition.

The true aspirant who has made a positive turning-over of his personal and worldly life to the care of the impersonal and higher power in whose existence he fully believes, has done so out of intelligent purpose, self-denying strength of will, and correct appraisal of what constitutes happiness. What this intuitive guidance of taking or rejecting from the circumstances themselves means in lifting loads of anxiety from his mind only the actual experience can tell. It will mean also journeying through life by single degrees, not trying to carry the future in addition to the present. It will be like crossing a river on a series of stepping-stones, being content to reach one at a time in safety and to think of the others only when they are progressively reached, and not before. It will mean freedom from false anticipations and useless planning, from vainly trying to force a path different from that ordained by God. It will mean freedom from the torment of not knowing what to do, for every needed decision, every needed choice, will become plain and obvious to the mind just as the time for it nears. For the intuition will have its chance at last to supplant the ego in such matters. He will no longer be at the mercy of the latter's bad qualities and foolish conceit.

He is fortunate who hears the summons from within and obeys it. For despite its demands, it brings him ever closer to peace of mind.

Johanna Brandt came with little money and no friends to a strange land with a work of service to humanity's physical and spiritual health. She said that within a short time, "When it became necessary to have a secretary, a woman with great executive ability stepped forward and offered her services. Her rooms were placed at my disposal for the reception of visitors." This is an illustration of the truth that whoever is animated by the quest ideal will find that whatever and whoever becomes necessary to this true and best life will come into it at the right time.

When Jesus declared: "Whosoever shall say unto this mountain be thou removed, it will be," he did not mean the word mountain to be taken literally--surely that is perfectly obvious--but symbolically or poetically. Here it signifies problems. Whoever adopts the right attitude to them, the attitude explained in the heart-lifting words of this wondrous message, will find them removed from troubling his mind.

Five hundred years before Jesus said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all these things shall be added unto you," Lao Tzu, a Chinese sage, said: "If you have really attained wholeness, everything will flock to you."

Emotional worry, whether it be worry about worldly and personal affairs or even about the spiritual quest, will vanish if one surrenders one's life to the Overself entirely. That is the only way to enjoy real freedom from worry; that is inner peace.

The total acceptance of this higher will changes life for us. It affects our relations with other people and brings some measure of serenity into ourselves.

Once this direction from within, this reception of the Overself's voice, is accepted, whatever comes to us from without falls into intelligible pattern. It is for our good even when its face is forbidding: it is helpful even when it is painful. For we no longer judge it egoistically and therefore wrongly. We seek its true meaning, its hidden message, and its place in the divine orderliness.

Anxieties subside and worries fall away when this surrender to the Overself grows and develops in his heart. And such a care-free attitude is not unjustified. For the measure of this surrender is also the measure of active interference in his affairs by the Divine Power.

When he has made this surrender, done what he could as a human being about it and turned the results over completely to the higher self, analysed its lessons repeatedly and taken them deeply to heart, the problem is no longer his own. He is set free from it, mentally released from its karma, whatever the situation may be physically. He knows now that whatever happens will happen for the best.

His confidence in the reality and beneficence of the higher power will increase as his experience of its inner working and outer manifestation grows.

There is a strikingly parallel thought in the Bhagavad Gita which confirms the New Testament's injunction, "Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all these things shall be added unto you." In the Indian scripture, Krishna, the Indian Christ, enjoins his disciple Arjuna: "Whoever worships Me and Me alone with no other thought than the worship of Me, the care of his welfare I shall take upon myself."

We become free from aims and ambitions: we are able to forgo all plans and projects.

If he attains and maintains a harmony with the Overself (for which he must pay the price of submission to it) then the Overself will help him for it is being allowed to do so.

Such a surrender to the higher self brings with it release from negative tendencies, liberation from personal weaknesses.

He will feel all personal pride and claims ebb out of his being as the higher self takes possession of him. An utter humility will be the result. But this is not the same as a sense of inferiority; it will be too serene, too noble, and too satisfying for that.

Courage in the face of a risky situation, an uncertain future, a harassing present, comes easily and spontaneously to the man who surrenders his self-will and submits to God's will.

The Overself--when you are fortunate enough to find it--will provide for and protect you, comfort and support you.

He who places his mind in Me enjoys Joy!

Once we accept the soul's existence, faith in its power and worship of its presence follow by deduction.

By escaping this common dependence on the ego, he enters into a dependence on the Overself. This, in one way, is utterly blind, because it may or may not show him even one centimetre of the path ahead; for he is led, like a little child, by the mysterious No-thing that is the higher power. But in another way, it confers greater freedom, openness, and flexibility.

So long as he has entrusted his life to the Overself wholeheartedly, on the practical as well as on the theoretical level, why should he entertain anxious thoughts about it? Rather should he let the Overself do whatever thinking about his welfare is needed, since he has handed over responsibility.

He who is faithful to his inner call at all times, whether in ideals, ego-sacrifice, meditation practice, or the like, loses nothing of worldly advantage in the end--except what ought to be let go. Providence is rightly named.

Saint John of the Cross: "If you fail not to pray, God will take care of your affairs, for they belong to no other master than God, nor can they do so . . . . God takes care of the affairs of those who love Him truly without their being anxious concerning them."

The Higher Power has given us the intelligence with which to solve these matters of practical daily life. When the human will has been truly surrendered, this Power may be counted on to guide--and guide aright.

The serenity of the Overself never varies and consequently the man who accomplishes the complete surrender to it is unvaryingly serene and unshakeably tranquil.

To the degree that he can surrender his mind to the higher self, to that degree does he surrender the worries and fears that go along with it.

Men love their egos more than anything else, or those extensions of their egos which are their families. But if and when the lesser self submits to the higher self, which is Egohood, this love is harmonized with love for the Overself.

If he has really turned his life over to the higher power, then he need not crease his brow trying to work out his own plans. He can wait either for the inner urge to direct him or for new circumstances to guide his actions.

The same power which has brought him so far will surely carry him through the next phase of his life. He must trust it and abandon anxieties, as a passenger in a railroad train should abandon his bag by putting it down on the floor and letting the train carry it for him. The bag represents personal attempts to plan, arrange, and mold the future in a spirit of desire and attachment. This is like insisting on bearing the bag's weight himself. The train represents the Higher Self to which the aspirant should surrender that future. He should live in inner Peace, free from anticipations, desires, cares, and worries.

He need no longer seek things essential to his life or needful to his service; they themselves will come seeking him.

He has nothing more to do, at this stage, than to give up the ego and give in to the Overself. This done, all that matters will be done, for from that time his farther way will be shown to him, and his subsequent acts guided, by the Overself.

He wastes no time on recovering the past or looking into the future.

The notion of making up an itinerary well in advance appeals to the time-bound calculating intellect but not to the spirit-led intuition.

Only when a man has reached this harmony with Nature's intent for himself can he unfailingly trust events as truly being what God wills for him.

Now that Grace is at work within him in response to his self-surrender, he may cease his struggles at self-improvement in the sense that he need no longer feel fully responsible for it. This does not mean at all that he is to become so careless as to throw away all the fruits of previous efforts. If this were to happen it would be evidence of a weakening setback rather than of a true surrender.

His life is no longer planned out meticulously in advance; he begins to live by the day, and cannot say what he will do within a month or a year, until the time actually nears or finally arrives.

A time comes when there is no longer any feeling of control and resistance, and discipline and opposition, simply because there is no longer any striving for an ideal to be attained. Having handed himself over to the higher power, he has handed both struggle and ideal over too.

At this stage he will tend more and more to stop counting on fixed, pre-thought plans for future movement, actions, or arrangements, to let the guidance of the moment take over, through the silent voice of intuition.

He finds that having attained this liberation of his will from the ego's domination, his freedom has travelled so far that it loses itself and ceases to be free. For it vanishes into the rule of his higher self, which takes possession of him with a completeness and a fullness that utterly hoop him around. Henceforth, its truth is his truth, its goodness is his goodness, and its guidance his obedience.

He who has turned all problems over to the Overself is no longer faced with the problem of solving each new problem that arises. He is free.

Jesus had no where to lay his head. He wandered from place to place, teaching without price as he wandered. Wherever he went he was at home in the complete confidence that Providence was taking care of him.

With this serene acceptance of Life, this glad co-operation with it and willing obedience to its laws, he begins to find that henceforth Life is for him. Events begin to happen, circumstances so arrange themselves, and contacts so develop themselves that what he really needs for his further development or expression appears of its own accord.

When a man has reached this stage, where his will and life are surrendered and his mind and heart are aware of divine presences, he learns that it is practical wisdom not to decide his future in advance but rather to let it grow out of itself like corn out of seed.

His struggle for survival has ended. Henceforth his life has been entrusted to a higher power.

He knows, having aligned himself harmoniously with the higher power that supports the universe, that it surely can and will support the little fragment of the universe that is himself. A sublime confidence that he will be taken care of in the proper way pervades him in consequence.

Few know the quiet security of having this inner anchorage, the secret power generated by this surrender of flesh to spirit.

Those who sincerely and intelligently live according to the philosophical ideal as best they can, surrendering the ego to the Overself continually, receive visible proof and wonderful demonstration of a higher presence and power in their lives. They can afford to trust God, for it is no blind trust.

He will be shown some way of dealing with his problem whether it leads to overcoming or to submission, to amendment or to sidestepping.

Either he will be inwardly directed to a certain move with successful results, or without any effort of his own something will happen of itself to bring them about. Whether he himself makes the right move at the right moment or whether someone else does it for him, a higher cause will be at work for the man who truly relies on the higher forces of the Spirit.

In that wonderful state the feeling of tension, the troubling by fear, and the suffering from insecurity vanish away. Why? Because the particular problems involved have been taken over by the Overself. Also, because no negative thinking is possible in that peaceful atmosphere. From this we may deduce an excellent practical rule for daily living: surrender all problems to the Overself by turning them out of your mind and handing them over (but not in the wrong way by refusing to face them. The Secret Path and The Quest of the Overself show the right way). Jesus taught the same method in simpler language: Psalm 55 holds out the promise "Cast thy burden upon the Deity, and he shall sustain thee." And in the Bhagavad Gita, among the final words addressed to the troubled Prince Arjuna, there is almost identical counsel.

The universal power will sustain him simply because he has surrendered himself to it. Failure in the true sense, which, however, is not always the apparent one, will then be impossible.

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