an appreciation by John Behague
There have been many who have influenced me in my lifelong search for the
truth, but none more so than Paul Brunton. So many times his thoughts have
echoed mine, so many times I have inwardly cried out "yes, yes!" when his
words have struck home. I never met him, but felt close to him, having
visited the same places, met the same kind of people he met, and experienced
similar happenings, but his search was the more successful because he had
the courage and determination to venture into the unknown, tear down curtains
of superstition, topple idols and scatter sacred cows.
That may make him appear a giant among men. On the contrary, PB
as he like to be called, was small and dapper, spoke softly and slowly,
was gentle in this approach and lived quietly and abstemiously. Yet in
his spiritual journeying this little man visited the far corners of the
world, living with princes, mystics and holy men, staying in palaces and
mud huts, and emerging something of a guru himself, with a message of incredible
importance and hope for those who cared to read it.
In this short appreciation I hope to summarize some of his findings
and explain his philosophy. Strangely, he wasn't aware of having any mission
in life other than the hope of making people aware of the value of their
own souls. He had no desire to inflict his beliefs on others. He was no
missionary, and didn't seek to convert or compel.
His main resolve was to be independent of allegiances and authorities,
and to rely on his own observations and findings so that he could set down
the simple truths of things which had become hidden or distorted over the
years. Others would pick them up or discard them as they thought fit. All
he hoped was that people would find within themselves what he had found.
He wrote several philosophical books, some of which have become
best-sellers, but much of his writings, in the form of notebooks, remained
unpublished until the creation of the Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation
in New York. He died in 1981 and a bright light went out, but his vital
question: "What's the meaning of it all?" and his answers to it should
provide spiritual food for many years to come.
Questions were his stock and trade, from his early years as a
journalist in London,a nd like me, that little word "why?" was constantly
on his lips. Why is it that we can conquer disease, design complicated
computers, and send men into space when we can't even explain why we are
here on earth?
As PB put it" We have gathered highly detailed information about
almost everything under the sun. We know the work, qualities and properties
of all the objects and phenomena of the earth. But we do not know ourselves.
The very persons who have been studying all the sciences have yet to study
the science of self."
Throughout history the great seers and philosophers have struggled to
find the key to our existence on earth. Like the old station master in
the English comedy play "Ghost Train" the agonized question is "Where do
ee cum from and where do ee go?" Are we mere lumps of matter destined to
disintegrate into nothingness, or are we God-made creatures with everlasting
Brunton called them great riddles of life which have puzzled the
sages of many generations, and will puzzle many more. He saw man as a doubting
and despairing figure stalking across the cold wastes of this world laughing
cynically at the name of God. Within man there were dark radiant places
where the soul could take wing. The angel and the beast were both inner
What are we to believe? Are the words of the ancient sages the
babblings of irresponsible lunatics, or are they messages of tremendous
importance to us all? Paul Brunton resolved to bring the record up to date
by tracking down the seers of today-- swamis, gurus, holy men and yogis--to
discover the truth for himself.
As I have found, truth is often hard to uncover. Sometimes a "holy
man" worshipped by thousands turns out to be a complete fraud. Sometimes
miracle men prove to be little more than conjurers. PB's investigations
and travels lasted several years and in the end he came to the inescapable
conclusion that Divinity is everywhere. God could be found and God was
good. The catch, however, was that to find Him you first had to find yourself.
He also found that calamity has beset us. We may make wonderful
machines, ships of vast size, and reach for the stars, but the tragedy
is that we have forgotten who we are. We can trace out kin to the ape,
with a wealth of detail and proof for this miserable pedigree, but we cannot
remember our kindred to the angel." We forget our own spiritual nature.
He believed that at the back of our personal selves lies another
self, described by an ancient seer as: "Unseen but seeing, unheard but
hearing, unperceived but perceiving, unknown but knowing...This is thy
Self, the ruler within, the immortal." We show the world a superficial
mask. Our true self lives in the depths of our heart. I suspect that we
house several selves, including the good, the bad and the ugly. One has
only to consider how devoted German fathers with deep love of family, music
and the arts, supported Hitler in his massacre of innocents. But even within
the beast there lies hidden a spiritual being.
You may dismiss this as being farfetched or imaginative, but PB
insisted that "wrapped in the folds of our nature hides a rare jewel, though
we know it not. None has yet dared to set a price upon it, nor will any
dare to do so, for its value is beyond all known worth."
So, where is the proof?
Brunton was at first positive you wouldn't find it in books. This,
despite his literary outpourings. Truth is a state of being, not a set
of words, he asserted, and begged people to start experimenting for themselves.
The word God, he said, was meaningless unless you could contact Him within.
The answers to all things lay within the limitless interior of your own
being. You had to push to one side your doubts, inhibitions, prejudices
and religious scruples and take the plunge.
Easier said than done in this day and age. Most of us are lost
in a sea of confusion and contradiction, with powerful forces pulling us
this way and that. There are the distractions of radio, television and
instant news. It's fast food, fast action world with little time for purposeful
thinking or spiritual experimentations.
Well, that's what many people might suppose. Brunton was made
of much sterner and determined stuff. To him the question of where we come
from and where we go to was more important than anything else on earth.
He resolved to solve it, and as I've said, took many years in his investigations,
some of which might appear to lesser mortals as wild goose chases.
As he finally found, it is the venture within that really matters,
and the truth sometimes comes in unexpected places and blinding flashes.
It is making the search that sets things in motion. It triggers
off an inner mechanism which eventually rings the bell. Gurus and spiritual
leaders can provide directions and clues. The opening has to come from
You can be lucky, or favored, as I prefer to regard it. My first
moments of knowing came high in the Himalayas during a wartime journey
to Tibet, and were later confirmed much later in my life when I joined
the spiritual brotherhood called Subud. I suspect that PB was also a member
of Subud, but I have seen no confirmation of this. (ed.- Not to my knowledge)
At the start I said I thought Paul Brunton's search had been more
successful than mine. We both made the same discoveries but he allowed
his to change his life. I didn't and continued existence as a journalist,
broadcaster and teacher. In a book written by his son --"Paul Brunton:
A Personal View"--the author says this: "An aura of kindliness emanated
from him. His scholarly learning was forged in the crucible of life. His
spirituality shone forth like a beacon. But he discouraged attempts to
form a cult around him. 'You must find your own PB within yourselves',
he used to say."
There were those who claimed that after meeting him their lives
were changed for ever. It was said that when he stepped into a room he
filled it with serenity, providing living proof that enlightenment was
a real thing. It is claimed that he was the first to bring yoga and meditation
to the West- - well before the arrival of Transcendental Meditation and
its emissaries - and that his modern age wisdom was a precious gift that
mankind should not spurn lightly.
Of his eleven book, "The Secret Path" is probably the shortest
and more widely read. In it he declared that to gain access to one's own
soul is not such a rare feat as it may seem, and it all hinges on stilling
the tumult of the mind and practicing mental quiet. This is achieved by
daily meditation and occasional retreats. He was aware of the difficulties
many might face when considering the demands of daily life. Switching off
in the midst of tumult may seem an impossibility, but it can be dine. PB
warned, however: "Thought control is hard to attain. Its difficulty will
astonish you. The brain will rise in mutiny. Like the sea, the human mind
is ceaselessly active. But it can be done. There is much guidance on this
in his other publications.
He summed up the findings of his entire quest in eight words -
Be still and know that I am God - but added it was important not to forget
intellectual study and right action.
Everything depended on your personal approach. How strongly did
you wish for enlightenment? PB is quoted as saying to his son: "Most quester
feel that self-illumination is far off, a goal to be reached in some future
life. But you can achieve it in the same lifetime IF you desire it strongly
enough. After all, you ARE going to attain it someday, why not make up
your mind it will be sooner rather than later. Go all out for it! And then
even if you don't succeed in this life, the results of your hard work will
show in the next life, so it will be worthwhile."
But there are still a lot of questions that remain unanswered.
If God is almighty why doesn't he intervene to end wars and suffering?
Why does no hand stretch out from the Great Unknown to save us? PB said
God, if he willed, could heal all the sorrows of this planet in an instant,
but if man is to grow God- like he must do so of his own free will. Otherwise
we'd all be little more than automatons.
That is an obvious stock answer and I am not altogether happy
with it because I personally have proved divine intervention and guidance
to be a fact.
What about death? That's a question few are prepared to discuss,
and which ties religionists in knots. Don't be morbid, people say, yet
it is an inevitable event affecting all of us. PB said death and change
are the ultimate conditions of life in the material and mental worlds,
but the reality which we can find within is time defying and eternal. Death
to the man or woman who knows the truth means no more than a new birth.
Reincarnation is the word for it.
"Everything we show forth returns to us, therefore we must be
careful as to what we do to others, because the law of destiny is always
at work, always sending back what we sent out, paying us in our own coin."
Everywhere in his books there are pithy and pungent statements:
"The material world is the great lethal chamber of the soul. Only
spiritual heroes can arouse themselves sufficiently to escape from its
stupefying effect upon consciousness."
How big a hero are you?
"It is the mind that can set man free again. This is not done
by running away to monasteries or mountains and spending one's life there.
It is done by USING THE MIND TO ENQUIRE INTO ITS OWN OPERATION." He should
know, but you have to admit that the time he spent in monasteries and on
mountains were not altogether a waste of time.
"When we understand that this whole world and not merely a part
of it - the part which pleases us - is a divine manifestation, we understand
that God must be in the gangster too. We must face facts bravely and realize
that the divine will is ultimately behind the whole universe and consequently
must even be behind the horror and agony and wickedness too."
We had to throw the plummet of the mind into the depths of self.
The deeper it fell the richer would be the treasure. "Each man has a private
door opening on to the eternal brightness. If he will not press and push
it open, his darkness is self-doomed."
On completing the quest: "All language is hopelessly inadequate,
shabbily poverty stricken, when confronted with this grand experience which
one day awaits the whole human race and even now awaits every individual
who truly and perserveringly seeks it."
What did it take? For proof of your divinity you had to take a
little time out of each day to sit down in a quiet corner, shut out all
distractions, enter into the seclusion and find the peace within. "We must
dig with the drill of mind beneath the attraction of the physical world,
and try to find the eternal reality which hides. Then the secret of life,
which has baffled the brilliant intellects of illustrious men, will be
discovered and become our joyful possession."
Books do provide some answers, and you have to read The Secret
Path to find the key to that private and most important door, which once
opened will change your life.