Early Essays, Book Reviews, and a Poem

by Paul Brunton

Published in The Occult Review (London) from 1919 to 1936


by Paul Brunton

Published in The Occult Review (London), November, 1919

MY eyes have sought, since I could see,

the things that set the spirit free,

The wondrous magic of the key

To chainless life.

With sweeping glance they hunt and find,

all ecstasy of heart and mind,

All mystic roads that leave behind

The scene of strife.

And oh, the sense of broken bliss,

when I must flee from Dian's kiss

To wander in the black abyss

Where bubbles thrive.

When secret haunts where god-men stray,

whitened lands where fairies play,

Fling me, a stranger, far away

To wear my gyve.

Yet I must thank the Tireless One,

whose hidden heart in the blazing sun

Will rain his love till I have won

The final fight;

For the daily gleam of the far-off goal,

for constant flights of the loosened soul,

And welcome words from Truth's great scroll,

My best birthright!

Ah! let me never lose the line

that leads into the spangled shrine,

And is to me a battle-sign

That flashes hope.

For ages yet will race me by,

before my toil shall fructify

And prove no man can e'er belie

His horoscope.

My bleeding feet shall fail and fall,

my wincing lip must quaff the gall,

The days in hell again appal,

But never a cry.

For the wakened soul is done with fear,

and sees behind each sorrow-spear

A coming brightness shining clear

Through blackened sky.

And if I meet along the road

a brother burdened with his load,

A stumbling soul that feels the goad,

A heavy heart;

Then let me give with eager hand,

all strength he needs upright to stand,

All love and light that I command,

Till pain depart.

For every man must sink in slime,

before he e'er begins to climb,

Before he pass the bounds of Time

Where all is one.

So send me, Lord, on every side,

that to the blind I come, a guide,

And bring each soul, a willing bride,

Unto the Sun!



by Paul Brunton

Published in The Occult Review (London), November, 1921

The relations between occultism and modern science have been repeatedly examined for the past half-century. It is not intended to continue the time-worn mode of such discussion here. What is proposed is to present a different aspect of these relations, a somewhat newer treatment of them.

Hitherto, either there has been friction between the followers of these two groups, or some saner soul among the occultists has invited scientists to step across the borderland and sift esoteric doctrines for a shell, worthy of being picked for the pearl of truth.

But what if this invitation is reversed? What if some lover of Hermes strides into the scientists' camp and endeavours to gain something from them? Such an excursion is attempted here.

Every occultist who has been competently trained in any of the sciences along current Western lines knows how great is his indebtedness to such a training. When, after this discipline, he takes up a system of Yoga, such as, for instance, that outlined by Dr Rudolf Steiner, he discovers how far along that path he has already travelled, albeit wholly unconsciously; how much of the necessary qualifications he has already unfolded.

Take, as a pre-eminently fitting example of this, the particular quality of impersonality.

Serious and profound students of modern science are well aware of the stress laid upon strict impersonality whenever an examination of the phenomena of nature is undertaken. The scientist is taught to train himself in the bringing to bear upon each phenomenon a mind free, for the time being at any rate, from every trace of prejudice and personal emotion. It is necessary only to quote from such a famous authority as Professor Karl Pearson, to indicate how weighty is this stress. He says:

"The facts once classified, once understood, the judgment based upon them ought to be independent of the individual mind which examines them ... the habit of forming a judgment upon these facts unbiased by personal feeling is characteristic of what may be termed the scientific frame of mind." (Grammar of Science, p.6)

In brief the man of science has to record things as they are, not as he would wish them to be. He must not twist the facts to fit his theory.

Each time he achieves this ideal, he creates that qualification of the occultist described by Dr Steiner as one which "is the unreserved, unprejudiced laying of oneself open to that which is revealed by human beings or the world external to man." For:

"Anyone who wishes to tread the path of higher knowledge must train himself to be able each moment to obliterate himself with all his prejudices." (Theosophy, p.187)

This is the supreme secret of occult training. Divorce the personality, and inevitably consciousness shifts to a deeper, subtler centre. From that place of inner peace, it is possible to direct the development and functioning of man's finer vehicles with the utmost precision.

Bertrand Russell declares that "the kernel of the scientific outlook is the refusal to regard our own desires, tastes and interests as affording a key to the understanding of the world." Equally may we retort that it is the occultist's outlook also.

One of the first tests in certain occult schools, given to the pupil who has succeeded in evoking the early traces of clairvoyance, is that of subjecting him to the vision of astral forms so grotesque, so uncouth and fiendish in aspect, as to be of almost unimaginable horror. Yet the pupil is required to gaze steadily upon them and unflinchingly note their characteristics; he must strive to examine them fearlessly and attempt to grasp their true nature.

Should he be overcome by fear, losing his spiritual balance, and thus fail to pass the test, it would be for one reason alone. That reason is the failure to regard these forms from a standpoint other than his own personal outlook. Such, at least, would be his teacher's judgment.

Through these and other probations, the aspirant gradually becomes inured to an attitude towards hidden nature as strictly impartial as that of the physical scientist towards visible nature.

Hence it is easy to see how the measure of success of the latter in maintaining his rigorous outlook, will be the measure of success in qualifying himself to study the more recondite aspects of the universe. And assuredly, the cyclic currents of evolution will ultimately carry him into such investigations, though it may not be in this particular incarnation.

The great scientist makes the great occultist. Nevertheless it would be quite fallacious to assume that however useful scientific training becomes in occult life, it is thereby rendered necessary as a preliminary. There are other paths. One merely states here the peculiar advantages of this path.

So it is that, conquering personality in the laboratory, the scientist prepares the way for the conquest of personality in the wider domain of life. Dominating mind so that it gives a colourless register of sense-impressions, he is bringing to birth that subtler mastery of thought which is the quintessence of Yoga. And out of this conquest comes the lofty grandeur of spiritual calm-so marked in every yogi, so needed by a world in woe.

Take now, that scientific endeavour after exactitude which reflects itself in the occultist's striving after truth. What the scientist knows he must know definitely; what he communicates must be strictly accurate. Huxley was fond of telling students that the very air they breathed should be charged with that enthusiasm for the truth, that fanaticism of veracity which, he said, "is a greater possession than much learning."

It is highly instructive to note how definite, how precise are the statements of every great scientist. We realize that the words are used with a full consciousness of their meaning, with the precision of an expert mathematician. The uttered thought never outstrips its corresponding reality.

Such careful habits are fostered alike by the occult aspirant. Annie Besant says in this connection:

"All exaggeration and painting up of a story, everything that is not perfectly consistent with fact, so far as he knows it, everything which has any shade of untruthfulness may not be used by him who would be a disciple." (Path of Discipleship, p.69)

Moreover the aspirant is taught to apply this effort after truth to every department of his life-feelings and actions equally with thoughts and words. Only when he becomes a self-reliant occultist, equipped with psychic and spiritual powers, does he discover some deeper reasons for this emphasis on veracity.

It is then that he perceives how falsehood has an effect upon the delicately organized psychic bodies of the more civilized man, comparable only to the result of a physical blow upon the body of flesh and blood. Whether in the form of a deliberate lie or whether in the careless utterance of an inaccurate thinker, the indifference of man to the silent pleading of truth is for ever creating mischief and trouble in his inner vehicles.

It may be that the lower and more numerous types of egos do not wreak much harm upon themselves through these vices. It may also be that the finer, more evolved men will bring about certain states of their subtler bodies corresponding to illnesses in the physical. But to the occult disciple, perfect truth and exactness become indispensable qualities for the safeguarding of those ethereal vehicles now fast growing into active life and function. Untruth is here not merely a vice, but a positively dangerous force.

With such facts in his mind, the occultist greets appreciatively what, for example, was said of Lord Kelvin:

"He hated ambiguities of language, and statements which mislead by looseness of phrasing. With painful effort he strove for clarity of expression. In that hazy medium of words wherein we all drown, he at least would attempt to observe the proprieties of language." (Professor Sylvanus Thompson)

For when, in the unfolded bud of the future, the ego known as Lord Kelvin is led into occultism, qualities such as the above and such as the celebrated scientist notoriously possessed, become guarantees of an extremely promising growth in the once-hidden gnosis.

Thus it has been shown that, though science may not concern itself with the occult specifically, yet the trained scientific student who enters the discipline of occultism soon discovers the high value therein of the attitude he brings along with him. He discovers it by the ease with which he succeeds in certain inner practices set him for exercise; he discovers it, too, in the presence of an occult force evoked within himself by this very control of personality.

The stirrings of this force brought him into the half-veiled region of occultism. Yet awhile, and it may lift him far beyond the highest pinnacle in that rocky and mountainous land.



by Paul Brunton

Published in The Occult Review (London), May, 1922

That many are called but few are chosen is as tritely true in the sphere of the occult as in any other. Every year one hears of those who take up the study of the deeper strata of life, often with glowing enthusiasm. Yet the years slip by and they are no more heard of, save a rare and richly endowed one here and there. Time has passed them through his sieve, and naught remains for mankind's gathering.

This is as it should be. For an iron law governs the efforts of man. He will get back just as much as he puts forth, and no more. Though his uttered yearnings resound through fathomless space, yet he cannot change the records of that balance, so utter-true, which men in the East call karma.

He who makes a sustained and complete practice of the discipline involved in the deeper life gains a permanent and complete result. He whose hand falters and lets the sands of his strength soon run out may not expect more than a partial result or, it may be, little at all.

Yet it was not called for that so many should fail. Sometimes the fault lies, not in the strength which is lacking, but in the indefinite fog which overhangs and surrounds the initial efforts of a number of aspirants. Because they did not clearly perceive the exact goal upon which they were converging, nor the nature of the route they were travelling, they wandered uncertainly and wasted their energy. It was the failure to make their direction sharply defined and precisely marked out that brought them nowhere.

There is only one cure for such a condition. It is the resolute facing of fact.

The mind of man must be clarified by exact knowledge; his feelings ought to be shaped into surety and certainty. Only so can a cosmos of fruitful effort arise out of the primeval chaos of his former condition.

Here a clear and certain fact emerges. The spirit of human nature is, perhaps, a unity, but not so the different aspects under which that spirit shows itself. And the smallest possible division of these aspects is that into two typical forms.

There is the strongly-marked type of the Occultist on the right-hand side of the shield; there is also the sweetly gentle figure of the Mystic on the other side. The shield itself, completed, unified, is Perfected Man.

It is for the aspirant himself to decide which of the figures truly represents his ideal. If, after prolonged consideration, regularly repeated for a time, he is unable to place his position, he may do either of two things. Should he have had his horoscope accurately cast by a competent astrologer, he must discover and compare the positions of the planets Uranus arid Neptune in his map. A prominent Neptune favourably aspected, fits him for the practice of mysticism. An equally prominent and strong Uranus places him among the occultists. Where both planets are excellently positioned and aspected, he is one of the fortunate few fit to turn to any of the paths. Such a man will either know exactly what to do or will swiftly find any guidance necessary.

The second method for the aspirant who cannot determine his line of growth is to apply to some recognized teacher or leader whose integrity and capacity are undoubted. If he is truly sincere, his answer will be freely given.

It is this clearing-up of confusion by the effort of the neophyte himself, or by the aid of others, that enables him to plant his first steps on the chosen path confidently and correctly. He knows precisely where he wishes to go and how to get there.

Whoso desires to unite with the central Heart of the universe shall surely unite with it. Whoso seeks to understand and pierce the sevenfold coverings of that Heart shall also do so. The one is the mystic, whose feelings are first turned outward in all-embracing love, and then inward in high aspiration. The other is the occultist, whose thoughts turn outward in sensory experience and then inward in reasoning upon the sense impressions received. Here, reference is made not only to the five commonly-accepted senses of normal human beings, but also to any others discoverable by experiment and investigation.

Notice that there is a double activity in each type. It is generally recognized, for instance, that the mystic is the inwardly-turned man; it is not so generally recognized, however, that there is a marked reaction into physical work as a Server, a man of practical love.

There are certain dangers peculiar to each of these paths. They are inevitable. The really earnest neophyte, whose heart is brimming over with love, whose mind is one-pointed towards the great goal, passes through them all unharmed, unhurt. The high gods love him, holding his hand at all the dark places, leading him as one would lead a little child. But the others (and they are many) bear bitter scars to tell of blurred vision and mistaken choice.

Yet the Way is so certain, the signposts so clearly written. There is only one sin. It is the sombre sin of self. There is only one virtue. It is the limitless love that brothers every soul on earth.

For the mystic the primal danger comes through lack of balance. Read the life of any great saint or devotee. Time after time such a one falls from the heights of spiritual ecstasy into pits that are gloomed with awful darkness. It cannot be helped. He who would climb high must be prepared to fall. The very nature of the mystic fits him for great efforts, but not to sustain them. He is working along the line of feeling, whose normal expression, occultly stated is the astral; whose supernormal outlet is the buddhic. It is easy to stay in the astral. It is surpassingly difficult to dwell in the buddhic. And so he swings backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, until at last he homes changelessly in that high world.

Then he is verily a saved one.

There is a very definite way whereby the devoted aspirant can control those profound moods of melancholy that descend on his soul. If, at the high moments of his interior life, he is intuitive enough and strong enough not to dwell in the sensations of bliss and joy, but rather to turn the forces which have given rise to them in a new direction, great shall be his reward. Refusing to revel in the ecstasy of the buddhic but directing its energy into service (love in action), he loses the dark nights while others gain his help.

These shadowed periods in his life may range from mere apathetic depression right up to the terrible sense of being quite alone in the universe. They are reactions. At such times strange sounds may be heard by the aspirant. The raucous cries of animal passion, the subtler voices of the personal self, are more claimant than ever. He suffers terribly. Time, however, is the great healer of all these things. The iron of the man's character turns to tempered steel in the red-hot furnace of trouble. Yet where the need is really urgent help comes in mysterious ways, sometimes with startling suddenness.

For the occultist the path is in every way more difficult, more dangerous, less rapid because it is less direct. The way is strewn with camouflaged pitfalls. Some of these I know; of others I know nothing and care less. There is only one I would record here. For it is the bottomless Abyss itself.

The occultist works along the line of intellect. Now the mind is the seat of individuality. Its tendency has been and will always be towards separateness. Men may prattle of unity and write of brotherhood, but it is one thing to know intellectually and quite another to gain the living experience. Inwardly the occultist seeks his habitat on the higher mental plane (using occult terms again), the first plane wherein such experience is possible to man. But his normal home is the lower mental. During the process of growth he swings back continually to the cold, contracting, essentially selfish outlook of the lower mind.

Each return is for him an actual probation, whether he knows this or not.

For he comes back filled with impelling force gathered on the loftier plane. His mentality is extraordinarily stimulated. The black flower of personal ambition grows as it has never grown before. Temptations to his vivified self-consciousness meet him in ways that the unheeding ordinary man cannot understand. The indifference he is learning is in danger of being turned, not alone towards his own personal concerns, but towards all humanity.

Here, if anywhere, hides the possibility of entering the very real sphere of black magic, or occult selfishness. One act may easily lead to a worse, and so on, until the whole of the man's aura is icebound with selfishness. A little more and he snaps the last thread of contact with his diviner nature. Then arises a really lost soul, a phenomenon rare yet terribly dangerous.

Let the aspirant but stand firm in his place whilst the tests and ordeals fall upon him, and he shall emerge utterly fearless and perfectly safe. The very intellect which might have slid him down to hell becomes a bridge to heaven itself.

What is required of him to achieve this planting of unslipping feet is the constant scrutiny of motive. That is all. If, in an attitude of ruthless and uncompromising honesty, he makes such examinations of his inner health, it is within his power to stop the in working of the poison of self ere it ruins his system.

Thus we arrive at the ancient truth, tongued by many a high Initiate, that without love man must perish. We may study the philosophies that represent the highest achievements of human intellect; we may compare all the religions that have left their marks on the race of man, and yet not discover a lamp more brilliantly lit than this, to guide our stumbling feet upon the path of life.



by Paul Brunton

Published in The Occult Review (London), March, 1928

These strange and hidden dreams of mine move like a subterranean river through mysterious caverns deep down beneath the rocky surface of my life. I cannot see the secret source whence they take their being, nor follow them in their winding course to that inspired deed which shall be their ending. But some unseen hand dips the golden cup into the ever-flowing stream and gives me to drink of the sacred draught which frees the mind from all that would stand between it and the brighter beauty lost when the youth of the world was lost.

The things that came into our lives with the coming of Time are fit friends of that ancient harridan whose sorry face and slow-moving feet are curses set upon the race of man. All that brings us to the wringing of hands and takes from life the sweetness it should have, is the black gift flung in our face as payment of the servitude we have given her.

I know that this is so, because of something which happened a while ago, when the soft feet of night were creeping into the halls of day. A great light flamed across the horizon of my mind, as a rainbow curves its colours across the sky, and then slowly dipped out of sight. I do not know whether it can be spoken of, for there are some things which the tongue is not equal to telling, and this seems one of them. But I shall try.

. . . . . .

I sat among the gold-tinted leaves which lie down to die in such profusion when the life of the year begins to fail. And a white wind came and wooed me with her sweet breath, calling the old glad call of remembrance through the dim woods of ancestral years with such strange and subtle sweetness that my will was drawn out of the body and went along by her side. In no long time she taught me what hidden fires burn beneath the old phrase:

"The wind bloweth where it listeth. Thou canst not tell whence it cometh nor whither it goeth. Of such are those who are born of the Spirit."

For the things of the world fell far away from me, and a great spell was put upon the leaping mind, till I remembered nothing of name or kin or country, or even self, and cared less.

A little while, and I knew that the air I breathed came from the land of immortal youth, whose beauty has lured men on like a dream of unfound gold. For the soul of man has always seemed to me like a grey galleon moving on the sea of thought and seeking this green world of imagination. Some of us who have gone a little way beyond the cup of youth, but have not gone so far as to taste the bitterness that rises into the lives of all who desert the simple instinct for beauty which walked beside them in the childhood years, know that in this world lie all the jewelled hopes of man, waiting, like so many unplucked flowers, for the soft hands which shall garner them for a sightless race.

Then the ichor leapt in my veins, and flung the sluggish blood aside, and a great yellow light shone down on my head.

And one, whose name none seems to know, but who is called The Child by the little group that has gathered around him, came and took me by the hand. He is rarely to be seen in his mortal body, for he has work of high moment to do-work which takes him now to one country, and again to another, and he has found the lithe instrument of the soul a readier tool to his will. Mayhap, for aught I know, he leaps from star to star with equal ease.

And The Child led me into an ancient temple that lay naked to the soft breath of heaven, for it had no roof. The vast granite monoliths awed me with their air of aloofness, and chilled the blood, so that I clung to the hand of The Child and looked up into his face to reassure myself of the benediction of his presence.

I do not know how long a time passed before I became aware of the soft stirring of many beings who filled the great hall and shaped themselves into a circle of twofold rank. They were men, but bore the bright mien of arcadian gods, while their bodies were clothed in long, delicately-coloured robes, that fell almost to the ground.

And I understood that those in the inner rank were the teachers of those in the outer, and had won more of the secret guerdons of Wisdom. At the far end of the hall upon a raised dais, sat One who appeared to be the Master of this gathering, for the heads of all were turned towards him, and the faces were grave with reverent mood. Then my heart whispered that here was the mightiest embodied Power that I had yet encountered.

One by one the assembled hierophants came forward with their pupils, whose spheres were aglimmer with the blue and golden lights of dawning knowledge. When the time came, The Child brought me forward to the Master and said,

"I present him for initiation."

For an instant those sybilline eyes gazed into mine; but all the stained earth of my past, and the white lilies that had begun to spring upon it, were alike seen during that one tinkle of the bell of Time. There, in that seated Being, was a great impersonal force that read the scales of my life with better sight than I could ever hope for. I had slept in the scented bed of Aphrodite, and he knew; I had also lured the gnomes of thought to mine, for strange, enchanted gold, in the depths of my spirit; he knew that too.

Then peace fled out of my heart, like some blown flower, when the answer came.

"Take him away. He is not pure enough. Bring him back in seven years."

So the high accolade which I had claimed was not for me, and I was led out of the temple and put back to wander upon the long, bitter roads of Time.

. . . . . .

A great darkness fell upon the mind soon after, and the hand that had guided me heretofore was seemingly withdrawn. Where once the soul lay on the shore of some strange golden sea, it now gazed into a fading well strewn with dead leaves. For six weary years I fought the green snakes of lust that come crooning to the feet of man. The bitter sin which had come into my life turned the gold of my days into the hue of stone.

Thus I waited at the door of Time, listening for the slow steps of that seventh year which shall raise my life beyond all reach of the talons of desire, or else fling me farther down the abyss of awful night.

Yet to-day some friendly prayer must have found its way to the gods; for my boat floats calmly upon the still waters of a curious peace, while in the distance, near the desert shore, are strange waving palms that bear the fruit of some Eastern land. Are they the bright augurs of the high moods which shall grow up once more amid the barren waste of my life?

Perchance, O palms, your outstretched leaves are calling me to some secret dell, where I may build anew dim temples for the holy guest, and tie once more the earthless bonds that yoke the soul of man to God.



by Paul Brunton

Published in The Occult Review (London), July, 1932


The Adyar river flows past the southern boundary of picturesque Madras, and then joins the ocean amid the ceaseless rise and fall of the Coromandel surf. Not many miles from where the Theosophical Society has its central habitation beside this broad and beautiful stream I met a remarkable young man, Bramasuganandah.

The manner of our meeting was unexpected. He was a real Yogi, and a particularly reserved and reclusive member of that solitary species. For several years he had peregrinated beside an unfrequented part of the Adyar river, but held himself so aloof from his fellow countrymen that none knew him. Yet it was ordained that we should meet.

His age was somewhere in the early thirties. He had the dark skin of the Dravidian, and with his broad flat nose, thick lips, and muscular body, looked almost negroid.

His bearing was quiet and self-reliant. During the first days of our friendship he spoke little, but listened much. Later, as we sat together hour after hour, I plying him with eager questions, he patiently answered them.

Slowly I pieced together the story of his life. At about the age of twelve he had heard of the occult path, the way of yoga, through listening to the conversations of older people. This gave him a desire to learn something more about it. He bought some books on the subject and studied them. As a result his interest increased, and he developed a keen thirst to obtain the marvellous happiness which yoga is believed to bestow upon its devotees. But his books could give him no more than a theoretical knowledge, and he did not seem able to make satisfactory progress. One day a sentence which he had read forcibly impressed itself on his mind. It was: “To succeed on the Path one must have a guru” – a teacher or master, usually one who not only knows the Path, but has himself pursued it to the point of complete success.

Brama wanted to go out and find a guru. Domestic troubles, however, prevented him from leaving. Instead, he took upon his own initiative the practice of Pranayama. For several years he persevered with these breathing exercises, but through lack of proper supervision so mishandled matters that one day he found himself in a parlous state. A small rupture appeared at the top of his head, the skull apparently having been injured at its weakest point, and blood poured from the wound. His body grew cold and numb, and poor Brama imagined he was dying.

At this point someone appeared to him in a psychic vision and said: “See what a dangerous position you have brought yourself into by this practice.” Thereafter he slowly recovered. He had learned a severe lesson and gave up the practice.

He realized that it was imperative to obtain a guide; and so, still in his teens, he left home and went out on his quest.

Henceforward he divided his time between studying with some new-found “guru” and returning home in disappointment. In this way he met no less than ten of the species, none of whom satisfied him.

“One day, on reaching the Tanjore district,” he said, “I went down to the riverside in a town there. As I walked along I came to a small stone shrine, built like a miniature temple. I peeped inside and beheld a number of students gathered respectfully around a man clad only in a loin-cloth. The moment I saw him I felt awed, and a strong mental impression persuaded me that this was a real guru, a true master. I walked slowly inside, when the man greeted me, saying, ‘Six months ago my own guru directed me to take you as a chela (pupil) and initiate you. Now you have come.’

“In this manner I found my master, and went with him wherever he travelled.”

With such help Brama made satisfactory progress along the yogic path. Once he had to prepare himself to receive some higher powers by undergoing a fast of forty days. He then became conscious of occult forces behind his life, and strange visions came to him.

One day his Teacher sent for him and said: “The life of total renunciation is not yet for you. Go back into the world and live there. You will marry and have one child. At the age of thirty-nine certain signs will be given you, after which you will find yourself free to retire to the forests and live in solitary meditation until you attain the goal. I shall be waiting, and you can return to me.”

The young Yogi went back to the world, in due time married, and became the father of one child, exactly as his guru had predicted. At the time of our meeting he was waiting patiently for the next stage of the prophecy to be fulfilled.


Brama expressed a wish that I should visit him in a little “Study” he had built in the garden of his house. In due course I came, and after passing through the bungalow, with its typical Indian interior, found him sitting in his hermitage. The latter lay in the shade of a spreading peepul-tree, near a well.

After we had partaken of refreshment I asked Brama a question which had been some time on my mind: “Who is your guru?”

For a while he did not answer. Then he said slowly and quietly, “If I tell you what I really believe, you will laugh at me.”

I assured him, however, that I would treat his words with the utmost respect.

“I believe my guru to be over four hundred years old,” he declared. “Many times he has described to me incidents which occurred during the reign of the Moghul Emperors; he has also told me of happenings during the early days of the East India Company’s rule.”

“But any child who has studied history could tell you such things,” I countered, my Western scepticism coming to the fore.

Brama ignored my remark and went on:

“He is known by the name of Yerumbu Swami, meaning 'The Ant Teacher,’ because he always carries a bag of rice-powder with which to feed ants.”

“Tell me,” I asked, “how is it possible for a man to live beyond our normal human span?”

He smiled faintly and, gazing into space, seemed to forget my presence. Then he answered slowly:

“There are three means of rejuvenating the body and prolonging life. The first is to partake regularly of certain rare herbs known only to and procurable only from genuine gurus who have studied this matter. They carry these herbs secretly – hidden in their dress, or even tucked into a loin-cloth. When the time arrives for the final departure of such gurus they will select a worthy disciple, present him with the herbs, and make known to him the secret. To none else is the latter communicated.

“The second means is to practise Hatha Yoga until one is proficient in the complete system. This develops perfect equilibrium in the body. It entails control of breath and conserves life in proportion as one masters breath. Twenty-one thousand six hundred breaths are allotted by Nature to human beings to be used up every twenty-four hours. Quick, noisy, and forceful breathing exceeds this quantity and therefore shortens life. On the other hand, slow, mild and silent breathing economizes this ‘stock’ and hence prolongs life. A perfect Hatha Yogi builds up an immense breath reserve, out of which he draws the extra years.

“The third method I can only hint at. There is an electricity lying latent in the human body. This force has to be awakened into activity under the guidance of a master and then raised to a point between the eyes. There is a kind of psychic safety-valve at this point which again must be opened by a master. Once this is done the force flows through and becomes a veritable elixir of life. Our name for it is 'The Nectar of Longevity.’

“I have been taught that one who has mastered all three methods can live for more than a thousand years. Even when he dies the worms will not attack his body. A hundred years after death his flesh will still be perfect.”

I wondered.

“Where is your guru now, Brama?”

“He is in seclusion among the Himalayas. Whether he will ever return to the plains again I do not know.”


The eve of our parting had arrived. I had planned to go northeast to Calcutta. “You will return here,” said Brama.

I shook my head. “There is much for me to do, and time presses.”

“Nevertheless, you will be here again in March, and we shall meet for the space of one day.”

In the sequel his prophecy proved true to the letter.

Then he handed me a sheet of paper about foolscap size. It was covered with glyphs in red, green, and black ink. Two columns of Tamil words formed a right and left border around a central blank space. Below appeared planetary symbols and more Tamil characters. At the top he had drawn a large Tantrik symbol such as I have seen pictured in Arthur Avalon’s books on Tantra Yoga. Brama explained the meaning and use of this weird talisman – for it apparently possessed a protective value. He requested me to paste into the central space one of the camera snaps I had taken of him.

“If you will concentrate on this for only five minutes every night, we shall be able to enter into conscious contact on the astral plane, no matter how many thousand miles away you may be,” he declared. (Unfortunately I am unable to testify as to the value of this advice, because, having other ideas upon such matters, I have never more than glanced occasionally at the paper.)

Next I became aware of something glistening in the palm of Brama’s hand. It was a ring whose golden claws held an ordinary Indian bloodstone. Brama said simply: “One equal in wisdom to my guru gave me this. Now I beg you to wear it. There is a charm within the stone. It will help you to discover your spiritual self. Wear it always.”

I promised to do so. Whether the ring has any real efficacy I do not know, but within two days of my beginning to wear it my plans were unexpectedly upset. Instead of going to Calcutta I took the Indo-Ceylon boat-train, and went further south. On the second day of my departure I came face to face with the man who was destined to become my spiritual master; for he took me into the presence of my spiritual self and helped me, dull Westerner that I am, to translate a meaningless term into a living and blissful experience.



by Paul Brunton

Published in The Occult Review (London), November, 1932

(a review of Magick in Theory and Practice. By the “Master Therion.” Published by W. & G. Foyle, Ltd.)

The appearance of a new book (Magick in Theory and Practice) by Aleister Crowley recalls to memory an earlier work by that author which came for review into the hands of G.K. Chesterton some years ago. Writing in the Daily News, G.K.C. wittily remarked:

"We have all possible respect for Mr Crowley’s religious symbols and we do not object to his calling upon Shu at any hour of the night. Only it would be unreasonable of him to complain if his religious exercises were generally mistaken for an effort to drive away cats!"

There are several exercises in the present book whose purpose might similarly be mistaken if a neighbour overheard one practising them.

It is known that Aleister Crowley has been working on the manuscript of this book for several years, though not continuously, and that he regards it as his supreme contribution to technical or practical magic. It is not quite clear, however, why Crowley has resumed his old pseudonym of the “Master Therion.”

Magick in Theory and Practice runs to the length of 436 pages and consists of four parts, each separately bound in strong paper. Before I turn to the work of the author, I would like to pass a deserved compliment to the printer.

Crowley persists in using the archaic spelling of the word “magic” throughout his books. This is undoubtedly a matter wherein he is right. “Magick” certainly upholds the wider and more philosophical connotation of the term which it possesses among the initiated. One would like to follow Aleister Crowley in restoring the true spelling of the term, but editors and printers are pontiffs whose bidding must be obeyed.

Part One of this book opens with an appropriate introductory chapter wherein the author presents his twenty-eight theorems in the science and art of Magic. The first theorem is simple but interesting: “Every intentional act is a Magical Act.” The twentieth is equally interesting: “Man can only attract and employ the forces for which he is really fitted.”

In a further chapter Crowley proceeds to describe his theory of the universe. His aim would appear to be a reconciliation of the Dualistic, Monistic and Nihilistic theories. His conclusion is that our true knowledge of the material universe consists principally of the concepts of pure mathematics.

The remaining chapters take up a consideration in detail of those Magical formulae which compose the rituals of the art. Thus we have the wand, the cup and the pentacle among elemental weapons; Tetragrammaton, Alhim and I.A.O. among evocative names.

I am afraid that on page 65 Crowley loses his head when he tells readers that not even God can check the Magician upon his chosen path, but must be obedient to him. The part is declared to be greater than the whole!

An unpleasant chapter on blood sacrifices contains this astonishing statement:

"For the highest spiritual working one must accordingly choose that victim which contains the greatest and purest force. A male child of perfect innocence and high intelligence is the most satisfactory and suitable victim.… It appears from the Magical Records of Frater Perdurabo (i.e. Aleister Crowley) that he made this particular sacrifice on an average about 150 times every year between 1912 and 1928."

This is doubtless nothing more than one of Crowley’s practical jokes, though a particularly nasty one. Crowley once boasted that he had killed and ate the bodies of two native bearers in India. A prominent journal heard of this boast and sent a reporter to obtain his authentication, which was readily given. Thereupon the next issue of the journal appeared with the headline: “Crowley the Cannibal!” I regret to say that a humourless audience was completely deceived by this posturing. Crowley has a predilection for practical jokes. He holds nothing sacred, not even himself.

The choicest literary piece of Part One has been reserved for the final chapter. With that characteristic modesty for which he is so justly celebrated, Aleister Crowley explains that the outbreak of war in 1914 was due to the publication of his Book of the Law the previous year. “The intrinsic power of the truth of the Law,” he adds proudly, “and the impact of the publication, were sufficient to shake the world… the might of this Magick burst out and caused a catastrophe to civilization.”

At last we know the truth! It was not Kaiser Wilhelm; it was not the fear and suspicion among national governments which caused the war; it was none other than Aleister Crowley himself!

Part Two of this remarkable book covers some of the operations in Magical ceremonies.

Some interesting chapters on Clairvoyance and Divination close this part. A common method among the adepts is that involving fixation of sight. Crowley’s method is very different. He instructs the pupil to imagine a shape resembling his own body, standing immediately in front of him. When the concentration is strong enough, he is to transfer consciousness to this “body of light” while keeping the physical eyes shut. Then one is to use the eyes of this thought-body.

Part Three inaugurates a series of appendices, which provide the reader with a variety of informative notes. We are given a glimpse of the structure of Crowley’s organization, to which he mysteriously refers as the A.*.A.*. and to which he applied the designation in earlier days of “The Great White Brotherhood”. It can be stated here, however, that the letters stand for “Atlantean Adepts”.

Part Four contains a noteworthy Dictionary of Correspondences, harmonizing the Cabbala with Egyptian, Hindu and Chinese magical systems. It is reprinted from his pre-war work, Liber 777, which, I believe, is now wholly unobtainable. Letters, numbers, names, etc., belonging to these systems are brought into line with each other. Crowley explains that there is a natural connection between them all as well as with certain symbols.

The later chapters describe a series of rituals and incantations. I append a fair and funny sample of the kind of matter they contain:

"The Animadversion towards the Aeon.

Let the Magician, robed and armed as he may deem to be fit, turn his face towards Boleskine.

Let him strike the battery 1-3-3-3-1.

Let him describe a circle about his head, crying NUIT!

Let him touch the centre of his forehead, his mouth, and his larynx, crying AIWAZ!

Let him break into the dance, tracing a centripetal spiral widdershins, enriched by revolutions upon his axis as he passeth his quarter, until he come to the centre of the circle."

Is this Practical Magic? Or is it lunacy? Or is it just another bit of fooling on Crowley’s part?

One chapter deals with the control of breath. It gives certain Hatha Yoga practices in an altered form, but their dangers can hardly have been lessened. Crowley informs us that his last birth in a physical body was Eliphas Levi, the French writer on Magic. As an interesting confirmation of this statement he tells us that Levi died six months before the birth of the author of Magick in Theory and Practice. I will supplement this with the information that Crowley told his friends in pre-war days that the illustrious Count Cagliostro was another earlier incarnation of his, a claim that was also made, or at any rate implied, by Mdme Blavatsky when requested by Dr Franz Hartmann to tell him what was her last incarnation. She went to a drawer and took out a portrait of Cagliostro, and gave him to understand that this distinguished personage had provided a sheath for her soul.

I am therefore forced to the conclusion that Aleister Crowley and H.P. Blavatsky are one and the same person. But since this theory scarcely seems tenable, the final judgment must be, in Lord Tennyson’s phrase, that “someone had blundered!”



by Paul Brunton

Published in The Occult Review (London), October, 1936

(a review of Les Origines de la genese et l’enseignement des temples de l’ancienne Egypte. Volume premier. Par Enel. Le Caire: Imprimerie de l’Institut Francais d’Archeologie Orientale)

One sultry African evening last year, when an opalescent sky set a perfect background to the black silhouettes of Cairo’s mosque, minarets, and houses, a friend took me to an office building in the business quarter of the city and led me into a square, plain room. There I found a dozen people gathered together. They were members of a study class which met weekly to hear a paper read out by a Russian ex-officer, and to ply him with questions thereafter.

The subject which engrossed their minds was a wide one – the origin, culture, religion, language, and literature of ancient Egypt – and it was viewed in a manner at once unorthodox and, possibly, unusual among students of Egyptology. These topics, curiously enough, find but scant interest among native Egyptians, and hence the speaker’s little audience was almost wholly drawn from Cairo’s European colony. After question-time was over, I had a conversation with the Russian and found that he was engaged in difficult but fascinating researches along lines that ran part of the way parallel to my own. I discovered, too, that he was the author of some well-known treatises on the Hebrew Kabbalah which had been published in Paris, where he had studied Egyptology under the famous Maspero. In his researches he did not rely entirely upon purely materialistic facts and then setting his logic to work upon them, but also upon an inner sense which he called intuition. He would not walk into the occultists’ camp, but hesitated half-way thereto. Nevertheless, he accepted the system of the Kabbalah, on its literary side, and his treatises in French, published under the pen-name of Enel, revealed the profundity of thought which he had given to the subject.

As I was on the point of leaving for Southern Egypt, he invited me to visit him on my return and to pursue further the several fascinating points about Egyptology in which we were both interested. Thus it was that later, following the winding course of old Nile, I made my way back to Cairo and thence to Heliopolis to fulfil my engagement. Enel lived in one of those pleasant modern villas which have sprung up all over the site of the ancient city where Moses learnt his recondite lore and where Plato was shown the priestly treasures of papyri and inscriptions. But the Heliopolis of their days has vanished, being buried below the surface of the earth by the all-covering hands of time.

Enel’s further talk revealed a mind that for thirty years had been treading a lone path in the fields of Egyptology, for he welded the learning and methods of the academic student to the intuitive faculty, which did not hesitate to leap boldly into that dark period of pre-history at whose frontiers science stops for lack of data. He seemed to me to be a man who was suffering from undeserved but inevitable neglect, rejected by the orthodox and unwilling to become a naturalized citizen of the land of the occultists. I felt it incumbent upon me to encourage him to continue his researches, even though my own experiences far outran his probable acceptance. Enel was attempting to do by intellectual and intuitive research what others, including myself, are attempting to do by psychic and spiritual investigation. The two lines of study need not be inimical. To a balanced onlooker, they are complementary and may even help each other.

Because the Egyptians are so lacking in interest in their own native antiquities, because the French have shown and continue to show some appreciation of Enel’s efforts, I felt that he ought to be introduced to the world of English readers attracted to Egypt. In a short time his first publication in English, entitled The Message from the Sphinx will be issued by the House of Rider, and will probably be followed by the larger and more important work, The Origins of Genesis and the Temple-Teachings of Ancient Egypt, which represents Enel’s magnum opus.

The first volume of the latter work has just made its appearance in French. It is well illustrated with numerous hieroglyphs and sketches of symbolic tomb-wall scenes. It is fully documented with a large number of references to the works of Budge, Petrie, Brugsch, von Bissing, Naville, Lepsius, and other well-known names in the annals of Egyptology. Enel’s ability to interpret hieroglyphs directly stands him in good stead in his opposition to several academic opinions.

The ground covered by this volume is too spacious to permit more than a mention of a representative selection of the most important points. Enel, in his introduction, supports the thesis that alone can solve forever the difficulties which bristle like porcupine needles around the problem of the derivation of Egypt’s impressive culture and civilization. Where and how did they first blossom into being? – for it is generally acknowledged that they were imported fully grown. For answer he points to the ill-fated continent of Atlantis, which, he says, sent the initial stream of emigrants into the land of Khem. He combats the theories of Egyptologists who seek sources elsewhere, such as Arabia, Mesopotamia, Sumeria, etc., and will admit that these places were only supplementary and helped in supplying Egypt with its people and culture. He mentions that scientific evidences are yet to be found, vestiges of a widespread lost civilization which existed around the Bay of Biscay in France and Spain and which scientists term Cro-Magnon; these were once coeval with Atlantis, he declares. Needless to say, I agree with his derivation and regret that in A Search in Secret Egypt I was compelled to withhold much material on Atlantean connections with Egypt; this, however, will be made available eventually, when I return to the subject.

Enel also supports the opinion that the early stream of conquerors entered the country from the north and slowly progressed up the Nile towards Upper Egypt. There was, however, another stream of population which entered from the south, and thus we have the spectacle of “The Two Kingdoms,” as they were called, whose union under Menes, the first historical Pharaoh, produced the Egyptian civilization whose remnants savants now study. This latter stream came at a different time and not from Atlantis but from that part of Lemuria where I am penning these lines today – South India. Africa and India were then united by a land-bridge, and so we need not be surprised at the possibility of such an emigration. There are definite Tamil traditions of this connection with Egypt, while anyone familiar with the ancient temples of Egypt who steps into one of the massive Dravidian temples of South India must necessarily be astonished at the striking architectural and ritual resemblances.

I doubt whether Enel would accept this addition to his theory, but I hope one day to produce the facts when I can spare time to garner and arrange them. Much curious lore is hidden away in untranslated Tamil records, awaiting interested eyes and patient hands.

That ideas upon which both the Hebrew and Christian religions, as well as the Kabbalah, were based, were drawn primarily from Egypt is an important contention made by the author, and one which he well documents. Much space is given to the doctrine of “the divine Word” – of which St. John wrote at the head of his Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word.” Enel compares the phrase with one in the Papyrus of Ani: “In the beginning Ra raises himself.” He explains how Ra signified simultaneously both the creative word and the sun considered as a visible manifestation of the Logos. Or, as Michelet expressed it: “Speech and light are two identical words in the sacred language (of hieroglyphs).” The links between Christian and Egyptian religions formed by this doctrine are lengthily and pertinently expounded, with numerous hieroglyph illustrations.

He quotes a number of parallelisms between the Hebrew Book of Genesis and the Egyptian texts, sufficient to indicate that Moses must have borrowed certain things from the Egyptians without even troubling to change or modify their forms. He theorizes that the somewhat primitive and simple story of Creation given in the Old Testament owes its shape to the fact that the more scientific teachings as well as hosts of details were withheld from the profane masses and reserved for the elect few – hence the origin of the complicated and esoteric system of the Kabbalah.

Among the interesting details pointed out by Enel are that the form and measurements of the Tabernacle of the Children of Israel correspond proportionately to those of the Shrine in Egyptian temples; that the rite of circumcision is pictured as an Egyptian one on the tomb-walls of Memphis; that the fumigations and sacrifices of the temples were introduced within the walls of the synagogues; that the magic rod was a standard appurtenance of Egyptian priestly magic, where it was given a serpentine design, and was the same that Moses used for performing his miracles; and that practically an entire chapter and a half of the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament have been copied word for word from the text of the Egyptian sage Amenemope.

Much of the author’s effort is devoted to philological considerations and to an attempt to unveil the profounder sacred meanings of hieroglyphs, that truly remarkable picture-alphabet which forms the key to ancient Egypt’s wisdom and culture. Paragraphs in the old texts which are meaningless when read by the candle of orthodox Egyptological interpretations, become vivid and meaningful when read by the light of Enel’s lamp. He takes many of the leading words, names, and phrases which occur and recur in the texts and upon the inscribed walls, and analyses them into their original components in such a philosophical manner as to impart to them the meaning which they bore to the learned priests in relation to the highest doctrines of their religion. For hieroglyphs admittedly carried three meanings, and the final interpretation was purely esoteric, unrevealed to the laity and generally understood only by the initiated.

Egyptian views on such topics as the soul, death, resurrection, astronomy, the gods, universal laws, etc., are explained and discussed respectively in separate chapters. The correspondences these bear to the Kabbalah are likewise given. A good deal of miscellaneous lore is included which will fascinate the student of ancient Egypt.

Enel’s comparisons between the Egyptian, Kabbalistic, Christian, and Hindu conceptions of Nature and man are worth quoting: “According to the Kabbalah, man presents a ternary reunited in a unity, just as is the case for his prototype, the One God, Whose aspects are the Trinity.” And then he gives the hieroglyph representing the human being, a picture of three uprights tied together at the top! Finally, he mentions the triple Brahminic division of man as being composed of material, subtle, and causal bodies.

He accepts the view that the Egyptians believed not only in life beyond the tomb for the soul, but also in a resurrection of the complete human being, including the embalmed body. “Thus in the ritual of ‘The Opening of the Mouth,’ which symbolizes the restitution of the functions of the body of the mummy, the first act consisted in placing the latter on some sand. This act showed symbolically that the deceased had emerged from the passive state ‘above the sands,’ as the dawning sun emerged above the surface of the earth for his new appearance.”

The large increase in public interest in things Egyptian is noteworthy enough today to render Enel’s contribution, based on original and painstaking studies, likely to take a permanent place in its literature. It is a book, nevertheless, which demands and should receive close attentive reading. He treats his subject with all the dignity and restraint it requires. I am glad to commend it to those who read French.