Kenneth Thurston Hurst
Kenneth Thurston Hurst (1923-2009) presents us with an interesting story and lesson about the familial relationships of advanced spiritual people. His father, Paul Brunton, pursued and taught a doctrine of spiritual independence and individual self-discovery. Kenneth’s own life choices exemplify this approach, while ironically and inevitably coming into conflict with some of his own father's teachings. From the beginning of his life, Kenneth was more interested in the world of business and ‘the school of experience’ than the world of the occult and academia—so much so that he made his way to the top of his profession without the benefit of a college degree. So, where we might expect to find harmony and conformity between son and father, there was also friction and distinction in their paths; the differences and similarities between them continued throughout their lives. Kenneth established his own identity in the world, and yet he remained sufficiently connected to his father’s works so as to be responsible for their posthumous publication and preservation—to which end he participated in the creation of the Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.
Kenneth was born early in his parents marriage, and his middle name was chosen to honor one of PB’s earliest teachers, an American painter, whose first name was Thurston. When Kenneth was six, his parents amicably divorced, and his mother, together with his stepfather, took full custody of him. Growing up in England in the '30s and '40s, Kenneth was strongly impacted by the events of WWII; like many children he was evacuated from the country, but soon moved back to London to live for the duration with his mother and stepfather. By the war’s end, he had joined the Royal Navy and received several decorations for his actions. After the war he worked in various offices, always with an eye towards creating a magazine with his father—a shared dream that was never to materialize. Even so, Kenneth soon found himself involved in the world of publishing, and this took him to America, where he eventually became the President of Prentice Hall International.
From a very early age PB took a direct interest in Kenneth’s activities and encouraged him to complete his education, a path that Kenneth consistently resisted, preferring instead to gain direct experience in different businesses. To that end PB used his contacts and influence to help him secure various jobs until Kenneth became established in America in his late twenties. For his part, Kenneth had regular correspondence with his father and did innumerable—one is tempted to say "infinite"—odd jobs for him over the years. Reading through some of the “to do” lists that PB sent him as he traveled from one part of the globe to another we see how much PB relied upon Kenneth’s help to keep him in touch with the civilized world as he explored the more remote regions of this globe. During the '50s and '60s PB was especially peripatetic, and Kenneth was kept quite busy keeping up with his needs. These requests ranged from finding a typewriter ribbon, (remember, PB was traveling in remote parts of the world!), to arranging his interview and lecture schedules when he was stateside or in Europe. Kenneth thus had his own relationships with many of PB’s students and admirers, (and detractors, for that matter), and these people formed a loose-knit social group within which Kenneth formed his own friendships; Kenneth was in touch with both Arthur Broekhuysen and Anthony Damiani until their deaths.
Meanwhile Kenneth was busy building his own career in the publishing world, where he eventually became the President of Prentice Hall International (the overseas division of Prentice Hall). In this capacity Kenneth had occasion to promote PB’s ideas to his fellow businessmen as he traveled the globe—even giving talks on meditation in India. After his retirement, Kenneth continued to give talks on mentalism, positive thinking, and spirituality. He was on the advisory boards of several organizations including the Academy of Spirituality and Paranormal Studies and the Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship. After suffering from a heart attack, Kenneth relocated to the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, where Anthony and Ella May Damiani lived; he like the area enough to build a house on the property adjacent to the Damiani’s and to Wisdom’s Goldenrod. It was during this time that PB died; fortunately Kenneth was able to be at his side during those last days. In describing those powerful days, Kenneth said that PB silently communed with him, infusing his grief with a deeper peace that made it possible for him to go forward with his life.
In the years that followed, Kenneth, alongside Robert Larson and members of Wisdom's Goldenrod, co-founded the Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation. To learn more about this moment in our history see PBPF History here on this website. During this time Kenneth also found time to write three books: Live Life First Class, Living the Good Life, and Paul Brunton, A Personal View. In his late sixties Kenneth grew tired of New York winters and relocated to Naples, Florida. After he moved to Florida he married Joan Gee, with whom he shared his life until her unfortunate death after complications from surgery. Before his own passing, Kenneth turned over the rights for PB’s books to the PBPF, thus ensuring that both the early writings and the final words of his father would continue to be available to the public for many years to come.
Kenneth will be remembered as a man who took his own father’s advice to walk an independent path and did so even when that path diverged from PB’s own. He was an unforgettable character who triumphed over many personal disappointments in his life, but in the end, he found happiness with his wife and community and was touched by the peace of the Overself.