Mystical: This is the second phase of spiritual practice, though in many ways it is the first. We can call ourselves mystics when we have recognized that spiritual individuals do and did really exist, when we have seen the necessity of selfless discipline, and when we engage in the daily practices of study and meditation. Alongside the sacrifices and obstacles that such engagement generates, we will also encounter many gifts and blessings to ease our way. The path of mysticism is no longer part of our social structure (at least in the West), and PB provides us with a sure guide to traversing it with minimum distraction and distress. As we progress in our efforts and experiences, our understanding of what is happening and why will naturally increase. PB includes the basic information about the true powers of the mind and its relationship to the body, transforming our orientation from the ordinary assumption that our mind is within our body into the more correct comprehension that in truth, the body is inside the mind.
PB devoted the majority of his published writings to the Initiatory and Mystical stages of the spiritual journey. What follows is a brief synopsis of the books relevant to this second stage. In these truly timeless volumes, PB takes us from the fascinating but limited revelations of magic to the true heart of our spiritual life: our own higher self, our Overself. These books can be read first as spiritual narratives, but as our own practice deepens their relevance and precision transform into essential guides to our inner journey—all the more so because PB never fails to show us exactly how to find and rely upon our own inner Self for our true guidance and protection.
Books to read:
A Search in Secret Egypt: This book is an exploration of the occultism and mystery schools of Ancient Egypt, gradually unveiling the way in which the body and its world are really within the mind, not vice-versa, as we ordinarily believe. PB’s night in the Great Pyramid and his reflections on the esoteric meaning of the Osiris myth are insightful and inspiring.
A Search in Secret India: This piece is both a literal journey across the spiritual landscape of India (circa 1930) and, more importantly, a symbolic journey into the quest for one's own true teacher. The centerpiece of this text is his sojourn with Sri Ramana Maharshi and the presentation of his “Who Am I?” exercise.
A Hermit in the Himalayas: Scattered amongst the anecdotes of his travels, visitors, and mini-essays is PB’s record of his own journey into his Overself, a journey that is mirrored by his trek into the high Himalayas, his isolation there, and his reflections on the world below. This book shows us something of how to let the Stillness in.
The Inner Reality (renamed Discover Yourself): PB presents his thoughts on two great Scriptures in this book: the Bible (specifically the New Testament) and the Bhagavad Gîta. He also discusses many issues that face those who are trying to live in both a sacred and secular world. Finally, this book provides clear instructions and advice on how to begin meditating, including practices that will prove invaluable in one’s later mystical experience.
The Quest of the Overself: This book develops the themes introduced in The Inner Reality / Discover Yourself; it is an expanded and rational development of Ramana Maharshi’s “Who Am I?” practice, and the book as a whole can be used as an instrument for deepening one’s inner quest. The final chapters contain extraordinary descriptions of the presence, power, and Grace of the Overself—words that will bring peace in times of doubt, and clarity in times of peace.
The Notebooks of Paul Brunton:
8. The Ego (Volume 6) – Perhaps the most important Category of all: PB gives us a precise definition of the Ego, including its cosmological and existential structure. Armed with this information, he then guides us to the center of its lair, tells us how to confront it, and describes the spiritual transformation that must follow as day follows night. This is an especially important theme for anyone venturing into the deep and treacherously subjective waters of mysticism.
9. From Birth to Rebirth (Volume 6) - Contains some amazing material about dying, death, and the afterlife. PB uses mentalism as a unique context in which to regard reincarnation in his treatment of karma, fate, destiny, and free will. As mystic practice usually accelerates one’s karma, this is a very helpful resource for the issues and circumstances that arise.
10. The Healing of the Self (Volume 7) – This category presents the traditional and non-traditional means of healing the body, including the grace of the Overself. PB also addresses the question of what is possible to heal—and why. Certain mystic experiences may release healing abilities; this is a good guidebook for those blessed with such skills, whether they be temporary or permanent.
11. The Negatives (Volume 7) – How to deal with negativity as it appears in us, in the world around us, and even as it hides within our virtuous and humanitarian impulses. Like Category 8, anyone who looks within will undoubtedly encounter a good deal of negativity—from themselves and their surroundings; PB’s advice on how to survive these encounters is invaluable.
12. Reflections on My Life and Writings (Volume 8) – this is largely autobiographical and includes PB’s descriptions of his own mystical experiences—and most helpfully, his reflections upon those extraordinary states.
16. The Sensitives: Dynamics and Dangers of Mysticism (Volume 11) – PB’s critique of mystical shortcuts and even mystical accomplishments, preparing the way for the more impersonal, durable, and universal paths of philosophy. This category includes PB’s views on money, mediums, channeling, drugs, and many other aspects of the subtle world. While eager seekers may be inclined to question some of PB’s warnings, they are all drawn from his own experience and observation and should be heeded whenever possible.
18. The Reverential Life (Volume 12) – The chapter titles to this category themselves describe this text very precisely: Devotion, Prayer, Humility, Surrender, and Grace. Each chapter contains many exercises from an extraordinary variety of ancient and modern sources; it will behoove the earnest practitioner to experiment with many of these and learn what fruits they have to bear.
23. Advanced Contemplation (Volume 15) – This category introduces the practice of “The Short Path” which is to seek direct contact with our higher Self by simply turning our attention fully—and effortlessly—in that direction. As the title says, there is also a collection of deep meditation practices, and a discussion of the states they generate, including Nirvikalpa Samâdhi. This is an extraordinary text, and, like The Quest of the Overself, can be used as material upon which to meditate directly, regardless of one’s facility in that practice.
24. The Peace Within You (Volume 15) – This category is to be read while in a meditative state; it will help one enter, sustain, and smoothly leave the inner sanctuary for the everyday world that always awaits our return. It is inspired and inspiration and has an unspoken therapeutic effect on those who read it. This is the culmination of PB’s writings on meditation and the mystical phase; it will be followed by the rigorous disciplining of the mind in the next stage, and these two will eventually combine into the full life of the spiritual philosopher.