Paul Brunton (PB) began his spiritual life as a fascinating blend of occultist, academic, and adventurer; he ended as a gentle, powerful, subtle sage. He undertook—and accomplished—a singular task: to sift through the well established teachings of the ages, test their veracity, and adapt them to the modern era.
He first presents this work in the accessible language of The Secret Path, and then leads his readers on an inward journey through The Inner Reality and The Quest of the Overself. PB moves on from these to focus our attention on the mind itself in the two volumes The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga and The Wisdom of the Overself. The observant reader will recognize many of the tenets of Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Taoism transformed into a doctrine that challenges the very foundation of materialism and awakens our awareness of our own spiritual guide—the Overself itself.
While the age of technology and metropolitan living gives us the freedom to explore the inner and other worlds on our own terms, it also bombards us with sensational and meaningless experiences while deadening our souls with endless socio-economic pressures. Even as we have gained in ease of travel, education, health, and leisure, we have lost sight of the soul and have little reverence for Nature or even ourselves. PB did not yearn for the 'good old days' when it took a lifetime to travel across a continent, much less circumambulate the globe, but neither did he believe that the current century is in all ways superior to the wisdom of the past. He welcomed the twin paradoxes of the past and the present, and turned his attention to preserving the positive of both eras.
One thing PB did not do, however, was 'dumb down' the teachings; some of his writings are so advanced that they are really accessible only to an advanced mystic. His style is disarmingly—almost dangerously—accessible. One can read through a chapter easily, and take in the main points without much effort. However when it comes to applying the ideas presented therein, one will return again and again to these same pages to pore over them as they unfold their inner meaning and call forth a discipline of mind much greater than suggested from that first reading.
PB felt that there were a few basic elements essential to what he (among others) termed “the Quest.” He strongly advocated vegetarianism, daily meditation, prayer, study, social awareness, and, perhaps above all, independence. His specific reasons for these choices can be found throughout his Notebook series, where one can also find a lot of practical advice about how to undertake and accomplish these practices. While he always preferred the individual path of self-reliance, PB respected traditional spiritual paths and it is quite possible to incorporate many of his ideas into such a path without sacrificing the integrity of one's chosen direction. In either context, his more advanced writings are quite revelatory, offering new insights into the philosophical necessity of many apparently dogmatic requirements of spiritual discipline.