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The Long and Short Paths

As dictated by Paul Brunton to Jeff Cox during a 1975 visit

One afternoon Paul Brunton and I were sitting in his colorful living room in Switzerland chatting about various topics. After what seemed like a long pause in the conversation, he asked me if I knew about the Short Path to enlightenment. Up to that time, I had become very familiar with the path of purification and trying to understand the teachings, but I had not heard that there was a shorter way to accomplish the much-needed personal transformation. As he began to describe the Short Path, I quickly gathered my pencil and notebook and wrote as he spoke the following teaching.

Before, in the books, PB had to introduce people to the Quest and the preparations for the two paths-now we are ready to hear about the two paths-the long and the short.

St. Bernard expressed the long path thus:

Despise the world–(for it is unsatisfactory)

Despise yourself–(for it is also unsatisfactory)

Despise yourself because you despise yourself–(for even to despise yourself is to give the ego undue attention and concern).

This is the end of the long path. At this point one must turn around to the positive way which is the short path:

Glorify the world–(for it is an emanation of Brahman)

Glorify yourSelf

Glorify yourself because you glorify yourSelf

Rather than concerning oneself with the ego and its developments, its ups and downs, you should turn 180 degrees around and face the sun which is the Overself. The ego is like a whirlpool, a vortex of thoughts, and it is the strength of our clinging that holds it together The ego is perpetuated on the long path which will not take you to enlightenment. On the long path you are always measuring your own progress. The long path is endless for new circumstances bring new temptations, new problems to deal with, and no matter how spiritual the ego becomes it does not enter the light but remains in the grey. On the long path the surges of interference arising from the lower self and the negativity which enters from the environment must be dealt with. This requires development of character.

On the short path one ignores negativity, and turns 180 degrees away from the ego to the Overself-things will become brighter and brighter. The short path will establish you in peace more and more. The work of the long path eventually brings the grace which then puts you on the short path. The short path is shorter in time for you turn and face your goal directly. Because of the pressures of these times, it is recommended that both paths be done together (rather than just the long) in order to help circumvent obstacles.

The parable of the cave in Plato is analogous to the short and long paths. On the long path you back out of the cave but continue to look into the cave, into the darkness of the ego. On the short path you walk forwards toward the opening of the cave where the light is, the Overself.

There are two exercises suggested for the short path, one called the remembrance exercise, and the other, the “As If” exercise. The short path begins with the effort of remembering the Overself. The remembrance exercise overlaps the “As If” exercise and is a necessary preparatory exercise before the “As If” can be learned. The remembrance exercise is mentioned near the end of The Wisdom of the Overself. It is like a mother who has lost her baby and no matter what she is doing she can’t forget about the child. When you are active, the remembrance should be held in the rear of the mind,, and when you have free time, it should come to the fore. In the beginning, it requires effort like any other practice, but eventually it will continue of its own accord. One danger of the remembrance exercise is that it can become automatic too soon and thus be merely mechanical and hollow. The remembrance must be a warm, felt, living thing if the spirit of the exercise is not to be lost. By turning towards the Overself, grace can operate more readily in all matters.

The “As If” exercise requires that one should feel and act and think everything as you imagine the Overself would. It is not just a mental exercise but involves the feeling, physical activity, and imagination. The Overself contacts you primarily through intuitive feeling but also through intuitive thoughts and action. Actions which are done uncalculatingly and which later prove to have been correct are actions which spring from a source other than the ego. In the beginning, the exercise is an imaginative one, but every so often one will get short glimpses which will gradually be prolonged and which are not imaginative but the real thing. As these glimpses of the Overself come, one must open up to them, be passive and receptive to them; you must surrender yourself to them and prolong them. This exercise should be accompanied with study of the nature of the Overself-so that you can know something of what the Overself is like and what it is that you are trying to do. However, the Overself is truly ineffable and can never be grasped through any secondary means.