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Questions Answered by Paul Brunton Part 2

*Please note: Notebook citations are listed by category, chapter, and “para” (quote number).  For example, the citation 20.1.32 refers to category 20, chapter 1, para 32.  For the Notebook volume number containing the category, refer to the Notesbooks and Ideas page.

What are the corrections that need to be made to the ego?

When the ego is brought to its knees in the dust, humiliated in its own eyes, however esteemed or feared, envied or respected in other people’s eyes, the way is opened for Grace’s influx.  Be assured that this complete humbling of the inner man will happen again and again until he is purified of all pride.(P) (Notebooks 8.4.430)

Through humiliation and despair, failure and mistakes, the ego may be crushed to the ground.  But the aftermath of this apparently hopeless situation may be the end of the Long Path, with the subsequent transfer to the Short Path, with its new hope, pardon, and peace. (Notebooks 23.4.130)

The highest goal of the quest is not illumination gained by destruction of the ego but rather by perfection of the ego.  It is the function of egoism which is to be destroyed, not that which functions.  The ego’s rulership is to go, not the ego itself. (Notebooks 8.1.189)

Egoism, the limiting of consciousness to individual life as separate from the one infinite life, is the last barrier to the attainment of unity with the infinite life.(P) (Notebooks 8.3.149)

If he can act attentively and yet stand aside from the results of his actions; if he can discharge his responsibilities or carry out his duties without being swept into elation by success or into misery by failure; if he can move in the world, enjoy its pleasures and endure its pains, and yet hold unwaveringly to the quest of what transcends the world, then he has become what the Indians call a “karma yogi” and what the Greeks call a “man.”(Notebooks 24.3.281)

The ego will not end its existence but it will end its dominance. (Notebooks 8.1. 184)

What are the dangers on the Long Path?

His quest will not only have to take him out of the body’s toxicity, negative feelings, lustful desires, and aggressive passions of the lower nature, not only out of the intellect’s curiosity and restlessness, but also out of the ego’s vain and disorderly imagination.  It is from this source that so many false psychical experiences and hallucinatory revelations, so many prophetic messages and deceptive visions arise.  The prudent aspirant will not blindly accept any self-flattering intimation or prediction, but will check it against the appraisals of informed persons, against the nature of his own conduct or the egolessness of his own character. (Edited from Notebooks 2.1.108)

Too much intellectual dissection of the personal ego done too often merely nourishes neuroticism; and the same result follows too much emotional preoccupation with it.  This is a Long Path danger. (Notebooks 2.1.179)

The danger of the Long Path appears after it has been traveled for a sufficient period of time.  The utter novice is not exposed to it, but the experienced aspirant is.  It consists in the egotism which is bred by the belief that progress depends on the efforts he puts out, on what he personally does.  For the ego cannot transcend itself, and whatever it does will still remain within its own self.  Indeed, the more successful the aspirant is in developing his willpower and virtue, as well as in overcoming his faults and weaknesses, the more he is likely to develop this spiritual pride which fixes him more subtly than ever in the ego.  Only resort to the messianic practice of “being still” can save him from this impasse.  Only this practice will let the Overself work on him and in him, whereas every other one keeps it out by keeping him in the ego. ((Notebooks 2.1.134)

What is the Short Path?

The time will come when you will have to turn your back upon the Long Path in order to give full attention, the full energy and the full time, to the Short Path.  For with this comes a new era when the whole concern is not with the ego, not with its improvement or betterment, but with the divine itself alone—not with the surface consciousness and all its little changes but with the very depths, the diviner depths where reality abides.  At this point seek only the Higher Self, live only with positive thought, stay only for as long as you can with the holy silence within, feel only that inner stillness which belongs to the essence of consciousness.  Henceforth you are not to become this or that, not to gather the various virtues, but simply to be.  For this you do not have to strive, you do not have to think, you do not have to work with any form of yoga, with any method of meditation. (Notebooks 23.1.76)

Short Path is not concerned with time and therefore not with progress.  Thinking only of the timeless Overself.  No idea of progress, no desire, it does not matter.  Real Self is always changeless.  Progress implies change.  All questions and problems disappear because the questioning (ego) intellect is not allowed to be active (Excerpted from Notebooks, 2.1.209)

Here he turns about-face, toward the sun, and releases himself from the old thought-constructions based on the belief that he is a sinner.  Too much emphasis on that belief may have harmed him, and certainly depressed him.  Looking too often and too long at his defects may cause him to become obsessed by them.  A more positive and less restraining attitude is available on the Short Path. (Excerpted from Notebooks 23.1.37)

In the Short Path there are usually much fewer exercises to practice.  It is not necessary to sit down specially to meditate, but to try to be always in meditation.  When you are busy outwardly, meditation naturally takes a different form than when you sit down for it.  During the active part of the day, meditation takes the form of remembrance, always to try to remember the Overself: IT IS (That is enough).  In the special meditation time our object is not to improve the character.  During the meditation we have to empty our mind of thoughts as quickly as possible, let the mind become still. Ordinarily we live in our thoughts, in our little selves, even if the thoughts are spiritual.  Therefore we have to keep away from all thoughts.  If you want to think of the Overself, which is without any form, it is not possible.  We try, but any idea, form, or shape is wrong.  You cannot imagine it.  So better not to try but to be still.  You must not remain in the ego.  “Be still [let go] and know that I AM GOD,” says the Bible. (Excerpted from Notebooks 2.1.209)

The Short Path offers the quickest way to the blessings of spiritual joy, truth, and strength.  For since these things are present in the Overself, and since the Overself is present in all of us, each of us may claim them as his own by the direct declaration of his true identity.  This simple act requires him to turn around, desert the dependence on personal self, and look to the original Source whence flows his real life and being, his true providence and happiness.  Disregarding all contrary ideas that the world outside thrusts upon him, disdaining the ego’s emotions and desires concerning them, he “prays without ceasing” to that Source.  That is, he keeps himself concentrated within upon it until he can feel its liberating qualities and expand in its sunny glories. (Notebooks 23.1.60)

The more he trys to fight the ego, the more he thinks about it and concentrates on it.  This keeps him still its prisoner.  Better is it to turn his back on it and think about, concentrate on the higher self. (Notebooks 8.4.161)

It is possible that he may fall into the mistaken belief that because he has relieved himself of the duties and toils of the Long Path, he has little else to do than give himself up to idle dreaming and lazy optimism.  No—he has taken on himself fresh duties and other toils, even though they are of a different kind.  He has to learn the true meaning of “pray without ceasing” as well as to practise it.  He has to meditate twenty times a day, even though each session will not be longer than a minute or two.  He has to recollect himself, his essential divinity, a hundred times a day.  All this calls for incessant work and determined effort, for the exercise of energy and zeal. (Notebooks 23.6.206)

This then is the ultimate truth—that in our inmost nature we are anchored in God, inseparable from God, and that the discovery of this heavenly nature is life’s loftiest purpose.  Even now, already, today, we are as divine as we ever shall be.  The long evolutionary ladder which by prophets and teachers, gurus and guides we are bidden to climb toilsomely and slowly and painfully need not be climbed at all if only we heed this truth continually, if we refuse to let it go, if we make it ours in all parts of our being—in thought, feeling, faith, and action.  (Notebooks 23.1.6)

Why is it important to teach the long path as well as the short path?

…The answer is: Because people have not got enough strength of character to give up the ego and are not willing to turn at once to the light.  It is a sacrifice.  To make this possible, the Long Path teaches them to make the ego weaker by graduated stages.  In the Long Path the progress comes in, just to prepare them to reach a point where it is easier for them to give up the ego.  This is one of the most important of the reasons.  It makes the aspirants ready to benefit by the Short Path; otherwise they would not be able to travel on it.  The second reason is because they have not the strength of concentration to keep the mind on the Overself.  They may be able to keep it for one or two minutes, but they then fall back.  Therefore it is necessary to develop the power of sustained concentration.  Even if one sees the Truth, one must get the power to stay in the Truth and to be established in it. (Excerpted from Notebooks 2.1.209)

The changeover to the Short Path does not entirely cancel out the Long Path work but affects it in three ways.  First, it reduces the labours and disciplines involved.  Second, the reduced work is done without anxiety and without tension.  Third, it frees him from the excessive sense of self-responsibility for his inner and outer life—that is, from excessive ego-depending. (Notebooks 23.4.58)

When can one begin the Short Path?

Although the Long Path is preparatory, for beginners, to the Short Path and should be attempted first, for intermediates it is better to make them twin quests.  It might be said that the Long Path belongs to yoga and the Short Path to advaita—that is, to mysticism and to philosophy.  Thus, when one is better prepared, the same person can cultivate both paths and there is then no antagonism between them, for they then complement and balance one another. (Notebooks 2.1.52)

The Long Path is devoted to clearing away the obstructions in our nature and to attacking the errors in our character.  The Short Path is devoted to affirmatives, to the God-power as essence and in manifestation.  It is mystical.  It shows how the individual can come into harmonious relation with the Overself and the World-Idea.  The first path shows seekers how to think rightly; the second gives power to those thoughts.(P) (Notebooks 23.5.1)

Remember that there are two approaches to the Quest and both have to be used.  There is the Long Path of self-improvement, self-purification, and self-effort; and there is the Short Path of forgetting the self entirely and directing the mind towards the Goal, towards the One Real Life, by constant remembrance of it and by practising self-identification with it.  If you use the first approach, you can progress to a certain point.  But by bringing in the second approach, the Higher Power is brought in too and comes to your help with Grace. (Perspectives p. 312.1)

Wu-Wei, meaning inaction, not trying, is the highest teaching of Taoism and Zen and it means the same as what has just been explained.  The Overself is already there.  You as ego must get out of the way.  Most people have to combine the Long Path with the Short Path—perhaps one day or one week (whatever the inner urge directs) on the Long Path and the other day on the Short Path.  The attitude will be a passive one because all intellectual ideas have only a limited value.  We must be now guided by our inner feeling of what we need, or by our intuition.  If people ask whether they have to study, the answer is that the books deal with thoughts.  What they give is not the Truth, but only intellectual statements of it.  It will only prepare them for a better understanding.  When they study these books they will only get more thoughts.  In the end they have to come to the point where they need no books.  There are good books but we must always discriminate between wrong teachings and right teachings, which may get mixed together in the same book.  This is the highest we can go with such studies.

When changing to contemplation, the thinking stops.  This is the deepest point within oneself.  This is why everybody has to search within himself and to find his own Path.  It is not necessary to travel on the Long Path any longer time than that which prepares you for the Short Path.  It is quite important to have living faith in the Overself and to become like a child and to have as much dependence on the Overself as a little child on its parents.  This faith should be in the power of the Spirit itself, not in any other human being.  If the aspirant is constantly anxious about his faults or weaknesses, then he is on the wrong Path.  He can try to remove them but cannot do this completely until he is able to give up the ego.

The basis of the Short Path is that we are always divine.  It is with us already, it is no new thing, and we only have to try to recognize what is already there. (Excerpted & Edited from Notebooks 2.1.209)

What are some exercises for the more experienced Quester?

“As If” Exercise

A part of the practical technique for attaining the inner awareness of this timeless reality is the practice of the AS IF exercise.  With some variations it has already been published in The Wisdom of the Overself, and an unpublished variant has been included in descriptions of the Short Path as “identification with the Overself.”  The practitioner regards himself no longer from the standpoint of the quester, but from that of the Realized Man.  He assumes, in thought and action, that he has nothing to attain because he bases himself on the Vedantic truth that Reality, of which he is a part, is here and now—is not reached in Time, being timeless—and that therefore he is as divine as he ever will be.  He rejects the appearance of things, which identifies human beings only with their egos, and insists on the higher identification with Overself also. (Notebooks 23.6.115)

Practice of the “As If” exercise is like being spiritually reborn and finding a new way of life.  It gives courage to those who feel grievously inadequate, hope to those who feel hooked by their past failures. (Notebooks 23.6.111)

The “As If” exercise is not merely pretense or make-believe.  It requires penetrative study and sufficient understanding of the high character and spiritual consciousness in the part to be played, the role to be enacted, the auto-suggestion to be realized.(Notebooks 23.6.113)

The “Heavenly Identity” exercise is to be used without exaggerating its possibilities.  It should not lead anyone into the belief that it can confer sudden enlightenment.  The ego should not be allowed to set up a pseudo self-realization.  Yet it remains a useful practice to offset the others which work differently. (Notebooks 23.6.122)

This practice of picturing oneself as one ought to be, of visualizing oneself free from negative qualities and radiant with positive ones that are part of the Quest’s ideal, has near-magical results. (Edited from Notebooks 23.6.123)

Be Calm and Practice Detachment

This quality of a continuous calmness—so highly prized by the Brahmins of India—is hard to come by but exceedingly precious when gained.  He who possesses it, who is unfailingly one and the same not only toward others but also toward himself, becomes a rock of upholding strength in their crises, an oasis of hidden comfort in his own.  This beautiful serenity makes many other qualities possible in his own  development while leaving a benedictory afterglow of encouragement with all those who are still struggling with their own refractory emotions and passions. (Notebooks 6.3.27)

It is easy to attain a kind of artificial serenity while seated in the comfort of an armchair and reading a philosophic book, but to keep calm in the midst of provocation or peril is the test.  So the would-be philosopher will try to keep an even mind at all times, to chill its passions and control its agitations. (Notebooks 24.2.16)

This inner quiescence, this emotional calm, this being at peace with oneself, this refusal to be upset or feel hurt, is one of those conditions which make possible the discovery of the true being. (Notebooks 6.3.72)

The work of the day will be better cared for if it is done in an atmosphere of serenity than if it is done in an atmosphere of anxiety. (Notebooks 24.2.138)

The Psalmist’s advice, “Be still, and know that I am God,” may be taken on one level—the mystical—as a reference to the ultimate state achieved intermittently in contemplation; but on another level—the philosophical—the reference can be carried even deeper.  For here it is a continuous state achieved not by quietening the mind for half an hour but by emptying the mind for all time of agitation and illusion.  Towards this end the cultivation of calmness amid all circumstances makes a weighty contribution. (Notebooks 24.2.27)

Seek the centre of inner gravity and try to stay in it.  Try to avoid being pulled out of it by emotions and passions, whether your own or other people’s by anxieties and troubles—in short, by the ego. (Notebooks 24.2.21)

Even when a situation becomes quite critical, a here-and-now matter, you should not give way to panic.  The first move after the first shock should be to restore and maintain calm, the second to consider what you are to do—a question for which you should look not only to thinking for an answer but also to intuition. (Edited from Notebooks 24.2.64)

As your centre moves to a profounder depth of being, peace of mind becomes increasingly a constant companion.  This in turn influences the way in which you handle your share of the world’s activities.  Impatience and stupidity recede, wrath at malignity is disciplined; discouragement under adversity is controlled and stress under pressures relaxed. (Edited from Notebooks 24.2.98)

Whoever achieves this gemlike serenity will no longer be sensitive to criticism, however vulgar it be, or susceptible to insult, however venomous.  This does not mean that you will always ignore them.  You may even humbly study the one to learn about your shortcomings and calmly reply to the other to fulfill your public duty.  But you will not feel personal resentment nor express emotional anger about them. (Notebooks 24.2.119)

To turn one’s mind instantly towards the divinity within, when in the presence of discordant people, is to silence harsh thoughts and to banish hurtful feelings.  This frequent turning inward is necessary not only for spiritual growth, but for self-protection.  Everything and everyone around us plays a potent influence upon our minds, and this is the best means of detaching oneself from this ceaseless flow of suggestions. (Notebooks 24.3.53)

The quality of calmness is to be highly valued, constantly pursued and practised, until it becomes well stabilized.  Philosophical knowledge and meditational exercise, plus application to everyday living, bring this prize. (Notebooks 2.5.21)

Witness Exercise

You begin with self-watching, with immobilizing and stilling a part of attention to observe the mental and physical self.  This requires frequent remembrance—not an easy task—and refusal to identify with what is thus brought into awareness—which is even less easy. (Edited from Notebooks 23.6.90)

Thus whatever you are experiencing physically, you train yourself to replace the unillumined thought “I am eating, hungry, walking” by the thought “My body is eating, hungry, walking.”  You recognize that the bundle of sensations which makes up such experiences is not the true self, which it represents itself to be, but is only connected with it. (Edited from Notebooks 23.6.105)

Your role is to play witness of what you are, how you behave, the thoughts you admit, just as if you were witnessing someone else.  This move-over from the actively-engaged person to the watcher who is impersonal and disengaged even in the midst of action, is one from drift to control.  You must begin by putting the ego, your own ego, forward as an object of observation.  You will not succeed fully in doing so, because you are involved on both sides—as subject and object—but the direction can be fixed and the work can be started.  With time and practice, study and reflection, help and sincerity, some sort of impersonality and neutrality can be established.  When inner stillness is fully reached, the work becomes much easier until it is completed by the grace of the higher Self, Overself.  Of course, outside of meditation, you are conscious of your commonplace body; but you are also conscious of your awe-inspiring Overself.  You see the first as part of a passing show, yourself as an uninvolved observer, and behind both the eternal Overself. (Notebooks 23.6.97)

What is the practical use of enquiring, “To whom is this experience happening? To whom this pain, this joy, this distress, or this good fortune?”  First it makes you remember the quest upon which you are embarked by reminding you that it is the ego which is feeling these changes and that you are not to identify yourself with it and thus limit your possibilities if you really seek the higher self behind it.  Second, it suggests that you look for the root of your ego and with it your hidden “I” instead of merely being swept away by what is happening within the ego itself. (Notebooks 23.6.108)

Remembrance Exercise

The basis of this exercise is that the remembering of the Overself leads in time to the forgetting of the ego.  To let the mind dwell constantly on the thought of the Overself, tranquillizes it.  To bring the figure of the spiritual guide into it, strengthens it. (Notebooks 23.6.152)

A useful method is to stop whatever you are doing, remain still, and let you mind fly back to the thought of the Overself.  You are to make this break several times a day, the more often the better, but you may find it easier to begin with only two or three times a day and gradually to extend the number over a few months. (Notebooks 23.6.187)

Fix the attention undividedly upon the Overself which is anchored in your heart-centre.  Then everything you do during the day will naturally be divinely inspired action and true service.  The Overself is your true source of power: turn towards it and receive its constructive guidance for your task of daily living. (Notebooks 23.6.165)

Place this seed-thought in your mind and hold to it throughout the day.  You need not fear that you will lose anything material thereby.  Remember the definite promise of the Overself speaking through Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita: “I look after the interests and safety of those who are perpetually engaged on My service, and whose thoughts are always about Me and Me alone.”  You will learn by direct experience the literal meaning of the term Providence—that which provides.” (Notebooks 23.6.154)

The loving, adoring recollection of the Overself, the constant return to memory of it amid the world’s distractions, the reiteration of this divine thought as a permanent background to all other thinking, is itself a yoga path.  Indeed it is the same as that taught by Saint Paul when he wrote, “Pray without ceasing” and “Bring every thought into captivity to Jesus Christ.” (Notebooks 23.6.237)

The successful philosopher is no dreamer: she keeps her practicality, her interest in world affairs, her willingness to accept responsibility, thus remaining an effective servant of humankind.  But all this is done within the Remembrance. (Notebooks 23.6.242)

You learn to look away from the ego and turn to the Overself.  You keep your thoughts as often as possible on the remembrance of the latter’s infinite ever-presence.  You keep your heart occupied with the feelings of peace, faith, harmony, and freedom that this remembrance generates. (Notebooks 23.6.254)

The method of this exercise is to maintain uninterruptedly and unbrokenly the remembrance of the soul’s nearness, the soul’s reality, the soul’s transcendence.  The goal of this exercise is to become wholly possessed by the soul itself.(P) (Notebooks 23.6.213)

How can Grace enter my life?

The divine presence is there; its power is consequently there too.  You may avail yourself of it by Grace.  Look to it then.  But where are you to see it?  Jesus provides the clearest answer.  “The kingdom of heaven is within you.”  Your hope of help can find its realization coming from one direction only—from the deeper part of your own self. (Edited from Notebooks 23.1.17)

You must call in a new power, and a higher power—Grace.  You need its help.  For the ego will not willingly give up its sovereignty, however much it may become preoccupied with spiritual questions and even spiritual growth. (Notebooks 23.4.59)

The same Grace which starts us off on the Quest carries us through to its end.  The Short Path phase begins when we awaken to the presence of the Grace’s source. (Notebooks 23.4.80)

Until you enter the Short Path it cannot be said that Grace is more than partially possible.  Until you have lifted yourself by your own endeavors to some extent above the animality with which you struggle on the Long Path and into the calmness which is necessary to the practice of the Short one, you have hardly earned the reward of Grace in its fullness or frequency. (Edited from Notebooks 23.4.38)

These repeated prayers and constant aspirations, these daily meditations and frequent studies, will in time generate a mental atmosphere of receptivity to the light which is being shed upon you by the Grace.  The light may come from outside through a person or a book, or it may come from inside through an intuition or an experience. (Notebooks 18.5.184)

You come up against the inevitable limitation of his personal ego and, both in meditation exercise and in practical life, turn away from it, open your eyes, and recognize the Presence of the Overself as your never-absent guardian angel.  With that act of seeing you also receive its Grace.  One after another the virtues drop into your hands as easily as ripened fruits. (Notebooks 23.1.49)

Not by your ego’s own will can you take hold of this jewel, but only by the Grace substituting that other Consciousness for your ego’s. (Edited from Notebooks 23.4.93) (g)

If you try to fulfil these conditions of sincere self-preparation, and if you try to practise service, compassion, and kindliness, Grace will come and its meaning will be found.  For Grace holds a significance that is very close to love, to unselfish love.  What you have given to others will be returned to you by the law of recompense. (Notebooks 18.5.199)

By this grace the past’s errors may be forgotten so that the present’s healing may be accepted.  In the joy of this grace, the misery of old mistakes may be banished forever.  Do not return to the past—live only in the eternal Now—in its peace, love, wisdom, and strength. (Notebooks 18.5.74)

What are spiritual glimpses?

The glimpse is a blessing which is given to those who have earned it, or those who have sought it in the right spirit. (Notebooks 22.5.90)

The Overself throws out a clue to its existence and presence.  This comes in various ways to different persons.  One form is a delicate feeling drawing you inward either to deeper thought or to no thought at all.  If you go along with it even though hardly aware and half-involuntarily, you will be led by this clue to a glimpse. (Notebooks 22.5.110)

The coming of a glimpse is not predictable, although it may be encouraged by contact with Nature, appreciation of art, or practice of meditation.  It is less predictable than the clearing of haze which so often hovers over the nearby Swiss lake.  “The wind bloweth where it listeth,” said Jesus in this connection. (Notebooks 22.6.53)

In this mysterious moment the two are one.  You no longer abide with the mere images of reality.  You are now in the authentic world of reality itself. (Notebooks 22.6.81)

When the personal “me” stops the endless struggle for a while and remains quiet, inactive, and passive, the impersonal “I Who Am” arises and, little by little, gently suffuses it with new life and heals it with great love. (Notebooks 22.5.133)

You feel the Presence of something higher than yourself, wise, noble, beautiful, and worthy of all reverence.  Yet it is really yourself—the best part come at last into unfoldment and expression. (Notebooks 20.I.2)

Somewhere at the hidden core of your being there is light, goodness, power, and tranquillity. (Notebooks 22.3.257)

There is an Indian formula covering three progressive stages of the quest: Hearing, Reflection, Enlightenment.  It means: Receiving instruction (from a guru or text), Thinking constantly over the teachings until they are thoroughly assimilated, Experiencing glimpses of a mystical nature.  With the end of this third phase, you have not only to repeat and prolong the glimpses until your whole life is permeated by the wisdom and peace which is their fruit, but also to receive and apply the highest and final philosophic doctrine.  With this, your enlightenment becomes “natural,” effortless, unbroken.  It is unified with your activity, established whether you are busy in the world or seated in meditation. (Notebooks 1.5.300)

You should learn to recognize that these moments, which come so suddenly and so delightfully, have a special value.  As soon as they come you ought to suspend all activities, put aside whatever it is that you are doing, even stop what you are speaking, and concentrate all your attention in a passive, submissive way upon the delicate feelings and deep understanding that come with them. (Notebooks 22.5.111)

These are the moments which inspire a person, renew dedication, strengthen will, and give integrity. (Notebooks 22.4.33)

A time eventually comes when this inner life blooms vigorously and richly within you, when the revelatory whispers of truth are heard clearly and unequivocally, when the joy of liberation from desires and passions shines constantly in your heart, and when deepest reverence suffuses your whole world outlook. (Notebooks 20.1.180)

What is Philosophy?

It may be asked why I insist on using the word ‘philosophy’ as a self-sufficient name without prefixing it by some descriptive term or person’s name when it has held different meanings in different centuries, or been associated with different points of view ranging from the most materialistic to the most spiritualist.  The question is well asked, although the answer may not be quite satisfactory.  I do so because I want to restore this word to its ancient dignity.  I want it used for the highest kind of insight into the Truth of things, which means into the Truth of the unique Reality.  I want the philosopher to be equated with the sage, the individual who not only knows this Truth, has this insight, and experiences this Reality in meditation, but also, although in a modified form, in action amid the world’s turmoil. (Edited from Notebooks 20.1.127)

The term philosophy we reserve for the philosophy of truth, which is the harmonious and balanced union of all these elements in their perfected state.  We shall not here use this term for the academic wordplay, the sterile jugglery of technical terms, the toying with unreal and distant issues which so often passes for philosophy.  This integrality is more in accord with the ancient and essential meaning of the word, derived as it is from the Greek sophia (wisdom or ultimate knowledge) and philos (love). (Edited from Notebooks 20.1.131)

We may begin by asking what this philosophy offers us.  It offers those who pursue it to the end a deep understanding of the world and a satisfying explanation of the significance of human experience.  It offers them the power to penetrate appearances and to discover the genuinely real from the mere appearance of reality; it offers satisfaction of that desire which everyone, everywhere, holds somewhere in their heart—the desire to be free. (Edited from Notebooks 20.Intro.2)

To observe physical things or events with scientific accuracy yet think about them on a deeper metaphysical level, to feel in a human way yet without falling victim to the obscuration and distortion of human passion and emotion, to benefit by only the best in art and culture, to withdraw from thoughts into the still transcendental intuition of being itself, and finally to put into one’s life in the everyday world the calm balanced result. (Notebooks 20.1.67)

This is philosophy which opens the way to bigger thoughts, wider minds, and finer ideals; which makes the quest for truth an inner adventure and a religious duty; and which finally points to a supernal divine stillness as the place where the revelation must be made. (Notebooks 20.1.68)

Philosophy adjusts its spiritual help to suit the needs of those it seeks to help.  It is religious with the religious believers, metaphysical with the metaphysical-minded, mystical with the mystically experienced, practical with the active.  But with those who can appreciate its own breadth and integrality, it is all these things and more at one and the same time. (Notebooks 20.1.52)

In the end all students will become philosophers in the ancient sense of this term—that is, “lovers of wisdom”—and therefore not only feel the Divine but also understand it.  Not only this, but they will be able to help others to attain like understanding and be desirous of doing so.  The greater their knowledge, the greater their power to help others.  Moreover, knowledge of how the Divine works is a safeguard against the pitfalls, pseudo teachers and evil ones, for they can then be perceived instantly.  Philosophers will not then be deceived by face values.  Jesus said, “Be ye harmless as doves but shrewd as serpents.” (Notebooks 20.1.298)

Philosophy will show you how to find your better self, will lead you to cultivate intuition, will guide you to acquire sounder values and stronger will, will train you in right thinking and wise reflection, and lastly, will give you correct standards of ethical rightness or wrongness.  If its theoretical pursuit is so satisfying that it can be an end and a reward in itself, its practical application to current living is immeasurably useful, valuable, and helpful. (Notebooks 20.1.337)

People sometimes ask me to what religion I belong or to what school of yoga I adhere.  If I answer them, which is not often, I tell them: “To none and to all!”  If such a paradox annoys them, I try to soften their wrath by adding that I am a student of philosophy.  During my journeys to the heavenly realm of infinite eternal and absolute existence, I did not once discover any labels marked Christian, Hindu, Catholic, Protestant, Zen, Shin, Platonist, Hegelian, and so on, any more than I discovered labels marked Englishman, American, or Hottentot.  All such ascriptions would contradict the very nature of the ascriptionless existence.  All sectarian differences are merely intellectual ones.  They have no place in that level which is deeper than intellectual function.  They divide people into hostile groups only because they are pseudo-spiritual.  One who has tasted of the pure Spirit’s own freedom will be unwilling to submit to the restrictions of cult and creed.  Therefore I could not conscientiously affix a label to my own outlook or to the teaching about this existence which I have embraced.  In my secret heart I separate myself from nobody, just as this teaching itself excludes no other in its perfect comprehension.  Because I had to call it by some name as soon as I began to write about it, I called it philosophy because this is too wide and too general a name to become the property of any single sect.  In doing so I merely returned to its ancient and noble meaning among the Greeks who, in the Eleusinian Mysteries, designated the spiritual truth learnt at initiation as “philosophy” and the initiate himself as “philosopher” or lover of wisdom. (Edited from Notebooks 20.1.18)

Philosophic life in our sense is not a matter of reading practical maxims.  It is giving assent in action and offering wholehearted belief in feeling to the best values, goals, and purposes. (Notebooks 20.3.106)

What is the role of philosophy in the world and in world crisis?

Evil is a very real problem in this world of time and space.  Evil forces exist and must be fought with all our strength.  Nevertheless the Power out of which all things and all entities come is a beneficent one.  Love is its radiation.  There is no evil and no pain in it.  They begin only on the lower levels of separation and differentiation. (Notebooks 11.1.21)

The evil in human relations springs from the ignorance in human beings.  As each one brings the principle of truth into your own consciousness, you brings it into your relation with others as a result.  The love which accompanies it denies birth to cruelty, anger, and lust or dissolves any which already exist. (Notebooks 11.1.40)

In terrible times of suffering and anxiety it is more necessary than ever to cultivate receptivity to the divine forces within ourselves through spiritual studies and meditation. (Notebooks 2.3.140)

Truth and love will conquer in the end—however far off that be—for they are deeply buried in the hearts of all and will be slowly uncovered by the instruction which life itself gives.  We must acquire something of God’s patience. (Notebooks 13.1.369)

…We need these great truths to steady our hearts in an unsteady and unsure time.  We need to be reminded that beneath its menace and its doom, there still are eternal life, eternal peace, and eternal hope for us.  We need to remember that the evil always passes, the Good alone endures.  Yes, no one can really be hurt by the retelling of these truths, and someone will surely be helped by it. (Edited from Notebooks 12.5.190)

When confronted by turmoil, you will remember to remain calm.  When in the presence of ugliness, you will think of beauty.  When others show forth their animality and brutality, you will show forth his spiritual refinement and gentleness.  Above all, when all around seems dark and hopeless, you will remember that nothing can extinguish the Overself’s light and that it will shine again as surely as spring follows winter. (Notebooks 24.2.78)

We are living in wonderfully momentous times and it is the task of those on the Path to become bearers of the light in a dark age.  But first, before that can be, we all must purify, ennoble, and instruct ourselves.  We must fit ourselves for the divine grace because nothing can be done by our own personal power. (Notebooks 2.5.83)

To work effectively in this world of everyday without repudiating or forgetting the world of the Spirit—this is his duty. (Notebooks 13.2.159)

This is what we have to learn—and it can be learned only by personal practice, not from any book—how to keep in beautiful equipoise receptivity to the sacred Centre and efficiency in attending to the world’s demands.  This is answering Jesus’ call to be in the world but not of it.  This is the union of busy actuality with central tranquillity.(P) (Notebooks 24.3.297)

A person acts philosophically when wisdom and service become the motive power behind her or his deeds.  These are the two currents which must flow through the external life. (Notebooks 20.5.25)

At the heart of every atom of every universe there is Spirit, divine and deathless.  It is for this reason that any human society based upon its denial has no future and cannot survive.  As long as humankind exists we will need to satisfy inner hunger, to find spiritual comfort, to receive holy communion, and to hear words of eternal truth. (Notebooks 11.5.1)

There is nothing in life to which philosophy cannot be related nor the philosophic attitude applied.  It is in critical moments that you will display the fruits of your philosophic progress as unsuspected power and unexpected initiative, as unruffled calm and unwavering fortitude. (Notebooks 20.1.282)

When you hit upon tragic times and difficult circumstances, the essential thing is to try within your power, however humbly that may be, to LIVE the spiritual Quest.  This is harder to do then ever before.  You must keep up your endeavors to understand and to practice what is right.  Although great patience is called for during such times, great benefits will also show themselves in the end. (Notebooks 6.2.87)

What is Mentalism and why is it so important?

The philosophical meaning of Einstein’s discoveries—that the nature of the world depends on the nature of its relation to the one who sees it, that we cannot truly speak about any object independently of the observer, and that time is the hallmark of this relativity—is in perfect accordance with our own doctrine.  Whatever is seen, is seen by the mind.  Apart from the mind we know nothing of its existence and apart from the mind the thought of time could not arise for us.  In short, every existent object is wholly relative to the subject—Mind. (Notebooks 21.2.173)

My experience of a thing is received from the body’s senses.  Sight: the eyes tell me its shape and colour.  Touch: the skin tells me its hardness or softness, solidity or liquidity.  Smell and taste may give more information.  These perceptions make up the thing for me.  But they would be non-existent if they failed to reach consciousness as thoughts.  It exists because my consciousness exists.  If this consciousness did not exist by itself alone before the thought my experience would be impossible.  It is primary.  It will continue to exist even between two thoughts, and, even more important, between two sensorial thoughts—sight and touch—connected with the physical body.  But the brain is part of the body.  So mind is not the same thing but exists as an independent entity, however close their working connection may be.  This mind has no shape or colour, whereas the brain has.  It being formless, no one can see or take hold of it, yet it is there.  Now drop the term mind, the term consciousness, and let the term spirit take their place.  Here psychological analysis of experience seems to cross the border into religion.  For mind is a real thing, not a no-thing.  It exists in its own right.  More, all experience is an uninterrupted spiritual experience, whatever humankind has done to degrade it. (Notebooks 21.2.98)

It is not the five senses which know the world outside, since they are only instruments which the mind uses.  It is not even the intellect, since that merely reproduces the image formed out of the total sense reports.  They are not capable of functioning by themselves.  It is the principle of Consciousness which is behind both, and for which they are simply agents, that really makes awareness of the world at all possible.  It is like the sun, which lights up the existence of all things.(P) (Notebooks 21.1.56)

All experience is thought-experience.  What we know as the world is a series of thoughts, not a number of material things plus a number of mental thoughts.  Consciousness runs through all of them as their common element: they originate from it, exist in it, leave it behind when they vanish. (Notebooks 21.2.15)

The doctrine of mentalism begins and ends with the bold pronouncement that all experience and even all being is in the mind. (Notebooks 21.2.120)

Why is it that so many people are so unaware of their own higher existence?  The answer is that their faculty of awareness itself is that spiritual existence.  Whatever they know, people know through the consciousness within them.  That in them which knows anything is their divine element.  The power of knowing—whether it be a thought that is known, a complex of thoughts such as memories, a thing such as a landscape—is a divine power for it derives from the higher self which they possess. (Notebooks 21.2.136)

The time will come, and cannot be avoided, when both the new and the accumulated facts will force scientists to regard Mind as the real thing they have to deal with, and matter as a group of states of mind.  But by that time they will be something more than mere scientists alone; they will be somewhat on the way to becoming philosophical scientists. (Notebooks 21.4.164)

There is a stubborn psychological problem, with profound metaphysical implications, which has remained unsolved throughout the whole history of science; but the range of data available today being greater, the prospects of its solution are brighter.  Put briefly, this problem is as follows: is consciousness a property developed by the physical body in the course of its activity or is it a primary and intuitive part of the individual’s nature?  If the solution proved favourable to the theory of primacy of consciousness, then the effects upon our culture would be incalculable.  The Christian teaching about the immortality of the soul would be vindicated, the value of religion in human life would be established, and the intellectual materialism of our time, which has given birth to such horrible evils as Nazism and Communism, would be eradicated. (Notebooks 21.1.98)

Our pleasures and pains are not different when we realize them to be mentalistic, but our attitude toward them is different. (Notebooks 21.1.25)

Our existence as human beings is conditioned, and at times even dominated, by circumstances.  Often we should like to remold these, but to do so requires control, and control indicates the need for power, and power depends upon knowledge.  This is the justification of philosophy.  When we understand its doctrines aright, that mind constructs its experience, its environment, its world, we understand the implication that an amendment in our environment can come only through amendment in our thinking.  Thought is creative, and we are continually building both ourselves and our environment by the characteristics and qualities of our thoughts. (Notebooks 21.5.45)

How mentalism lights up those deeper and darker sayings of Jesus!  “The kingdom of heaven is within you” is then seen to be both a joyful proclamation of spiritual hope and a statement revealing a little-known fact.  It proclaims a heavenly existence as being within reach of the mind that is the real human being and it tells of such existence being hidden within the mind itself.  Heaven is then no far-off place or no post-mortem condition but a state attainable in this life. (Notebooks 21.5.104)

Mentalism makes it possible for each person to understand why there must be a god.  And what is more, it also makes it possible for each person to transcend the intellectual discovery by the mystical experience of the presence of God within her or himself. (Notebooks 21.5.117)

When we understand this truth, we shall understand that the Overself is forever present with us and that this presence is more immediate and intimate than anything else in life. (Notebooks 21.5.125)

Truth is our only salvation, the final truth that in essence as Mind nobody is really disconnected from God, that the delusion of being alone and separate from the infinite life creates all our weaknesses, which in turn lead to most of our troubles, and that we are here to learn by experience what sort of stuff we are made really of. (Notebooks 20.5.204)

What exactly is enlightenment?

When the mystery of it all is solved, not merely intellectually but in experience, not only in the person himself but in transcending it, not only in the depth of meditation but in the world of activity; when this answer is richly felt as Presence and God, clearly known as Meaning and Mind, then, if he were to speak he would exclaim: “Thus It Is!”  But this is not the beginner’s glimpse: it is the sage’s settled insight. (Notebooks 25.2.24)

There are varying degrees of spiritual illumination, which account both for the varying outlooks to be found among mystics and for the different kinds of Glimpses among aspirants.  All illuminations and all Glimpses free you from your negative qualities and base nature, but in the latter case only temporarily.  You are able, as a result, to see into your higher nature.  In the first degree, it is as if a window covered with dirt were cleaned enough to reveal a beautiful garden outside it.  You are still subject to the activity of thinking, the emotion of joy, and the discrimination between X and Y.  In the next and higher degree, it is as if the window were still more cleaned so that still more beauty is revealed beyond it.  Here there are no thoughts to intervene between the seer and the seen.  In the third degree, the discrimination is no longer present.  In the fourth degree, it is as if the window were thoroughly cleaned.  Here there is no longer even a rapturous emotion but only a balanced happiness, a steady tranquility which, being beyond the intellect, cannot properly be described by the intellect.

Again, mental peace is a fruit of the first and lowest degree of illumination, although thoughts will continue to arise although gently, and thinking in the discursive manner will continue to be active although slowly.  But concentration will be sufficiently strong to detach you from the world and, as a consequence, to yield the happiness which accompanies such detachment.  Only those who have attained to this degree can correctly be regarded as “saved” as only they alone are unable to fall back into illusion, error, sin, greed, or sensuality.

In the second degree, there will be more inward absorption and cerebral processes will entirely fade out.

Freedom from all possibility of anger is a fruit of the third and higher degree. (Edited from Notebooks 25.2.97)

The actions of a person who has attained this degree are inspired directly by the Overself, and consequently are not dictated by personal wishes, purposes, passions, or desires.  They are not initiated by the ego’s will but by a will higher than her or his own.

Since there is no consciously deliberate thinking, no attempt at ordered logical formulation of ideas, there is also no hesitation, no broken trends.  There is only spontaneous thought, feeling, and action, all being directed by intuition. (Notebooks 25.2.88)

When you awaken to truth as it really is, you will have no occult vision; you will have no “astral” experience, no ravishing ecstasy.  You will awaken to it in a state of utter stillness, and you will realize that truth was always there within you and that reality was always there around you.  Truth is not something which has grown and developed through your efforts.  It is not something which has been achieved or attained by laboriously adding up those efforts.  It is not something which has to be made more and more perfect each year.  And once your mental eyes are opened to truth they can never be closed again. (Notebooks 25.2.77)

After this passing-over into the Overself’s rule, do you carry a loss of identity?  Are you no more aware that you are the named person of the past?  Were this so you could not exist in human society or attend to you duties.  No!—outwardly you are more or less the same, although your pattern of behavior betrays recognizable signs of superiority over the past human that you were.  Inwardly, there is total revolution. (Notebooks 25.2.186)

The discovery of your true being is not outwardly dramatic, and for a long time no one may know of it, except yourself.  The world may not honor you for it: you may die as obscure as you lived.  But the purpose of your life has been fulfilled; and God’s will has been done. (Notebooks 25.2.78)

The illuminate is a person at peace, able to stand emotionally aside from personal affairs but unable to surrender to transient defeats.  You know when you are defeated; you never know such a thing as failure.  Your life is a consecrated one.  It has an impressive value.  There is a timeless flavour about it.  That is why you can work quietly not only for the immediate moment but even for results which you know you will not live to witness. (Notebooks 25.3.227)

Hitherto you have been only partially yourself.  Now, with this radiant entry into the eternal, you are completely yourself.  Now, you can speak to others, move in the world, and work out relationships, solely from your center, straight from your core: no distortions, no hypocrisies, no insincerities. (Notebooks 25.2.14)

Your words, your feeling, and your actions will then not only be expressions of your human self but also of that self united indissolubly with your divine self. (Notebooks 22.2.82)

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