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.
To achieve this goal, PB studied many philosophical traditions and interviewed literally hundreds of major and minor spiritual teachers from all over the globe. He lived in England, Egypt, Greece, China, New Zealand, Australia, America, Mexico, Bolivia, India, Tehri Garwhal, Italy, Spain, Indonesia, Hawaii, and ended his days in Switzerland. In one conversation he had with a student he compared and contrasted eleven different schools and sub-schools of Hindu and Chinese thought, employing the technical language of each school as well referencing the major works of each. (The startling thing about that conversation was that, without enquiry or prior knowledge, he discussed only those teachings that the student was familiar with and didn’t use a single one that was unfamiliar to him!) However such a conversation with him was rare; ordinarily he “eschewed such erudition” and spoke only in plain English.
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.
Initiatory: The first phase of the Quest is the simple awakening to it. As soon as that awakening begins, a host of questions and issues arise within the mind and heart (and circumstances) of the would-be aspirant. Perhaps PB’s greatest contribution to the spiritual literature of the world is his writings on these topics, and for this moment in our spiritual journey—the moment of beginning. And, as we travel onward, we will discover that we are still beginners, and that the advice PB lays out in these ‘elementary’ texts are now fundamental resources for our growth, and even our survival.
Whether you’re reading them for the first time or the fifteenth, these writings are designed to awaken one to the inspired life of the spiritual seeker. They begin by awakening us to the grand potentials we have and are, and gradually expand our awareness until we are alive to the hidden worlds of mind, magic, and mysticism. PB goes on from there, bringing us into contact with the greatest mystery of all: Mind Alone, from which flows the benign Intelligence of the World-Mind, whose sacred act is the source of our evolution and the ultimate healer of all our sufferings.
BOOKS TO READ
- The Secret Path: A simple and short introduction to PB’s main points and a set of basic meditation practices suitable for the modern urban world.
- A Search in Secret India: 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 center-piece of this text is his sojourn with Sri Ramana Maharshi, and the presentation of his “Who Am I?” exercise.
- A Search in Secret Egypt: 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 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 which 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 Spiritual Crisis of Man: PB’s last published book, it bluntly faces the problem of applying spirituality to our times, and vice-versa. PB shows us the way to a vigorous inner life that is balanced by an active attention to the problems and evils of the modern world. He brings meditation out of the closet and demonstrates its pure necessity if we are to change the world for the better.
CATEGORIES FROM THE NOTEBOOKS
- Overview of The Quest (Volume 2) – focuses on the issue of self-reliance vs. joining a group; whether or not to seek a teacher, and how to relate to one, should that be your path.
- Practices for the Quest (Volume 3) – outlines the “Long Path” of personal refinement and self-discipline; introduces basic meditation techniques.
- Relax and Retreat (Volume 3) – the benefits of going on retreat—be it for a weekend or for some years; the nourishing powers of nature & solitude.
- Elementary Meditation (Volume 4) – gets down to the business of meditation; introduces the basic techniques used throughout the religions and sects of the world together with advice for conquering the obstacles in the way of establishing a solid regimen.
- The Body (Volume 4)– An obvious title about an obvious subject, but one often neglected by the mystic, abused by the ascetic, and ignored by the thinker—all to our own cost. Advice as to how to shape the bodily habits to best support the quest.
- Emotions and Ethics (Volume 5) – Addresses the importance of and techniques for developing the virtues: love, compassion, courtesy, tolerance, and moderation. Interestingly, PB includes a warning that we remain balanced even in our pursuit of virtue!
- The Intellect (Volume 5) – This category introduces us to the vast realm of metaphysics, and demonstrates the basic differences between spiritual and secular philosophy.
- 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.
- 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.
- Reflections on My Life and Writings (Volume 8) – this is more or less light reading; as the title suggests, it is largely autobiographical, and includes PB’s comments on his own written works.
- Human Experience (Volume 9) – PB’s direct advice on how to integrate the Quest with the ‘rest’ of life: youth, age, politics, relationships—the lot.
- The Arts in Culture (Volume 9) – An examination of the place of arts and creativity within the Quest; a critique of modern art, and suggestions on how to use art in our meditation practice.
- The Orient: Its Legacy to the West (Volume 10) – A comparison of Eastern thought and Western ways—a comparison which has already been made innumerable times—but not from the perspective of a Sage.
- The Religious Urge (Volume 12) – A frank look at the failings of the organized religions of both hemispheres is balanced by a careful discussion regarding the importance of traditional religion, prayer, and worship for the quester.
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.
CATEGORIES FROM THE NOTEBOOKS
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Epistemological: PB’s presentation of epistemology in the light of mentalism is a unique and extraordinary tool for those who seek to understand the ‘whys’ as well as the ‘hows’ of spiritual technique. Mentalism gives us a clear understanding of the mind and a revolutionary reorientation of our awareness of its relationship to the body (which is inside it!) and the world (also inside mind!) Mentalism is a non-doctrinal, unvarnished examination of the way the mind works; it welcomes the observations of modern science, and incorporates their truths into the greater truth of consciousness itself. Armed with an understanding of mentalism we can readily evaluate the viability of any meditation technique and easily recognize, for ourselves, the fundamental factors of philosophy that must be encountered and explored by every tradition.
Epistemology is the gateway to Philosophy—or rather the co-gateway together with mystical experience. Epistemology asks us to ask the question: “How do we know what we know, and how (if at all) can we know a truth?” Any consideration of the validity of our individual or common experience, of the relevance of transcendent states and metaphysical doctrine, and the means to differentiate delusion, illusion, and reality begins with Epistemology. Without mastering it, our minds remain vulnerable to subjective emotions and unconscious beliefs; with mastery comes detachment and objectivity, and the courage to enquire into the unwelcoming depths of the Unknown.
While there are many plausible epistemological schemes, mentalism is by far the most accurate and immediate. After all, we cannot really jump outside our own minds no matter what we’d like to believe or logically construe—so why not begin where we are and see where it takes us? Of course PB’s approach to mentalism is much more thoroughgoing and well-reasoned than this brief blurb could ever be—in fact, one of the points he makes is that mentalism is not merely a memorized conclusion (like “all is mind”) but rather it is an ongoing understanding of our immediate experience and our dynamic reasoning as experience. This understanding can only be gained by approaching these texts with energy, patience, and the willingness to go over them again and again, until they read as easily as a novel, and the reasoning embedded in them transforms one’s own perception of the world. After all, this phase comes after meditation, and is meaningless—dangerous even—if it is taken to be a theoretical discipline. It is not. It is the transformation of our subjective awareness from the feeling-based experiences of mysticism into the knowing-based perspective of philosophy.
BOOKS TO READ
- The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga – The doctrine of mind as the basis of experience is called Mentalism by PB, and this text is a painstaking guide to understanding it—more, to experiencing its truth for oneself. This book is meant to be studied, not merely read, and requires the very thing it teaches—a disciplined mind—to do so. There are many “reasons” to put off reading this book, but it (like all of its ilk) represents a true guardian of the threshold beyond which lies spiritual freedom—and, ironically, the ability to use reason within the greater context of mystical philosophy.
- The Wisdom of the Overself – This book is more than a synthesis of the Ancient East and Modern West; it is a new alloy of these perspectives created with the catalyst of PB’s own Insight. Where The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga teaches us to examine and recognize the full potential of our own mind, The Wisdom of the Overself teaches us to look at the cosmos around us in the same light—as World Mind, Itself the active phase of Mind Absolute. Without an understanding of these principles, the framework of individual mentalism remains incomplete and inevitably vulnerable to the problem of solipsism. With this additional content, mentalism becomes the means through which we can enter the next phase—the phase of philosophy.
CATEGORIES FROM THE NOTEBOOKS
- The Intellect (Volume 5) – This Category should be self-evident. Here PB looks at both sides of the Intellect—its strengths and its weaknesses as well. He offers us his perspective on many well-known (and lesser-known) thinkers and suggests ways in which the intellect can and cannot be part of the spiritual journey, especially when it comes to the task of enquiring into the nature of Reality.
- The Ego (Volume 6) – Just because this category was part of the Mystical phase doesn’t mean we’re done with it. So long as we’re unenlightened, so long must we be aware of the role of the ego in each successive phase of the practice. We need to learn the wiles and ways of the emotionless subtly arrogant intellectual ego if we are to break the bonds of ignorance and find our way to the Truth.
- The Reign of Relativity (Volume 13) – The main emphasis in this category is on the deep relativity of the double standpoint—that of the immediate, embodied consciousness in concert with the ultimate and impersonal consciousness. PB applies the methodology of Western science to Hinduism’s research into the four states of consciousness (waking, subtle, causal, and absolute) and into the Buddhist doctrine of the Void and, as a result, shows us a way to integrate the truths of these traditions into our own understanding, free of any particular dogma. This is not to say that PB eschews the role of faith in our spiritual journey—but here he is solely addressing those facts of our existence which are independent of such faith—and the understanding of which will go a long way towards stabilizing our meditation experience.
- Mentalism (Volume 13) – Not one to stand still, PB continued to refine and reflect upon the epistemological approach of mentalism long after he published The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga in 1941. This category contains forty years of his notes on the topic, which incorporates the advances made in theoretical physics, and access to newly discovered or translated ancient texts. One has to continually consider these paras in terms of our experience of the world, not our conception of the world. After all, PB is not presenting his theories—he’s describing his own immediate, mindful, engagement with the world.
- Inspiration and the Overself (Volume 14) – This category is rather more mystical than epistemological, but without it, the study of epistemology is more than likely to go unfinished, for it is an arduous and dry undertaking, and it is in truth the Grace of the Overself that often carries us to the finish line. Indeed, it is the very presence of the Overself that nudges the mind out of its habitual groove and forces it to look at itself. Without the inner standpoint of a Glimpse we can never free ourselves from the solipsism of the ordinary mind; without a full integration of mentalism, we will never understand (and therefore never assimilate) a Glimpse. For it is mentalism that teaches us why these glimpses of the Overself occur, and why they must depart, and it is these very glimpses that transform a study of mentalism into a living experience of the mind. When these two events have occurred—a Glimpse, and realization of Mentalism, then, and then alone is one genuinely qualified to immerse oneself in the Philosophic Work.
Philosophical: The word “philosophy,” like so many terms it itself employs, has a wide and undisciplined set of meanings. PB’s philosophy is truly a love (philo) of wisdom (sophia); more, it is the melding of love and wisdom—the ‘jewel in the heart,’ which requires an absolute balance of inner and outer development, if it is to be realized. Spiritual Philosophy is the loving experience of reverence for (and from) our higher Self; it is the capacity to extract lessons from our own lives; it is the challenge of acting wisely in a world continually obscured by ignorance; and it is the opportunity to know the deepest principles of oneself, the Divine, and Absolute Mind.
In these writings PB lifts our awareness beyond the small scope of our own spirituality into the infinity of the World-Mind and Mind Alone. He makes it clear that we can and must become sensible of these impersonal mysteries if we are to fully appreciate the reality into which we are born. PB avoids the labyrinth of religious beliefs and the high-flying theories that so often pass for philosophy these days; instead, he gives us the fundamental realities, stripped of dogma, vital to our lives, and essential to the welfare of the world. Philosophy is the search for the living Truth, and a steadfast awareness of the Mystery beyond Truth. It requires the full engagement of every faculty and resource we have, and must permeate every waking—and sleeping—hour of our day. After all, the Truth itself is all-pervasive and unaffected by any limiting condition, and anything which is capable of receiving the Truth must be the same. Thus it comes to pass that our pursuit of the truth is not finished until our own consciousness—our own higher Self—is bound over to that Truth, once and for all. When this has happened, the individual has completed the phase of Philosophy and has entered the highest stage known to humankind—Enlightenment.
Here is PB’s own statement regarding philosophy: “Viewed from the standpoint of the house in which we all have to live—that is, the body—Advaita Vedanta seems to deal only in ultimate abstractions—however admirable and lofty its outlook. The body is there and its actuality and factuality must be noted and, more, accepted. This is why I do not give any other label to the ideas put into my later books than the generic name philosophy. I do not call it Indian philosophy since there are ideas in the books which do not belong to India at all. I do not identify it with any particular land, race, religion, or teacher from the ancient past or the modern present. Philosophy cannot be limited only to abstract ideas. It includes those ideas but it also includes other things. Its original Greek meaning, “love of wisdom,” concerns the whole of man, and not only his abstract thoughts, intellect, feelings, body, or relation to the world around him. It concerns his entire life: his contacts with other people, the morality which guides him in dealing with them, and finally his attitude towards himself. Philosophy must be universal in its scope; therefore, it may embrace ideas which originate not only in India or in America or in Europe, but in every other period of civilization. Not all ideas are philosophical, but only those which are true, useful, in harmony with the World-Idea, and able to survive the test of practice and applicability.”
(The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, Category 20: What Is Philosophy? > Chapter 1: Toward Defining Philosophy > # 128)
BOOKS TO READ
- The Quest of the Overself – This book 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. Mastering this meditation—by way of ‘finding’ the answer—is essential to the philosopher’s work. After all, if we don’t know our own truth, how can we hope to comprehend universal truth? The final chapters of this book 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 Wisdom of the Overself – Where The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga teaches us to examine and recognize the full potential of our own mind, The Wisdom of the Overself teaches us to look at the cosmos around us in the same light—as World-Mind, Itself the active phase of Mind Absolute. While it is possible to read and understand this book in its own right, a careful study of this text will require familiarity with Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism—and at least a passing acquaintance with western scientific thought. The questions and affirmations presented to us in this text, when illumined in meditation by the light of the Overself, will literally transform our mind and heart into organs of spiritual philosophy. The Wisdom concludes with a collection of remarkable meditation exercises specifically designed to explore the four states of consciousness—meditations at once immediately useful and yet requiring a lifetime to complete.
CATEGORIES FROM THE NOTEBOOKS
- The Ego (Volume 6) – Even as we dealt with a study of the ego in the Mystical and Epistemological phases, we must continue dealing with it! To seek the Truth, to seek the philosophic life is also to seek to put the ego in its final state—as the well-disciplined servant of the Overself. So long as we’re unenlightened, so long must we be aware of the role of the ego in each successive phase of the practice. With each advancement, the power of the ego grows, not diminishes—albeit that growth is more subtle and more refined. It is only when the final battle between the ego’s potent drive towards ignorance and the World-Mind’s Grace has been completed that the ego will bother us no more—and of course, this state is none other than that of Enlightenment.
- Reflections on My Life and Writings (Volume 8) – This category is largely autobiographical, and includes PB’s reflections on his own writings. It begins with his reflections on the place of philosophy in modern times, and explores the challenges of finding, sharing, and living with the Truths that philosophy unveils as we progress. PB uses himself as an example throughout this category—an example that gives us a tiny glimpse into his life, and that can function as a very practical guide for our own.
- What is Philosophy? (Volume 13) – This category contains PB’s thoughts on Philosophy proper, the experiential philosophy of the world-wise mystic, not the world-weary thinker. Naturally, there are many overlaps between PB’s view of philosophy and that of the other great sages and traditions of the world. PB’s emphasis on being balanced is original to himself, and very appropriate for the current era. He even recommends that we are relaxed about how balanced we are—that any practice or technique is, after all, not the “goal” of philosophy. Indeed, there is no goal for PB…the road goes ever on; it is merely better illumined by the insight of the sage, who continues to journey, learn, and progress throughout eternity—for the Overself is not finite, nor need it relinquish its presence in manifestation to be fulfilled. Thus for PB the engagement with philosophy is the origin of the royal road upon which the sage forever travels, a road that starts at our front door, a journey that has already begun within our mind and heart, whether we are aware of it or not.
- Advanced Contemplation (Volume 15) – Although the pursuit of philosophy often begins as an intellectual effort, and is the natural development of studying epistemology, for PB it includes the deepening of mystical practice, as well as learning to be well-grounded in the world. The first half of this category—the engagement with the Short Path will have already been undertaken in the Mystical phase of one’s quest; now it is time to immerse oneself in the challenges of advanced meditation, including those to be undertaken at the borderland between waking and sleep. Indeed, there are even some practices mentioned here, and in The Wisdom of the Overself which must be done while one is asleep! There is also a section on meditation on the void, which culminates in Nirvikalpa Samadhi. What is remarkable is PB’s advice not only on how to enter that unique state, but how to re-enter the world after such an experience—an experience that is truly an earthquake in the psyche, and therefore quite dangerous for the unprepared. PB concludes this category with a beautiful section titled: “Why Buddha Smiled” which describes the joy as well as the compassion which is awakened by these deep meditative states.
- The Peace Within You (Volume 15) – This category naturally follows upon the previous one, and more or less picks up where that one leaves off—with the ‘smile of the Buddha.’ This category is about making the organic transition from glimpses and profound meditations to the quotidian state of illumination enjoyed by the sage. While many of these paras can—and should—be read at any stage of the Quest, they are primarily meant for those who have passed through the terrors of the Dark Night of the Soul, the momentary annihilation of the ego in Nirvikalpa samadhi, and for whom the Short Path is no longer an option but a necessity called for from within. To such advanced mystical philosophers, the time of enlightenment is near (albeit it may yet be a lifetime away); this is a time of waiting and subtle growth, requiring patience and providing a phase of respite before the final assault—the complete bonding to the Overself in Being, and not in becoming. As one reads these paras, they should be allowed to send down their roots into the depths of the psyche, and slowly transform the totality of the individual into a proper agent of the Overself, nothing more, and certainly nothing less.