A Mind for Peace
by Anna C. Bornstein
The current crisis, with uncontrolled hatred and frustration
throwing their sinister prejudices on the world screen, has
brought mankind to a turning point. We must befriend and
transform the energies within our psyches and dive deep into our
minds to seek our redemption.
Our knowledge of the mind is scant compared to our knowledge of
nature's resources. To find out something about mind's mystery
and possibilities we must turn to the few heroes of the human
race who have penetrated into its deeper reality, immanent in all
that exists and yet not itself bound by anything.
Paul Brunton is one of the few in the modern world who can speak
to us as westerners of this high realization. It was his task to
restore the word "mind" to its most lofty use and dispel the
notion, so prevalent in our century, of mind as irrevocably bound
up with thoughts, or as a product of chemical reactions in the
brain. His notebooks, which include (among other materials) some
7000 pages of manuscript which were published posthumously,
contain a unique and all inclusive revelation which may yet bring
light to our materialistic era, resulting in a stronger change in
the world than anyone could foresee.
The excessive extraversion of western industrialized society has
made us ascribe the greatest importance and reality to concrete,
outer circumstances. It has been natural to seek material
explanations and solutions for our social problems. But with the
recent eruptions of violence and conflict among neighbors, the
attention has shifted towards the psyche. Few now doubt that the
most potent causes of war are not material weapons or
circumstances but immaterial forces lurking in the unknown depths
of the psyche. And the corollary truth that these causes can
best and most adequately be remedied not by political
intervention or suppression of their material effect but by
direct psychological work, is the natural next step in our
"Mind" capitalised, is Paul Brunton's modern western term for
that indescribable Reality which in various traditions has been
named the Absolute, the One, God, or the unfathomable Tao. This
Reality cannot be grasped by our senses or intellect, but is
still available to us. If we cultivate an inner seeing, or
insight, we will one day discover it.
"We are not saying that something of the nature of mind as we
humans know it is the supreme reality of the universe but only
that it is more like that reality than anything else we know of
and certainly more like it than what we call "matter," says Paul
Brunton in explaining his choice of the term. The simplest way
to express this is to say that Reality is of the nature of our
mind rather than of our body, although it is Mind transcending
the familiar phases and raised to infinity. It is the ultimate
being, the highest state. This is the Principle which forever
remains what it was and will be. It is in the universe and yet
the universe is in it too. It never evolves, for it is outside
of time. It has no shape, for it is outside of space. It is
beyond man's consciousness, for it is beyond both his thoughts
and sense experience, yet all consciousness springs mysteriously
from out of it. Nevertheless man may enter into its knowledge,
may enter into its Void, so soon as he can stop his thoughts, let
go of his sense-experience, but keep his sense of being."
To imagine this supreme reality is impossible. No descriptions
can do justice to it. When you approach and get a first glimpse
of it, it seems like a vast void, because no forms or experience
gain footing in it. Still it is the rock upon which the whole
world rests. It is the innermost kernel of life, its very
foundation, and the sage can live fully awake and active among
the phenomena of the world without ever losing sight of it. This
Mind-Principle is formless, unchangeable. It transcends both
qualities and content. Still it is paradoxically the source of
all forms, qualities and contents. There is no movement, no
activity in it, and yet it is the mainspring of all movement and
"Mind" has been defined by dictionaries as the organized
conscious and unconscious adaptive mental activity of an
organism. Yet the nature and the source of this mental activity
is something which no scientist has been able to explain, brain
researchers have different theories. Some say that the mind is
the product of chemical reactions in the brain, others grant it
mastery over the brain processes and allow for the possibility
that it may exist independently of the body.
Thoughts are inconceivable without mind but, according to Paul
Brunton, that doesn't mean that the mind is inconceivable without
thoughts. Mind has a primary existence. when it is absorbed in
itself, it has no content and is indivisible, unitary. This
Mind, which his our most fundamental reality, we first discover
when we have withdrawn our attention from sensations, thoughts,
and feelings, and directed it inwards.
Our deepest Being--the Overself--is a ray of this pure Mind.
When we get to know ourselves fully, we become conscious of its
presence within us, even if we have not yet penetrated its
One analogy that often has been used to communicate something of
the mystery of mind to the uninitiated is that of the dream.
When a person is dreaming, images arise from the unconscious, or
deeper level of his psyche. The dreamworld consists of thought -
Creations which originate in the dreamers own mind. This mind
is present throughout the dream and ensouls it. In a similar
way, the personal mind of man and its world have sprung from pure
Mind, without which they would not exist. Mind is ever present
in the world but still transcendent to it, and independent of its
Another simple analogy that may help us to understand can be
found in chemistry. The chemical combination of hydrogen and
oxygen, H2O, can manifest as ice, water or steam without changing
its fundamental structure. Similarly according to Paul Brunton,
Mind can appear in many different ways without changing its
original nature. "When the mind is active in knowing and
distinguishing one thing from another it is finite consciousness.
When it assumes forms and qualities it is the things themselves.
When it is centralized as the observer through the Overself of
all the innumerable separate observers, it is World Mind. When
it is passively at rest, it is itself, Mind.
Irrespective of al these different expressions, its innermost
essence always remains pure Mind. All things depend on it, but
it itself is independent of all things, unmoved by them and
utterly free. Solar systems, galaxies, and whole worlds emerge
from and return to it without adding or subtracting anything from
it, without disturbing its imperturbable peace.
It is not surprising that this reality, this mind principle is
impossible for man to discover as long as he dwells in his
ordinary state of consciousness. His personal mind is fettered
by time, space, causality, and the five senses, forms of
experience which inhere in the very functioning of his thinking
apparatus, but which have come to be regarded as attributes of an
All the familiar phenomena in our physical and psychological
world -- forests, mountains, lakes, and oceans, feelings,
thoughts, fears, and expectations, all things that have form or
appear as a process -- block out reality for us as long as we
grant them an existence independent of Mind. Man in his natural
state is as blind to the ground of his existence as the person in
the dream is to the dreamers consciousness, while letting himself
be confounded by appearances.
The truth that the supreme Reality is absolute, eternal, and
unchangeable, has brought many spiritual seekers and mystics to
regard the physical world, which is in constant flux, as
illusory. Such a view can only be arrived at through the logical
intellect and not through experience Paul Brunton points out. It
is based on an artificial conflict between spirit and matter,
which does not exist in Reality. What is illusory is the belief
that physical objects -- with their characteristic forms, colors,
smells, etc -- have an external existence, independent of the
experiencing mind. The stability and independent status which
one wrongly ascribes to these objects belong really to the Mind-
principle. But this doesn't mean that the sense experiences,
which play such a dominant part in our lives, are meaningless.
They are inseparable from our mind and designed to meet the needs
of our present stage of development. The sage does not view them
as illusory, but as an expression of transcendental wisdom,
geared to advance our understanding.
To explain the relationship between the Mind-principle and the
world, Paul Brunton speaks about a passive and an active aspect
of Reality. These two aspects do not exist separately, although
it might seem so to our limited consciousness. The passive
aspect is the Mind-principle, i.e. Mind absorbed in itself; the
active aspect is Mind in motion, its thought-processes which give
rise to all manifested worlds.
Usually the first glimpse of the thought - free or pure
consciousness is one of an inner reality--the ground of one's own
being. It comes during a state of introverted stillness which
has been obtained by a deliberate withdrawal of attention from
these sense impression, thoughts and feelings.
But the world is of the same essence as this interior reality,
this discovery gradually dawns on the seeker, as his experience
is deepened and integrated with so called "external" life. The
final realization, when the scales at last fall from his eyes,
comes suddenly. A super essential clarity then illuminates his
changing mental state--even the deep sleep state which for most
of us is unconscious. This final insight is not something which
comes and goes; it is permanent and independent of whatever
experiences befall the person.
Such an insight must not be mistaken for a mere intellectual
comprehension. Penetrating and illuminating the whole human
being -- his intellect, will, and emotional life alike -- it
resolves all felt contradiction between the outer and inner
worlds, between matter and spirit, body and soul, it restores man
to the natural harmony and wholeness which he is said to have
enjoyed once "before the Fall," but with the difference that now
it is fully conscious.
The authenticity of such a realization is described by Paul
Brunton with beautiful simplicity: "How can we be assured of the
truth of insight? By the disappearance of ignorance, its
opposite number; the two cannot coexist. Its truth is not an
argument but an achievement. The coming of insight means that
blindness has gone. The man can see where before his eyes were
firmly shut by illusion. Henceforth there is that in him which
fixes its gaze steadfastly on the timeless, the Real, and the
Impersonal. Insight alone has the power to pronounce on the
universal truth and eternal reality of existence, because it
alone has the power to penetrate the world appearance and to
contemplate that bliss behind it."
Such a conclusive phase of this inner work leads beyond the
psyche to a transcendent state of indescribable richness and
fullness remains only an unexplored possibility for most of us.
Nobody is expected to believe it only by hearing or reading of
it. Yet it is there in the depth of being to be experienced by
everyone who seeks it humbly and perserveringly and is willing to
train his mind aright. For the pioneers and peaceworkers who
seek redemption for mankind and our wounded earth, it holds a
Our problems may be met and successfully handled with firsthand
knowledge of this imperturbable peace. Paul Brunton assures us.
It is our true nature, stripped of the ego's complex and
conflicting desires and thoughts. In it every trace of the
personal self disappears, error cannot be known, misery cannot be
felt. Its discovery gives a happiness unblemished by defects or
deficiencies, a Supreme Good which is not a further source of
pain or sorrow but an endless source of satisfaction and peace.
About the Author
Ms. Anna Bornstein is the author of several Swedish books,
including Dalai Lama Ochden buddhistiska vagen and Hadji den
vise. She founded and edited the journal Mandala and writes
regularly for two of Stockholm's major newspapers. Ms. Bornstein
has translated several of Paul Brunton's books into Swedish and
leads seminars on his Philosophy and work throughout Sweden.