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Encounter #6

When I came to see PB I arrived late [because of travel]. My hair was standing on end; my big socks were curling around my feet. I pressed the bell on his door and there he was. I looked into his eyes directly because I wanted to know if he really knew what he was writing about—I know that sounds arrogant! I got such a deep impression of this peace that was radiating from him. I knew it was inappropriate to kneel, there on the staircase and in that setting. But my soul was kneeling to him when he stood in the door. My soul was on its knees. I had never met anyone before that had that effect on me. I felt awe—and I was not a humble person. This feeling remains today—that he is my master and I bow down to him.

He ushered me in and we sat down right away. He didn’t ask why I was late, nothing. This peace and absolute silence descended in the room, on me, on us. And I felt myself whirling toward the center, some center, not my own but maybe of the earth or the universe, I can’t tell. And then all impressions ended and I have no idea how long we were sitting like that—at least half an hour. Afterwards we went out in the kitchen and I was giggling, like a child, without inhibition. Like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

Within a few weeks I had this experience. I was drawn through like a dark tunnel, like you hear described in near-death experiences. I exploded in light on the other side of the tunnel and I was in a heavenly world of light and knowledge. I was not myself, I was just there. I sat in my chair for hours. It was like a Niagara Falls of light coming through my body from just the touch of that heavenly sphere. It was an incredible ecstasy that just went on and on. I had the intuition afterwards that it would be a long time before I would have that experience again and that I would have to learn discipline. [Laughs]. That’s the message I got. “Discipline” was an unknown word to me; I had never tried to discipline myself!

I’m still very inspired by him. It gave me hope—for me. Somewhere to lean. I have him to thank for everything.


I don’t remember anything we talked about. I remember being nervous, and feeling that my house wasn’t perfect, and that I didn’t really understand who this person was—really. I think I was judging myself; I didn’t feel judged by him! But it was all very numinous at the same time. He was so quiet, and so calm, and so gentlemanly, and just not like somebody I was used to seeing.


I was just brought into complete light; I’d never been there before. In the space I was in there was nothing but I didn’t understand exactly what it was. It was definitely a transmission—absolutely—and a gift. It was through that gift that I was definitely in a witness position, but deeper than that. I was in a different place, close to my heart. It was a marvelous transport. Then my life became totally different and it was transformed because I became mindful. It’s a different life now, a thoughtful life. Now it’s easy to go into meditation; it’s always immediate.


P.B. is so difficult to speak about because, at least to me, he seems always tuned to the reality he describes in these writings. So describing what it was like to be in his presence is like trying to describe what it is like to stand—or cook, or work, or shop, or eat, or think for that matter—in its presence. On one hand, there was an ego, a highly individualized person, that I could relate to (in his case a remarkably refined, sophisticated, educated, and gentlemanly one); on the other, there was simply no ignoring a pure, clear stillness in the presence of which nothing—especially myself—could be seen in the same way as before. The relationship at the more ordinary level was interesting enough; but it was how he helped people discover themselves in that other presence that made him so extraordinary.

The constant presence of this other “dimension” was sometimes exquisitely nourishing, sometimes terrifying. On occasion it made for an intimacy infinitely greater than I have ever felt with any lover. There were moments when I knew his thoughts, felt at least some part of his peace, and he knew I knew and felt them. There were other times when it was painfully clear that thoughts or feelings I would have liked to hide were plain as day to him. How things went at any given time depended on how much I clung to out-of-sync habits and desires, and how much I could let them slip away and open up to the rhythm of that particular day.

He seemed sometimes amused by the process, at other times not so amused. But tears came like never before when I first realized that despite his seeing all my flaws he also saw something much deeper in me—something I had always hoped was true—and that his bottomless love for it was always there. When I could love it like he did, all the rest was forgiven. I don’t mean he forgave me—there was no sense of his having the slightest thought or feeling that he needed to forgive me for anything. It was simply that in the light of that deeper something, so capable and worthy of love, the rest is nonessential; the best was all that was really worthy of attention, and it could be lived.

I write reluctantly about this, and only because others have since told me they had the same experience with him. At bottom, it says much more about him than it does about us.

The Sage’s Mind

One afternoon I asked him, “What exactly is it about a sage’s mind that makes that mind so different from the rest of us?” It was one of many questions I asked that he didn’t originally seem to intend to answer. But I persisted and finally he asked me, “Well what do you think it is?”

I said that I had never been able to believe that it could be omniscience in the sense of knowing everything at once; but I didn’t think it unreasonable to conceive that when a sage wants or needs to know, he could turn his mind toward it in a certain way and that knowledge would just arise.

P.B. laughed heartily and answered, “It’s not even that good!”

“Well, how good is it?”

“It has really nothing to do with knowledge, or continuity of intuition, or frequency of intuitions. It’s that the mind has been made over into the Peace in an irreversible way. No form that the mind takes can alter the Peace.”

“You could say it’s a kind of knowledge,” he continued, “in this sense. If the mind takes the form of truth, the sage knows it’s truth. If it doesn’t, then he knows that it’s not. He’s never in doubt about whether the mind has knowledge or not. But whether it does or not, his Peace is not disturbed.”

I asked if that meant that someone could go to a sage for help and the sage would be unable to help them. He replied that sometimes the intuition comes, sometimes it doesn’t; he explained that when it doesn’t come, the sage knows he has nothing to do for that person. The continuity or frequency of the intuitions has to do with the sage’s mission, not with what makes a sage a sage.

“You must understand,” he said, “that there is no condition in which the Overself is at your beck and call. But there is a condition in which you are continuously at the Overself’s beck and call. That’s the condition to strive for.”

As he spoke these words, he was the humblest man I had ever seen before or since. For all the extraordinary things about him, all the glamorous inner and outer experiences, all the remarkable effects his writings and example have had on others, that humility is what seems to be the most important fact about him.

It was the first key he turned when he turned his mind to write. And fortunately for me and many others, it often sufficed for the door to open and let a sacramental presence illuminate doubts and questions common to us all.


PB and I sat on a bench in the shade and he fell asleep. I had to put my arm around him to prevent him from tipping. He slept about 15 minutes, and then we went back to Vevey. He insisted on paying for everything (“this is my territory”). He also returned the check [given by Wisdom’s Goldenrod Philosophic Center], as he feels he cannot accept it. PB spoke of having given thousands of interviews, and said he now deserves some time alone.

PB picked me up at eight by taxi to go to the warehouse where his things are stored. So many trunks, suitcases, and boxes—mostly of books. He gave me a couple of shirts to wear as it was a little chilly. He has many interesting clothes and little boxes and so forth from all over the world: Tibetan cymbals, robes, tea, and lots of incense.

PB told about a secretary he hired who knew nothing of quester subjects. She worked for a few months and then one morning she didn’t show up at the usual time. A few hours later she came to work. Shortly before lunch she asked if he wanted to know why she was late. He said, yes, he was curious. She said that after she awoke she had a trance and felt she couldn’t move and remained in her chair. Now, she said, she could understand what he was writing about.

He told me about a healer, William MacMillian, who wrote The Reluctant Healer. He meditated each morning for an hour to an hour and a half; he forgot his body and his ego and connected to the Higher. Then he was ready to work. He only took patients that doctors couldn’t cure, and when he met them, he intuitively knew whether or not he could cure them. If yes, he asked them to lie down and lightly massaged the sick area. Heat was aroused in that area; this was kundalini heat. He then had the patient sleep for about a quarter of an hour. He scheduled eight a day, and often felt exhausted afterwards. He regarded himself as a professional and charged money; charging for use of spiritual powers may have contributed to his early heart attack. PB spoke to him about it but he wouldn’t change. PB would have worked half-time healing and half-time at another job, or maybe would have put out a bowl for donations.

PB likes colored lights. He said orange is vitalizing; red is too passionate; gold and yellow are ethereal. He likes to meditate under the red or blue light. He asked if I see auras; I said that close to the body I see blue. He said the etheric varies from green to blue.

Noise bothers PB. You should cut and not tear vegetables. They emit little screams. Would you prefer to be broken or cut? I said I’d never thought about it.

I asked if we could have his manuscripts and the other material he has written over the years on scraps of paper etc. He said they would have to be typed. I said we would organize them, type them, and index them so as to make them accessible to those who use our library. He agreed.

On walks a few times PB complained of the body being a burden and he didn’t know if it was worth the trouble any more.

I thanked PB for the opportunity to be with him, that it has helped in terms of the demand on me to be mindful. I apologized for my reactions that were negative and said that it was hard to do anything about them all at once. He said, yes, that the road wasn’t straight but that one had to call oneself back to the higher. I said that being in the presence of a sage was hard work, a constant strain to do what the higher wants instead of my egotistic wishes. He said that there was no rush, the self can’t be lost. Sometimes one is very close to it without being in it.

A 50-cent piece fell to the floor and he said to forget it. I pointed out that it would get him ¾ of the way home. He said he has a celestial address!

Animals have astral but not causal bodies.

I asked about the after-death experiences: if people in the astral were locked in their own imaginations or if they contacted others—or both? PB agreed with the latter. The body is a burden that prevents strong imaginative powers from working.

He told me about the current Sai Baba who produces rings. Some were fake, but not all. The rings were said to be dematerialized from various locations—shipwrecks etc.—and brought to him. These manifestations inspire the faith of his followers. We spoke of other types of magic such as healing. Jesus healed to give people a sign of spiritual reality. Faith is a great part of any healing. If a person doesn’t want to live, the life energy will wane and they will die. The question of faith healing in general came up: whether or not it is a good idea. Theosophists say it is an interference with one’s karma. The cures don’t always work; sometimes there is a relapse. Healing is a form of white magic.


I was living at Wisdom’s Goldenrod at the time [that Paul Brunton visited WG]; I was 25. I have some memory of when PB first walked down the path to Wisdom’s Goldenrod. My sense was that he…he almost seemed like an apparition. The atmosphere’s shimmering or something…a mirage kind of thing. And I remember him walking into the meditation room and he removed his picture from the altar—I don’t remember exactly how it happened.


My memory is that [in my interview] PB was very still. But when he spoke his voice just seemed to be coming from someplace very deep—almost as if he was channeling something. I don’t know; it was just, “Where is this coming from?” He also seemed very present too, so it was this funny combination; he was there and he was also completely still and when he spoke….He didn’t speak in continuous sentences: he would say a few words, and there would be a pause, and then he would say a little bit more and there would be another pause. It just seems to be coming from [laughs] another world.

The first thing he asked was, “Do you have any questions?” Of course I did; I’d spent days narrowing down my list of questions. I basically wanted to know what the relationship of individual and cosmic mentalism was. And then he said something like, “What do you think?” I tried to convey what my understanding was, and he said, “So that’s what you think.” [laughs]

PB started talking and I started writing down what PB was saying. There was a little bit of relief, taking notes! It was familiar, and I was a little off the hot seat. But it was really what I wanted: I really wanted to hear PB explain mentalism—and I was hoping I would get it. I think I got it down accurately. [You can read it here.]

At the time I was jaw-dropped open; I felt like that was a lot to take in. I thought I should just be quiet and let it come in. I was very grateful. That’s what I wanted: I wanted him to speak the truth to me and I wanted to be able to hear it spoken by him. I think Anthony talked about the best way to prepare for the interview: he talked about bringing your questions and—I don’t know if he talked about bringing the best part of you—the most fundamental and real questions.

One of my lasting impressions is that sense of stillness and peace and then out of that was coming these words. I felt like it was from deep, coming out, rather than coming down, as if the person talking to me was on top of the ocean and something very deep down was coming up. The peace and stillness were so palpable, yet they weren’t broken by his speaking.

Also—When I was nineteen, and was finishing freshman year at Cornell, I was reading The Wisdom of the Overself in the dorm. It was Memorial Day. I was in the “Scorpion of Death” chapter and it was talking about what are the sensations of the dying person. He says something like, “Something touches his consciousness which has imperturbably witnessed his bodily death and which he has hitherto not recognized as his self.” And the moment I read those words I was having that experience. But it didn’t stop there—I kept reading. Everything I read, I was experiencing: the life review. It was this odd thing: the very first moment of it I was released from my normal identity. I was like, oh, that’s not me! I don’t have anything to worry about. I also had the sense that I could care about other people because I didn’t have to care about this guy [points to himself]. Then came the life review. You see how you’ve harmed other people an the pain you’ve caused them. He says you see your life like with the consciousness magnified a thousandfold, and I just felt all of that. So I was plunged back into the person and then feeling tremendously responsible for all of the things I had done and not done. I felt almost as though I was remembering a past time of dying, so it wasn’t particular things, but more like the essence of it. So you would see your life from the perspective that was not the self-absorbed one. It left me with: It was possible to so miss the point of your life that when you saw your life it would just be horrible. That’s the unforgettable experience for me.