For many years, Dr. Paul Brunton - PB as he used to call himself - traveled the world in search of spiritual teachers and teachings, and put together his understanding and experience in a series of books published between 1935 and 1952.
During his last twenty years, he stopped his travels, and wrote inspired spiritual philosophy from his own inner realization. These more than 34.000 inspirations, written as individual notes on slips of paper, were published posthumously in 16 volumes, "The Notebooks of Paul Brunton", by members of Wisdom´s Goldenrod, Center for Philosophic Studies, in 1984 -1988.
These later writings greatly expand, clarify and deepen the paths PB had opened in his earlier books. While the earlier books unfold a progression of deepening understanding, in "The Notebooks of Paul Brunton", we find an atmosphere of truth, present from the beginning, and throughout.
Each note is a distinct window to reality. Some simply intuitively inspire us, resonating with our inner being. Others may take much concentrated consideration to understand. Many can be used as meditation themes. Since the reality which PB points us to is beyond the finite logical mind, the notes often work to undo mistaken concepts as much as to inform.
After much familiarity with these ideas a whole system of meaning, a “Philosophy of Truth”, begins to emerge. This philosophy brings wholeness and balance. It offers a deep understanding of the world, a full exploration of outer and inner reality. It gives an explanation of the significance of human experience, a power to penetrate appearances and to discover what is genuinely real.
The Philosophy of Truth is aimed at our awakening, our enlightenment.
Read more in The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, volume 1. This book is a survey of all 28 major categories in the Notebooks, covering every conceivable aspect of the spiritual quest.
The ego and the Overself
What is the ego? The ego is the person we take ourselves to be. In actuality, the ego is a whole range of thoughts, feelings, images, memories, conscious and unconscious habits, including physical, emotional, and mental experience, lit up by consciousness.
When the ego takes itself to be the real person, then we have the problem which PB calls egoism. Egoism is the strongly held thought of the personal I as the real self, and the resulting separation of the ego-self from the Overself. This mistaken identity is not only a problem of thought, it is a deep emotionally held mental habit.
Repeated thoughts and actions become tendencies, tendencies become habits and habit shapes our world experience. Over a long period of time, the habits and emotional residue of ego activity become very strong. The habit energies are beneath of conscious thought, volition and feeling.
PB says: "We may correct the error intellectually, but we still have to deal with the habit. So deeply ingrained is it that only a total effort can successfully alter it. So it requires a deep effort from the individual, calling forth the power of grace to undo the habit. This effort is called the Quest. "
The ego borrows its existence from a deeper source that PB calls the Overself. The Overself is the source of the ego’s consciousness, life and individuality and holds the continuity of essential experience from life to life.
PB says that we cannot totally describe the Overself as it is in its own nature—infinite and ineffable. But we can describe its presence and effects. The Overself is our point of contact with reality. The Overself is consciousness and life. It is Truth, Beauty and Goodness. It was never born and it will never die. Ego is put forth by the Overself as a center for experiencing the universe.
The Overself is related to individual centers of experience and is also universal. It is still and active, our unchanging divine nature as well as the basis of the human evolutionary journey. It is a particle of the infinite mind, but not the entire infinite mind: “a ray, not the sun.”
The most important feature of the Overself is its immediate presence. The Overself is already and always present, in and behind all our states of consciousness. All we need is awareness of it. But even this is not quite right - the Overself is awareness, and we are that. You cannot know the Overself as a thing, or through thought. You can know it only by being it.
PB’s word for the immediate, but not permanent, experience of yourself as Overself, is the glimpse. He says that "the glimpse may best be compared to a moment of wakefulness in a long existence of sleep."
Read more about this in The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, especially in volumes 6 and 14.
The world and the World-Mind
We have seen that there is an inner reality, a greater mind, behind the person, which PB calls the Overself. What then is the reality behind the world?
Mentalism is a term PB uses to explain that the world is a vast thought, not a material thing.
Almost everyone has the belief that the world is out there and the mind is in here, and somehow the world gets inside to be known. Mentalism points out that the world is not independent of our knowing it. Therefore, the world has its existence as an appearance in the mind. Compare with your dreams. The dreamworld and the dream person are in the dreamers mind.
Mentalism not only shows that the world is a thought, but points to the creative power and profound presence of the mind which has thoughts.
Right now you are reading these words. You can say with certainty that you are aware of the words, your body, the room you sit in. But you cannot take awareness out and look at it the way you look at words, body and room. The mind which knows the world cannot be known in the same way as the world it knows. This is the mystery of consciousness. The most immediate and important fact of experience - consciousness - is overlooked while the continually changing contents get all our attention.
We can explore the brain as much as we want, as an object, but that does not get us to the immaterial principle by which we know or see a brain. The knowing consciousness cannot be made an object. Mind is that which manifests the world and knows the world.
Moreover, this nature of mind which is the deeper reality behind the person and the world, by which we all know the world, is not local or individual. It is cosmic and infinite.
PB’s name for the creative intelligence manifesting the world is the World-Mind. He says: "The act of creative meditation which brings the universe into being is performed by the World-Mind. We, insofar as we experience the world, are participating in this act unconsciously. It is a thought-world and we are thought-beings." We might simply say that the World-Mind "thinks" the universe into existence.
The World-Mind’s idea of the cosmos, is the World-Idea. It is universal and eternal. The World-Mind contemplates its eternal ideas and manifests its ideas as the cosmos.
We each share in the World-Idea by thinking along with the World-Mind. PB says: "... the World-Mind is hidden deep within our individual minds. The World-Idea begets all our knowledge. Whoever seeks aright finds the sacred stillness inside and the sacred activity in the universe."
The ultimate nature of Mind is ineffable, void, spontaneous and unified unchanging consciousness. When Mind is active in manifesting and supporting the world, it is the World-Mind. When present in and through individual centers of experience, it is the Overself.
Read more about this in The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, especially in volume 13.
The twofold purpose of the human existence
There is a two-fold purpose to human existence. We are to develop our human nature and realize our divine nature.
We are here to learn and mature into a full human being. In this evolutionary process we are brought into harmony with the World-Idea while expressing our individual uniqueness. Each of the functions of life is to be brought to full use.
At the same time, the Overself is our true identity, and has put forth its consciousness as the person. The Overself is what we really are, but many of us do not know it, or do not dare to believe it. This unknowing and mistaken identity of thinking that we are the ego, is the source of all our sorrows.
Parallel to our human development, and based on our human maturity, we are brought to our deeper purpose - to recognize our true nature and shift our identity from the ego to the Overself. It is the grace of the Overself which brings us to recognize it.
Read more about this in The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, especially in volume 16.
The long and the short path
"The Quest of the Overself is none other than the final stage of mankind´s long pursuit of happiness". This is the first note in the first volume of the sixteen Notebooks of Paul Brunton. It is followed by thousands of other notes going to the heart of virtually every aspect of the spiritual quest.
What PB calls the long and the short path is based on the double nature of the individual as ego-self and Overself and the double nature of the journey to enligthenment - to freedom, truth, beauty.
PB says: "The long path calls for a continued effort of the will, the short one for a continued loving attention."
Developing of the ego is the basis of the long path. On the long path we refine the ego, develop our human potential, and learn to still our thoughts and to experience consciousness separate from its contents.
The Overself’s ever-presence is the basis of the short path. On the short path we recognize the Overself’s ever-presence, remember to stay in the stillness, affirm our true identity as Overself, and align ourselves with the World-Idea. Enlightenment is not something to be added. We cannot attain the Overself, since it is already there. Overself is "not a goal, but a realization of what already is."
This long and short path should not be considered separately. PB balances the two ways, assumes the person has had some long path work, or will do the long path work along with the short path. Indeed, only the first path is really a "path" at all. PB invites us to take the view that the Overself is present right from the beginning.
As he points out, "... the very search upon which you have embarked, the studies you are making, and the meditations you are practising are all inspired by the Overself from the beginning and sustained by it to the end... Indeed you have taken to the quest in unconscious obedience to the divine prompting. And that prompting is the first movement of Grace."
Moreover, in the end, there is really only one way: the way of complete surrender to the Overself. "The long path leads to the short path, and the short path leads to the grace of unbroken presence of the Overself."
Those who have matured enough to follow the inner prompting are led to a shift in consciousness - made possible by the grace of surrender, and made permanent as enlightenment.
The Long Path
On the Long Path you work on your ego:
- to purify, improve and perfect its character and feelings,
- to learn how to concentrate and meditate,
- to increase its knowledge,
- to get rid of obstacles to enlightenment.
The Long Path calls for continued effort. It takes a long time.
The Long Path prepares you for the Short Path and the Short Path leads to enlightenment - the goal of human existence.
The Short Path
The basis of the Short Path is that the Overself is always present. You are in the Overself now as much as you ever shall be—you ARE IT. All you need is awareness of it.
The Short Path is primarily an inner attitude. Short Path practices have a different character than the Long Path practices. There is no reference to the personal ego. It is the Path of Grace.
On the Short Path:
- remember the Overself constantly - its nature and attributes, its tokens and signs of
presence and eternity,
- be still and know,
- rest quitely in the simple fact that the Overself is,
- accept what the universe brings you,
- shift your identification from the ego to the Overself,
- give your love to the Overself,
- inquire into truth,
- rely joyfully on the Overself in all situations,
- substitute contemplation for meditation,
- stand aside as an observing witness of life, including your own,
- ignore and drop all negative ideas and feelings as soon as they come
In brief, the Short Path is surrender to the Overself through faith, love, humility and remembrance.
Read more about this in The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, especially in volume 15.