Paul Brunton

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A portrait of Paul Brunton

Paul Brunton (21 October 1898 – 27 July 1981) was a British philosopher, mystic and traveller. He left a journalistic career to live among yogis, mystics, and holy men, and studied Eastern and Western esoteric teachings.


Brunton was born in London in 1898. He was originally born Raphael Hurst. He was a bookseller and journalist. Brunton wrote under various pseudonyms, including Raphael Meriden and Raphael Delmonte, Later, he chose the pen name Brunton Paul, but for some reason, perhaps a printer's error, the names were reversed to Paul Brunton, a name that he kept. He served in a tank division during the First World War, and later devoted himself to mysticism and came into contact with Theosophists. Being partner of an occult bookshop, The Atlantis Bookshop, in Bloomsbury, Brunton came into contact with both the literary and occult British intelligentsia of the 1920s. In the early 1930s, Brunton embarked on a voyage to India, which brought him into contact with such luminaries as Meher Baba, Vishuddhananda Paramahansa, Sri Shankaracharya of Kancheepuram and Ramana Maharshi. When Brunton met the Shankaracharya of Kanchipuram he was directed to meet Sri Ramana. Brunton's first visit to Sri Ramana's ashram took place in 1931. During this visit, Brunton was accompanied by a Buddhist Bhikshu, formerly a military officer but meanwhile known as Swami Prajnananda, the founder of the English Ashram in Rangoon. Brunton asked several questions, including "What is the way to God-realization?" and Maharshi said: "Vichara, asking yourself the 'Who am I?' enquiry into the nature of your Self."[1]

Brunton has been credited with introducing Ramana Maharshi to the West through his books A Search in Secret India and The Secret Path.[2]

One day—sitting with Ramana Maharshi—Brunton had an experience which Steve Taylor names "an experience of genuine enlightenment which changed him forever". Brunton describes it in the following way:

I find myself outside the rim of world consciousness. The planet which has so far harboured me disappears. I am in the midst of an ocean of blazing light. The latter, I feel rather than think, is the primeval stuff out of which worlds are created, the first state of matter. It stretches away into untellable infinite space, incredibly alive.[3]

The times of World War II Brunton spent in India, being hosted a guest by the Maharaja of Mysore, His Highness Sri.Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV.[4][5] He dedicated his book The Quest of the Overself to the Maharaja and when the Maharaja died in 1940, he was present at his funeral. Brunton was later prevented from visiting the Sri Ramana Maharshi ashram, but he maintained a strong inner connection with Ramana Maharshi. In Ramana Maharshi's last year he sent a message to Brunton, saying "When heart speaks to heart, what is there to say?"[6]

Brunton also made a notable comment on Mahatma Gandhi and the struggle for Indian independence in general while speaking of his conversation with an Indian college student in his work A Search in Secret India, which reveals quite another facet of his personality:

I discover, too, that he has not yet succumbed to the hysteria for politics which has attacked most of the young students in the towns, though India is now in the throes of the long turmoil which Gandhi has aroused into being in his effort to disturb the relations between white rulers and brown ruled.[7]

After two decades of successful writing, Brunton retired from publishing books and devoted himself to writing essays and notes. Upon his death in 1981 in Vevey, Switzerland, it was noted that in the period since the last published book in 1952, he had rendered about 20,000 pages of philosophical writing.

A longtime friend of Brunton's, philosopher Anthony Damiani, founder of Wisdom's Goldenrod Center for Philosophic Studies in 1972,[8] coordinated the publishing effort together with a team of people including Paul Cash and Timothy Smith[disambiguation needed]. The Swedish-American publisher Robert Larson started publishing the 16-volume set in 1984.

Hidden Teachings Beyond Yoga[edit]

If Brunton can not be credited with introducing Yoga to the West because of the existence of other previous luminaries such as Blavatsky, Vivekananda and Yogananda, at least he holds a preeminent position in bringing to the West the best the Orient has to offer: the doctrine of Mentalism. No other writer but Brunton has declared Mentalism to be the esoteric doctrine of the Orient. Brunton is also the only writer to differentiate Oriental Mentalism from Berkeley's.[9]

As the theory of relativity, according to Einstein, brings space and time together so does mentalism unite spirit and matter; this phenomenon is explained by Brunton as being inherent in imagination.[10]

Brunton expounds the doctrine of mentalism in his magnum opus, first in part one which is introductory and preparatory titled The Hidden Teachings Beyond Yoga and last but not least in a revelatory work named The Wisdom of the Overself. Joscelyn Godwin stated "...Since discovering Brunton's work in 1960s I have found no reason to discard their philosophical principles."[11]


In the 1940s and 1950s, Brunton occasionally stayed as a guest, for a few weeks at a time, for no more than six months total, with the parents of controversial American author and former psychoanalyst Jeffrey Masson, the son of a Jewish American friend of Brunton,[12] For a variety of reasons Masson's parents came to think of themselves as being among a handful of Brunton's close disciples. Brunton however did not have disciples or claim to be anyone's guru, in fact always remained fiercely independent of groups and would-be followers, calling himself a "student" of spiritual matters, not a teacher. Initially influenced by Brunton, Masson gradually became disillusioned with him. According to Masson, Brunton singled him out as a potential heir to his spiritual kingdom. That is an interpretation by Masson derived from his parent's hopes for him, with no indication that Brunton said or thought anything of the sort. Brunton, a reticent and reserved person who enjoyed the company of this young family at the time (before they turned on him) presented a tabula raza onto which, beneath the friendly surface, they could project their own hyperbolic spiritual fantasies, something that happens all too often among would-be spiritual seekers. The disillusionment of the Masson family came about as their association with Brunton did not yield them the spiritual experiences they expected (and ultimately demanded of him). In 1956, Brunton decided that a third world war was imminent [along with a great many other people living at the time, including the Swiss who built bunkers for the entire population] and the Massons moved to Montevideo, since this location was considered safe. From Uruguay, Masson went with Brunton's encouragement to study Sanskrit at Harvard. Brunton himself did not move to South America, instead spending some time living in New Zealand.[13] Masson subsequently became proficient at Sanskrit, and stated that Brunton did not have the facility with the language that Masson says he claimed. In fact Brunton's claims to proficiency in Sanskrit, if they were made at all, were based not on his own knowledge of the language, but the interpretation of rare Sanskrit texts in the private library of the Maharaja of Mysore made available to him through the personal tutelage and translation of distinguished pundit Subramanya Iyer. Brunton never claimed knowledge of Sanskrit beyond that particular mode of exposure to it, which, if you consider Iyers qualifications and the nature of the material he expounded to Brunton, was on a very high level indeed; in general the Massons had no concept of the circles in which Brunton had moved and still moved while Brunton thought he was occasionally relaxing in the bosom of a friendly young family, lively with children and pets, and well disposed to him; the underlying reality later came to him as a shock [14] Masson wrote a critical account of Brunton titled My Father's Guru: A Journey Through Spirituality and Disillusion'.

See also[edit]




  • Brunton, Paul. 1975. "A Living Sage of South India" in The Sage of Kanchi New Delhi: Arnold-Heinemann, New Delhi. ed by T.M.P. Mahadevan, chapter 2
  • Brunton, Paul. 1959, 1987. Introduction to Fundamentals of Yoga by Rammurti S. Mishra, M.D. New York; Harmony Books
  • Brunton, Paul. 1937. "Western Thought and Eastern Culture" The Cornhill Magazine
  • Brunton, Paul. 1951. Introduction to Wood, Ernest Practical Yoga London: Rider
  • Plus articles in Success Magazine, Occult Review, and The Aryan Path

Posthumously published texts[edit]

  • Essays on the Quest (1984)
  • Essential Readings
  • Conscious Immortality [16]
  • Notebooks of Paul Brunton (1984–88)


  1. ^ Description of the visit and reproduction of one of the dialogues with the Maharshi, done from rough notes
  2. ^ Kamath, M. V.; Kher, V. B. (2003). Sai Baba of Shirdi: A Unique Saint. Jaico Publishing House. p. 298. ISBN 9788172240301. Ramana Maharshi...was revealed to the wider world outside India by Paul Brunton... 
  3. ^ Paul Brunton in his book A Search in Secret India, p.305, cited by Steve Taylor in his article Satsang The Power of Spiritual Presence /in New Dawn Magazine No. 101 (Mar–Apr 2007)
  4. ^ Jeffrey M. Masson (1999), Der Guru meines Vaters, Eine Kindheit mit Paul Brunton, Berlin, Theseus, ISBN 3-89620-144-1, p. 25
  5. ^ Annie Cahn Fung, Paul Brunton A Bridge Between India and the West, Part I: Genesis of a Quest, Chapter 3: In Mysore
  6. ^ "Notebooks of Paul Brunton, Category 15: The Orient", Chapter 2, p.453
  7. ^ Brunton, Paul. A Search in Secret India, p. 165
  8. ^ Wisdom's Goldenrod Center for Philosophic Studies
  9. ^ Mansfield, Victor (1995). Synchronicity, science, and soul-making. p. 195. ISBN 9780812693041. The world is the invention of Universal Mind. 
  10. ^ Feuerstein, Georg (1997). Lucid Waking. Inner Traditions/Bear & Co. pp. 157–158. ISBN 9780892816132. We like to reiterate that 'everything is relative'... 
  11. ^ Godwin, Joscelyn (2007). The Golden Thread. Quest Books. p. 186. ISBN 9780835608602. My mentalistic position is not based on any academic training in philosophy... 
  12. ^ Storr, Anthony (1997). Feet of clay. Simon & Schuster. p. 162. ISBN 978-0-684-83495-5. He was so ashamed of being half-Jewish that he had a cosmetic operation on his nose. this is an interpretation of Masson 
  13. ^ "In 1963, after several years of travelling and living in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, Brunton withdrew to the serenity of the Swiss Alps." Adyar online
  14. ^ Yoga Journal 112. Active Interest Media Inc. Sep–Oct 1993. p. 116. This is a critical account of growing up with a guru in the house. Yet that "guru" who by his own account never accepted "disciples" and only ever called himself a "student" of the subjects he was writing about, spent a total of only six months as a house-guest of the Massons, staying no more than a few weeks at a time during the period in question. Thus Masson either sincerely--from a small child's perspective at the time; or wilfully distorted the facts. Anyone who knows Brunton knows he never claimed to be anyone's guru, and remained fiercely independent in his thoughts and movements. Source: Brunton's wife Evangeline Noël Brunton mentioned in the book. She has a great deal of documentation in her possession, of Brunton's movements, whereabouts, personal affairs etc. There are thus a number of difficulties with the account given by Masson. [Melody Beaumont Talcott, her daughter] issn=0191-0965 
  15. ^ Some information
  16. ^ Excerpts

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]