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Convictions & Concerns

TAT members share their personal convictions and/or concerns

Short Path/Long Path:
Teachings of Paul Brunton

TAT Founder Richard Rose recommended Paul Brunton's books Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga (1941) and Wisdom of the Overself (1943) to seekers. Mark Scorelle, a student of one of Brunton's students, met Brunton (1898-1981) on perhaps his last visit to the U.S. He presented quotes from Brunton's work along with a sparkling resume of his own spiritual path at the June 2016 TAT gathering. Excerpts from his notes follow.

Just a mention that Paul Brunton coined the term Overself, and it is a key word; he uses it a lot. It is like a mathematical variable in a formula. It can mean different things depending on the context. Sometimes it's dualistic, such as the object of devotion, communications, sometimes nondualistic such as Consciousness, Pure Mind, sometimes as Soul overseeing and educating through incarnations and reincarnations, sometimes as mystical experiences, revelations, and glimpses. Generally it's meant as the goal of spiritual life, enlightenment, self-realization.

Most people who start the Short Path have usually had a glimpse of the Overself, because otherwise they find it too difficult to understand what the Short Path is about. The Long Path, through its studies and practices, is the period of preparation for the advanced quest. It is called the Long Path because there is much work to be done on it and much development of character and emotions to go through.

After some measure of this preparation, the aspirants enter the Short Path to complete this work. This takes a comparatively much shorter time and, as it has the possibility of yielding the full self-enlightenment at any moment, it ends suddenly. What they are trying to do on the Long Path continues by itself once they have entered fully on the Short Path. On the Long Path they are concerned with the personal ego and as a result give the negative thoughts their attention.

On the Short Path they refuse to accept these negatives and instead look to the Overself. Thus the struggles will disappear. This change of attitude is called "voiding" them. The moment such negative ideas and feelings appear, then instead of using the Long Path method of concentrating on the opposite kind of thought, such as calmness instead of anger, the Short Path way simply drops the negative idea into the Void, the Nothingness, and forgets it. Now such a change can only be brought about by doing it quickly and firmly and turning to the Overself.

Constant remembrance of the Overself has to be done all the way through the Short Path. The Long Path works on the ego; but the Short Path uses the result of that work, which prepared them to come into communion with the Overself and become receptive to its presence, which includes its grace.

In order to understand the Short Path, it might be helpful to compare it to the Long Path, which consists of a series of exercises and efforts that gradually develops concentration and character and knowledge. But the Long Path does not lead to the goal. On the Long Path you often measure your own progress. It is an endless path because there will always be new circumstances which bring new temptations and trials and confront the aspirant with new challenges. No matter how spiritual the ego becomes it does not enter the whitest light, but remains in the greyish light. On the Long Path you must deal with the urges of interference arising from the lower self and the negativity which enters from the surrounding environment. But the efforts on the Long Path will at last invoke the grace, which opens the perspective of the Short Path.

The Short Path is not an exercise but an inner standpoint to invoke, a state of consciousness where one comes closer or finds peace in the Overself. There are, however, two exercises which can be of help to lead to the Short Path, but they have quite a different character than the exercises on the Long Path. The Short Path takes less time because the aspirant turns around and faces the goal directly. The Short Path means that you begin to try to remember to live in the rarefied atmosphere of the Overself instead of worrying about the ego and measuring its spiritual development. You learn to trust more and more in the Higher Power. On the Short Path you ignore negativity and turn around 180 degrees, from the ego to the Overself. The visitations of the Overself are heralded through devotional feeling, but also through intuitive thought and action. Often the two paths can be treaded simultaneously, but not necessarily equally.

Often the aspirant is not ready to start these two exercises until after one or several glimpses of the Overself.

Public domain photo from Wikimedia Commons. From A Search in Secret India (1933).

The "remembrance exercise" consists of trying to recall the glimpse of the Overself, not only during the set meditation periods but also in each moment during the whole working span of the day – in the same way as a mother who has lost her child cannot let go of the thought of it no matter what she is doing outwardly, or as a lover who constantly holds the vivid image of the beloved in the back of his mind. In a similar way, you keep the memory of the Overself alive during this exercise and let it shine in the background while you go about your daily work. But the spirit of the exercise is not to be lost. It must not be mechanical and cold. The time may come later when the remembrance will cease as a consciously and deliberately willed exercise and pass by itself into a state which will be maintained without the help of the ego's will.

The remembrance is a necessary preparation for the second exercise (as-if), in which you try to obtain an immediate identification with the Overself. Just as an actor identifies with the role he plays on the stage, you act think and live during the daily life "as if" you were the Overself. This exercise is not merely intellectual but also includes feeling and intuitive action. It is an act of creative imagination in which by turning directly to playing the part of the Overself you make it possible for its grace to come more and more into your life. - Notebooks Category 23: Advanced Contemplation > Chapter 5: Balancing the Paths > #2

About the book

About 15 years ago I started a list serve, an email list which ultimately ended up on Yahoo Groups. I would post one Paul Brunton quote a day. Eventually I was getting these quotes from an online database which Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation has on their website. At the time I was exploring Eckhart Tolle and a host of other then new nondual teachers. I found that PB had a large number of quotes on this in his posthumous notebooks, especially in the section called "Advanced Contemplation." Gmail had just started, and it had a way to subscribe to a number of other discussion groups doing the same thing. The most notable is Jerry Katz's "Nonduality Highlights," which I still look at for the occasional quote. Paul Cash of Larson Publications asked me if I would put together a book on the Short Path topic. I went through the years of postings and put together about 400 quotes. The project languished for a while until I finally asked Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation if they were interested in backing the publication. They liked the project, gave it to their editors, and The Short Path to Enlightenment: Instructions for Immediate Awakening was the result.

A little on Paul Brunton

The group I was associated with in the Ithaca, NY area treated Paul Brunton as their spiritual father, as it were. He was our teacher's teacher, Anthony Damiani's guru and teacher. I met PB, as we called him, once in 1977 for an hour interview when he came to the States. It was during that interview that I grocked the peaceful, thought-free state he was coming from. It was really the beginning of the Short Path. I was stagnating on the Long Path. If you look at Paul Brunton's catalog of books, he is not really a nondual author. He is more like a translator/intermediary for spiritually-minded people to have access to the Wisdom of the East, and his approach is more integral or synthesizing. PB is famous for introducing Ramana Maharshi to Western seekers in A Search in Secret India, and note that Ramana is a pure nondual teacher. I think PB considered Western seekers unprepared for the starkness of pure Advaita. Seekers cover a vast range of aptitude, maturity, and sophistication. Nonduality is kind of the end of the line and a precipice frightening for many. I think his most nondual book is the Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga, which he wrote under the tutelage of V. Subramaniya Iyer, an Advaita Teacher of the late 30's early 40's associated with the Ramakrishna Ashram during the period when they were translating and publishing the sacred Hindu texts for the West. Iyer was the guru of Swami Nikhilananda (New York) and Swami Siddeswarananda (France). It was Iyer who professed the teaching of Mentalism: the world that appears is a product and projection of the mind. It is a particular reading of Advaitic epistemology. Sounds fancy, but it's that the world of appearance is a mirage or a dream projected forth from a deeper layer of the mind. Consciousness is the most commonly used word, sometimes emptiness, but some use Mind (notably Huang Po). In nondualistic circles it's called mind with a capital "M."

Earth life is but a dream, lived out in a dream physical body amid a dream environment. Dream experiences are only ideas; during sleep-dream man sees, hears, touches, tastes, and smells exactly as he does during waking-dream. Hence waking is but materialized ideas, but still ideas. God's cosmic dream: all universal activities are but different ideas of God, divine ideation made material and thrown upon the screen of human consciousness. The cosmic illusion is impinged upon man's sense and seen from within by Mind through consciousness, sensation, and bodily organ. - Notebooks Category 21: Mentalism > Chapter 3: The Individual and World Mind > #23

(a) "The one without a second" reappears in the universe as "no two things alike." (b) Nonduality, not two, means mentalism; the world is my idea, in my consciousness, hence not separate from me. There are not two – me plus world. - Notebooks Category 19: The Reign of Relativity > Chapter 2: The Double Standpoint > #18

Brunton's last published book was The Spiritual Crisis of Man dated 1952. This is right before the wave of Jiddu Krishnamurti and Zen teachings emerged into the public eye. I'm saying PB is a little dated. He had a different role to play.

My history

I started with the Wisdom's Goldenrod group in 1969, just as I was graduating college. Anthony Damiani was teaching Jung in a bookstore called the American Brahman in Ithaca. A couple of years later, a center named Wisdom's Goldenrod was built by members in Hector, NY. We studied Jung, Steiner, Astrology, Plato with original translation by Thomas Taylor, Advaita Vedanta, etc. Very interesting stuff. Quite an intellectual group. Most of it was over my head. I was with Anthony for 15 years until he died in 1984. After Brunton had died in 1981, Wisdom's Goldenrod community gained access to the voluminous personal notebooks he kept most of his life. These were edited, organized, and later published. These Notebooks were my teachers in the 1980's. In the 1990's I got involved in the Paganism/Shamanism movement: Terence McKenna, drum circles and ayahuasca trips to Peru. In 2002 I attended a retreat at Omega Institute with Eckhart Tolle on the chance recommendation of a friend. This got me interested in the emerging nondual teachers, and I switched paths. In 2006 I attended a retreat with Adyashanti and was fortunate enough to have received a direct transmission of pure awareness and emptiness, true nature. And a couple of years ago I was initiated into unicity, oneness by Fred Davis, a teacher in Columbia, SC. Despite all this, I don't consider myself enlightened or at least not enlightened enough.

On the Long Path

Let's just read a few quotes from the book.

It would be wonderful if everyone, everywhere, could slip so easily into the kingdom of heaven, and just as easily stay there forever. But alas! the facts of human nature forbid it. People require teaching, training, purifying, disciplining, and preparing, before they can do so. And the course needed is a lifetime's, the work needed much and varied. That is why the Long Path is needed. - Notebooks Category 23: Advanced Contemplation > Chapter 4: The Changeover To the Short Path > #1

The "purification" which he is to seek through the Long Path is not the narrow limited and intolerant kind which too often is called by this name. It is not at all merely a harsh denial of the sexual instinct. It is a cleansing of consciousness, of his thought-life, his emotional life, and even of his bodily condition. Its aim is to prepare his consciousness so that it can receive the truth without deflecting or warping or blocking it. Inevitably the most important work and always the most difficult work along this line will be the elimination of the ego's tyranny. - Notebooks Category 23: Advanced Contemplation > Chapter 4: The Changeover To the Short Path > #26

When I first started on "the Path" there was a sense that I had to become worthy to be "a Quester" as we called it. Being a pot-smoking artist hippie wasn't going to cut it. We had a regimen, no drugs or alcohol, meditate 45 minutes a day, become a vegetarian, give up rock music, listen to classical music, read spiritually-minded authors and books and become a good citizen, get a hair-cut and get a real job. These were never stated explicitly but there was a sense of group conformity, like this is what you had to do as guidelines for being worthy of the spiritual search. Mostly this was achieved through devotion to a teacher. We did these things to please the guru, imagining these were his expectations (which they weren't by-the-way). Also there is an inner guru, an inner feeling that said we were good and worthy because we read or meditated or helped an old lady across the street. This was part of the path, but also there were occasional transcendent experiences "glimpses," "revelations," "epiphanies," that became guideposts for me.

Islamic mystics called Sufis differentiate between glimpses, which they call "states," and permanent advances on the path, which they call "stations." The former are described as being not only temporary but also fragmentary, while the latter are described as bearing results which cannot be lost. There are three main stations along the path. The first is annihilation of the ego; the second is rebirth in the Overself; and the third is fully grown union with the Overself. The Sufis assert that this final state can never be reached without the Grace of the Higher Power and that it is complete, lasting, and unchangeable." - Notebooks Category 22: Inspiration and the Overself > Chapter 8: Glimpses and Permanent Illumination > #28

It's interesting how these three stations line up with the 3 enlightenments of Adyashanti, head, heart and will.

Transition to the Short Path

The transition to the Short Path can take many different forms. One possible way is that you can run them both parallel like with the teacher Francis Bennett. He was a Trappist Monk, but towards the end of his career, he would go off and practice self-inquiry for 3 years and then came to self-realization. Another point is the Long Path only works from the Short Path. On the Long Path you are basically at war with yourself. It is a situation which perpetuates separation and discontent. On the Short Path, negative characteristics drop away or are transmuted because you are not feeding them with attention.

The most likely transition scenario is that there is no longer any energy or enthusiasm to continue the Long Path. You can't be an ascetic monk forever, life catches up with you. Interest fades. After all, the Long Path is one defeat after another. The transition to the Short Path is often heralded by a "big glimpse," sometimes brought on by life circumstances. But for me, the transition was a resonance with certain teachings and took years to emerge and then show itself. As one woman at a retreat said, it was like hearing Jed McKenna calling to her over the Grand Canyon.

The way to the goal does not lie through a cleansing of the ego alone: it lies also through a desertion of it. The first way is necessary only because it helps to make the second one possible. - Notebooks Category 23: Advanced Contemplation > Chapter 4: The Changeover To the Short Path > #19

If the Long Path begins and ends with ego, the Short Path begins with a 180 degree turnaround, opens up a vista of the infinite Overself. - Notebooks Category 23: Advanced Contemplation > Chapter 1: Entering the Short Path > #35

On the Long Path his actions follow, or try – however badly – to follow, the rules. They are imitative actions. But on the Short Path he becomes an individual, living from the inside out. - Notebooks Category 23: Advanced Contemplation > Chapter 5: Balancing the Paths > #93

One takes up the Long Path disciplines willfully and forcefully. Those tendencies that you revolt from are not resolved but lying dormant for the right circumstances to come around for them to manifest again. Why are they still there? Because they still have life, they still have juice.

Short Path

Entry into the Short Path is a matter of maturity and timing. The yearning has to come from the quester. It is Nature's purpose to bring us to realization; but to push people, to proselytize, to force them to this path, is not a good idea. The Short Path also seems to be particularly susceptible to intellectual masking, or faking it. Some people understand it, can reflect it back to you, say the right things yet still not be enlightened. This path is appealing also to the lazy and superficial because "you are already as enlightened as you are ever going to be," "there is no need for meditation, or spiritual practices, no need for any type of discipline or work," "practices and disciplines are an obstruction."

In many ways the Short Path is the opposite of the Long Path:

Consciousness appearing as the person seeks itself. This is its quest. But when it learns and comprehends that it is itself the object of that quest, the person stops not only seeking outside himself but even engaging in the quest itself. Henceforth he lets himself be moved by the Overself's flow. - Notebooks Category 23: Advanced Contemplation > Chapter 1: Entering the Short Path > #3

It is easy to see why the Short Path is so attractive to so many people. Why cultivate the virtues one by one, or the qualities one at a time? Why plod through them in all their varied details? Why engage in extreme effort and undergo patient discipline? Why weary yourself labouring after what is so hard to obtain on the Long Path, when here is a way whereby they will come of themselves, springing spontaneously and almost unbidden into existence, easily and naturally? - Notebooks Category 23: Advanced Contemplation > Chapter 2: Pitfalls and Limitations > #88

The Exercises

One of the interesting aspects of Brunton's presentation is that he gives some exercises. More recently, Loch Kelly published Shift into Freedom, a book with a 3-CD set of exercises. Some of the exercises are really good. He has really developed and fulfilled an area that Brunton was pointing to. Of course, the grandfather of all short path exercises is "Who Am I?"


The "remembrance" exercise is a first Short Path access point. It is an inner calling to a higher consciousness, God or Goddess or your own inner self. It's realized in a formless trance beyond the pairs of opposites. Desires are rooted in this one love, awe, and peace.

I ran across something similar in Gurdjieff's teaching called the Alarm Clock exercise, described by Ouspensky in The Fourth Way. I have heard of people who literally used an alarm clock set at random to stop, freeze, and self-observe, to wake-up out of the trance of everyday life. You can also have other markers as alarm clocks. I had some success with this. I had a problem. I used to think of a certain person and get angry over some interaction we had in the past. This would happen two or three times a day. I would use these incidents to take the stance of the Overself. I would recall the feeling aspect of the Overself – compassion or good will. I did this every day for about six months, then it culminated in an overwhelming experience of an inner vision of the person in question as the Overself. So it works; I recommend it.

For me, it is easier to use a feeling as the basis of remembrance than trying to imaginatively reconstruct the perceptual and intellectual aspects of the "Witness Self" kind of glimpse. Goodness, for example. If we read the news, take a look at the world today, it inspires fear, anxiety, anger, and disgust at the evils of mankind.

But stop and look within, and get in touch with a feeling like nothing is wrong, as in the saying: "God's in his heaven, all's well with the world."

Sometimes Grace manifests as a burning desire to know the truth or to experience the Overself. A certain desperation that time is running out, you've dedicated your life to finding this reality, and come up short. This path can manifest as a sense of lack, heartsick missing of the beloved even though you don't know what the beloved is. That yearning itself is grace.

Also reading traditional and inspired texts takes you back time after time to the Original Nature and can be a short path exercise although it isn't mentioned much.

This act of recollection requires no effort, no exercise of the power of will. It is an act of turning in, through and by the power of love, toward the source of being. Love redirects the attention and love keeps it concentrated, sustained, obedient. - Notebooks Category 23: Advanced Contemplation > Chapter 6: Advanced Meditation > #255

As if

A part of the practical technique for attaining the inner awareness of this timeless reality is the practice of the AS IF exercise. With some variations it has already been published in The Wisdom of the Overself, and an unpublished variant has been included in descriptions of the Short Path as "identification with the Overself." The practitioner regards himself no longer from the standpoint of the quester, but from that of the Realized Man. He assumes, in thought and action, that he has nothing to attain because he bases himself on the Vedantic truth that Reality, of which he is a part, is here and now – is not reached in time, being timeless – and that therefore he is as divine as he ever will be. He rejects the appearance of things, which identifies man only with his ego, and insists on the higher identification with Overself. - Notebooks Category 23: Advanced Contemplation > Chapter 6: Advanced Meditation > #115

Another way to consider the "As if": If you have seen the Truth of nonduality, seen what you really are is empty living awareness, then remembrance happens spontaneously at various times. It's part of the process of dissolving the ego and its habitual approach to life. You now know there is peace from conflict, a stable standpoint amidst the vicissitudes of life, a genuine healthy holistic way of being. So when the field of experience gets challenging, there is a natural tendency to take the higher point of view. You are deathless and can never be harmed. Courageousness, or fearlessness, is one of the chief characteristics of self-realization: the Lion's Roar.

Yet another way of this path is Mindfulness. Keep attention always direct in a silent mind, and be clear, don't get distracted by thoughts. Be Perception. The empty, aware space that you are is always clear, gives 100% attention to whatever circumstance or person is before it. Take a look at the book Not I, Not other than I: The Life and Teachings of Russel Williams. This attentiveness to the present moment is key to his teaching.

Another way is to get in touch with a deep sense of peace within yourself and project it out during the day. The Overself as Peace. Also "As If" you are clarity. Identify the mind with the clear space of perception, and see its nature is clarity; it's perfectly clear and empty.

Inhabit your body as if it were the sense organ of Consciousness, of God. Be receptive to the finer feelings of Nature, a light breeze, some sweet flower smell, the aliveness of tall grass stirring, grasshoppers jumping, etc.

PB follow-up quotes

Not only is the world an appearance-in-Consciousness, but so is the ego. It is in the end a thought, perhaps the strongest of all; and only the Consciousness-in-Itself is the Reality from which it draws sustenance, existence, life. - Notebooks Category 21: Mentalism > Chapter 5: The Key To the Spiritual World > #138

Grace is of two kinds. The ordinary, better known, and inferior kind is that which is found on the Long Path. It flows from the Overself in automatic response to intense faith or devotion, expressed during a time of need. It is a reaction to seeking for help. The rarer and superior kind is found on the Short Path. It arises from self-identification with the Overself or constant recollection of it. There is no ego here to seek help or to call for a Grace which is necessarily ever present in the Overself. - Notebooks Category 23: Advanced Contemplation > Chapter 6: Advanced Meditation > #7

When you awaken to truth as it really is, you will have no occult vision, you will have no "astral" experience, no ravishing ecstasy. You will awaken to it in a state of utter stillness, and you will realize that truth was always there within you and that reality was always there around you. Truth is not something which has grown and developed through your efforts. It is not something which has been achieved or attained by laboriously adding up those efforts. It is not something which has to be made more and more perfect each year. And once your mental eyes are opened to truth they can never be closed again. - Notebooks Category 25: World-Mind in Individual Mind > Chapter 2: Enlightenment Which Stays > #77

His quest for God has reached its terminus but his quest in God will now start its course. Henceforth his life, experience, and consciousness are wrapped in mystery. - Notebooks Category 23: Advanced Contemplation > Chapter 4: The Changeover To the Short Path > #54


Mark Scorelle is a lifelong seeker of spiritual truth and a longtime student of Paul Brunton's work. He is a co-compiler of Brunton's book The Short Path to Enlightenment: Instructions for Immediate Awakening (2014) – a collection of "short path" teachings that point toward a simple recognition, a brief moment of grace, that brings a far-off spiritual goal to an actual experience of here and now.

Adyashanti's endorsement of The Short Path to Enlightenment

"Paul Brunton gives a profound voice to the profound teachings of immediate spiritual awakening that have the power to short-circuit the seeker in us and reveal the true nature of reality here and now. The true gift of this wonderful book is on how nuanced and subtle Paul Brunton understood these profound and transformational teachings and how directly he conveys them. Read this book as you would a scripture or sutra and let it open your eyes to eternity."

Return to the main page of the July 2016 TAT Forum.

TAT Foundation News

It's all about "ladder work" – helping and being helped

Downloadable/rental versions of the Mister Rose video and of April TAT talks Remembering Your True Desire:

"You don't know anything until you know Everything...."

Mister Rose is an intimate look at a West Virginia native many people called a Zen Master because of the depth of his wisdom and the spiritual system he conveyed to his students. Profound and profane, Richard Rose was not the kind of man most people picture when they think of mystics or spiritual teachers. Yet, he was the truest of teachers, one who had "been there," one who had the cataclysmic experience of spiritual enlightenment.

Filmed in the spring of 1991, the extraordinary documentary follows Mr. Rose from a radio interview, to a university lecture and back to his farm, as he talks about his experience, his philosophy and the details of his life.

Whether you find him charming or offensive, fatherly or fearsome, you will not forget him, and never again will you think about yourself, reality, or life after death in quite the same way.

3+ hours total. Rent or buy at tatfoundation.vhx.tv/.

2012 April TAT Meeting – Remembering Your True Desire

Includes all the speakers from the April 2012 TAT meeting: Art Ticknor, Bob Fergeson, Shawn Nevins and Heather Saunders.

1) Remembering Your True Desire ... and Acting on It, by Art Ticknor
Spiritual action is like diving for the Pearl beyond Price. What do you do when you don't know what to do or how to do it? An informal discussion centered around the question: "What prevents effective spiritual action?"

2) Swimming in the Inner Ocean: Trips to the Beach, by Bob Fergeson
A discussion of the varied ways we can use in order to hear the voice of our inner ocean, the heart of our true desires.

3) A Wider and Wilder Vision, by Shawn Nevins
Notes on assumptions, beliefs, and perspectives that bind and free us.

4) Make Your Whole Life a Prayer, by Heather Saunders
An intriguing look into a feeling-oriented approach to life.

5+ hours total. Rent or buy at tatfoundation.vhx.tv/.

Return to the main page of the July 2016 TAT Forum.

Did you enjoy the Forum? Then buy the book! Beyond Mind, Beyond Death is available at Amazon.com.

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