Brunton, Paul (1898-1981)

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Brunton, Paul (1898-1981)

British-born journalist who wrote important books on philosophy and comparative religion. He was educated at Central Foundation School, London, and McKinley-Roosevelt College, Chicago, Illinois. Early in life he became interested in Spiritualism. He developed mediumistic powers himself, notably clairvoyance and clairaudience, and thus verified the existence of psychic faculties from first-hand personal experience. Later he joined the Theosophical Society, but left after two years. He contacted various occult groups, comparing their teachings, and became a close friend of Ananda Metteya (Allan Bennett ), who initiated Brunton into Buddhist meditation.

Brunton assisted Bennett to publish his journal the Buddhist Review. According to Brunton, Bennett developed a breath control that enabled him at times to alter the specific gravity of his body, so that while sitting in a yoga posture he could rise a foot or two into the air, and then float gently down to the floor again a short distance from the spot where he first sat. Brunton also stated that around the time of Bennett's death, Bennett had "sacrificed his body in an effort to extricate me from a dangerous position."

Brunton traveled in India and Egypt, and attracted tremendous interest with his famous book, A Search in Secret India (1934). This was followed by A Search in Secret Egypt, (1935), A Hermit in the Himalayas (1937), and The Quest of the Overself (1937). Although Brunton was at first concerned primarily with miracle-working holy men, he soon became attracted to the deepest metaphysical aspects of yoga and mysticism and was one of the first Europeans to draw attention to Sri Ramana Maharshi of Tiruvannamalai, South India, one of the greatest modern Hindu mystics.

Brunton's books greatly influenced the occult revival and growth of Eastern religion from the 1930s onward, stimulating popular interest in yoga, meditation, and the teachings of gurus. In 1956 he retired to Switzerland and devoted himself to meditation. During these years he wrote The Inner Reality (1959), The Hidden Teaching beyond Yoga (1959), and The Secret Path (1959). His thoughts and insights on the spiritual life, which he recorded in a series of notebooks numbering some 7,000 pages, were an exposition of the synthesis of Eastern mysticism and Western rational thought. They were published posthumously as The Notebooks of Paul Brunton: Perspectives (1984). Brunton died July 27, 1981, in Vevey, Switzerland.