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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, 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."
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.
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. 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?"
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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."
In the 1940s and 1950s, Brunton lived with American author and former psychoanalyst Jeffrey Masson, the son of a Jewish American friend of Brunton, as Masson's parents were among a handful of Brunton's close disciples. 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. In 1956, Brunton decided that a third world war was imminent and the Massons moved to Montevideo, since this location was considered safe. From Uruguay, Masson went at Brunton's bidding to study Sanskrit at Harvard. Brunton himself did not move to South America, instead spending some time living in New Zealand. Masson subsequently became proficient at Sanskrit, and stated that Brunton did not have the facility with the language that he claimed. He wrote a scathingly critical account of Brunton titled My Father's Guru: A Journey Through Spirituality and Disillusion.