Paul Brunton

Volume 9 of the Notebooks includes the category titled “Human Experience” which contains a wealth of practical wisdom and guidance for everyday life.  It includes the following themes: human experience, living in the world, youth and age, and world crisis.

Here we excerpt paragraphs from ‘World Crisis’ on the theme of “New Era in Evolution” written, as is all the Notebooks material, during the period from the 1950’s to the 1970’s:

All this unrest, disturbance, and violence which is going on in the world is a symptom of discontent with the kind of life into which materialism has precipitated so many members of the human race. It is also a symbol of the settling of karmic accounts which happens during the transition period in history from one zodiacal sign to the next.

The world crisis will not come to an end for some years. The whole religious outlook, as well as the cultural and institutional order of modern civilization, will be changed during this century. Only after these changes will the new spiritual forces become manifested.

Humanity’s spiritual forces could not be genuinely mobilized under the old order, which was mortgaged to antiquated theories and which could not struggle on indefinitely under such a burdensome load.

As we approach the close of this epoch, the tempo increases, the chaos spreads, the egotism waxes, and the face of evil smiles more and more triumphantly; but like the intersection of two arcs, a new epoch opens. If exhaustion and darkness have spread over the world scene, they have not spread alone - mingled with them are the beginnings of anticipation and light. If materialism has soaked so deeply into mass thinking that men and women tremble for their own future, spiritual truth has entered the minds of some who have resisted it, but because the old epoch has been with us so long and the new one is just being born, these latter form at present only a negligible group.

The end of a vanishing old arc is crossed by the beginning of the uprising new one. Hence the few hopes amid the many despairs, the few lights amid the wide darkness. Alas! it is not a new age that is here, not even its beginning, but only the dawn before the beginning of its beginning.

The great changes in human thought and society which marked the birth of the Christian epoch in the West, find their parallel in the great changes that are even now beginning to mark the coming birth of the next epoch. The labour pains have already begun, but actual birth will not take place until the next century.

And to conclude, PB’s advice to us personally on how to live in these times:

The nations are faced with the challenging sword of repentance. They will eventually accept it and be blessed, or reject it and be struck down. Meanwhile, the business of the mystically sensitive is to open themselves up by prayer, meditation, study, self-improvement, and surrender to this divine force, not only for their own spiritual benefit but also for humanity's benefit. Their thoughts and deeds must bear witness to the fact that they are seeking to respond to its holy presence. These are assuredly the "last days" of which the New Testament speaks. The opportunity, choice, and responsibility which lie before us are all highly critical and decisive.


The following excerpts are from Volume 9 of the Notebooks, Category/Idea 13 (of 28):  “Human Experience” from the subtheme ‘World Crisis’ on the topic of the “New Era in Evolution”:

There are, of course, in every land a few who long ago passed this point in their development and more who have recently passed it. They are the pioneers, sensitive to spiritual ideals and struggling to follow them. But now the challenge has been issued to humanity as a whole. Its unseen guardian has issued an ultimatum. It must make the passage and will not be allowed to delay any longer.

And, who or what is this “unseen guardian” of humanity?

We are passing through a disheartening period of violent and unprecedented storms, but if we have learned the single lesson of hoping on and holding on, we shall win through into clear weather.

It is a good thing in ordinary times to go back to the past for its spiritual treasures casketed in fine books. It is then a privilege and a satisfaction to find that they have come down well-presented and quite safe through century after century. But these are extraordinary times, urgent times, filled with pressure and crisis. The voices we most need to hear are living ones, speaking from out of the same circumstances as those amid which we dwell, continuous and contemporaneous with us.

Could PB here be hinting that he is one of the “living voices speaking from out of the same circumstances as our own”?

Those who insist on this excessive adherence to materialistic thought and refuse to recognize the new evolutionary current of stimulated intelligence and spiritual individualization are trying to live in the modes of the past and have failed to find the purpose of their present incarnation.

Such is the swiftly moving time-spirit. It will not be denied, none can successfully impede it, and it must be accommodated. It is a challenging demand that human life be deliberately hooked to a better ethical basis, that the continuance of materialism is insanity.

The inner wisdom itself, being out of time and space, does not and cannot vary, but the outer forms under which it is found do vary. This is not only because of the geographical and historical differences which condition those forms, but because an evolutionary development is also affecting them. This is an important reason why the coming era must find an inspiration adequate to its more progressive needs, must add new truths to the old ones.


The following excerpts are from Volume 9 of the Notebooks, Category/Idea 13 (of 28):  “Human Experience” from the first subtheme of ‘World Crisis’ on the topic of the “Crisis and its Visible Effects.” If you have a copy of Volume 9 of the Notebooks these paragraphs can be found beginning on page 173:

No crisis which humanity has faced in the past is comparable with the present one either for spiritual gravity or physical consequences.

"Crisis" is derived from the Greek word meaning "to decide." I fitly used the term in the title of my last book [The Spiritual Crisis of Man] because a decisive turning point had been reached in human history, forcing two alternative directions for an inescapable movement.

While many of the paragraphs on the theme of ‘World Crisis’ were written in the 1950’s and refer to the post-WWII period, as the one above and those which follow, we can clearly see that much of the situation of humanity and the planet has not significantly changed and that PB’s references to the 20th Century can be applied to the 21st as well.

The crisis which has been growing within humanity will open completely in this century. It is an inner crisis, and its meaning is that humanity can go no farther in its downward path into the lust of the senses and the intellect into the forgetfulness of its innermost divine soul, without the most dangerous consequences to its future, without losing the very thread of the possibility of one day recovering its spiritual memory. In today's world there is such indifference to the things of the spirit, such moral lethargy, that the higher power is forcing us either to call a halt or to perish.

To “loose the thread of recovering our spiritual memory” is spoken of in many traditions and refers to the withdrawal of the soul from its lower vehicles, postponing the evolution of the spirit to a future cosmic cycle.

The situation has not improved with the years; it has deteriorated. This alone should be interpreted as a warning that the road taken was a wrong one and that fresh thinking is needed.

People feel the confusion and unrest of our times and need someone to help or some book to guide them to the Truth that God exists and that the divine existence can be made to uphold their individual lives.

Spiritual teachings of doubtful quality are well mingled with the others of much higher value. The confusion of the two has always been present but hardly ever has it been so great as it is at present.

Bernard Shaw once put forward the theory that this planet is the lunatic asylum for the whole solar system. Nobody took his theory seriously, and everybody complimented him on his wit and humour. I, however, have long held a kindred theory that the human race is evolving from insanity to sanity and that except in a few rare individuals - the sages - it is far from the goal. The dangers of expressing this view are such that I have hitherto held my tongue along with the view itself…

This much is certain, that the crisis situation does not permit people to stand mentally still. They are compelled to form views and make decisions about the direction they want to take. These experiences of crisis or war become, in their totality, the door opening to a new era of thought for many persons. Some seek new paths to spiritual salvation and are prepared to welcome unfamiliar and unorthodox influences.


As we continue with excerpts from Volume 9 of the Notebooks, Category/Idea 13 (of 28) titled “Human Experience” we now move on to the second subtheme of ‘World Crisis’ on the topic of the “Causes, Meaning of Crisis.” If you have a copy of Volume 9 of the Notebooks these paragraphs can be found beginning on page 178.  Our working through of the different topics in this one subcategory of only one of the 28 Idea’s will hopefully serve to give us a sense of the comprehensiveness and depth of PB’s Notebooks.

The world crisis as a sign that humankind is passing through a spiritual turning-point includes truth-seekers also. It is time for them to stop living by other people's spiritual experience and to start living by their own.

In this quote PB points us to his writings on the “Independent Path.” He continues:

In the individual life it mostly happens that grace descends only after a period of great suffering. In humanity's life it is the same. Only when war and crises have run their course will new spiritual light be shed on us.

Without that perspective of evolutionary and karmic movement which the study of philosophy bestows, we look in vain for the deeper meaning of historic trends, crises, and culminations.

Other forces are operating in the world-crisis which are quite beyond the knowledge, experience, and perception of most people. They are certain spiritual forces of destiny and evolution.

Thus, events that seem wrong or unjust may have a deeper purpose that is not apparent, even while they may remain ‘wrong’ and ‘unjust’ and in some cases we may need to allow the karmas involved to ‘work themselves out.’  At the individual human level, we can see this perspective operating for example, in Ramana Maharishi’s not involving himself in the political and personality conflicts of Ramanashram that took place during his lifetime.

The old doctrine of karma is quite correct in explaining present-day world suffering, but not all of it. The explanation is too complicated and must be left for the future. However, it may be said that the one lesson humanity is compelled to learn is that of its interdependence and hence of its ultimate unity. The sufferings and unsatisfactory conditions of one nation affect distant nations also. The sufferings of the world can be removed only by removing their cause. But ignorance of this condition is so widespread that it is a sign that there are practically no sages active in the modern world.

What kind of a civilization do we have? It has become top-heavy, lopsided, unbalanced, and therefore dangerous to the healthy development of the human race. Its intellectual and technical advance is indeed tremendous, but faith, intuition, and the moral virtues do not find in this iron-hard framework enough freedom for their operation. Indeed, they are being stifled. Such a course if continued can only end in their complete suffocation. Humans are in danger of becoming a merely mechanistic, merely physical, and merely selfish entity. This is not in accord with the higher meaning of life, and since civilization does not give sufficient signs of its willingness or evidence of its ability to correct this unbalance, since the valuable services which it has rendered in the past are coming to an end, Nature is no longer giving it the protection which it might otherwise have had against the destructive forces within itself. Between the incessant turmoil, the incessant multiplication of wants, the incessant physical and intellectual activities, the incessant stimulation of emotional desire, and the constant appeal to egoism - between these things and the inner voice that calls us back to the deeper things of spiritual life there is a hidden conflict which really exists under the obvious one. (Italics added)

And finally:

So long as any civilization plays the hypocrite to its best beliefs, so long as the inner life does not matter while the outer life can give it all the satisfactions it seeks, so long may one predict with full assurance that the arc of its history will sooner or later take a downward plunge into disaster. Why this should be so is no mystery if one understands that God has set us upon this earth to fulfil and realize obscure higher purposes as well as the obvious lower ones. We evade the challenge only at the risk of unwittingly calling into existence destructive forces that will terrorize our civilization and frighten us into remembrance of what these higher purposes demand of us.

Let us therefore conclude by ‘remembering what these higher purposes demand of us.’


The following excerpts from Volume 9 of the Notebooks Category 13 titled “Human Experience” are from the third subtheme of ‘World Crisis’ titled ‘Historical Perspectives’ which can be found beginning on page 187.

History returns periodically to the same basic problems, the same fundamental crises. Where a whole people has failed to solve them, or tried to solve them in the wrong way, they are brought together again by reincarnation and presented with a fresh chance to make good or suffer the same consequences.

Thus, while many of the PB quotes from this theme pertain to the 20th Century, we can see that humanity is still struggling with the same ‘basic problems.’  Yet, at the same time, certain aspects of the current situation are unique:

To turn our gaze to past times and look for similar situations in them and then to observe what happened thereafter, will not avail us today. For such a situation has never before existed. It is without historical precedent.

The planetary spirit is accelerating its own development and this necessarily accelerates the development of all living creatures - plant, animal, and human - which dwell upon it. This is why a human's experience crowds into one life what formerly was crowded into a few, and why world history crowds into one year the events which formerly took several years. If this increase in tempo has also accelerated human suffering by crowding it more closely together, it has also paradoxically increased human pleasures.

For more information on the theme of the planetary spirit’s evolution, and the consequent impact on all the creatures living on it, see the lecture by Trigueirinho on this subject, which explains how the planet is receiving a new logos which in turn brings about a period of chaos for us.

Ideas which belong to an age that is passing away are themselves doomed to pass away. They become barren and ineffective. We must try to unlearn them. Even certain mental attitudes which suited past epochs have now become retrograde. Emotional reactions which were correct in primitive peoples have now become impediments.

History's first task will be to get a group of superior individuals who are dependable enough to carry out these aims faithfully and who are disinterested enough to carry them out selflessly. It is from such a group that there must arise educators of future generations.

In a world where no great event happens by chance, where even the tiniest seed sprouts under an all-governing law, the destruction of a whole continent such as Atlantis is full of significance for humanity. It means that Nature, which is but another name for God, could not proceed farther with its evolutionary purpose for the inhabitants of that continent without a fresh start, without a clean break from old ways which had exhausted themselves.

In the work of the Brazilian teacher Jose Trigueirinho Netto this theme – that a complete continental destruction may be necessary in order to balance and erase the negative karmas of humanity – is prominent.


The following excerpts from Volume 9 of the Notebooks Category 13 titled “Human Experience” are from the fifth subtheme of ‘World Crisis’ titled ‘New age directions’ which can be found beginning on page 213.

In The Wisdom of the Overself it was briefly hinted that the twentieth century was the era of universal human enlightenment. I have been asked to expand upon this point. Just as the nineteenth century was the era of scientific enlightenment, so our own is the century of universal enlightenment. This is taking three forms. First, general education, intellectual knowledge, and scientific discovery will continue to spread throughout the whole world and will not reside mainly in the West. Second, they will become available to all classes and not be confined mostly to the middle and upper classes. Third, religion, mysticism, and metaphysics will reveal their realities and shed their superstitions, will be made more rational and thus will no longer be regarded as being displaced by science but rather as being necessary to complete it. Furthermore, the philosophy of truth, which is the highest kind of enlightenment possible to mankind, will become as easily accessible as it was remotely hidden in former centuries. Because we are at a cyclic turning-point, this is the century when truth will be let loose on the world. Not only ultimate truth which philosophy reveals for the few but also political, economic, social, religious, and scientific truth for the many. The falsehoods which dominate human society, the illusions which individuals and groups hug so fondly, and the lies under which society lives are being - and, we venture to predict, will be still more - shown up for what they are…

(add rest of quote and comment on how falsification is continuing now in the current age)

Human dependence on the earth for fuel such as wood, coal, oil, and gas, will give way in the future to dependence on the sun. Its rays will give us all that we need for this purpose.

The keynote of yoga for this coming age should be divine immanence - that which is in oneself, in others, and in Nature. Democracy - the unification of society - will triumph. The opportunity to acquire knowledge will be freely available to the lowest. This includes mystical and philosophical as well as worldly knowledge. The racial prejudices, the political separativeness, and the religious preferences which assisted human progress at a former level of evolution but which now hinder it and cause strife and conflict will be broken down.


The following excerpts are from ‘New age directions’ in Volume 9 of the Notebooks Category 13 titled “Human Experience beginning on page 213.

A new and higher epoch in our history will come by divine cyclic law: nothing and no one can prevent its birth. And that will occur through the incarnation of spiritually intuitive individuals born for this special purpose. It is such an epoch alone which will witness the realization of dreams of world peace and justice, dreams whose failure of realization by political, military, and other means will force by necessity the attempt through the last and only effectual means - moral and intellectual renewal.

Humanity will need more mental resilience, more readiness to accept change, reform, betterment, or sacrifice, and less of the inveterate idolatry of custom. It will need more imagination, intelligence, and intuition if it is to understand the pattern which the coming period is certain to assume…  For if a sufficient number of people do not accept a readiness to change, sufficient to influence the general social condition, then the entire fabric of society will bring down upon itself the terrible nemesis of violent destruction. Modern civilization as we know it will come to an end, self-liquidated by its own blindness. But its disappearance will be only to clear the ground for the arisal of a new and better one. Thus the coming era will assuredly bring mankind a better world. But whether it arrives at this happy goal through disaster and depopulation or through reason and peace is an unpredictable matter at the moment. It depends on the factor of free will which exists in a man's make-up. The time grows shorter for a conscious selection of the higher concerns of life.

How is the human race to recover these truer instincts, these holier intuitions? The change required will be required in all the parts of the human being - thought, feeling, and body. Physically, there will be the need of counteracting a hostile environment and a wrong diet. Retreat from the cities to the country and great reform in the selection and preparation of foods will be indispensable as a groundwork for the mental training. The first need is to abandon chemically poisoned, denatured, and devitalized foods, to leave the air of cities rendered impure with soot and filth as well as harmful with gasoline fumes, and to indulge in short one- to three-day fasts during the four equinoctial days marking the changeovers of the seasons.

The coming age will arise, phoenix-like, out of the destruction and violence of the dying one. It will, by reaction, be a constructive and peaceful one. The spectre of war will be exorcised. Humanity will learn to inhabit a peaceful planet.


This short essay is from ‘The Coming of a New Era’ in Volume 9 of the Notebooks Category 13 (Human Experience) beginning pages 226--30.

The amazing inventions and technological advances which the liberated intellect of humanity has developed open up an era of plenty, prosperity, leisure, and comfort for all. The Machine Age is ousting the Muscle Age. People today use less bodily energy for daily work and living than their forefathers ever did. Consequently, they ought to have more leisure for higher tasks. If, as is the case, they haven't such leisure, it is not the machine's fault but society's…. The inventions and innovations, the new discoveries, materials, and processes which will begin as a trickle during the opening years of the twenty-first century will pour out as a flood before the closing ones. The wars have given the sharpest stimulus to this development so far, but the real peace to come will complete it… New ideas and ideals will move in a flowing stream across the world. New patterns will spontaneously shape themselves to reflect and promote them…

There is no scarcity in Nature. It is simply a matter of competently mobilizing, by machine power, what she is willing to give us. It is not wrong to take advantage of new inventions and human ingenuity to give the body more comfort and the mind more freedom…

…New ideas and ideals will move in a flowing stream across the world. New patterns will spontaneously shape themselves to reflect and promote them.

It will be the business of the community to ensure that every member is able to earn a livelihood, to give them work that will support them, or, if it fails to do so, to supply them with the food, goods, and services which they need. This will be regarded as not only ethical duty on its part, but also economic wisdom… Thus, by promoting their exterior welfare, we shall not merely provide for the demands of social justice but also surround the masses with conditions more favourable for their progress spiritually. Physical well-being and worldly security are a necessary part of any economy which is to provide expression for higher values. Those who are interested only in their own comfort and security may not be interested in any altruistic proposals for the uplift of the underprivileged, but those who acknowledge an interest in the spiritual advancement of humanity cannot escape their responsibility in this matter.

… Many of the overworked objections about the so-called impracticability of ethical and social idealism have been disarmed and disproved. We are ruefully waking up to the fact that the mentality which begins by imagining rigid restrictions on what can be done to construct a better world, ends by imposing them.

… Only in this way can we advance at last to social sanity. If and when it comes, with the twenty-first century, we shall see the co-partnership of co-operative classes replacing the menagerie of conflicting ones. We shall see that nation greeted by history which knows how to serve best, not how to grab most.

… Such an order will bring out the best possibilities…  And instead of inducing people to struggle against each other, it will induce them to co-operate with each other. The principle of co-operation will help to crush individual and national selfishness and thus tend to promote ethical progress.