Perennialist Meditation
Perennialist Meditation
Perennialist Meditation

"Philosophical persons--lovers of wisdom--collect themselves in meditation to pursue spiritual investigations, seeking and discovering unrealized realities of the past, present, and future. Through attaining unity with one's Higher Self in meditation one most effectively attains Truth."
Plato, Commonwealth 9, 571d

"Meditation is not to be regarded as an end in itself but as one of the instruments wherewith the true end is to be attained... The true state of meditation is reached when there is awareness of awareness, without the intrusion of any thoughts whatever. But this condition is not the ultimate. Beyond it lies the stage where all awareness vanishes without the total loss of consciousness that this normally brings. If in meditation he goes down sufficiently far through the levels of consciousness, he will come to a depth where the phenomenal world disappears from consciousness, where time, thoughts, and place cease to exist, where the personal self dissolves and seems no more. The meditation has been successfully accomplished when all thoughts have come to an end, and when the presence of Divinity is felt within this emptiness."

Paul Brunton, Notebooks
Please send your chosen persons, carnate or supersensible, into my experience-world for my enlightenment, edification, and guidance.

Please teach me what I need to understand and to do.

Please accept my humble gratitude for your overwhelming blessings.

"His gaze is directed to worlds higher than those with which every-day life connects him. And thus he begins to feel and realize, as an inner experience, that he belongs to those higher worlds. These are worlds concerning which his senses and his daily occupation can tell him nothing. Thus he now shifts the central point of his being to the inner part of his nature. He listens to the voices within him which speak to him in his moments of tranquility; he cultivates an intercourse with the spiritual world. He is removed from the every-day world. Its noise is silenced. All around him there is silence. He puts away everything that reminds him of such impressions from without. Calm inward contemplation and converse with the purely spiritual world fill his soul.

"Such tranquil contemplation must become a natural necessity in the life of the student. He is now plunged in a world of thought. He must develop a living feeling for this silent thought-activity. He must learn to love what the spirit pours into him. He will soon cease to feel that this thought-world is less real than the every-day things which surround him. He begins to deal with his thoughts as with things in space, and the moment approaches when he begins to feel that which reveals itself in the silent inward thought-work to be much higher, much more real, than the things in space. He discovers that something living expresses itself in this thought-world. He sees that his thoughts do not merely harbor shadow-pictures, but that through them hidden beings speak to him. Out of the silence, speech becomes audible to him. Formerly sound only reached him through his ear; now it resounds through his soul. An inner language, an inner word is revealed to him. This moment, when first experienced, is one of greatest rapture for the student. An inner light is shed over the whole external world, and a second life begins for him. Through his being there pours a divine stream from a world of divine rapture.

"This life of the soul in thought, which gradually widens into a life in spiritual being, is called by Gnosis, and by Spiritual Science, Meditation (contemplative reflection). This meditation is the means to supersensible knowledge. But the student in such moments must not merely indulge in feelings; he must not have indefinite sensations in his soul. That would only hinder him from reaching true spiritual knowledge. His thoughts must be clear, sharp and definite, and he will be helped in this if he does not cling blindly to the thoughts that rise within him. Rather must he permeate himself with the lofty thoughts by which men already advanced and possessed of the spirit were inspired at such moments. He should start with the writings which themselves had their origin in just such revelation during meditation. In the mystic, gnostic and spiritual scientific literature of today the student will find such writings, and in them the material for his meditation. The seekers of the spirit have themselves set down in such writings the thoughts of the divine science which the Spirit has directed his messengers to proclaim to the world.

"Through such meditation a complete transformation takes place in the student. He begins to form quite new conceptions of reality. All things acquire a fresh value for him. It cannot be repeated too often that this transformation does not alienate him from the world. He will in no way be estranged from his daily tasks and duties, for he comes to realize that the most insignificant action he has to accomplish, the most insignificant experience which offers itself to him, stands in connection with cosmic beings and cosmic events. When once this connection is revealed to him in his moments of contemplation, he comes to his daily activities with a new, fuller power. For now he knows that his labor and his suffering are given and endured for the sake of a great, spiritual, cosmic whole. Not weariness, but strength to live springs from meditation.

"With firm step the student passes through life. No matter what it may bring him, he goes forward erect. In the past he knew not why he labored and suffered, but now he knows. It is obvious that such meditation leads more surely to the goal if conducted under the direction of experienced persons who know of themselves how everything may best be done; and their advice and guidance should be sought. Truly, no one loses his freedom thereby. What would otherwise be mere uncertain groping in the dark becomes under this direction purposeful work. All who apply to those possessing knowledge and experience in these matters will never apply in vain, only they must realize that what they seek is the advice of a friend, not the domination of a would-be ruler. It will always be found that they who really know are the most modest of men, and that nothing is further from their nature than what is called the lust for power.

"When, by means of meditation, a man rises to union with the spirit, he brings to life the eternal in him, which is limited by neither birth nor death. The existence of this eternal being can only be doubted by those who have not themselves experienced it. Thus meditation is the way which also leads man to the knowledge, to the contemplation of his eternal, indestructible, essential being; and it is only through meditation that man can attain to such knowledge. Gnosis and Spiritual Science tell of the eternal nature of this being and of its reincarnation. The question is often asked: Why does a man know nothing of his experiences beyond the borders of life and death? Not thus should we ask, but rather: How can we attain such knowledge? In right meditation the path is opened. This alone can revive the memory of experiences beyond the border of life and death. Everyone can attain this knowledge; in each one of us lies the faculty of recognizing and contemplating for ourselves what genuine Mysticism, Spiritual Science, Anthroposophy, and Gnosis teach. Only the right means must be chosen. Only a being with ears and eyes can apprehend sounds and colors; nor can the eye perceive if the light which makes things visible is wanting. Spiritual Science gives the means of developing the spiritual ears and eyes, and of kindling the spiritual light; and this method of spiritual training: (1) Preparation; this develops the spiritual senses. (2) Enlightenment; this kindles the spiritual light. (3) Initiation; this establishes intercourse with the higher spiritual beings."

Rudolf Steiner, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds


  We begin with the realization that we have our being in a finer, more powerful supersensible domain of harmonious spiritual frequency (vibratory pattern). Through meditation we make ourselves pervious so that we become permeated by this spiritual frequency domain to obtain from it various elements of expansion and growth. Becoming permeated by this vibratory spiritual frequency constitutes our attaining contact with and permeation by the higher spiritual domain.

  Meditation is the specific process of bringing about this contact or permeation. Meditation is a definite process of enlarging our voluntary capacity to make contact with and become permeable to the supersensible domain.

  We begin with a genuine energy of desire; we must WANT to reach out in harmony with spiritual forces. The mere undefined desire is only the taking off place. If it is to send us anywhere we must have some indication of the direction in which we are to go. What is this spiritual contact like, and how are we to reach for it?

  Through meditation, we shift from a busy mental concentration within our mind to a voluntary wide opening to influences from the harmonious spiritual frequency domain. The meditative appreciation of beauty, in the sense of a surrender to its influence rather than a critical analysis, is an example of simple spiritual contact.

  Meditation begins with the cessation from all tension, not only in the body, but in every thought of the mind. We remove mental tension by turning our full attention, to begin with, upon the sense impression of breathing, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. We listen to our breathing to make sure that it is regular and slow. With each exhalation we think of our body as sinking heavy and inert. We let go absolutely, as though we are falling through space. After relaxing mentally and physically absolutely, we hold the condition as long as possible. But as we soon as it becomes a strained condition of mind, we abandon the effort and start over again. By degrees we achieve total relaxation of body and psyche.

  You now reach out--spread out or diffuse is more descriptive--not yet with any specific idea of contact with the spiritual domain, but toward a wide-hearted, expansive, outside-yourself feeling. Maintain yourself forcefully, to have strength to receive. What you contribute of spiritual desire and readiness measures the strength you gain through contact. A mantra in harmony with your breathing can be helpful: "I humbly accept your blessings, Dear Lord;" (inhale) "Thank you for your blessings, Lord God." (exhale)

  The results grow in us from so feeble a beginning that they do not reach even our watchful consciousness for a long time.

  When we have gained the ability to do these two simple things, without strain, without stiff concentration of mind--that is, relax physically and mentally but with a spiritual alertness underneath that makes our inner selves feel wide open, as they feel wide open when we consciously and absorbently and uncritically look at something beautiful--then we go on to the conscious reaching for spiritual contact, or "The absorption into your heart of the reality."

  It is a genuine aspiration--not an intellectual curiosity--a yearning aspiration, like the attraction of needle and magnet; something above that can be recognized as a complement of what exists below. When this recognition, this genuine aspiration is established, then you have your spiritual impetus. It is humble but unwavering, not an arrogant demand. It is just the operation of a spiritual law. When you liberate certain gases chemically, they seek their chemical affinities, just so you liberate your spirit and it automatically seeks its higher complement.

  Meditation is not relaxing and waiting for some Higher Being to contact you and lift you up; it is aspiring effort. The energy of your desire for spiritual contact will be the measure of what you will receive. It is not so much the energy of demand as the exhibition of a force that calls its complement. A giving out and a receiving.

Paul Brunton, 1898-1981

  "The conscious mind is that part of your mind which is forever engaged in paying attention to the external world, and dealing with your wants and your pleasures. That is the part of the mind which is working with the five senses and which is constantly being chopped up into thoughts. That is the mind which keeps you enslaved to the notion that the material world is the only real world because you pay attention wholly to the outer world and the five senses. Meditation is, or should be, anything that will enable you to obtain release from this bondage. The artist who is absorbed in his playing of an instrument is meditating, because he has become so lost in the music that he has forgotten the outer world. This beautiful state has brought him to the inner world.

"Students of meditation know that by remaining within the mental atmosphere of the teacher the powerful vibrations of the latter will automatically send their own mind increasingly inwards. He will send forth, as it were, rays of that concentrative power which he has himself attained. Science is now finding that telepathy is a fact, therefore we need not doubt this possibility. And so, after the first physical meeting, the teacher can always send this radiation to the student no matter where the latter is. He puts into the [student's] mind wordless, deliberate bestowal of his natural presence. The student will receive the rays and an inner urge will come to him to go deeper in self-concentration. With that there also come definite help, definite power. The teacher's mind takes hold of the student's mind, starts a centripetal current at work within it, and thus assists it to enter into the concentrative state. Such result can come only when the student and teacher are working together in harmony. The harmony is established when the student who has applied and been accepted continuously maintains the right mental attitude of devotion to, and confidence in, the teacher. Each time the student enters into practice of meditation, if he thinks for a minute or two of the teacher, by spontaneous reaction he will automatically bring back the concentrative power and inner drive which come telepathically from him. This enables the student to penetrate his self more deeply than he could otherwise have done. That is the real reason we need a teacher, not only to show us and to tell us what we have to do, but to give us some of the power and the strength needed to do it.

"The attitude of the student towards his teacher is of great importance to the student, because it lays an unseen cable from him to the teacher, and along that cable pass to and fro the messages and help which the teacher has to give. The teacher can never lose contact with the student by going to another part of the world. That unseen cable is elastic and it will stretch for thousands of miles, because the World-Mind consciousness will travel almost instantly and anywhere. Contact is not broken by increasing physical distance. It is broken by the change of heart, the alteration of mental attitude by the student towards the teacher. If the attitude is wrong, then the cable is first weakened and finally snapped. Nothing can then pass through and the student is really alone."

"Thus association with those who are more advanced in meditation than ourselves is a definite aid to development. We 'pick up,' as it were, the vibrations of their mental atmosphere. We receive an inward impetus to further growth. We receive, from such personal contact, a truer understanding of the admittedly subtle nature of the art of meditation than we are likely to receive from the books.

"That is the higher meditation when you let the interior world reveal itself to you. That is different from the ordinary yoga, where one tries by a strong effort of will to draw the mind towards the Self, to force the mind to unite with the Self.

"Meditation should now change into the withdrawal from thinking, whilst remaining as alert, as intent, and as concentrated as when in the most profound degree of thought imaginable. You must seek to bring the mind deeper into itself so that it comes to one point not to a series of points, i.e. thoughts along a single track, but to the very beginning of that track, so that it rests there, suspended.

"You will undergo some curious experiences. You may, for instance, leaving all visions aside, begin to feel yourself floating out of your body, or partly floating out of your body. You may feeL you are becomming nothing but space. Such sensations are very good and are signs of definite progress. They are signs that you are freeing yourself from the body which has been the weight keeping your thoughts down to the objective world.

"If you fall asleep during meditation, then it is a help, and one should yield to it. In the Orient this condition is called Yoga-Nidra, which means 'yoga-sleep.' It possesses a value immeasurably higher than that of ordinary sleep. The teacher is trying to speed up your progress in the art of meditation and to force your growth somewhat as a gardener may force the growth of a hot-house flower. To do that he has to shut down your conscious mind forcibly. What you cannot do by your own effort of will-power he helps you to achieve, and a sleepy feeling will frequently result.

"Do not be afraid of that momentary sleep. It will not hinder you. It will only help, for that puts a stop to your restless mental activities. A little forcible help which is being given you. It is forcing your progress, and that is why it has to be done without your conscious cooperation. Yoga-sleep has a real value in your development. In the old days of the Mystery-school similar experiences were deliberately brought about as a part of the training. Now you haven't those schools, but as much of the training is given to you as will still permit you to keep your footing and balance in the world.

"That prefaces mindstilling. Not merely thinking about, but letting all thoughts lapse. He must try to empty the mind of all thoughts and mental pictures, including visions.

"When you have the courage to proscribe, not merely evil thoughts but all thoughts; when you dare to dismiss the endless seekings of the intellect as mere mental curiosity; when you can genuflect to the Supreme Silence alone, then do you become fit to face the God within. What you seek is a cessation of all thought, even if not for long. If you suceed in stilling all thought, you have achieved meditation, but in actual practice very few people can do that wholly. But please do not let that discourage you.

"You are attempting to achieve suspension of thought completely for any protracted period of time. If you are successful for half a minute, or a minute--that is very important, because during that brief period you will contact forces which you might say are liberating forces that will affect your whole being throughout the day. It is not the length of time during which you enter the stillness that matters, it is the fact that you have-entered it, even if only for one minute. When you are able to do this you will be conscious of your thoughts moving ever so slowly through the stillness into deep concentration. This advance in meditation can be reached by most people who are working without the personal help of a teacher. It means that the deeper part of the mind, that is, the inner mind, has come up into focus. Progress will give an increasing inner peace, but this is not to be construed as the Ultimate.

"The stillness and peace represent the environing atmosphere, the condition within which your spirit can manifest itself. They are the emanations or the fragrance as it were of the Overself; hence the nearer you come to your inner spirit the more of this peace you will find and more of this detachment from your external self.

"To sit in a state of attentive immobility whilst you calm the mind and watch for the arising of the Soul this is the true way of self-knowledge. Thus you have reached a highly critical position. It is very important to realize that now you are not to make progress by your own efforts, but by reason of what is being done to you by the Overself.

". . . So many people stay on this plane and never get any farther merely because of this fault of relying on personal effort.

". . . One must now begin to look into the depths of one's being, firmly holding the thought of the Overself alone, and not attempting to watch the working of the vehicle which is bearing one along--the mind. This is indeed a delicate task, but like everything else, it can be accomplished.

"The practice of mental quiet is not merely the retreat of attention from the world for a few seconds. It neans withdrawing with all one's being, with all one's heart, with all one's mind, deeper and deeper until the centre is reached, felt, and united with the Overself.

"Now you will be tested; the completion of the answer begun rests with you. Will you give yourself up to spirit as you begin to feel an inner melting? You must submit everything to question, yourself and your surroundings, and concentrate without any effort. Invite it as though you want it to possess you completely, because that is the only way the Overself can answer."

Paul Brunton, Inner Reality


  One of Brunton's first spiritual teachers was an Iroquois Indian, and he had extensive experience with North American shamans. Brunton was adamant about not being anybody's "guru." He consistently presented himself as simply "a writer and researcher, with some experience in these matters--that is all."


  I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Paul Brunton in person and get to know just what kind of person he was. I had just completed my Masters of Divinity degree at Yale Divinity School and was about to enter Yale Graduate School for my work toward a doctorate in philosophy. I had read all of his books, and had written to him to express my interest in his thought and a desire to meet him and speak with him in person. I traveled from New Haven and met with Dr. Brunton in his New York City apartment. During that visit, I got the distinct impression that he was a man of unimpeachable character and a genuine mystic. At the end of our meeting, he suggested we meditate together for a short time. At the end of this meditation period, Dr. Brunton told me that he had imparted a vital energy to my inner being which would remain with me. I now use that "unseen cable" between Dr. Brunton and myself in my own meditation sessions.

  I wondered at the time why Dr. Brunton was having us both meditate at the same time. While much later studying one of his books, (The Notebooks of Paul Brunton: The Quest, 1986) I came across an explanation.
"The Master may add his spiritual vitality or inspiration temporarily to the disciple's by merely wishing him well. If this is done during the Master's prayer or meditation, the disciple's subconscious will spontaneously pick up the telepathically projected flow and sooner or later bring it into consciousness. If, however, something more precise and more positive is required, he may consciously will and focus it to the disciple while both are in a state of meditation at the same time."
  During that first meeting I had with Dr. Brunton, then, he must have wished to "will and focus" "something more precise and more positive" to me.


1. Paul Brunton on meditation
2. Paul Brunton

Paul Brunton's Books:
  • A Search in Secret India, 1934
  • The Secret Path, 1935
  • A Search in Secret Egypt, 1936
  • A Message from Arunachala, 1936
  • A Hermit in the Himalayas, 1936
  • The Quest of the Overself, 1937
  • The Inner Reality aka Discover Yourself, 1939
  • The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga, 1941
  • The Wisdom of the Overself, 1943
  • Humanity's Spiritual Crisis (originally titled: The Spiritual Crisis of Man,) 1952
  • The Notebooks of Paul Brunton: The Quest, 1986