Paul Brunton and Blavatsky

Jake Jaqua

     Paul Brunton (1898-1981) was a popular writer on the Spiritual search in the 30's and 40's and had a wide following.  He wrote good books, and they are basically in-tune with Theosophy. Jocelyn Godwin, author of several theosophically related books, published a book of Brunton excerpts. Brunton's "Wisdom of the Overself" and "Hidden Teaching beyond Yoga" were on the list of a dozen or so "recommended reading" books of a spiritual group run by Richard Rose that I was in in the late 70's and early 80's. After studying Blavatsky I guessed that Brunton got his basic orientation and a lot of his information from Blavatsky, but as he never mentions her in his books, it was a guess.

     Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson's biography of Brunton, "My Father's Guru" (Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., 1993) provides some of the missing Brunton-Blavatsky links, although not purposively, as Masson was not a theosophist.  The Biograpy stems from a prolonged period in which Brunton lived with the Masson family, his father being one of Brunton's chief students, in the 40's and 50's after Brunton had already published most of his books. Some notes taken from the book:

    p. 18 - Brunton claimed that the idea of Tibetan Adepts was mostly a myth, but that there were a few, and one of them had been his teacher.

    p. 18 - Brunton thought he had a mystic connection with Blavatsky,  that "I was born seven years after she died,"  "we were both born under the same Zodiac signs," and that she could "mentally access any book in any library in the world."

    p. 22 - Brunton would relate stories about Blavatsky and other early members of the Society.

    p. 22 - At a certain stage on the Path a disciple must overcome sex, as Blavatsky says also (celibacy.)

    p. 29 - When asked if man evolved from monkeys he said, "No, the race of apes came from a conjunction of primitive man and female beast..... the monkey came after man, not before."  This is exactly Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine teaching, and shows that Brunton must have studied the SD.  (Obviously, if so, it must have been at a time in the remote past when biological rules or species weren't as distinct as now.)

   pp. 56-57 - Brunton knew Judith Tyberg, the Point Loma Sanscritist, and introduced Jeffrey Masson to her, and they hit it off, and Masson later went on to get a degree in Sanscrit and graduate Sanscrit studies at Harvard. (p. 162)  Tyberg tried unsuccessfully to get Masson interested in The Secret Doctrine.

  p. 61 - "....animals don't need much of a rest period between births.  Humans, though, need many years of rest." - which is the Theosophical Devachan teaching.

  p. 80 - He avoided shaking person's hands, as Damodar and other Theosophical chelas also avoided, and perhaps he got the idea there.

  p. 81 - There are powerful adverse forces to genuine spiritual work in the world, which is also a Theosophical teaching.

  p. 82 - He said he met his guru in Tibet, who was a Karmapa Lama, and that he wrote a book "A Search in Secret Tibet"  He said he had to flee from the communists in Tibet, and forced to leave the manuscript behind.  (Why not re-write it?)

  p. 163 -  He held that trance mediumship was genuine, but that it was highly dangerous - which is another Theosophical teaching.

Brunton was somewhat of an eccentric by any standards,  and one could not call him Theosophist per se, but he borrowed frequently, but was much more a genuine "Theosophist" while not saying so, than probably the majority who have paraded under that title, and popularized very many Theosophical ideas.

Dr. J. Glenn Friesen notes the following (source)