Paul Brunton on Marrying on the Spiritual Path

I look up to Paul Brunton as one of many spiritual teachers that influenced and taught me. Paul Brunton was a British philosopher, researcher, mystic, and adventurer. He left a journalistic career to live among yogis, mystics, and holy men and studied a wide variety of Eastern and Western esoteric teachings. With his entire life dedicated to the spiritual quest, he felt charged with the task of communicating his knowledge and experiences in layperson’s terms. His greatest contribution, I think, is ‘The Wisdom of the Overself’ which establishes the highest teachings of Vedanta from first principles without using any oriental training or language background.

Paul jotted down these insights, that I share today, in his notebook which were made available freely to the public after his death. Although these notes were addressed to men, I think we can read them to apply to both men and women equally and from both perspectives. I have curated 10 insights and arranged them in order for easy reading. I cannot better these notes by rephrasing them and hence producing them as it is. I think these insights on Marriage that can help any spiritual seeker on the path of Moksha:

Each of us being individually complete in his inmost godlike self, no other person is needed for self-fulfilment, no mate or affinity is required to bring him to the realization of life’s goal. But each of us being incomplete in his outer self, the longing for such a mate or affinity is human, natural, and pardonable. There is nothing wrong nor contrary to the Quest in seeking to satisfy this longing, although unless this is done with wisdom and after prudent consideration, rather than with ignorance and in impulse, the result may bring more unhappiness rather than more happiness. Nor must such a longing ever be allowed to obscure the great truth of individual completeness on the spiritual level.

The aspirant who seeks to live spiritually in the world should marry for something more than physical enjoyment and comfort, more even than intellectual and social companionship. He must find a woman whose inner being is polarized to the same ideals as his own, who will walk by his side through every vicissitude as a fellow pilgrim and a wholehearted seeker.

Marriage multiplies burdens, entanglements, anxieties, difficulties, and worldly preoccupations. The single man has a better chance to wed his life to a single undistracted aim. Nevertheless, philosophy does not condemn marriage but leaves it to individual choice. Indeed, when two persons are temperamentally harmonious and spiritually suitable, it definitely approves of marriage.

Marriage is a risky affair when one of the two belongs in every way–spiritual, intellectual, and social–to a class higher than the other. If they cannot meet on these levels, where can they? The bad in both is brought out and made worse; the good is diminished. This was one of the original reasons why the caste system got established in some form or other among the Orientals as if it were an essential part of religion.

One general guiding principle as to whether or not a young aspirant on the quest should enter into marriage is that it is necessary that there should be spiritual harmony. Both must pursue the same ideal, for if disharmony enters this would lead to disaster. Both must stand within measurable distance of each other on the spiritual path. In addition to that, it is advisable that there should be physical, magnetic, and temperamental suitability to each other. In any case, this decision is a matter which should not be rushed and it will be well to take enough time for consideration. It would be well also to ponder the opinions of wise friends who have met the other person. A decision about marriage should not be made on the basis of emotion alone, but checks of critical reason and outside judgement should also be introduced.

Committing oneself to a life-partnership in marriage is not only of vital importance to worldly life but also to spiritual life. It may either help inner progress or else lead to spiritual disaster. It is necessary, therefore, that a man, for example, should explain his views to the lady that he is interested in, and if she is unable to accept them sincerely within a reasonable period then he may face the fact that he would be headed for a stoppage on his spiritual journey if he married her. To make a mistake in marriage will bring both pain and trouble to his wife as well as to himself. He should resolve to choose correctly or else to wait patiently until the right girl appears.

It is not necessary that he remain married in order to pay a karmic debt, nor on the other hand is he free to follow personal desires in the matter. It is a mistake to think that such a debt must continue to be paid until the end of one’s life. Yet, it must be paid off if one’s inner life and path are not to be obstructed. Only the voice of his own deeper conscience may decide this point.

Marriage is a risky affair when one of the two belongs in every way–spiritual, intellectual, and social–to a class higher than the other. If they cannot meet on these levels, where can they? The bad in both is brought out and made worse; the good is diminished. This was one of the original reasons why the caste system got established in some form or other among the Orientals as if it were an essential part of religion.

If he could find a companion who had the character and capacity to help, and not to hinder, his own inner pilgrimage, then it might be useful for him to marry; but if she were to fall short of this ideal then greater inner misery would descend upon him. There is a certain fate about such matters and if she has to come, she will come into his life of her own accord. In any case it will be advisable to wait to make sure that the inner harmony does really exist.

An individual may keep the ideal of a true mate but understand that one can’t be absolutely certain to meet him or her on this earth. The spiritual path is a call to renunciation of personal attachments, inwardly at least, and to a renunciation of the animal nature also. Both have to be overcome if inner peace is to be obtained. But once overcome, the world can be enjoyed without danger because his happiness no longer depends on it. If he lets the natural desire for a mate be included in but transcended by the higher desire for spiritual realization, he stands a chance to get both. But if he feels that the first is wholly indispensable, he may miss the chance to get either. The truth is that the Soul will not give itself to you unless you love It more than anything or anyone else. He may have great capacity for love in his nature, which properly directed by wisdom, may lead him to great spiritual heights and human satisfactions. But directed by impulse, unchecked by reason, it can bring him into situations productive of much misery to himself and others. He must therefore make it a part of his spiritual discipline to secure this balance. Until he has secured it, he should not commit himself to any decision without consulting with a spiritually mature person. Much harm has been done by the pseudo-romantic nonsense and false suggestions put out by cinema, magazines, and novels.

I hope these insights made some sense for those of you who are seeking companionship in life while treading on the part of spirituality. Marriage is a deeply personal and emotional decision for most and also probably the most important decision of one’s life and so I think wisdom from any quarter should be welcome. I want to conclude with one final entry on this topic from his notebook, ‘Some questions asked about marriage problems ought not to be answered by anyone other than the individual’s own higher self. Let him hear the voice of the Overself, which concerns itself neither with conventional contemporary attitudes, out-dated Oriental teachings, nor merely personal reactions. Let him listen mentally in profoundest meditation to hear this voice.’

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