Ouspensky’s search for the Miraculous Universe

in Authors & Books/Esotericism/History/Philosophy/Spirituality

Peter Demianovitch Ouspensky (Pyotr Demianovich Ouspenskii) was a Russian scholar, mathematician and philosophy with an interest in higher dimensions and consciousness. He believed that the universe was a living, evolving creation run by a higher source. His aim was to make contact with higher dimensions and higher consciousness.

Born the 5th March 1878, he was reading Russian classics and books on metaphysics by the age of 6. He had an interest in the 4th dimension, which his father had also been interested in, his father was also a mathematician and an officer of the survey department for the government,

Ouspensky believed that ancient religions, cultures and philosophies knew there was more to this world than what we perceive with our five senses and that a hidden knowledge is available to those who seek it.

He travelled extensively in the East and Europe looking for places and teachings to take him to these higher dimensions. He was searching for the ancient wisdom. Ouspensky questioned everything, dissatisfied with science and religion which led to his study of the mystical and metaphysical. Ouspensky often wondered why he and everybody else do what we do-what was the point to everything?

He wrote “French, German, English, Italian papers, Phrases, phrases, sympathetic, critical, ironical, blatant, pompous, lying and, worst of all, utterly automatic, phrases which have been used a thousand times and will be again on entirely different, perhaps contradictory occasions. I have made a survey of all these words and opinions, pretending to take them seriously and then, just as seriously, to write something on my own account. But what can I say? It is all so tedious.” P D Ouspensky ‘A New Model of the Universe’

There is more to the physical world than just what our 5 senses show us. We have potential to advance, progress. He thought, that this realm that we live in was one of the lowest worlds, so we should be able to go higher, if we developed what he called our 6th sense and we could then enter the fourth dimension.

“The very idea of the fourth dimension must have arisen in close connection with mathematics, or, to put it better, in close connection with the idea of measuring the world. It must have arisen from the supposition that besides the three known dimensions of space-length, breadth and height-there might also exist a fourth dimension inaccessible to our perception.

“Logically, the supposition of the existence of the fourth dimension can be based on the observation of these things and events in the world us for which the measurement of length, breadth and height is not sufficient, or which elude all measurement…”

“Such are for instance various effects of vital and psychic processes, such as all ideas, mental images and memories such as dreams.” New Model of the Universe P D Ouspensky

Ouspensky experienced déjà vu throughout his life and he was adamant that this was a signal that we repeat the same life over and over again, what Nietzsche called ‘recurrence’.  Time runs in a cycle which is in a circular movement, it starts, goes around and at some point, comes back to its starting point and then restarts the whole cycle again. We live over and over again the same lives. But Recurrence means there is no free will, everything is fated, already written, predestination, unless, Ouspensky thought, one develops and gets off the wheel.

This led him to writing the fiction tale ‘The Strange life of Ivan Oskin’. In the story Ivan Oskin realises that he has lived this life before, this life that he finds tedious and by miraculous intervention he gets the chance to relieve it again and try to change it. It is a tale of recurrence and existentialism.

Ouspensky read occult and esoteric books and he went in search for answers abroad, travelling to the East, to Asia Minor to Egypt and across Europe. In “A New Model of the Universe’ Ouspensky writes a chapter about the places he has visited that have had an impact on him. The chapter is called ‘In Search of the Miraculous’ and discusses what he experienced at places such as Notre Dame in Paris and the pyramids in Egypt. He also writes about his experience with the sphinx in Egypt.

“When I saw the sphinx for myself, I felt something in it that I had never read and never heard of, something that at once placed me it for me among the most enigmatic and at the same time fundamental problems of life and the world.”

He continues to describe how he walked up to the sphinx, sat before it and tried to connect with it, he felt a feeling of awe yet also the feeling that he was insignificant to it, as though the sphinx just did not see him. But one word did come into his mind whilst looking at this ancient monument, and Ouspensky says that word came with a cold shudder-Eternity!

“I felt that in those moments, in which I stood before the Sphinx, it lived through all the events and happenings of thousands of years-and that on the other hand centuries passed for it like moments. How this could be I did not understand. But I felt that my consciousness grasped the shadow of the exalted fantasy or clairvoyance of the artists who had created the Sphinx. I touched the mystery but could neither define nor formulate it.” New Model of the Universe P D Ouspensky

Ouspensky went East where he came across schools of religion and devotion of Indian philosophies teaching one to be a yogi, fakir or a monkish style of life. Ouspensky met many mystics and gurus but he felt that most of them were ‘pseudo-mystical’. He divided the supernatural into two categories-magic and mysticism.

“I called magic all cases of intensified doing and concrete knowing through other than ordinary means, and I divided magic into objective, i.e. with real results, and subjective, i.e. with imaginary results. And I called mysticism all cases of intensified feeling and abstract knowing.”

And a few paragraphs further on he writes…

“Mysticism in its nature is subjective. I did not therefore put objective mysticism into a special group. I nevertheless found it possible sometimes to call subjective mysticism the false mystical states or pseudo-mystical states which are not connected with intensified feeling, but come near hysteria and pseudo-magic…” New Model of the Universe P D Ouspensky

Ouspensky did not want this type of teaching, he wanted a teacher that showed him how to live in this world yet still be able to develop, to progress to higher consciousness. He returned to St Petersburg disappointed that he did not find any answers or the miraculous.

Whilst living in Moscow Ouspensky saw an advert for a new ballet titled ‘The struggle of the Magicians’. This was a ballet written by George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff who had a reputation for being a Greek-Armenian mystic. A colleague took Ouspensky to meet Gurdjieff. On first impressions Ouspensky thought that this man sat in front of him in a café in Moscow was a fake as he seemed to be wearing a not very good disguise, but pretty quickly Ouspensky began to recognise that Gurdjieff was a man of knowledge and wisdom-a Teacher.

Ouspensky met Gurdjieff every day at the café, keeping a record of their conversations, which later was to become the book ‘In Search of the Miraculous’ Gurdjieff did not allow note taking, so Ouspensky’s records are all from memory. Gurdjieff’s teaching was vast and he wanted to start a school to teach it, but he also had the caveat that one should not believe everything he said, always verify everything one learns and this appealed to Ouspensky.

There are many accounts of Gurdjieff having a very powerful personality, he was not a normal man. He was more developed and sometimes he showed his ‘powers’. Ouspensky received a telepathic communication from him and he writes about it:

“Suddenly I noticed that among the words which he was saying to us all there were “thoughts” which were intended for me. I caught one of these thoughts and replied to it, speaking aloud in the ordinary way. G. nodded to me and stopped speaking. There was a fairly long pause. He sat still saying nothing. After a while I heard his voice inside me as if it were in the chest near the heart. He put a definite question to me. I looked at him; he was sitting and smiling.” In Search of the Miraculous P D Ouspensky.

Ouspensky went back to St Petersburg and began groups teaching Gurdjieff’s system. Then the Bolshevik revolution came along and Ouspensky had to leave Russia. In 1921 Ouspensky was 42 years old. Ouspensky had published ‘Tertium Organum’ and an English lady had taken such an interest in this book that she invited him to England, all expenses paid. This lady was the wife of one of the major press barons and she was known as Lady Rothermere.

She had Ouspensky lecture at weekly meetings at Warwick Gardens in London where he taught Gurdjieff’s system. Gurdjieff visited Ouspensky and the group when he came to London. He sat in on one of Ouspensky’s meetings and they were so overwhelmed they couldn’t speak. One brave person finally asked a question –

“Mr Gurdjieff, what would it be like to be conscious in Essence?”

And Gurdjieff replied “Everything more vivid”

Apparently, it was the only time Gurdjieff spoke at any of Ouspensky’s meetings that he attended.

In January 1924 Ouspensky, after a trip to France to be with Gurdjieff, returned to London and announced he was breaking with Gurdjieff, the man, but not the system. He continued to teach the ideas. There is much speculation as to why this happened, many books and articles are written on this but neither Gurdjieff nor Ouspensky ever actually said what caused the split. They were never to meet again.

Ouspensky wanted to create an environment with the right attitude to do this work. At the age of 56 Ouspensky found a new place to continue his work, Lyne Place in Virginia Waters. Ouspensky still wanted to explore the world for esoteric knowledge and schools and he thought about starting a new society that would allow him to do this. He named it ‘the Historico-Psychological Society’

The 3 aims were-

1 The study of man’s true evolution, and the necessity for new systems of thought.

2 The study of esoteric schools in different historical periods and countries and their influences on the development of humanity

3 The practical attainment of conscious living through the techniques of psycho-transformism.

Ouspensky died in London on 2nd October 1947,


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