Winter workshops by Alan FrancisJanuary-February, 2018
Piotr Demianovich Ouspensky (1878-1947) was G.I. Gurdjieff’s must important pupils. Many of his ideas anticipated many new developments in philosophy, psychology and religion in the twentieth century. He was born in Moscow in 1878 into an artistic and intellectual family. His mother was a painter and his father, who died when Ouspensky was young, was a railroad surveyor. Ouspensky showed great interest in literature and philosophy from an early age. In his youth Ouspensky worked as a journalist, which gave him the possibility to travel extensively, which resulted in an interest in significant philosophical and esoteric questions. He moved to St. Petersburg in 1909, continuing his search for esoteric traditions there. In his formative years he was interested in the works of H.P. Blavatsky, but did not become a dogmatic adherent of the theosophical movement. His first book, Tertium Organum was published in 1912. Ouspensky made a number of trips to Central Asia, Persia, India and Ceylon in search for esoteric teachings. He returned to Russia in 1914 after the outbreak of World War I, after which he gave lectures in St. Petersburg about his trip and his search for spiritual schools. In 1915 Ouspensky made the acquaintance of Gurdjieff, and studied with him in Moscow between then and 1918.
During the latter year Ouspensky joined Gurdjieff in the latter’s dramatic flight from Russia through the Caucasus Mountains, his sojourn in Essentuki, Tiflis and Constantinople and his subsequent emigration to Europe. Since 1921 he lived in England, with the exception of a number of years during World War II which he spent in the United States (from 1940 to early 1947). During his years in the United States he led spiritual groups and led talks in his estate in Franklin Farms, New Jersey. Ouspensky promoted the ideas and practical system of Gurdjieff for the rest of his life, in addition to developing his own ideas of changing consciousness and concerning the questions of human existence and how to liberate man’s thinking from its habitual patterns.
In 1921-1924 Ouspensky took part in setting up and participating in Gurdjieff’s Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man at Prieuré in Fontanebleau, France. After his break with Gurdjieff in 1924, Ouspensky conducted taught his own groups, and wrote a number of books, including The New Model of the Universe, published in 1931, which is, in essence, a compilation of Ouspensky’s shorter works, written and published in Russia prior to 1917.
His most important work is his book In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching, which was published in 1949. This book presents the most elaborate account of the author’s meeting and studies with Gurdjieff and the latter’s teachings. He developed Gurdjieff’s ideas in his subsequent books, The Fourth Way, a selection of transcripts of Ouspensky’s meetings with his pupils, edited by John Bennett and published in 1957, and The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution, a book of six lectures, published in 1950. His literary novel, The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin, written and published in Russia under the title Kinema-drama in 1905 and published in 1915, subsequently published in English in London in 1947, deals with the subject of eternal recurrence, developed in the author’s book The New Model of the Universe. The latter book discusses a number of Ouspensky’s conceptions, including the fourth dimension, the sixth-dimensional space of time, the symbolism of the Tarot, the Superman and eternal recurrence.
Ouspensky’s books have been translated into numerous other languages and distributed throughout many countries of the world.
Links on the books: