Pyotr Demianovich Ouspensky was a Russian mathematician and esotericist best known for his work on the teaching he received from Greek-Armenian teacher of esoteric doctrine George Ivanovich Gurdjieff a system which later became known as ‘The Fourth Way’.
Ouspensky was born in Moscow in 1878. He studied at the Second Moscow Gymnasium, a government school attended by boys from 10 to 18. In 1906, he was working in the editorial office of the Moscow daily paper ‘The Morning’. In 1907 he discovered Theosophy. In the autumn of 1913, age 35, before the beginning of World War I, he journeyed to the East ‘in search of the miraculous’, or as he would like to put it; in search of the reality that lies behind the reality that we take as reality.
On his travels he visited India, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Egypt and met Theosophists in Adyar but was forced to return to Moscow after the beginning of the Great War. There he met George Gurdjieff which introduced him to the system for which he has been searching for all his life. Ouspensky spent the next few years studying with Gurdjieff, and supporting the founding of a school.
“You must understand that I do not speak from any moral point of view. We have not yet come to questions of what is good, and what is bad, by itself. I speak only from a practical point of view, of what is useful and what is harmful to self-study and self-development.”
“THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MAN'S POSSIBLE EVOLUTION” consists of 5 five preliminary lectures Ouspensky wrote in 1934 as a response of the demand from readers from his former books - The Fourth Dimension who appeared in 1909 and his second book, Tertium Organum from 1912 who were published in English between 1920 and 1934 . People had questions about what he has been doing after the writings of these books. Although it would have taken Ouspensky several books to answer all these questions, in these 5 lectures Ouspensky tried to answer some of these questions and laid out the foundational principles of the system of ‘The Fourth Way’ .
These five lectures were read where listeners could ask questions. In that way the lectures also served as a way to see if people were ready to receive - what Ouspensky called - ‘New Knowledge’. The system that Ouspensky got from Gurdjieff was often mistaken for ‘ordinary knowledge’ which would leave people understanding it on their ordinary terms and miss the extraordinary value the system has to offer. Therefore the ideas and concepts of ‘The Fourth Way’ required a different kind of attitude of listening and demand a certain kind of responsibility to incorporate them into your day-to-day life. The main impact however for interpreting these ideas in an ‘ordinary’ way. is that you would just merely ‘understand’ the system and not ‘get’ its full potential and losing the possibility of ever getting the ideas of the system at all.
" I know that it is not an easy thing to realise that one is hearing new things. We are so accustomed to the old tunes, and the old motives, that long ago we ceased to hope and ceased to believe that there might be anything new. And when we hear new things, we take them for old, or think that they can be explained and interpreted by the old. It is true that it is a difficult task to realise the possibility and necessity of quite new ideas, and it needs with time a revaluation of all usual values. I cannot guarantee that you will hear new ideas, that is, ideas you never heard before, from the start; but if you are patient you will very soon begin to notice them. And then I wish you not to miss them, and to try not to interpret them in the old way.”
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