Peter D. Ouspensky
(March 5, 1878, Moscow - October 2, 1947, Lyne Place, Surrey, England), (Pyotr Demianovich Ouspenskii
, also Uspenskii
) was a Russian philosopher with an analytic and mystical bent who combined geometry and psychology in his discussion of higher dimensions of existence. During his years in Moscow he wrote for several newspapers, and was particularly interested in the then-fashionable idea of the fourth dimension
. He is best known, however, for his expositions of the early work of the Greek-Armenian mystic, G.I. Gurdjieff.
His first book The Fourth Dimension
appeared in 1909, his second book Tertium Organum
in 1912 and A New Model of the Universe
in 1931. This last work introduced the idea of esotericism
, a belief that there exist centers in the world where ancient esoteric knowledge and wisdom are not only preserved, but taught to initiates. He also wrote the novel Strange life of Ivan Osokin
, which explored the concept of eternal return. His travels throughout Europe and the East, looking for centers of esoteric knowledge, were unproductive. However, upon his return to Russia, he was introduced to Gurdjieff and spent the next several years studying with him.
After the Bolshevik revolution, Ouspensky travelled to London by way of Istanbul. It was during this time, after Gurdjieff founded his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man in France, that Ouspensky came to the conclusion that he was no longer able to understand his former teacher and made a decision to discontinue association with him. Nevertheless, he wrote about Gurdjieff's teachings in a book originally entitled Fragments of an Unknown Teaching, only published posthumously in 1947 under the title In Search of the Miraculous. While this volume has been criticized by some of those who have followed Gurdjieff's teachings as only a partial representation of the totality of Gurdjieff's ideas, it nevertheless provides what is probably the most concise explanation of the material that was included. This is in sharp contrast to the writings of Gurdjieff himself, such as Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson, where the ideas and precepts of Gurdjieff's teachings are found very deeply veiled in allegory. It's also important to note that Ouspensky did receive permission from Gurdjieff for the publication of In Search of the Miraculous, something that was seemingly withheld from almost every other student of Gurdjieff, even in instances where the material being written about was much less complete or clear.
Shortly after his death in 1947, The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution was published, together with In Search of the Miraculous. Transcripts of certain of his lectures were published under the title of The Fourth Way in 1957; largely a collection of question and answer sessions, the book details important concepts, both introductory and advanced, for students of these teachings.
The papers of P.D. Ouspensky are held in the archives of Yale University Library.
Published Works by P.D. Ouspensky
- Tertium Organum: The Third Canon of Thought, a Key to the Enigmas of the World. (Translated from the Russian by Nicholas Bessaraboff and Claude Bragdon) Rochester, N.Y.: Manas Press, 1920; New York: Knopf, 1922; London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1923, 1934; 3rd American edition, New York: Knopf, 1945
- A New Model of the Universe: Principles of the Psychological Method in Its Application to Problems of Science, Religion and Art (Translated from the Russian by R. R. Merton, under the supervision of the author) New York: Knopf, 1931; London: Routledge, 1931; 2nd revised edition, London: Routledge, 1934; New York: Knopf; 1934
- The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution New York: Hedgehog Press, 1950
- Strange Life of Ivan Osokin New York and London: Holme, 1947; London: Faber & Faber, 1948, first published in Russian as Kinemadrama (St. Petersburg, 1915)
- In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1949; London: Routledge, 1949
- The Fourth Way: A Record of Talks and Answers to Questions Based on the Teaching of G. I. Gurdjieff (Prepared under the general supervision of Sophia Ouspensky) New York: Knopf, 1957; London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1957
- Letters from Rusia-1919 (Introduction by Fairfax Hall and epilog from In Denikin's Russia by CE Bechhofer) London and New York: Arkana, 1978
- Conscience: The Search for Truth (Introduction by Merrily E. Taylor) London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979
- A Further Record: Extracts from Meetings 1928–1945 London and New York: Arkana, 1986
- The Symbolism of the Tarot (Translated by A.L. Pogossky) New York Dover Publications Inc.,1976