P. D. Ouspensky

Philosophy is based on speculation, on logic, on thought, on the synthesis of what we know and on the analysis of what we do not know. Philosophy must include within its confines the whole content of science, religion and art.
Generally speaking, the significance of the indirect results may very often be of more importance than the significance of direct ones.

Peter Dimianovich Ouspensky (4 March 18782 October 1947) was a Russian mystic philosopher, (also known as Piotr Dimianovich Ouspenskii). He was a student and expositor of the teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff.

QuotesEdit

In all living nature (and perhaps also in that which we consider as dead) love is the motive force which drives the creative activity in the most diverse directions.
It is only when we realize that life is taking us nowhere that it begins to have meaning.
  • Generally speaking, the significance of the indirect results may very often be of more importance than the significance of direct ones. And since we are able to trace how the energy of love transforms itself into instincts, ideas, creative forces on different planes of life; into symbols of art, song, music, poetry; so can we easily imagine how the same energy may transform itself into a higher order of intuition, into a higher consciousness which will reveal to us a marvelous and mysterious world.
    In all living nature (and perhaps also in that which we consider as dead) love is the motive force which drives the creative activity in the most diverse directions.
    • Tertium Organum (1922)
  • Two things can get people to make efforts: if people want to get something, or if they want to get rid of something. Only, in ordinary conditions, without knowledge, people do not know what they can get rid of or what they can gain.
  • It is only when we realize that life is taking us nowhere that it begins to have meaning.
    • As quoted in Zen and the Art of Making a Living : A Practical Guide to Creative Career Design (1999) by Laurence G. Boldt, p. 118

The Symbolism of the Tarot (1913)Edit

Translated by A. L. Pogossky · Full text online
  • I Saw the Man.
    His figure reached from earth to heaven and was clad in a purple mantle.
    He stood deep in foliage and flowers and his head, on which was the head-band of an initiate, seemed to disappear mysteriously in infinity.
    Before him on a cube-shaped altar were four symbols of magic — the sceptre, the cup, the sword and the pentacle.
    His right hand pointed to heaven, his left to earth. Under his mantle he wore a white tunic girded with a serpent swallowing its tail.
    His face was luminous and serene, and, when his eyes met mine, I felt that he saw most intimate recesses of my soul. I saw myself reflected in him as in a mirror and in his eyes I seemed to look upon myself.
    And I heard a voice saying:
    —"Look, this is the Great Magician!
  • With his hands he unites heaven and earth, and the four elements that form the world are controlled by him.
    The four symbols before him are the four letters of the name of God, the signs of the four elements, fire, water, air, earth."
    I trembled before the depth of the mysteries A touched... The words I heard seemed to be littered by the Great Magician himself, and it was as though he spoke in me.
    I was in deep trepidation and at moment I felt there was nothing, before me except the blue sky; but within me a window opened through which I could see unearthly things. and hear unearthly words.
    • Card I : The Magician
  • And I saw another man.
    Tired and lame he dragged himself along the dusty road, across the deserted plain under the scorching rays of the sun.
    He glanced sidelong with foolish, staring eyes, a half smile, half leer on his face; he knew not where he went, but was absorbed in his chimerical dreams which ran constantly in the same circle. His fool's cap was put on wrong side front, his garments were torn in the back; a wild lynx with glowing eyes sprang upon him from behind a rock and buried her teeth in his flesh. He stumbled, nearly fell, but continued to drag himself along, all the time holding on his shoulder a bag containing useless things, which he, in his stupidity, carried wherever he went.
    Before him a crevice crossed the road and a deep precipice awaited the foolish wanderer. Then a huge crocodile with open mouth crawled out of the precipice. And I heard the voice say:--
    "Look! This is the same man."
    I felt my head whirl.
  • "What has he in the bag?" I inquired, not knowing why I asked. And after a long silence the voice replied: "The four magic symbols, the sceptre, the cup, the sword and the pentacle. The fool always carries them, although he has long since forgotten what they mean. Nevertheless they belong to him, even though he does not know their use. The symbols have not lost their power, they retain it in themselves.
    • Card 0 : The Fool
  • When I lifted the first veil and entered the outer court of the Temple of Initiation, I saw in half darkness the figure of a woman sitting on a high throne between two pillars of the temple, one white, and one black. Mystery emanated from her and was about her. Sacred symbols shone on her green dress; on her head was a golden tiara surmounted by a two-horned moon; on her knees she held two crossed keys and an open book. Between the two pillars behind the woman hung another veil all embroidered with green leaves and fruit of pomegranate.
    And a voice said:
    "To enter the Temple one must lift the second veil and pass between the two pillars. And to pass thus, one must obtain possession of the keys, read the book and understand the symbols. Are you able to do this?"
    "I would like to be able," I said.
  • Then the woman turned her face to me and looked into my eyes without speaking. And through me passed a thrill, mysterious and penetrating like a golden wave; tones vibrated in my brain, a flame was in my heart, and I understood that she spoke to me, saying without words:
    "This is the Hall of Wisdom. No one can reveal it, no one can hide it. Like a flower it must grow and bloom in thy soul. If thou wouldst plant the seed of this flower in thy soul — learn to discern the real from the false. Listen only to the Voice that is soundless... Look only on that which is invisible, and remember that in thee thyself, is the Temple and the gate to it, and the mystery, and the initiation."
    • Card II : The High Priestess
  • An unexpected vision appeared to me. A circle not unlike a wreath woven from rainbow and lightnings, whirled from heaven to earth with a stupendous, velocity, blinding me by its brilliance. And amidst this light and fire I heard music and soft singing, thunderclaps and the roar of a tempest, the rumble of falling mountains and earthquakes.
    The circle whirled with a terrifying noise, touching the sun and the earth, and, in the centre of it I saw the naked, dancing figure of a beautiful young woman, enveloped by a light, transparent scarf, in her hand she held a magic wand.
    Presently the four apocalyptical beasts began to appear on the edges of the circle; one with the face of a lion, another with the face of a man, the third, of an eagle and the fourth, of a bull.
  • The vision disappeared as suddenly as it appeared. A weird silence fell on me. "What does it mean?" I asked in wonder.
    "It is the image of the world," the voice said, "but it can be understood only after the Temple has been entered. This is a vision of the world in the circle of Time, amidst the four principles. But thou seest differently because thou seest the world outside thyself. Learn to see it in thyself and thou wilt understand the infinite essence, hidden in all illusory forms. Understand that the world which thou knowest is only one of the aspects of the infinite world, and things and phenomena are merely hierolgyphics of deeper ideas."
    • Card XXI : The World
  • When I possessed the keys, read the book and understood the symbols, I was permitted to lift the curtain of the Temple and enter. its inner sanctum. And there I beheld a Woman with a crown of gold and a purple mantle. She held a sword in one hand and scales in the other. I trembled with awe at her appearance, which was deep and mysterious, and drew me like an abyss.
    "You see Truth," said the voice. "On these scales everything is weighed. This sword is always raised to guard justice, and nothing can escape it."
    "But why do you avert your eyes from the scales and the sword? They will remove the last illusions. How could you live on earth without these illusions?
    "You wished to see Truth and now you behold it! But remember what happens to the mortal who beholds a Goddess!"
  • And then I saw a man in terrible suffering, hung by one leg, head downward, to a high tree. And I heard the voice: —
    "Look! This is a man who saw Truth. Suffering awaits the man on earth, who finds the way to eternity and to the understanding of the Endless.
    "He is still a man, but he already knows much of what is inaccessible even to Gods. And the incommensurableness of the small and the great in his soul constitutes his pain and his golgotha.
    "In his own soul appears the gallows on which he hangs in suffering, feeling that he is indeed inverted.
    "He chose this way himself.
    "For this he went over a long road from trial to trial, from initiation to initiation, through failures and falls.
    "And now he has found Truth and knows himself.
    "He knows that it is he who stands before an altar with magic symbols, and reaches from earth to heaven; that he also walks on a dusty road under a scorching sun to a precipice where a crocodile awaits him; that he dwells with his mate in paradise under the shadow of a blessing genius; that he is chained to a black cube under the shadow of deceit; that he stands as a victor for a moment in an illusionary chariot drawn by sphinxes; and that with a lantern in bright sunshine, he seeks for Truth in a desert.
    "Now he has found Her."

Tertium Organum (1912; 1922)Edit

Knowledge must start from some foundation, something must be recognized as known; otherwise we shall be obliged always to define one unknown by means of another.
Tertium Organum : The Third Canon Of Thought : A Key To The Enigmas Of The World (1922 edition) as translated by Nicholas Bessaraboff and Claude Bragdon
To hope to find in the world of causes anything logical from our standpoint is just as useless as to think that the world of things can exist in accordance with the laws of a world of shadows or stereometry according to the laws of planimetry.
  • The most difficult thing is to know what we do know, and what we do not know.
    Therefore, desiring to know anything, we shall before all else determine WHAT we accept as given, and WHAT as demanding definition and proof; that is, determine WHAT we know already, and WHAT we wish to know.
    In relation to the knowledge of the world and of ourselves, the conditions would be ideal could we venture to accept nothing as given, and count all as demanding definition and proof. In other words, it would be best to assume that we know nothing, and make this our point of departure.
    But unfortunately such conditions are impossible to create. Knowledge must start from some foundation, something must be recognized as known; otherwise we shall be obliged always to define one unknown by means of another.
    • Ch. I
  • We know that with the very first awakening of knowledge, man is confronted with two obvious facts:
    The existence of the world in which he lives; and the existence of psychic life in himself.
    Neither of these can he prove or disprove, but they are facts: they constitute reality for him.

    It is possible to meditate upon the mutual correlation of these two facts. It is possible to try to reduce them to one; that is, to regard the psychic or inner world as a part, reflection, or function of the world, or the world as a part, reflection, or function of that inner world. But such a procedure constitutes a departure from facts, and all such considerations of the world and of the self, to the ordinary non-philosophical mind, will not have the character of obviousness. On the contrary the sole obvious fact remains the antithesis of I and Not-I — our inner psychic life and the outer world.
    • Ch. I
  • The most precise and complete formulation of the law of higher logic I find in the writing of Plotinus, in his On Intelligible Beauty. I shall quote this passage in the succeeding chapter.
    I have called this system of higher logic Tertium Organum because for us it is the third canon — third instrument — of thought after those of Aristotle and Bacon. The first was Organon, the second, Novum Organum. But the third existed earlier than the first.
    Man, master of this instrument, of this key, may open the door of the world of causes without fear.
  • The axioms which Tertium Organum embraces cannot be formulated in our language. If we attempt to formulate them in spite of this, they will produce the impression of absurdities. Taking the axioms of Aristotle as a model, we may express the principal axiom of the new logic in our poor earthly language in the following manner:
A is both A and Not-A.
or
Everything is both A and Not-A.
or,
Everything is All.
But these axioms are in effect absolutely impossible. They are not the axioms of higher logic, they are merely attempts to express the axioms of this logic in concepts. In reality the ideas of higher logic are inexpressible in concepts. When we encounter such an inexpressibility it means that we have touched the world of causes.
  • Ch. XXI
  • The logical formula: A is both A and Not-A, corresponds to the mathematical formula: A magnitude can be greater or less than itself.
    The absurdity of both these propositions shows that they cannot refer to our world. Of course absurdity, as such, is indeed not an index of the attributes of noumena, but the attributes of noumena will certainly be expressed in what are absurdities to us. To hope to find in the world of causes anything logical from our standpoint is just as useless as to think that the world of things can exist in accordance with the laws of a world of shadows or stereometry according to the laws of planimetry.
    To master the fundamental principles of higher logic means to master the fundamentals of the understanding of a space of higher dimensions, or of the world of the wondrous.
    In order to approach to a clear understanding of the relations of the multi-dimensional world, we must free ourselves from all the "idols" of our world, as Bacon calls them, i.e., from all obstacles to correct receptivity and reasoning. Then we shall have taken the most important step toward an inner affinity with the world of the wondrous.
    • Ch. XXI

A New Model of the Universe (1932)Edit

"Laws" are very often a manifestation of barbarism and violence.
The number of laws is constantly growing in all countries and, owing to this, what is called crime is very often not a crime at all, for it contains no element of violence or harm.
Even the problem of Time is simple in comparison with the problem of Eternity
  • Philosophy is based on speculation, on logic, on thought, on the synthesis of what we know and on the analysis of what we do not know. Philosophy must include within its confines the whole content of science, religion and art. But where can such a philosophy be found? All that we know in our times by the name of philosophy is not philosophy, but merely "critical literature" or the expression of personal opinions, mainly with the aim of overthrowing and destroying other personal opinions. Or, which is still worse, philosophy is nothing but self-satisfied dialectic surrounding itself with an impenetrable barrier of terminology unintelligible to the uninitiated and solving for itself all the problems of the universe without any possibility of proving these explanations or making them intelligible to ordinary mortals.
    • p. 33
  • Existing criminology is insufficient to isolate barbarism. It is insufficient because the idea of "crime" in existing criminology is artificial, for what is called crime is really an infringement of "existing laws", whereas "laws" are very often a manifestation of barbarism and violence. Such are the prohibiting laws of different kinds which abound in modern life. The number of these laws is constantly growing in all countries and, owing to this, what is called crime is very often not a crime at all, for it contains no element of violence or harm. On the other hand, unquestionable crimes escape the field of vision of criminology, either because they have not recognized the form of crime or because they surpass a certain scale. In existing criminology there are concepts: a criminal man, a criminal profession, a criminal society, a criminal sect, and a criminal tribe, but there is no concept of a criminal state, or a criminal government, or criminal legislation. Consequently what is often regarded as "political" activity is in fact a criminal activity.
    This limitation of the field of vision of criminology together with the absence of an exact and permanent definition of the concept of crime is one of the chief characteristics of our culture.
    • p. 37-38; "Consequently what is often regarded as "political" activity is in fact a criminal activity"' has also been translated as "Consequently, the biggest crimes actually escape being called crimes" in a 1984 edition.
  • Possibly the most interesting first impression of my life came from the world of dreams.
    • p. 242
  • There exist moments in life, separated by long intervals of time, but linked together by their inner content and by a certain singular sensation peculiar to them. Several such moments always recur to my mind together, and I feel then that it is these that have determined the chief trend of my life.
  • Humanity in the face of the idea of hidden knowledge reminds one of the people in fairy-tales who are promised by some goddess, fairy or magician that they will be given whatever they want on condition that they say exactly what they want.
  • Our ancestors were very rich and eminent people, and they left us an enormous inheritance, which we have completely forgotten, especially since the time when we began to consider ourselves the descendants of a monkey.
  • The problem of Eternity, of which the face of the Sphinx speaks, takes us into the realm of the impossible. Even the problem of Time is simple in comparison with the problem of Eternity.
  • Hints towards the solution of the problem of Eternity can be found in the various symbols and allegories of ancient religions and in some of the modern as well as ancient philosophies.

In Search of the Miraculous (1949)Edit

In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching (1949)
I felt that on a basis of a "search for the miraculous" it would be possible to unite together a very large number of people who were no longer able to swallow the customary forms of lying and living in lying.
  • I felt that on a basis of a "search for the miraculous" it would be possible to unite together a very large number of people who were no longer able to swallow the customary forms of lying and living in lying.
  • When a man begins to know himself a little he will see in himself many things that are bound to horrify him. So long as a man is not horrified at himself he knows nothing about himself.
  • If a man gives way to all his desires, or panders to them, there will be no inner struggle in him, no 'friction,' no fire. But if, for the sake of attaining a definite aim, he struggles with the desires that hinder him, he will then create a fire which will gradually transform his inner world into a single whole.

The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution (1950)Edit

ISBN 0394719433
The greatest barrier to consciousness is the belief that one is already conscious.
By giving to our thoughts the direction which they would have in a moment of consciousness, we can, in this way, induce consciousness.
  • The greatest barrier to consciousness is the belief that one is already conscious.
  • I've found that the chief difficulty for most people was to realize that they had really heard new things: that is things that they had never heard before. They kept translating what they heard into their habitual language. They had ceased to hope and believe there might be anything new.
    • Introduction
  • People who think they can control their negative emotions and manifest them when they want to, simply deceive themselves. Negative emotions depend on identification; if identification is destroyed in some particular case, they disappear. The strangest and most fantastic fact about negative emotions is that people actually worship them. I think that, for an ordinary mechanical man, the most difficult thing to realise is that his own and other people's negative emotions, have no value whatever and do not contain anything noble, anything beautiful or anything strong. In reality negative emotions contain nothing but weakness and very often the beginning of hysteria, insanity or crime. The only good thing about them is that, being quite useless and artificially created by imagination and identification, they can be destroyed without any loss. And this is the only chance of escape that man has.
    • Fourth Lecture, p. 70
  • Under the conditions of modern life we have more control over our thoughts, and in connection with this there is a special method by which we may work on the development of our consciousness using that instrument which is most obedient to our will; that is, our mind, or the intellectual centre. In order to understand more clearly what I am going to say, you must try to remember that we have no control over our consciousness. When I said that we can become more conscious, or that a man can be made conscious for a moment simply by asking him if he is conscious or not, I used the words "conscious" or "consciousness" in a relative sense. There are so many degrees of consciousness and every higher degree means "consciousness" in relation to a lower degree. But, if we have no control over consciousness itself, we have a certain control over our thinking about consciousness, and we can construct our thinking in such a way as to bring consciousness. What I mean is that by giving to our thoughts the direction which they would have in a moment of consciousness, we can, in this way, induce consciousness.
    • Fourth Lecture, p. 74

Quotes about OuspenskyEdit

  • In naming his book Tertium Organum Ouspensky reveals at a stroke that astounding audacity which characterizes his thought throughout — an audacity which we are accustomed to associate with the Russian mind in all its phases. Such a title says, in effect: "Here is a book which will reorganize all knowledge. The Organon of Aristotle formulated the laws under which the subject thinks; the Novum Organum of Bacon, the laws under which the object may be known; but The Third Canon of Thought existed before these two, and ignorance of its laws does not justify their violation. Tertium Organum shall guide and govern human thought henceforth." How passing strange, in this era of negative thinking, of timid philosophizing, does such a challenge sound!

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Last modified on 14 April 2014, at 02:39