P. D. Ouspensky quotes

P. D. Ouspensky photo
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P. D. Ouspensky

Birthdate: 4. March 1878
Date of death: 2. October 1947

Pyotr Demianovich Ouspenskii , was a Russian esotericist known for his expositions of the early work of the Greek-Armenian teacher of esoteric doctrine George Gurdjieff, whom he met in Moscow in 1915. Ouspensky was associated with the ideas and practices originating with Gurdjieff from then on. He shared the "system" for 25 years in England and the United States, having separated from Gurdjieff in 1924 personally, for reasons he explains in the last chapter of his book In Search of the Miraculous.

All in all, Ouspensky studied the Gurdjieff system directly under Gurdjieff's own supervision for a period of ten years, from 1915 to 1924. His book In Search of the Miraculous recounts what he learned from Gurdjieff during those years. While lecturing in London in 1924, he announced that he would continue independently the way he had begun in 1921. Some, including his close pupil Rodney Collin, say that he finally gave up the system in 1947, just before his death, but his own recorded words on the subject do not clearly endorse this judgement, nor does Ouspensky's emphasis on "you must make a new beginning" after confessing "I've left the system".

Works

Tertium Organum
Tertium Organum
P. D. Ouspensky

„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.“

—  P. D. Ouspensky

Card XXI : The World
The Symbolism of the Tarot (1913)
Context: 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."

„When I possessed the keys, read the book and understood the symbols, I was permitted to lift the curtain of the Temple and enter.“

—  P. D. Ouspensky

Card XI : Justice http://www.sacred-texts.com/tarot/sot/sot22.htm
The Symbolism of the Tarot (1913)
Context: 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!"

„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.“

—  P. D. Ouspensky, book Tertium Organum

Source: Tertium Organum (1912; 1922), Ch. I
Context: 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.

„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.“

—  P. D. Ouspensky

Source: A New Model of the Universe (1932), p. 33
Context: 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.

„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“

—  P. D. Ouspensky

Card XII : The Hanged Man http://www.sacred-texts.com/tarot/sot/sot23.htm
The Symbolism of the Tarot (1913)
Context: 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."

„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.“

—  P. D. Ouspensky

Source: A New Model of the Universe (1932), 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.
Context: 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.

„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.“

—  P. D. Ouspensky

Card 0 : The Fool http://www.sacred-texts.com/tarot/sot/sot03.htm
The Symbolism of the Tarot (1913)
Context: 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.

„I Saw the Man.
His figure reached from earth to heaven and was clad in a purple mantle.“

—  P. D. Ouspensky

Card I : The Magician http://www.sacred-texts.com/tarot/sot/sot02.htm
The Symbolism of the Tarot (1913)
Context: 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!

„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.“

—  P. D. Ouspensky, book Tertium Organum

Tertium Organum (1922)
Context: 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.

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„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.“

—  P. D. Ouspensky

A New Model of the Universe (1932)
Context: 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.

„The strangest and most fantastic fact about negative emotions is that people actually worship them.“

—  P. D. Ouspensky

Fourth Lecture, p. 70.
The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution (1950)
Context: 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.

„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.“

—  P. D. Ouspensky

Card 0 : The Fool
The Symbolism of the Tarot (1913)
Context: "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.

„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.“

—  P. D. Ouspensky

Card XXI : The World http://www.sacred-texts.com/tarot/sot/sot05.htm
The Symbolism of the Tarot (1913)
Context: 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.

„People who think they can control their negative emotions and manifest them when they want to, simply deceive themselves.“

—  P. D. Ouspensky

Fourth Lecture, p. 70.
The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution (1950)
Context: 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.

„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!“

—  P. D. Ouspensky

Card I : The Magician http://www.sacred-texts.com/tarot/sot/sot02.htm
The Symbolism of the Tarot (1913)
Context: 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!

„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.“

—  P. D. Ouspensky, book Tertium Organum

Source: Tertium Organum (1912; 1922), Ch. I
Context: 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.

„Existing criminology is insufficient to isolate barbarism.“

—  P. D. Ouspensky

Source: A New Model of the Universe (1932), 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.
Context: 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.

„The absurdity of both these propositions shows that they cannot refer to our world.“

—  P. D. Ouspensky, book Tertium Organum

Source: Tertium Organum (1912; 1922), Ch. XXI
Context: 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.

„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.“

—  P. D. Ouspensky, book Tertium Organum

Source: Tertium Organum (1912; 1922), Ch. XXI
Context: 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.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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