p d Ouspensky (1878-1947) Disciple of Gurdjieff and Philosophical Pioneer


Pyorr Demianovitch Ouspensky was a follower and disciple of G. I. Gurdjieff and an interpreter of the Gurdjieefian system. Born in Russia, his father was a military officer and his mother was a painter. The military and artistic characteristics of his parents seem to greatly influenced Ouspensky’s personality. He was a student of mathematics at the Moscow University, and became a successful journalist.

In 1907 Ouspensky became acquainted with Theosophical literature and began speculating about a synthesis of religion, mysticism, and science. Then in 1909 he published The Fourth Dimension, dealing with abstract mathematical concepts. A book on yoga followed this, which was proceeded by his major philosophical work Tertium Organum, the third canon of thought, a key to the enigmas of the world, (English translation, London, 1923). The work was a remarkable synthesis of the concepts of time, space, relativity, Theosophy, cosmic consciousness, and Eastern and Western philosophy. The work’s Latin title implied a complete reorganization of thought under a Third Canon.

During and after 1913 Ouspensky traveled in the East looking for the miraculous, following which he lectured about his experiences. In 1915 Ouspensky met two people who would become important in his life: Sophia Grigorievna Marimenko, who later became his wife, and Gurdjieff who would become his guru.

Although Gurdjieff had already discovered many of the occult truths that Ouspensky had been looking for, Gurdjieff’s approach different than that of Ouspensky’s because of the latter’s mathematical mind. However, Ouspensky was a sincere disciple and interpreter of Gurdjieff’s system until 1924 when he decided to travel his own path. Even after this Ouspensky was still impressed by his teacher. Ouspensky lectured and held study groups on Gurdjieff’s work till his death in 1947.

Works of Ouspensky that were published posthumously include A New Model of the Universe (London, 1948), In Search of the Miraculous (London, 1950), The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin (Kinemadrama, London, 1948).

One can gain an experience of Ouspensky’s lectures from Chapter VIII of God Is My Adventure by Rom Landau (London, 1935); also the book offers reminiscences of meetings with Gurdjieff. A.G.H.

Source: 9, 1232-1233.