Ouspensky, P(eter) D(emianovitch)(1878-1947)

views updated

Ouspensky, P(eter) D(emianovitch)(1878-1947)

Follower of early twentieth-century spiritual teacher Georgei I. Gurdjieff (1877-1949) and interpreter of his system. Ouspensky was born in Russia in 1878. He became a student of mathematics at Moscow University, then went on to become a journalist.

In 1907, motivated by the conviction that some higher form of knowledge must exist beyond the tangent fields of science and math, Ouspensky became aware of Theosophical literature and the possible synthesis of religion, mysticism, and science. In 1909, he published The Fourth Way, dealing with abstract mathematical concepts. He later published a book on yoga, followed by Tertium Organum; the Third Canon of Thought; a Key to the Enigmas of the World (English translation London, 1923). It offered his synthesis of time, space, relativity, Theosophy, cosmic consciousness, and Eastern and Western philosophy.

From 1913, Ouspensky traveled on an extended journey to Egypt, India, and Ceylon, searching for the miraculous, and upon his return gave a series of lectures on his experiences. In 1915, he met Sophia Grigorievna Maximenko (who later became his wife) and the mystic G. I. Gurdjieff (who became his guru).

Ouspensky became a disciple and interpreter of Gurdjieff's system (i.e., that there exists real possibilities for individuals to evolve psychologically into a state of consciousness far higher than that in which they spend the whole of their ordinary lives) until 1924, when he decided to follow his own path. He lectured, wrote books, and conducted study groups in England and the United States on the work of Gurdjieff until his death in 1947. Rom Landau attended and wrote an account of an Ouspensky lecture in London.


Driscoll, J. Walter. Gurdjieff: An Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, 1985.

Landau, Rom. God Is My Adventure. London: Ivor Nicholson & Watson, 1935.

Ouspensky, P. D. The Fourth Way. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1953.

. In Search of the Miraculous. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1949.

. A New Model of the Universe. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1931.

. Tertium Organum; the Third Canon of Thought; a Key to the Enigmas of the World. Rochester, N.Y.: Manas Press, 1920.

Webb, James. The Harmonious Circle: The Lives and Work of G.I. Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky, and Their Followers. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1980.

Wintle, Justin, ed. Makers of Modern Culture. New York: Facts on File, 1981.