Archives for posts with tag: ouspensky

Gurdjieff describes three stages in the freeing of a man from the useless part of himself, his false personality. The first stage in this liberation process was when he saw himself as he actually was, and not as he had always imagined himself to be; the second began when he fully realized his helplessness and his nothingness; the third, when he had the courage and willingness to “die,” in other words, to renounce forever what kept him in a state of servitude.


It is true that the consciousness of another person cannot be measured objectively, but the greater a man’s consciousness, the more control he is able to exercise over his various functions. Everything Gurdjieff did seemed to originate from within him.

. . .

“The first of these understandings,” [Beelzebub] says, “exists there under the following formulation: Every action of man is good, in the objective sense, if it is done according to his conscience, and every action is bad, if from it later he experiences remorse.”

Situated as man is in a universe in which everything is affected by everything else, it is impossible for him to insulate himself from his surroundings and ejoy what he calls “free will,” for he must inevitably be controlled by what is stronger than himself. But he has been given a small measure of choice. He can select the influence under which he prefers to live and can place himself under the power of something higher or of something lower.

But if a man has the desire to form part of something higher he must first be suitably prepared for this change.

” ‘I do not boil you because you are hateful to me: nay, ’tis that you may get taste and savor,

So that you may become nutriment and mingle with the spirit.’ “

. . .

The real problem, Ouspensky said, was not whether prayer was or not efficacious, but whether one was able to pray. “There are many different kinds of prayer,” he continued, “but the commonest kind is some sort of petition. When such petition prayers are examined, more often than not they take the form of a request that two and two shall not make four. Certain actions of the petitioner have been followed by certain inevitable results, and he prays that this sequence of cause and effect shall be averted. This is a kind of prayer that can give absolutely no results, for causality reigns in the world within us as well as in the world without. What a man sows, that also shall he reap. The truth is that one must learn to pray just as one must learn to do everything else.

. . .

In his earlier lectures Mr. Ouspensky had discussed the different methods of development possible to man. He had talked to us about the way of the fakir, who by means of terrible physical sufferings eventually gained will over the physical body; he had described the yogi as traveling by the intellectual way, that is to say by the control of the thinking mind. He had contrasted these two methods with the religious or emotional way. The monk worked primarily on the emotional center, by means of prayer, meditation, and strict obedience to his religious superior, the abbot. All of these three paths to evolution demanded of the disciple obedience to authority and retirement from life, but in the fourth way, the way which Gurdjieff taught, retirement from life was unnecessary. Life provided the pupil with the material he needed and, unlike the fakir, the yogi, and the monk, the traveler by the fourth way worked on all three centers simultaneously.

“Everything happens in us” was Ouspensky’s favorite theme, and now that we were trying to do things differently we discovered the truth of this saying.

Few things are more difficult for a man to realize than the fact that he possesses no will, and it is obvious why this should be so. “But I did what I wanted to do,” he exclaims when his mechanicalness is pointed out to him. “How can you say that I have no will?” Yes, he has done what his various desires (and not an independent will) have compelled him to do, and over these desires he exercises little or no control. So it is only when, for the sake of a single persistent aim, he turns against the current of his mechanical desires that he discovers what is the real meaning of the word “will.”

Why, [Madame Ouspensky] asked, should we take so much trouble and care about a thing so utterly worthless as a personality?

People were not so easily taken in by appearances as we thought and, in any case, they were so preoccupied with their own personalities that they had no time to take notice of others. “Madame,” she would say, “is not interested in what is artificial in people. She is only interested in what is real in them, in that small part of them which sees what they really are and has a desire to become something else.”

How indeed can we obtain any more knowledge and, more especially, that kind of knowledge that comes through intuition, or direct perception, rather than through the intellect, unless the personality can first be got out of the way. The so-called intuition of a man controlled by his personality is only a manifestation of his prejudices and biases and nothing more than this.

So for the sake of a distant aim we accepted the unpleasantness of having our personalities revealed. Mr. Ouspensky had always warned us that the tru9th about oneself was often painful, and so it generally turned out to be, whether that truth were self-found, or uncovered for us by somebody else.

The fact is that we live mostly in our imaginations and, like industrious silkworms, spin round ourselves gorgeous chrysalises of silk. It is therefore bound to be unpleasant when rude hands tear all this spun finery of ours to pieces and reveal to the world that there is nothing inside it but a very ordinary grub.

Yet there are compensations attached even to this. Having been seen, and having seen oneself as one is, there is no longer need for recourse to that troublesome art of “saving face.” Men who have lost all their money can no longer be robbed.

When anyone hears that it is possible for am an to evolve he always concludes that he can start to do this from wherever he happens to be. He thinks that it is quite unnecessary for him to give up anything at all. If this were possible, it would mean that as such a man evolved everything in him would become bigger, his weaknesses as well as his strengths, both his faults and his virtues, everything that makes up that man.

No, we must be prepared to destroy before we can begin to build; in other words, to get rid of much that stands in our way. When one goes to a tailor for new clothes one does not put on the new suit over one’s old clothes. Yet some people insist on clinging to all their old ideas. Instead of making any adjustments themselves, they expect me to bring my teaching into line with what they think, with what they believe they already know.

But why treat truth as though it were something exceedingly delicate and fragile? We must be brave enough to put everything we have into the crucible, and when it is withdrawn from the furnace, we shall find that the gold we have put in is still there. Nothing that is true will have been lost.

“All that I can give you here is knowledge. You remember what I said about knowledge and being? To impart knowledge is one thing, but to bring about a change of being with the help of this knowledge is quite another thing. A change in the level of being can only be brought about by long effort and persistent struggle.”

“Struggle with what?”

“With mechanicalness and sleep,” Ouspensky answered; “with all that keeps us where we are. Realize that this is no ordinary sleep from which we suffer. It resembles much more closely induced, or hypnotic, sleep. We have to find out next what keeps us asleep and, having discovered this, to try to get rid of these causes. The most important of them all is some sort of identification.

“It is something that is easier to see in oneself than to define. Identification means merging with something so completely that we completely disappear into it–for the time being we entirely cease to exist and become only a part of the thing with which we are identified. A man can and does identify with anything: with an idea, with an unpleasant emotion, with a person or a situation, with everything and with anything. At one moment he may be–he may be conscious of his existence–and then suddenly his attention is attracted by something. He is sucked into it, and from that moment he ceases to exist. He is no longer a person but becomes the thing with which he is identified.

“Non-identifying has much in common with the non-attachment of the Buddhists. It is an effort to stand apart.

“See and feel the thing you are examining and aty the same time be aware of yourself seeing or feeling it. So long as you manage to do this, so long as you maintain the sense of ‘I,’ you will not disappear; you will continue to be–to exist.

“The only thing that is easy is to continue sleeping and the most difficult thing is to awake.”

“I think that I get most identified with people,” one said. “I’v discovered, since I began to observe myself, that I’m always wondering what they are thinking of me.”

“A very good observation indeed,” answered Ouspensky. “This form of identification is so important that we have a special word for describing it. It is called ‘considering.’ We consider people too much and by this I don’t mean that we show a regard for their feelings and welfare. It is the very reverse of this; we are entirely preoccupied with what they are thinking of us, whether they like us or dislike us, whether they are giving us our due or not, and whether we are creating a good impression on them. It is a form of inner servitude, a kind of inner bargaining, the cringing of a lackey before his master.

There is such a thing as real regard for other people’s needs. But we will not talk about this at present. To know what is best for another person requires much understanding, and to give him what he lacks and what will help him is a form of ‘doing.’ It requires much understanding and the exercise of will. But think about the various forms of identification which keep us asleep and make your own observations when you come next time.”

by Kenneth Walker

The Ark-Builders

Ouspensky began by saying that man attributed to himself a great many qualities that he did not actually possess. He believed that he had a permanent self, a master “I,” which integrated and controlled his thoughts, his emotions, and his actions. This was an illusion, for if one turned one’s attention inward, one would soon discover that instead of there being a single “I,” there were innumerable “I’s,” many of which said contradictory things. All that one saw when one watched one’s inner psychic processes was an endless procession of thoughts, sensations, imaginings and emotions, but nothing that could possibly be called a permanent and sovereign self.

“A man prides himself on being self-conscious, whereas even a short course of self-study will reveal the fact that one is but rarely aware of oneself, and then only for a few fleeting moments. Man believes that he has will, that he can ‘do,’ but this is also untrue. Everything happens in us in the same way that changes in the weather happens. Just as it rains, it snows, it clears up, and it is fine, so also, within us, it likes, or it does not like, it is pleased or it is distressed. We are machines set in motion by external influences, by impressions reaching us from the outside world.”

“Isn’t this id ea that man is only a machine the view of the behaviorist school of psychology?” I asked.

Ouspensky looked at me. “For them,” he said, “it is only  convenient theory which they fail to apply to themselves and to their own mental constructions. They see automatism in others, but not in themselves. For us it has got to become something far more real than this. Unless we realize with our whole being that we do not possess unity, consciousness and will, we will make no attempt to acquire them.”

“If we accept what you tell us–” began someone, but Ouspensky interrupted him.

“Accept nothinig,” he said. “Faith is not wanted here. Submit everything you hear from me to a personal test, to the test of self-observation. To accept something on trust when you can prove it or disprove it is laziness.”