This book is a continuation of my ongoing interest in studying the life of George Ivan Gurdjieff, the influential mystic who synthesized all the great world religions into a complex yet practical system that gave people a clear path to the development of higher consciousness.
Ouspensky was a Russian philosopher well known throughout the world, sometimes giving lectures before several thousand of people, even before he became a pupil of Gurdjieff.
Ouspensky met Gurdjieff during World War I, an era of great turbulence in which many people were looking for greater meaning in life and a solution to all the chaos and disharmony among humanity.
This book by Ouspensky narrates many of the Gurdjieff lectures that he attended alongside the other pupils.
The most vital aspect of the teaching was what Gurdjieff called ‘the fourth way,’ which refers to the fastest path to higher consciousness and spiritual self-mastery among what he identified as the three traditional schools found throughout the world.
Those included the following: the way of fakir, a person who works on his physical body to develop will; the way of the monk, a person who works on their emotions through the exercise of prayer; and the way of the yogi, a person who works on their intellect through meditation practice.
Of the ways, that of the fakir is the slowest, that of the yogi is the fastest, and that of the monk is somewhere in the middle of the former two. The fourth way is articulated as the fastest way because it combines work on all three centers—physical, emotional, and intellectual—all at once. The fourth way is also the only way that is suitable for the conditions of ordinary modern life, such that it does not require retreat to an ashram, monastery, cave, or desert.
Although this book is full of heady information, including chemistry and cosmological schemes, Ouspensky provides a clear and simple explanation of the “work on oneself” that all starts with psychology.
The most important exercise that the beginner will hear about is that you must try to REMEMBER YOURSELF. Instead of just having an experience, FEEL yourself and OBSERVE yourself having the experience.
It’s a type of awareness that uses a double-headed arrow instead of an arrow that just goes one way. For example, instead of this: you → observed, do this: you ↔ observed.
Gurdjieff taught that if you remember yourself in enough places, someday you will read something or someone will say something, and in an INSTANT you will WAKE UP, as if waking from a dream, and it will be the singularly most astonishing experience you will ever have in your life.