P. D. Ouspensky

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Fast Facts
Other Names and Nicknames: 
Peter D. Ouspensky, Pyotr Demianovich Ouspenskii, Pyotr Demianovich Uspenskii, Uspensky, Пётр Демья́нович Успе́нский
Fourth Way
Main Countries of Activity: 
Date of Birth: 
March 4, 1878
Place of Birth: 
Moscow, Russia
In His/Her Body ("alive"): 
Date Left His/Her Body: 
October 2, 1947
Ancestor Gurus: 


Peter D. Ouspensky (March 4, 1878–October 2, 1947), (Pyotr Demianovich Ouspenskii, also Uspenskii or Uspensky) was a Russian philosopher who invoked euclidean and noneuclidean geometry in his discussions of psychology and higher dimensions of existence.

Ouspensky is well-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. He was associated with the ideas and practices originating with Gurdjieff from his thirty-eighth year. Eventually he separated from Gurdjieff personally, and it is said that he finally gave up the "system" that he had shared with people for 25 years in England and America, but this is unclear if one goes from his own recorded words on the subject ("A Record of Meetings," published posthumously) and not from the statements of others. In London while lecturing in 1924, he made the announcement he would continue independently the way he began in 1921.


Ouspensky was born in Moscow. His first book, The Fourth Dimension, appeared in 1909; his second book, Tertium Organum, in 1912; and A New Model of the Universe in 1931. This last work discusses the idea of esotericism. He also wrote the novel Strange Life of Ivan Osokin, which explored the concept of recurrence or eternal return. He traveled in Europe and the East--India, Ceylon, and Egypt--in his search for knowledge. Upon his return to Russia, however, he was introduced to Gurdjieff and spent the next few years studying with him.

Seemingly a modern Parmenides denying the ultimate reality of motion in his book Tertium Organum,he also negates Aristotle's Logical Formula of Identification of "A is A." Tertium Organum was rendered into English by the architect Claude Bragdon who had incorporated his own design of the hypercubeinto the Rochester Chamber of Commerce building.Ouspensky also provided an original discussion of the nature and expression of sexuality in his A New Model of the Universe; among other things, he draws a distinction between erotica and pornography.

During his years in Moscow Ouspensky wrote for several newspapers and was particularly interested in the then-fashionable idea of the fourth dimension. His first published work was titled The Fourth Dimensionand he explored the subject along the ideas prevalent at the time in the works of Charles H. Hinton,the fourth dimension being an extension in space. It was not until after the work of Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity that space-time as a fourth dimension came into vogue.Ouspensky treats time as a fourth dimension only indirectly in a novel he wrote titled Strange Life of Ivan Osokinwhere he also explores the theory of eternal recurrence.

After the Bolshevik revolution Ouspensky travelled to London by way of Istanbul. It was during this time, after Gurdjieff founded his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man in France, that Ouspensky came to the conclusion that he was no longer able to understand his former teacher and made a decision to discontinue association with him. Nevertheless, he wrote about Gurdjieff's teachings in a book originally entitled Fragments of an Unknown Teaching, only published posthumously in 1947 under the title In Search of the Miraculous. While this volume has been criticized by some of those who have followed Gurdjieff's teachings as only a partial representation of the totality of Gurdjieff's ideas, it nevertheless provides what is probably the most concise explanation of the material that was included. This is in sharp contrast to the writings of Gurdjieff himself, such as Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson, where the ideas and precepts of Gurdjieff's teachings are found very deeply veiled in allegory. It is also important to note that Ouspensky did receive permission from Gurdjieff for the publication of In Search of the Miraculous, something that was seemingly withheld from almost every other student of Gurdjieff, even in instances where the material being written about was much less complete or clear.

He died in Lyne Place, Surrey, England. Shortly after his death in 1947, The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution was published, together with In Search of the Miraculous. Transcripts of certain of his lectures were published under the title of The Fourth Way in 1957; largely a collection of question and answer sessions, the book details important concepts, both introductory and advanced, for students of these teachings.

The papers of P.D. Ouspensky are held in the archives of Yale University Library.



After Ouspensky broke away from Gurdjieff, he taught the "Fourth Way" as he understood it to his independent groups.

Fourth Way

P.D. Ouspensky made the term "Fourth Way" and its use central to his own teaching of the ideas of Gurdjieff. He greatly focused on Fourth Way schools and their existence throughout history.

Students and their contributions

Rodney Collin, whose work was heavily influenced by his teacher, P. D. Ouspensky, and through him, G. I. Gurdjieff, and their system of spiritual development. Rodney Collin is one of the most well known of Ouspensky's students, and a prolific writer. He met Ouspensky in the autumn of 1946. "Rodney Collin immediately recognised that he had found what he had been searching for in his reading and travels. From then on he dedicated all his time to the study of Mr Ouspensky's teaching."Collin's best known work, The Theory of Celestial Influence, is an ambitious attempt to unite astronomy, physics, chemistry, human physiology, and world history with Collin's version of planetary influences.

Within his most relevant contributions, it is the emphasis in the idea of Fourth Way school existing in different times. He says: "Schools of the fourth way have existed and exist, just as schools of the three traditional ways existed and exist. But they are much more difficult to detect, because - unlike the others - they cannot be recognized by any one practice, one method, one task, or one name. They are always inventing new methods, new practices, suitable to the time and conditions in which they exist, and when they have achieved one task which was set them they pass on to another, often changing their name and whole appearance in the process."




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Books & Media

Recommended Books: 
Cover image

In Search of the Miraculous (Harvest Book)

by P. D. Ouspensky


A new edition of the groundbreaking spiritual treasure, with a foreword by bestselling author Marianne Williamson .

Since its original publication in 1949, In Search of the Miraculous has been hailed as the most valuable and reliable documentation of G. I. Gurdjieff\'s thoughts and universal view. This historic and influential work is considered by many to be a primer of mystical thought as expressed through the Work, a combination of Eastern philosophies that had for centuries been passed on orally from teacher to student. Gurdjieff\'s goal, to introduce the Work to the West, attracted many students, among them Ouspensky, an established mathematician, journalist, and, with the publication of In Search of the Miraculous, an eloquent and persuasive proselyte.

Ouspensky describes Gurdjieff\'s teachings in fascinating and accessible detail, providing what has proven to be a stellar introduction to the universal view of both student and teacher. It goes without saying that In Search of the Miraculous has inspired great thinkers and writers of ensuing spiritual movements, including Marianne Williamson, the highly acclaimed author of A Return to Love and Illuminata. In a new and never-before-published foreword, Williamson shares the influence of Ouspensky\'s book and Gurdjieff\'s teachings on the New Thought movement and her own life, providing a contemporary look at an already timeless classic.

Cover image

The Fourth Way

by P. D. Ouspensky

(Kindle Edition)

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