Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

P.D. Ouspensky, fully Peter Demianovich Ouspensky, also Pyotr Demianovich Ouspenskii, also Uspenskii or Uspensky

Russian Esoteric Philosopher

"We cannot leave behind us the sins of our past. We must not forget that nothing disappears. Everything is eternal. Everything that has been is still in existence. The whole history of humanity is the “history of crime”... Man must go back, seek for, and destroy the causes of evil however far back they lie. It is only in this idea that the hint of the possibilities of a general evolution can be found. It is only in this idea that the possibility of changing the karma of humanity lies, because changing the karma means changing the past... There will be no possibility of thinking of evolution of humanity, if the possibility did not exist for individually evolving man to go into the past and struggle against the causes of the present evil which lie there."

"Everything we know, everything we recognise as existing lies in the line of the fourth dimension, the line of the fourth dimension is the historical “time” of our section of existence. This is the only “time” we know, the only time we feel, the only time we recognise. But though we are not aware of it, sensations of the existence of other “times”, both parallel and perpendicular, continually enter into our consciousness. These parallel lines are completely analogous to our time, and consists of before - now - after, whereas the perpendicular “times” consist only of now, and are, as it were, crossthreads, the woof in a fabric, in their relation to the parallel lines of time which in this case represent the warp."

"Art is the communication of ecstasy. All things change, nothing perishes."

"Habits change into character."

"The three dimensions of time can be regarded as the continuation of the three dimensions of space... Three-dimensionality is the function of our senses. Time is the boundary of our senses. Six-dimensional space is reality, the world as it is."

"The dispute between the theory of a predestined future and the theory of a free future is an endless dispute. This is so because both theories are too literal, too rigid, too material, and the one excludes the other... The opposites are both equally wrong because the truth lies in the unification of these two opposite understandings into one whole. At any given moment all the future of the world is predestined and existing - provided no new factor comes in. And a new factor can only come in from the side of consciousness and the will resulting from it."

"Time does not exist! There exist no perpetual and eternal appearance and disappearance of phenomena, no ceaselessly flowing fountain of ever-appearing and ever-vanishing events. Everything exists always! There is only one eternal present, the Eternal Now, which the weak and limited human mind can never grasp and conceive. But the idea of the Eternal Now is not at all the idea of a cold and merciless predetermnation of everything, of an exact and infallible pre-existence."

"The strangest and most fantastic fact about negative emotions is that people actually worship them."

"Religious revelation, philosophical thought, scientific investigation all converge on the problem of time and all come to the same view of it - time does not exist. there is no perpetual and eternal appearance and disappearance of phenomena. Everything exists always. There is only one eternal present. The world is world of infinite possibilities. Our mind follows the development of possibilities always in one direction only. But in fact every moment contains a very large number of possibilities, and all of them are actualised."

"A man can be given only what he can use; and he can use only that for which he has sacrificed something."

"A religion contradicting science and a science contradicting religion are equally false. "

"Can one alter one´s chief feature? asked someone else. First it is necessary to know it. If you know it, much will depend on the quality of your knowing. If you know it well, then it is possible to change it."

"First of all, what man must know is that he is not one; he is many. He has not one permanent and unchangeable I or Ego. He is always different. One moment he is one, another moment he is another, the third moment he is a third, and so on, almost without end"

"I have become so accustomed to think scientifically that I am afraid even to imagine that there may be something else beyond the outer covering of life. I feel like a man condemned to death, whose companions have been hanged and who has already become reconciled to the thought that the same fate awaits him. "

"I felt that on a basis of a search for the miraculous it would be possible to unite together a very large number of people who were no longer able to swallow the customary forms of lying and living in lying."

"In all living nature (and perhaps also in that which we consider as dead) love is the motive force which drives the creative activity in the most diverse directions."

"Generally speaking, the significance of the indirect results may very often be of more importance than the significance of direct ones. And since we are able to trace how the energy of love transforms itself into instincts, ideas, creative forces on different planes of life; into symbols of art, song, music, poetry; so can we easily imagine how the same energy may transform itself into a higher order of intuition, into a higher consciousness which will reveal to us a marvelous and mysterious world. In all living nature (and perhaps also in that which we consider as dead) love is the motive force which drives the creative activity in the most diverse directions. "

"It is only when we realize that life is taking us nowhere that it begins to have meaning."

"I've found that the chief difficulty for most people was to realize that they had really heard new things: that is things that they had never heard before. They kept translating what they heard into their habitual language. They had ceased to hope and believe there might be anything new."

"In existing criminology there are concepts: a criminal man, a criminal profession, a criminal society, a criminal sect, and a criminal tribe, but there is no concept of a criminal state, or a criminal government, or criminal legislation. Consequently, the biggest crimes actually escape being called crimes. This limitation of the field of vision of criminology together with the absence of an exact and permanent definition of the concept of crime is one of the chief characteristics of our culture. "

"Man is a machine, but a very peculiar machine. He is a machine which, in right circumstances, and with right treatment, can know that he is a machine, and having fully realized this, he may find the ways to cease to be a machine. "

"Man is a machine which reacts blindly to external forces and, this being so, he has no will, and very little control of himself, if any at all. What we have to study, therefore, is not psychology-for that applies only to a developed man-but mechanics. Man is not only a machine but a machine which works very much below the standard it would be capable of maintaining if it were working properly. "

"One of the first points is: how to remember oneself, how to make oneself more aware, and then you will find out that negative emotions are one of the chief factors which make us not remember ourselves. So one thing cannot go without the other. You cannot struggle with negative emotions without remembering yourselves more, and you cannot remember yourself more without struggling with negative emotions. The difficulties he has in observing these four manifestations: lying, imagination, the expression of negative emotions, and unnecessary talking, will show man his utter mechanicalness."

"Possibly the most interesting first impression of my life came from the world of dreams… Suddenly I began to find a strange meaning in old fairy-tales; woods, rivers, mountains, became living beings; mysterious life filled the night; with new interests and new expectations I began to dream again of distant travels; and I remembered many extraordinary things that I had heard about old monasteries. Ideas and feelings which had long since ceased to interest me suddenly began to assume significance and interest. A deep meaning and many subtle allegories appeared in what only yesterday had seemed to be naive popular fantasy or crude superstition. And the greatest mystery and the greatest miracle was that the thought became possible that death may not exist, that those who have gone may not have vanished altogether, but exist somewhere and somehow, and that perhaps I may see them again. I have become so accustomed to think scientifically that I am afraid even to imagine that there may be something else beyond the outer covering of life. I feel like a man condemned to death, whose companions have been hanged and who has already become reconciled to the thought that the same fate awaits him; and suddenly he hears that his companions are alive, that they have escaped and that there is hope also for him. And he fears to believe this, because it would be so terrible if it proved to be false, and nothing would remain but prison and the expectation of execution. "

"People who think they can control their negative emotions and manifest them when they want to, simply deceive themselves. Negative emotions depend on identification; if identification is destroyed in some particular case, they disappear. The strangest and most fantastic fact about negative emotions is that people actually worship them. I think that, for an ordinary mechanical man, the most difficult thing to realize is that his own and other people's negative emotions, have no value whatever and do not contain anything noble, anything beautiful or anything strong. In reality negative emotions contain nothing but weakness and very often the beginning of hysteria, insanity or crime. The only good thing about them is that, being quite useless and artificially created by imagination and identification, they can be destroyed without any loss. And this is the only chance of escape that man has. Philosophy is based on speculation, on logic, on thought, on the synthesis of what we know and on the analysis of what we do not know. Philosophy must include within its confines the whole content of science, religion and art. But where can such a philosophy be found? All that we know in our times by the name of philosophy is not philosophy, but merely critical literature or the expression of personal opinions, mainly with the aim of overthrowing and destroying other personal opinions. Or, which is still worse, philosophy is nothing but self-satisfied dialectic surrounding itself with an impenetrable barrier of terminology unintelligible to the uninitiated and solving for itself all the problems of the universe without any possibility of proving these explanations or making them intelligible to ordinary mortals. "

"The first way is the way of the Fakir. It is a long, difficult and uncertain way. A fakir works on the physical body, on conquering physical pain… The second way is the way of the Monk. This way is shorter, more sure and definite. It requires certain conditions, but above all it requires faith, for if there is no faith a man cannot be a true monk… The third way is the way of the Yogi, the way of knowledge and consciousness .... When we speak of yogis we really take only Jnana-Yoga and Raja-Yoga. Jnana-Yoga is the yoga of knowledge, of a new way of thinking. It teaches to think in different categories, not in categories of space and time and of causality. And Raja-Yoga is work on being, on consciousness… Then in the Fourth Way the first principle is that man must not believe in anything; he must learn; so faith does not enter into the Fourth Way. One must not believe what one hears or what one is advised, one must find proofs for everything. If one is convinced that something is true, then one can believe it, but not before. "

"Man, as he is, is not a genuine article. He is an imitation of something, and a very bad imitation."

"The most fundamental thing is to know oneself, although if certain things do not change you cannot know yourself."

"There exist moments in life, separated by long intervals of time, but linked together by their inner content and by a certain singular sensation peculiar to them. Several such moments always recur to my mind together, and I feel then that it is these that have determined the chief trend of my life."

"The number of laws is constantly growing in all countries and, owing to this, what is called crime is very often not a crime at all, for it contains no element of violence or harm. "

"There is no tyranny more ferocious than the tyranny of morality. Everything is sacrificed to it. "

"There is no possibility of remembering what has been found and understood, and later repeating it to oneself. It disappears as a dream disappears. Perhaps it is all nothing but a dream. "

"There is something in us that keeps us where we find ourselves. I think this is the most awful thing of all. "

"To know oneself—this was the first principle and the first demand of old psychological schools. We still remember these words, but have lost their meaning… To know oneself is a long process. First we must study."

"Under the conditions of modern life we have more control over our thoughts, and in connection with this there is a special method by which we may work on the development of our consciousness using that instrument which is most obedient to our will; that is, our mind, or the intellectual center. In order to understand more clearly what I am going to say, you must try to remember that we have no control over our consciousness. When I said that we can become more conscious, or that a man can be made conscious for a moment simply by asking him if he is conscious or not, I used the words 'conscious' or 'consciousness' in a relative sense. There are so many degrees of consciousness and every higher degree means 'consciousness' in relation to a lower degree. But, if we have no control over consciousness itself, we have a certain control over our thinking about consciousness, and we can construct our thinking in such a way as to bring consciousness. What I mean is that by giving to our thoughts the direction which they would have in a moment of consciousness, we can, in this way, induce consciousness. "

"Very soon after starting to observe himself, a man will begin to distinguish useful features and harmful features in himself, that is, useful or harmful from the point of view of his possible self-knowledge, his possible awakening, his possible development. He will see sides of himself, which can become conscious, and sides which cannot become conscious and must be eliminated."

"Two things can get people to make efforts: if people want to get something, or if they want to get rid of something. Only, in ordinary conditions, without knowledge, people do not know what they can get rid of or what they can gain."

"What is the best way to look for one´s chief feature? someone asked. Simply see yourself. I do not know how to explain it better. It is possible one may find something -- chief feature of the moment. It is imaginary personality; this is the chief feature for everybody."

"Truths that become old become decrepit and unreliable; sometimes they may be kept going artificially for a certain time, but there is no life in them."

"When a man begins to know himself a little he will see in himself many things that are bound to horrify him. So long as a man is not horrified at himself he knows nothing about himself."

"When one realizes one is asleep, at that moment one is already half-awake. "

"We think that to know ourselves, means to know our peculiarities, our desires, our tastes, our capacities and our intentions."

"When one realizes that one deceives oneself, that one is asleep and one's house is on fire, always, permanently on fire, and that it is only by accident that the fire has not reached one's room at this very moment, when one realizes this, one will want to make efforts to awake and one will not expect any special reward. Since we do not realize that our house is on fire we always expect a special reward. What can one do in sleep? One can only have different dreams -- bad dreams, good dreams, but in the same bed. The dreams may be different, but the bed is the same."

"Although in many respects these ways are very efficient, the characteristic thing about them is that the first step is the most difficult. From the very first moment you have to give up everything and do what you are told. If you keep one little thing, you cannot follow any of these ways. So, although the three ways are good in many other respects, they are not sufficiently elastic."

"All of the people you see, all the people you know, all the people you may get to know, are machines, actual machines working solely under the power of external influences... Machines they are born and machines they die... But there is a possibility of ceasing to be a machine. It is of this we must think and not about the different kinds of machines that exist."

"An unexpected vision appeared to me. A circle not unlike a wreath woven from rainbow and lightnings, whirled from heaven to earth with a stupendous, velocity, blinding me by its brilliance. And amidst this light and fire I heard music and soft singing, thunderclaps and the roar of a tempest, the rumble of falling mountains and earthquakes."

"And then I saw a man in terrible suffering, hung by one leg, head downward, to a high tree. And I heard the voice: ? "Look! This is a man who saw Truth. Suffering awaits the man on earth, who finds the way to eternity and to the understanding of the Endless."

"Another illusion is that we are awake. When we realize that we are asleep we will see that all history is made by people who are asleep. Sleeping people fight, make laws; sleeping people obey or disobey them. The worst of our illusions are the wrong ideas among which we live and which govern our lives. If we could change our attitude towards these wrong ideas and understand what they are, this in itself would be a great change and would immediately change other things."

"And I saw another man. Tired and lame he dragged himself along the dusty road, across the deserted plain under the scorching rays of the sun. He glanced sidelong with foolish, staring eyes, a half smile, half leer on his face; he knew not where he went, but was absorbed in his chimerical dreams which ran constantly in the same circle. His fool's cap was put on wrong side front, his garments were torn in the back; a wild lynx with glowing eyes sprang upon him from behind a rock and buried her teeth in his flesh. He stumbled, nearly fell, but continued to drag himself along, all the time holding on his shoulder a bag containing useless things, which he, in his stupidity, carried wherever he went. Before him a crevice crossed the road and a deep precipice awaited the foolish wanderer. Then a huge crocodile with open mouth crawled out of the precipice. And I heard the voice say:-- "Look! This is the same man." I felt my head whirl."

"Besides, all evil is relative. Something that is evil at one level of evolution can be good at an earlier stage because it provides the essential stimulus for development. But you want to judge everything by your own standards. You have reached a comparatively high level and so you see what you fight against as evil. Just think of the others, those who are at an earlier stage of development. Do not bar them from the path toward progress and evolution."