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

"But dreams of the past could not satisfy man; he began to dream of the future, of the time when a superman would come again. From this a new conception of superman resulted."

"But unfortunately such conditions are impossible to create. Knowledge must start from some foundation, something must be recognized as known; otherwise we shall be obliged always to define one unknown by means of another."

"Examining the life of humanity as we know it historically we are bound to acknowledge that humanity is moving in a circle. In one century it destroys everything it creates in another and the progress in mechanical things of the past hundred years has proceeded at the cost of losing many other things which perhaps were much more important for it. Speaking in general there is every reason to think and to assert that humanity is at a standstill and from a standstill there is a straight path to downfall and degeneration..."

"Discipline is good if it is discipline. But if it is just an arbitrary invention, then it can give no result. The most important aspect of discipline is not expressing negative emotions and not indulging in negative emotions. Mechanical tasks cannot give any result, but if you catch yourself at a moment of negative emotion and stop it?this is discipline."

"Fear not the new generalization."

"Everything in nature has its aim and its purpose, both the inequality of man and his suffering. To destroy inequality would mean destroying the possibility of evolution. To destroy suffering would mean, first, destroying a whole series of perceptions for which man exists, and thus it is with all intellectual theories."

"Catch a moment when you are particularly far from remembering yourself?at this moment you will remember yourself."

"Existing criminology is insufficient to isolate barbarism. It is insufficient because the idea of "crime" in existing criminology is artificial, for what is called crime is really an infringement of "existing laws", whereas "laws" are very often a manifestation of barbarism and violence. Such are the prohibiting laws of different kinds which abound in modern life. The number of these 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. On the other hand, unquestionable crimes escape the field of vision of criminology, either because they have not recognized the form of crime or because they surpass a certain scale. 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 what is often regarded as "political" activity is in fact a criminal activity. 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."

"Gurdjiefff said one third of one?s life should be spent in pondering. Why was I born? Who am I? What is meant by waking sleep? [This statement comes from the second section. I recall no earlier instances of the use of the word pondering in the earlier period, or any references to the importance of sittings, now staples of the de Saltzmann period.]"

"He is still a man, but he already knows much of what is inaccessible even to Gods. And the incommensurableness of the small and the great in his soul constitutes his pain and his golgotha. In his own soul appears the gallows on which he hangs in suffering, feeling that he is indeed inverted. "He chose this way himself. "For this he went over a long road from trial to trial, from initiation to initiation, through failures and falls. "And now he has found Truth and knows himself. "He knows that it is he who stands before an altar with magic symbols, and reaches from earth to heaven; that he also walks on a dusty road under a scorching sun to a precipice where a crocodile awaits him; that he dwells with his mate in paradise under the shadow of a blessing genius; that he is chained to a black cube under the shadow of deceit; that he stands as a victor for a moment in an illusionary chariot drawn by sphinxes; and that with a lantern in bright sunshine, he seeks for Truth in a desert."

"General growth is possible only on the condition that the 'end of the branch' grows. Or, speaking more precisely, there are in organic life tissues which are evolving, and there are tissues which serve as food and medium for those which are evolving. Then there are evolving cells within the evolving tissues, and cells which serve as food and medium for those which are evolving. In each separate evolving cell there are evolving parts and there are parts which serve as food for those which are evolving. But always and in everything it must be remembered that evolution is never guaranteed, it is possible only and it can stop at any moment and in any place."

"Hints towards the solution of the problem of Eternity can be found in the various symbols and allegories of ancient religions and in some of the modern as well as ancient philosophies."

"I mean that you always know what results will come from one or another of your actions; but in a strange way you want to do one thing and get the result that could only come from another."

"Humanity in the face of the idea of hidden knowledge reminds one of the people in fairy-tales who are promised by some goddess, fairy or magician that they will be given whatever they want on condition that they say exactly what they want."

"I Saw the Man. His figure reached from earth to heaven and was clad in a purple mantle. He stood deep in foliage and flowers and his head, on which was the head-band of an initiate, seemed to disappear mysteriously in infinity. Before him on a cube-shaped altar were four symbols of magic ? the sceptre, the cup, the sword and the pentacle. His right hand pointed to heaven, his left to earth. Under his mantle he wore a white tunic girded with a serpent swallowing its tail. His face was luminous and serene, and, when his eyes met mine, I felt that he saw most intimate recesses of my soul. I saw myself reflected in him as in a mirror and in his eyes I seemed to look upon myself. And I heard a voice saying:"

"I remember Mr. Orage saying, ?I love you,? said the man. ?Strange that I feel none the better for it,? said the woman."

"Identification is a very difficult thing to describe, because no definitions are possible. Such as we are we are never free from identifying. If we believe that we do not identify with something, we are identified with the idea that we are not identified."

"If you want to remember yourself, the best thing is not to think about yourself. As long as you think about yourself, you will not remember yourself."

"If a man gives way to all his desires, or panders to them, there will be no inner struggle in him, no 'friction,' no fire. But if, for the sake of attaining a definite aim, he struggles with the desires that hinder him, he will then create a fire which will gradually transform his inner world into a single whole."

"If organic life on earth disappears or dies the whole branch will immediately wither. The same thing must happen, only more slowly, if organic life is arrested in its development, in its evolution, and fails to respond to the demands made upon it. The branch may wither..."

"In Movements we have enormous help. We have a taste of what it means to be close to attention."

"If wish doesn?t exist, the wish to wish does exist."

"It has been said before that organic life transmits planetary influences of various kinds to the earth and that it serves to feed the moon and to enable it to grow and strengthen. But the earth also is growing; not in the sense of size but in the sense of greater consciousness, greater receptivity. The planetary influences which were sufficient for her at one period of her existence become insufficient, she needs the reception of finer influences. To receive finer influences a finer, more sensitive receptive apparatus is necessary. Organic life, therefore, has to evolve, to adapt itself to the needs of the planets and the earth. Likewise also the moon can be satisfied at one period with the food which is given to her by organic life of a certain quality, but afterwards the time comes when she ceases to be satisfied with this food, cannot grow on it, and begins to get hungry...This means that in order to answer its purpose organic life must evolve and stand on the level of the needs of the planets, the earth, and the moon."

"In this connection, evolutionary theories have become the basis of a naive optimistic view of life and of man. It is as though people said to themselves: now that evolution exists and now that science recognizes evolution, it follows that all is well and must in future become still better. In the imagination of the modern man reasoning from the point of view of the ideas of evolution, everything should have a happy ending. A story should necessarily end in a wedding. It is precisely here that the chief mistake with regard to the ideas of evolution lies."

"It is the transformation of negative emotions into positive emotions. It is possible only with long work on self-remembering, when you can be conscious for a long time, and when higher emotional center begins to work."

"Intellectual theories put man in the center of everything; everything exists for him?And all the time new theories appear evoking in their turn opposing theories; and all these theories and the struggle between them undoubtedly constitute one of the forces which keep humanity in the state in which it is at present."

"Man is a machine. All his deeds, actions, words, thoughts, feelings, convictions, opinions, and habits are the results of external influences, external impressions. Out of himself a man cannot produce a single thought, a single action. Everything he says, does, thinks, feels ? all this happens . . . But it is one thing to understand with the mind and another thing to feel it with one?s ?whole mass,? to be really convinced that it is so and never forget it."

"My body knows what it wants, not what I want. I must teach all of my parts what I want."

"Mind is the greatest thing we have ? excuse me, we do not have it. It is there. How do we find access to it?"

"Madame Ouspensky said we always have time for a love affair. This is the human condition."

"My Gurdjieff said, ?I don?t bring you a system of morality, but how to find conscience.? We must find the outlines of a structure that is more valid.?"

"Of course there are very many people who consider that the life of humanity is not proceeding in the way in which according to their views it ought to go. And they invent various theories which in their opinion ought to change the whole life of humanity... All these theories are certainly quite fantastic, chiefly because they do not take into account the most important thing, namely, the subordinate part which humanity and organic life play in the world process."

"Only when I have a certain level of being can I be open to a certain level of knowledge."

"Our search is not for miraculous results, not to achieve a result, but to learn a process."

"Study of false personality is one of the quickest methods for self-remembering. The more you understand your false personality, the more you will remember yourself. What prevents self-remembering is, first of all, false personality. It cannot and does not wish to remember itself, and it does not wish to let any other personality remember. It tries in every possible way to stop self-remembering, takes some form of sleep and calls it self-remembering. Then it is quite happy. You must not trust your false personality?its ideas, its words, its actions. You cannot destroy it, but you can make it passive for some time and then, little by little, you can make it weaker."

"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 dialetic surrounding itself with an impenetrable barrier of terminology unintelligible to the uninitiated and solving for itself all the problems of the universe without any possibliity of proving these explanations or making them intelligible to ordinary mortals."

"Our ancestors were very rich and eminent people, and they left us an enormous inheritance, which we have completely forgotten, especially since the time when we began to consider ourselves the descendants of a monkey."

"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."

"The aim is to reach higher states of consciousness and to be able to work with higher centers."

"The circle whirled with a terrifying noise, touching the sun and the earth, and, in the centre of it I saw the naked, dancing figure of a beautiful young woman, enveloped by a light, transparent scarf, in her hand she held a magic wand. Presently the four apocalyptical beasts began to appear on the edges of the circle; one with the face of a lion, another with the face of a man, the third, of an eagle and the fourth, of a bull."

"The axioms which Tertium Organum embraces cannot be formulated in our language. If we attempt to formulate them in spite of this, they will produce the impression of absurdities. Taking the axioms of Aristotle as a model, we may express the principal axiom of the new logic in our poor earthly language in the following manner: A is both A and Not-A. or Everything is both A and Not-A. or, Everything is All. But these axioms are in effect absolutely impossible. They are not the axioms of higher logic, they are merely attempts to express the axioms of this logic in concepts. In reality the ideas of higher logic are inexpressible in concepts. When we encounter such an inexpressibility it means that we have touched the world of causes."

"The evolving part of organic life is humanity. Humanity also has its evolving part... If humanity does not evolve it means that the evolution of organic life will stop and this in its turn will cause the growth of the ray of creation to stop. At the same time if humanity ceased to evolve, it becomes useless from the point of view of the aims for which it was created and as such it may be destroyed. In this way the cessation of evolution may mean the destruction of humanity..."

"The first idea of superman pictured him in the past, connected him with the legendary Golden Age. The idea has always been one and the same. People dreamt of, or remembered, times long past when their life was governed by supermen, who struggled against evil, upheld justice and acted as mediators between men and the Deity, governing them according to the will of the Deity, giving them laws, bringing them commandments."

"The greatest barrier to consciousness is the belief that one is already conscious."

"The first step in acquiring consciousness is the realization that we are not conscious."

"The logical formula: A is both A and Not-A, corresponds to the mathematical formula: A magnitude can be greater or less than itself. The absurdity of both these propositions shows that they cannot refer to our world. Of course absurdity, as such, is indeed not an index of the attributes of noumena, but the attributes of noumena will certainly be expressed in what are absurdities to us. To hope to find in the world of causes anything logical from our standpoint is just as useless as to think that the world of things can exist in accordance with the laws of a world of shadows or stereometry according to the laws of planimetry."

"The higher thinking center, working with hydrogen 6, is still further removed from us, still less accessible. Connection with it is possible only through the higher emotional center. It is only from descriptions of mystical experiences, ecstatic states, and so on, that we know cases of such connections. These states can occur on the basis of religious emotions."

"The idea of superman is as old as the world. Through all the centuries, through hundreds of centuries of its history, humanity has lived with the idea of superman."

"The most difficult thing is to know what we do know, and what we do not know."

"The most precise and complete formulation of the law of higher logic I find in the writing of Plotinus, in his On Intelligible Beauty. I shall quote this passage in the succeeding chapter. I have called this system of higher logic Tertium Organum because for us it is the third canon ? third instrument ? of thought after those of Aristotle and Bacon. The first was Organon, the second, Novum Organum. But the third existed earlier than the first. Man, master of this instrument, of this key, may open the door of the world of causes without fear."