Peter Demianovich Ouspensky was born in Moscow on March 5th, 1878. His parents were members of the Russian intelligentsia. He was a romantic, dreamy youth who was expelled from high school and despite private education did not obtain a university degree. He was influenced by Neitzsche and Theosophical occult ideas and became a journalist in his late twenties. He experimented with drugs, fasting and breathing exercises to induce altered states of consciousness. He made trips to the Middle East in 1908 and India and Ceylon in 1913. Here he met prominent Theosophists and became somewhat disillusioned with their occult systems. In 1912, at thirty-four, he wrote the derivative 'Tertium Organum' dealing with mystical experiences but in 1914 he met Gurdjieff in Moscow who became his guru and Ouspensky became his devoted disciple and chief publicist.
Ouspensky began to lose confidence in Gurdjieff as a person as early as 1917. He continued to believe in the authenticity of Gurdjieff's teaching which he accepted as having been handed down from some ancient, esoteric source, but found the man himself more and more intolerable. In 1921 while living in Constantinople after a few harrowing years that left him with a bitter hatred of Russian communism he was rescued by Lady Rothermere who had become interested in him after reading Tertium Organum and he secured a passport with the help of JG Bennett who was working in Turkey in British Intelligence.
Although Lady Rothermere's interest was short lived Ouspensky held groups in London throughout the 1920's and 1930's, and had a place outside London for his more devoted pupils, some of whom were quite wealthy. He formally broke off relations with Gurdjieff in January 1924 presumably after Gurdjieff's attempted rape of a female follower, and forbade his own pupils to communicate with Gurdjieff or refer to him. JG Bennett was a member of this group. From 1930 as the results he had hoped for from Gurdjieff's group had not materialised he expanded his school which became dominated by rules, secrecy and group paranoia. He knew he had no power or experience to offer his pupils but hoped that their group activity would attract the attention of the "Inner Circle" - the invisible esoteric heirarchy he believed were behind Gurdjieff.
These hopes did not materialise and he became more disappointed and depressed with the results of his life long quest. He spent most nights drinking heavily either alone or silently with followers, he continued to write and overeat and became portlier. His relations with his wife had always been unusual, it appears to have been a marriage of convenience only, and though he had mistresses the only great love of his life appeared to be his cats.
When the Battle of Britain commenced, he prophesised that Germany would win the war and he and a number of his English pupils migrated to America and purchased Franklin Farms, a large estate at Mendham, New Jersey. In New York he lectured to shifting groups of sixty or so, while at Mendham his wife supervised the pupils who carried out farm and household tasks as part of their psychological training. Instruction in the Gurdjieff dance movements was also given at Mendham. Ouspensky and his wife had different groups of followers with different techniques with 'Madame' keeping to a more 'gurdjeffian' style. In the US under 'Madame' the work appeared to grow more and more bizarre. People were subjected to almost absurd lengths of discipline or public humiliation in an attempt to break down what Gurdjieff had called 'false personality' behind which everyone hides his real nature, and to enable the true self to emerge. When JG Bennett commenced public teaching after 1942 he was furious and commenced leagal action for return of any of his papers in Bennett's possession
He returned to England in 1947 an apparently old and disillusioned man and died on October 2nd, 1947 at his Lyne estate. After his death there were unusual activities especially associated with his disciple Rodney Collin which were repudiated by the majority of Ouspensky's followers.
In Search of the Miraculous
Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution
A New Model of the Universe
The Fourth Way
A Record of Talks and Answers to Questions Based on the Teachings of G.I. Gudjieff
Four Hundred and Thirty Seven pages of very small print, I suspect this is for the true believers or those very interested in the "Teachings." For those of us asleep, this book will deepen our slumbers.
Symbolism of the Tarot
Strange Life of Ivan Osokin
P. D. Ouspensky
Back to Gurus Page.