Gurdjieff Studies

P D Ouspensky

Ouspensky Vignettes


"Yellowish-grey sand. Deep blue sky. In the distance the triangle of the Pyramid of Kephren, and just before me this strange, great face with its gaze directed into the distance...I felt that...if I could stay under its gaze from birth to death, the whole of my life would flash by so swiftly for it that it could not notice me. The glance was fixed on something else. It was the glance of a being who thinks in centuries and milleniums. I did not and could not exist for it. And I could not answer my own question - do I exist for myself."

A New Model of the Universe

P. D. Ouspensky

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It is the year 1906 or 1907. The editorial office of the Moscow daily paper The Morning. I have just received the foreign papers, and I have to write an article on the forthcoming Hague Conference. French, German, English, Italian papers. Phrases, phrases, sympathetic, critical, ironical, blatant, pompous, lying and, worst of all, utterly automatic, phrases which have been used a thousand times and will be used again on entirely different, perhaps contradictory, occasions. I have to make a survey of all these words and opinions, pretending to take them seriously, and then, just as seriously, to write something on my own account. But what can I say? It is all so tedious. Diplomats and all kinds of statesmen will gather together and talk, papers will approve or disapprove, sympathize or not sympathize. Then everything will be as it was, or even worse. It is still early, I say to myself; perhaps something will come into my head later.


Pushing aside the papers; I open a drawer in my desk. The whole desk is crammed with books with strange titles, The Occult World, Life after Death, Atlantis and Lemuria, Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, Le Temple de Satan, The Sincere Narrations of a Pilgrim, and the like. These books and I have been inseparable for a whole month, and the world of the Hague Conference and leading articles becomes more and more vague and unreal to me.

A New Model of the Universe

P. D. Ouspensky


The fire was banked high for the evening’s celebration. Month after month Ouspensky had subsisted on a diet of bread, coffee and a slice of sausage, but this night was special. ‘We had found’, admits Bechhofer, ‘a quantity of spirit in one of the cupboards… and, despite Zaharoff’s protests, Ouspensky proceeded to transform it into vodka with the addition of some orange peel.’ According to Ouspensky’s political analysis, soon vindicated, either they themselves drank the spirit or the Bolsheviks would. ‘People have been drinking since the beginning of the world,’ pointed out the author of Tertium Organum philosophically, ‘but they have never found anything to go better with vodka than salted cucumber.’ It seemed to clinch the point. So there they sit, as if exposed by the fire’s spluttering flare and caught by some historical fixative: the cheeky, resilient Bechhofer; the shy, inarticulate bachelor Zaharoff, his handsome face marked out for the terrible disease which will soon kill him; and Piotr Demianovich Ouspensky in his ragged frock-coat, with his glass of home-made vodka, his 1½ tons of coal, and his 2½ tons of knowledge.


The nostalgic ambience mellowed Ouspensky and he spoke of mad, vanished St. Petersburg nights: Bechhofer was tempted into speculation. ‘Where shall we be in a month’s time?’ he pondered, but his question was not judged very practical by either of the two older men. ‘You may wonder as much as you like,’ said Ouspensky, ‘but you will never find better vodka than this.’

Gurdjieff and Mansfield

James Moore


Ouspensky writes to a pupil


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