top of page

Parting of the Ways: 1926-31

Ouspensky next made brief and adventitious contact with Gurdjieff and Mme Ouspensky at the funeral of Mme Ostrowska, who died from cancer at Fontainebleau on 26 June 1926. In England Ouspensky had drawn close to his pupils Dr and Mrs Nicoll and from 1927 on spent every other week-end in the tranquillity of Alley Cottage, the Doctor’s retreat at Sidlesham. By contrast, in March 1928, his other senior pupil J. G. Bennett was in Athens jail. Police seizure and misinterpretation of Bennett’s private correspondence resulted in Ouspensky – an ardent anti-Bolshevik – being summoned to the Home Office to answer a farcical imputation of Bolshevik sympathies. So aggrieved was Ouspensky that he forcefully instructed his pupils to sever all relations with Bennett (as earlier with Gurdjieff). In summer 1928, Gurdjieff’s calmer disengagement from his principal helpers in France stimulated Mme Ouspensky to come to England for the first of successive summer visits. Henceforward, though the Ouspenskys’ personal relationship remained platonic even fractious, they shared their teaching role in England and America: he tirelessly retelling Gurdjieff’s ideas, she attempting to create, in successive country houses, Prieuré-like conditions for practical work. By 1929 Ouspensky was more than ever committed to his long-held personal theory of ‘Eternal Recurrence’: the strong sense that in every particular he was reliving his life – underpinned by the hypothesis that his death, whensoever, would merely return him yet again to his birth in Moscow on 5 March 1878.

Strange Life of Ivan Osokin

Ouspensky's novel about Eternal Recurrence

By Source, Fair use,

Early in 1930 Ouspensky was disconcerted to receive the transactions of a small London group independently constituted by Bennett without prior permission; then in early summer A. R. Orage also problematically re-appeared in England, having effectively separated from Gurdjieff. By October 1930 Ouspensky had become concerned to entrench his own position, even at the cost of some popularisation: at Warwick Gardens he began public lectures on ‘The Search for Objective Consciousness’, précising Gurdjieff’s psychological ideas, without acknowledgement, as his (Ouspensky’s) ‘System’. To these lectures he invited Bennett and his small group thus effecting a brief reconciliation.


In mid-1931 Ouspensky saw Gurdjieff for the last time, at the Cafe Henri IV at Fontainebleau, intimating that since Gurdjieff’s work had not succeeded in attracting the attention of ‘Higher Source’ he himself was now attempting to. A final rupture resulted, which on Ouspensky’s side was embittered. On returning to England, Ouspensky made (through Rosamund Sharp) an unsuccessful attempt to recapture the interest of Orage. His disappointment here was offset by the publication of A New Model of the Universe which complemented his lectures in attracting many new pupils. In this climate of expansion Ouspensky tasked Dr Nicoll, on 9 September 1931, to go away and teach Gurdjieff’s ideas independently (the only such explicit mandate Ouspensky ever gave); a little later in the year ‘The Dell’, at Sevenoaks, was taken for the work of Mme Ouspensky, at last permanently settled in England.

A New Model of the Universe
A New Model of the Universe
bottom of page