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On 26 August 1933, Gurdjieff published his first book Herald of Coming Good, its extravagant and provocative tone suggesting to Ouspensky that its author had gone mad. Copies sent to Ouspensky’s pupils, by C. S. Nott and Elizabeth Gordon, were called in and destroyed. (Here Ouspensky happily anticipated the wishes of Gurdjieff himself, who quickly withdrew and suppressed his apprentice work.)

 

By 1934 the contradictions between Ouspensky’s inner and outer life were more troublesome. Outwardly all seemed well: J. G. Bennett had returned to the fold while A. R. Orage, who had declined to, died suddenly on 5 November; a second edition of New Model swelled the stream of new enquirers and for these Ouspensky refined from his earlier lectures six lucid introductory readings, subsequently published as The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution. To deliver these, he enlisted from his pupils distinguished proxies like Dr Francis Roles (his personal physician), Robert John Grote Mayor (a member of the Cambridge ‘Apostles’), and a latecomer to his circle Henry John Sinclair, Lord Pentland (a former President of the Cambridge Union Society). In private by contrast Ouspensky was melancholic and had begun to drink: despondent at not contacting Higher Source; tormented by the personal implications of Eternal Recurrence; and consumed by nostalgia for St Petersburg. In spring 1935 this nostalgia was reinforced by a brief and poignant visit to Little Gaddesden from Olga and Thomas de Hartmann (whose Second Piano Sonata is dedicated to Ouspensky’s idea of the Fourth Dimension).

Gadsden: 1932-35

In 1935 recruitment was further stimulated by the journalist Rom Landau’s best-seller God Is My Adventure with its substantial, explicit, and highly favourable reference to Ouspensky and ‘his System’. By mid-summer even the facilities at Little Gaddesden had become quite inadequate. Therefore, with funds from well-to-do pupils, Ouspensky bought his most famous seat Lyne Place at Virginia Water twenty-three miles south-west of London – an imposing Regency house in nearly 100 acres of farm land. Three months later both Ouspenskys moved in (though retaining both 55a Gwendwr Road and 38 Warwick Gardens for use in London). The residential core at Lyne was Russian – the Ouspenskys, the Savitskys, Mme Kadloubovsky, and a handful of St Petersburg pensioners: a few senior English pupils were co-opted for periods to manage the household and grounds; and hundreds came every week-end to work.

John Buchan

(By Kaiden-Kazanjian Studios Inc. Kaiden-Kazanjian Studios Inc. / Library and Archives Canada. Classified as 1984-204 (Accession number) and C-090174 (Copy negative number). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Confused echoes of New Model and even of the Warwick Gardens lectures were beginning to be heard from literary sources, and in July 1932 Ouspensky was nettled to find himself caricatured as ‘Professor August Moe’ in The Gap in the Curtain by John Buchan. Nevertheless this widening interest drew more members to the study groups, and ‘The Dell’ was relinquished as inadequate in the second week of September, when the Ouspenskys were lent ‘Gadsden’, a large Victorian mansion in seven acres of land near Hayes in Kent.