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Lyne Place: 1935-38

Lyne Place

Lyne Place today

(Photo © Gurdjieff Studies)

The acquisition of Lyne set the seal on Ouspensky’s sense of independence from Gurdjieff (who contrastingly had been obliged to sell the Prieuré in 1933): for example though Ouspensky accepted from C. S. Nott a typescript copy of G.’s seminal work Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson he refused to read it; then in November he rebuffed the lesbian editor Jane Heap, who had modestly applied to enter his groups (after herself teaching in France for eight years with Gurdjieff’s consent). While rejecting these concrete possibilities, Ouspensky consoled himself with lingering hopes of contacting Higher Source.


Rom Landau’s essay had been that of a gifted dilettante, but in October 1936 there appeared the first relevant (though guarded) book by one of Ouspensky’s senior pupils: this was Kenneth Walker’s autobiography The Intruder, built around coded Work ideas, especially that of multiple selves. Among Ouspensky’s steady stream of recruits in 1936, three would later acquire significance: Rodney Collin-Smith, his sponsor Robert S. de Ropp, and the young Marie Seton who was bilingual in English and Russian. Meanwhile however, Ouspensky had begun to distance himself from J. G. Bennett, distrusting his self-will and extravagant claims.

Gerald Heard. ​By Glyn Warren Philpot RA (5 October 1884 – 16 December 1937), [Public domain],via Wikimedia Commons

Gerald Heard

(By Glyn Warren Philpot RA (5 October 1884 – 16 December 1937) ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Aldous Huxley. By Anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Aldous Huxley

(By Anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Christopher Isherwood

Christopher Isherwood

(Source unknown)

By the autumn of 1937, Ouspensky was exciting new interest among youthful members of the British intelligentsia: he was read by Denis Healey a future Chancellor of the Exchequer; Gerald Heard and Aldous Huxley visited him at Lyne, having attended his lectures at Warwick Gardens in company with Christopher Isherwood. He resisted their urgings that, in view of Europe’s instability, he should emigrate to America. Just as Rom Landau had been repudiated after his book, J(ohn) B(oynton) Priestley now earned resentment for two generous literary salutes: first in his play I Have Been Here Before premiered at the Royalty Theatre on 22 September (where Ouspensky is sympathetically characterised as ‘Dr Görtler’) and secondly in his autobiographical Midnight on the Desert, where Priestley describes his fascinated reading of New Model. Aldous Huxley also drew criticism for introducing glimmerings of ‘Ouspensky’s System’ into Ends and Means.

J B Priestley

J B Priestley
(By National Media Museum from UK [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons)

By 1938, Ouspensky had delegated much routine teaching, freeing himself to plan the institutionalisation of his groups. Suspecting – correctly – that he was still under Home Office surveillance, he secured (through Kenneth Walker) the prior approval of Scotland Yard. In April 1938 he formed the ‘Historico-Psychological Society’ of which he was the ‘Official Lecturer’. (The Society’s Committee included Ouspensky and his wife, Dr Walker, Lord Pentland, and Dr Roles; R. J. G. Mayor was librarian and treasurer.) Ouspensky next preoccupied himself with drafting, for the strict adherence of Society members, scores of prohibitive rules, which he believed would promote consciousness: pupils should never mention Gurdjieff; never address each other by Christian names; never converse together before strangers; never speak to anyone who had left the groups etc.

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