G. I. Gurdjieff

Gurdjieff International Review

Editorial Introduction

Special Issue on P. D. Ouspensky

P. D. Ouspensky was a major contributor to Twentieth century ideas. He anticipated many of the key questions in philosophy, psychology and religion that have driven and informed us throughout the century. This issue celebrates Ouspensky as a leading independent philosopher and a major exponent of Gurdjieff’s teachings.

John Pentland studied with Ouspensky during the 1930s and 1940s. After Ouspensky’s death in 1947, Lord Pentland joined Gurdjieff in Paris and was subsequently appointed to lead groups in America. His P. D. Ouspensky (1878–1947) opens this issue and provides a succinct appraisal of Ouspensky’s contributions as an independent philosopher and leading exponent of the system he based on Gurdjieff’s teaching. Merrily Taylor’s informed and original Biographical Outline sketches Ouspensky’s life more fully and provides some details of his relationship with Gurdjieff. Michael Presley’s modestly titled essay A Brief Overview of Certain Aspects of the Thought of P. D. Ouspensky offers a thorough analysis of Ouspensky’s impact as a major independent philosopher.

Ouspensky’s place within the pantheon of Gurdjieff's senior pupils is certain and unique. He was recruited by Gurdjieff in 1915, probably because of the interest and reputation generated by the Russian edition of his brilliant Tertium Organum in 1912. Claude Bragdon shares the romantic adventure of how he came to translate Tertium Organum into English in 1918. He also describes how the reputation and funds it generated unexpectedly rescued Ouspensky from a refugee’s life in Constantinople. C. E. Bechhofer’s cameo, In Anti-Bolshevist Russia, captures a vivid glimpse of the hardship Ouspensky endured as a refugee and of his charm as a raconteur and drinking companion. E. C. Bowyer’s 1923 interview with Ouspensky at Gurdjieff’s Institute in France is republished here for the first time and provides an unusual glimpse of Ouspensky’s attitude toward Gurdjieff and the work being conducted at the Prieuré.

John Pentland’s commentary on Ivan Osokin provides valuable insight into Ouspensky’s writings. This is followed by an astute analysis of The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution that contains many informed observations about the book as well as Ouspensky’s purpose and methods. Professor Jacob Needleman offers elucidating commentary on Gurdjieff’s ideas and teaching as they are presented in Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous. The selections on Ouspensky conclude with an annotated bibliography. The issue closes with Dr. Anna Challenger’s thoughtful analysis of Gurdjieff’s views on the role of art.

As we were assembling material for this issue, Greg Loy, our publisher, made the comment that “History took Ouspensky out of Russia but never took Russia out of Ouspensky.” The stark English text at the lower portion of a grave stone near the Lyne church, in England, reads:

P. D. Ouspensky
Born Moscow
5th March 1878
Died Lyne Place
2nd October 1947

J. Walter Driscoll
Greg Loy

This webpage © 1999 Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing
Featured: Winter 1998/1999 Issue, Vol. II (2)
Revision: January 1, 1999