p.d. ouspensly (4 march, 1878– 2nd october 2, 1947) was born in russia. ouspensky was a world famous mathematician, philosopher, writer and a spiritual seeker before he met enlightened mystic gurdjieff.
gurdjieff was known for his strange methods for raising the consciousness of his disciples. in the first meeting with gurdjieff, ouspensky realized that he had met a realized master. he kept his fame and position aside and joined gurdjieff full time to seek the inner truth.
ouspensky studied sincerely with gurdjieff between 1915 and 1918. later on because of some differences, he got separated from gurdjieff but kept on walking on the spiritual path. the time he spend with gurdjieff is mentioned in his book “in search of the miraculous”. it is an excellent book and is kind of a must read book for spiritual seekers and people who are on the path of meditation and self-remembering
ouspensky was a sincere seeker and he was meditating till the very end of his life. on his last day he knew death is approaching. but he was also conscious and wanted to face the death consciously. as life force started leaving his body. he kept witnessing the phenomena. in the last minutes of his life, he started walking consciously. his friends said don’t walk as you are already very weak and tired. he said ‘no, i want to face death walking. lying down i might fall asleep and i want to be conscious till the very end’. he was conscious till the last breath and he told his friends ‘few steps more and then i will be no more in the body’. such a conscious dying is rare and the person is bound to become enlightened in next life.
ouspensky main emphasis was on awareness. that is to do things consciously and not mechanically. self-remembering was the method he learnt from gurdjieff. later on, he also added the aspect of being at ease or relaxed while being aware.
ouspensky quotes and sayings:
1. when you become identified you cannot observe.
2. you must realize that identification can never help you; it only makes things more confused and more difficult.
3. the first step in acquiring consciousness is the realization that we are not conscious.
4. we speak only about consciousness and mechanicalness. if a role is mechanical, we must observe it and not identify with it. the most difficult thing is to act yourself consciously.
5. when one realises one is asleep, at that moment one is already half-awake.
6. it is only when we realize that life is taking us nowhere that it begins to have meaning.
7. if you want to remember yourself, the best thing is not to think about yourself. as long as you think about yourself, you will not remember yourself.
8. the more you know yourself, the more you know your being. if you do not know yourself, you do not know your being. and if you remain on the same level of being you cannot get more knowledge.
9. there is no possibility of remembering what has been found and understood, and later repeating it to oneself. it disappears as a dream disappears. perhaps it is all nothing but a dream.
10. catch a moment when you are particularly far from remembering yourself—at this moment you will remember yourself.
11. the aim is to reach higher states of consciousness and to be able to work with higher centres.
12. identification is a very difficult thing to describe, because no definitions are possible. such as we are we are never free from identifying. if we believe that we do not identify with something, we are identified with the idea that we are not identified.
13. to be mechanical means to depend on external circumstances.
14. man is a machine, but a very peculiar machine. he is a machine which, in right circumstances, and with right treatment, can know that he is a machine, and having fully realized this, he may find the ways to cease to be a machine.
15. first of all, what man must know is that he is not one; he is many. he has not one permanent and unchangeable “i” or ego. he is always different. one moment he is one, another moment he is another, the third moment he is a third, and so on, almost without end.
16. suffering is the best possible help for self-remembering if you learn how to use it. by itself it does not help; one can suffer one’s whole life and it will not give a grain of result, but if one learns to use suffering, it will become helpful. the moment you suffer, try to remember yourself.
17. lying must stop. you must remember the principle: lies can only produce lies.
18. study of false personality is one of the quickest methods for self-remembering. the more you understand your false personality, the more you will remember yourself. what prevents self-remembering is, first of all, false personality. it cannot and does not wish to remember itself, and it does not wish to let any other personality remember. it tries in every possible way to stop self-remembering, takes some form of sleep and calls it self-remembering. then it is quite happy. you must not trust your false personality—its ideas, its words, its actions. you cannot destroy it, but you can make it passive for some time and then, little by little, you can make it weaker.
19. another illusion is that we are awake. when we realize that we are asleep we will see that all history is made by people who are asleep. sleeping people fight, make laws; sleeping people obey or disobey them. the worst of our illusions are the wrong ideas among which we live and which govern our lives. if we could change our attitude towards these wrong ideas and understand what they are, this in itself would be a great change and would immediately change other things.
20. these small things happen according to certain definite circumstances which control them. you think you control them, but in reality they happen. we cannot ‘do’ because we are asleep. how can sleeping people ‘do’? it is necessary to be awake; when one is awake, one can ‘do’.
21. it does not necessarily mean that all that is mechanical is evil; but evil cannot be conscious, it can only be mechanical.
22. efforts! efforts! the more efforts you make, the more energy you can get. without efforts you cannot get energy. even if it is in you, it may be in the wrong place. do not think about it theoretically; think simply that you have much energy in you that you never use, and you must make more efforts to use it.
23, discipline is good if it is discipline. but if it is just an arbitrary invention, then it can give no result. the most important aspect of discipline is not expressing negative emotions and not indulging in negative emotions. mechanical tasks cannot give any result, but if you catch yourself at a moment of negative emotion and stop it—this is discipline.
24. man is a machine which reacts blindly to external forces and, this being so, he has no will, and very little control of himself, if any at all. what we have to study, therefore, is not psychology-for that applies only to a developed man-but mechanics. man is not only a machine but a machine which works very much below the standard it would be capable of maintaining if it were working properly.
25. a religion contradicting science and a science contradicting religion are equally false.
26. we begin with our plurality. when i first spoke of the many ‘i’s in us, i said that new ‘i’s jump up every moment, control things for a brief time and disappear, and many of them never meet. when you realize that you are not one, that you are many, that you may know something for certain in the morning and know nothing about it in the afternoon, then this realization is the beginning. i do not mean that if we realize this plurality we can change it and become different; but this realization is the first step.
27. a big effort depends on circumstances, situation, understanding, on many things. you cannot begin with big efforts. you must begin with small efforts, like, for instance, trying to remember yourself, or trying to stop thoughts three times a day. it is quite a small effort, but if you do it regularly, the need or the possibility of a big effort may come and you will be able to make it at the right moment.
28. it is necessary to put more energy into things—into self study, self-observation, self-remembering and all that. and in order to put more energy into your work it is necessary to find where it is being spent. you awake every morning with a certain amount of energy. it may be spent in many different ways.
29. development of being means awakening, since the chief feature of our being is that we are asleep. by trying to awake we change our being; this is the first point. then there are many other things: creating unity, not expressing negative emotions, observation, study of negative emotions, trying not to identify, trying to avoid useless talk—all this is work on being.
30. the chief obstacle to the attainment of self-consciousness is that we think we have it. one will never get self-consciousness so long as one believes that one has it. there are many other things we think we have, and because of this we cannot have them. there is individuality or oneness —we think we are one, indivisible. we think we have will, or that if we do not have it always, we can have it, and other things. there are many aspects to this, for if we do not have one thing, we cannot have another. we think that we have these things, and this happens because we do not know the meaning of the words we use.
31. a certain amount is necessary for self-remembering, study of the system and so on. but if you spend this energy on other things, nothing remains for that. this is really the chief point. try to calculate every morning how much energy you intend to put into work in comparison with other things. you will see that even in elementary things, simply in relation to time, you give very little to the work, if you give any at all, and all the rest is given to quite useless things. it is good if they are pleasant things, but in most cases they are not even pleasant. lack of calculation, lack of these elementary statistics is the reason we do not understand why, with all our best intentions and best decisions, in the end we do nothing. how can we do anything if we do not give any energy or time to it?
32. go deeper. nothing more is necessary. realize more and more, deeper and deeper, that neither you nor other people remember, that nobody remembers himself. this will bring you to it better than anything else. our difficulty in self-remembering is chiefly dependent on lack of realization that we do not remember ourselves. later many other things may enter into it, but if you try to have them all at once you will have nothing. try to observe how your time passes. say you are in the theatre, or you are here, or you go to see friends, then, when you come home, ask yourself were you aware of yourself, and you will find that you were not. or if you are in a bus, ask yourself, when you get off, what happened on the way. you will see that you never remember yourself naturally, you have to make yourself do it.
33. usually people are below normal. only from the level of ordinary man does the possibility of development begin. but there are many states below that of the ordinary man. people who are too identified, or hypnotized by formatory ideas, or who lie too much are more machines than an ordinary man. to be an ordinary man is already a relatively high state, because from this state it is possible to move.
34. one can be identified with the school in many ways—by liking it too much, or criticizing it too much, or believing in it too much.
35. we cannot make the first step towards higher states because there are many things we do not want to give up. each of us knows perfectly well what he has to give up, but no one wants to do it. but in relation to self-remembering it is much more simple; if one really tries all possible means one will notice a difference between one’s state and the state of a man who does not try to remember himself.
36. we think we can take a certain decision and act accordingly. in reality we are controlled not by internal decisions but by external influences. if the internal decision corresponds to the external influence, we will do it, otherwise we will not. but we can create in ourselves powers to ‘do’. nature has made us machines acting under external influences, but with a possibility to develop our own motor. if there is no inner motor, we will always turn round in the same place.
37. desire to be conscious comes when you are afraid of mechanicalness. first one must realize that one is a machine, and then be afraid of it. then desire will appear.
38. effort is our money. if we want something, we must pay with effort. according to the strength of effort and the time of effort—in the sense of whether it is the right time for effort or not—we obtain results. effort needs knowledge, knowledge of the moments when effort is useful. it is necessary to learn by long practice how to produce and apply effort. the efforts we can make are efforts of self-observation and self-remembering. when people ask about effort, they think about an effort of ‘doing’. that would be lost effort or wrong effort, but effort of self-observation and self-remembering is right effort because it can give right results.
39. by self-remembering. it is necessary to develop consciousness, and this will bring with it the possibility of using better organs of perception and cognition. without higher centres we cannot do much, and this is why a philosophical approach is not much use. it can invent certain theories and then it stops. it does not develop the higher centres which alone can understand the ideas fully. philosophy does not touch them.
40. it is necessary to remember yourself not at a quiet moment when nothing happens but when you know that you are doing something wrong—and not do it. for instance, when you are identified, you must be able to feel it and then stop it and at the same time remember yourself, be aware that you are doing it, that mechanicalness causes you to be identified and that you are stopping it. that will be self-remembering.
photo credit – ouspensky photo from wikipedia.