Peter Demianovich Ouspensky (March 4, 1878–October 2, 1947) – Russian writer, philosopher and mystic known for his book Tertium Organum, and for his exposition of the Fourth Way teaching of George Gurdjieff. In the 1930’s and 1940’s Ouspensky lectured about the Fourth Way in London. His lectures and writings were posthumously compiled into some of the most well-known literature on the Fourth Way. His best known books are, The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution, In Search of the Miraculous and The Fourth Way.
Ouspensky on As Above so Below
Ouspensky taught a system that was a twentieth-century expression of the Fourth Way tradition. This system of thought had existed from ancient times in different forms such as Hermeticism. As such, it contains the elaborates on the as above so below meaning: viewed objectively, all cosmoses great and small are structured identically and governed by the same cosmic laws.
Ouspensky stressed that you couldn’t study man without studying the universe, nor the universe without studying man. He called this the ‘the principle of scale’. Since man is a micro-cosmos and the universe a macro-cosmos, the external world could reflect man back to himself. Furthermore, man could learn certain truths about himself only through external observation, due to an inherent difficulty in seeing himself as he really is, without bias or imaginative embroidery.
“Study of the earth and of the universe, is based on the knowledge of some fundamental laws which are not generally known or recognized in science.”
“This system can be divided into study of the world, on certain new principles, and study of man.”
Ouspensky on As Within so Without
Parallel to his call for studying both man and the world, Ouspensky alerted his students to the pitfall of deviation into speculative curiosity. Man easily loses his original line of self-study in a pursuit of purely theoretical ideas. The purpose of looking without is to see within: as within so without.
Consequently, Ouspensky adapted another principle that he called ‘relativity’: the value of learning about the world is determined by how much it light it sheds onto the internal man. The macro-cosmos was to be used to increase understanding of the micro-cosmos.
“We begin with psychology— study of oneself, of the human machine, of states of consciousness, methods of correcting things and so on; but at the same time an important part of the system is given to doctrines of general laws of the world; because we cannot understand even ourselves if we do not know some of the fundamental laws which lie behind all things.”