Questions and Answers


How can I ask a question?
Why don’t you cover Gurdjieff’s teaching?
You seem to claim that your teaching is a form of Non-Duality. Yet the teaching itself appears to be very dualistic. Please explain.
Question about the authenticity of a letter from Ouspensky contained in a sealed envelope not opened until 2007.
If the feeling of separation in the body outlives enlightenment, what brings it to an end?

How can I ask a question?

Please email your question to info@ouspenskytoday.org
We reserve the right to publish the question and answer here, but we will make it anonymous.

Why don’t you cover Gurdjieff’s teaching?

Because the two streams of teaching have become entirely independent. Most teachings share common sources with others and develop them differently.  After a while, their language and imagery shift apart to the extent that trying to follow both is like trying to ride astride two horses while crossing a stream.  Ouspensky never meant his teaching to become holy writ —  just the kicking-off point for a practical and effective system of self-development that continually updates its knowledge and practice to meet the needs of the present time.

Ouspensky (and the Shankaracharya) stress the likelihood that only confusion or delay is found by mixing several different teachings. Similarly to the radius of a circle being the shortest path to the centre.  Every circle has an infinite number of radius lines from the circumference to the centre. Hopping about from one to another only prolongs the journey.

The synthesis that Dr Roles created for himself with the conscious help of the Shankaracharya, constitutes an independent and fully autonomous method of knowledge and practice.

There is a page in the Chronology section which details Ouspensky’s separation from Gurdjieff.

You seem to claim that your teaching is a form of Non-Duality. Yet the teaching itself appears to be very dualistic. Please explain.

It is a common misconception that Non-Duality, Advaita, can be explained in words. All language is inherently dualistic. The understanding and experience of Non-Duality is beyond any concept, thought or object and cannot be revealed or discovered by the mind. From ancient times to now the usual teaching process is that one form of duality is used to remove another form of duality, in the same way that a thorn can be used to remove another thorn and then both thorns discarded. If we want to speak only the absolute, non-dual truth, we would have to remain silent. Unity is hidden only by the illusion of duality, a kind of ignorance. It is like a mirage, which has no real existence. The brilliance of the human mind is that it can learn to use ‘higher reasoning’ to take us beyond the mind to the recognition of the non-dual reality of ourselves and the universe. We come to the understanding that there is nothing to be free of. Until we recognise that the apparently real mind, body and world has no real and separate existence, duality remains. We can come to this understanding either through a traditional path or through the Direct Path. This website covers both lines of teaching.

Question about the authenticity of a letter from Ouspensky contained in a sealed envelope not opened until 2007.

Q. I came across on the internet the text of a letter written by Ouspensky shortly before he died and put in a sealed envelope, which was not to be opened until 60 years after his death. It is claimed that the envelope was discovered in the Ouspensky Memorial collection at Yale University. In the letter, he set out a number of precepts all of which were directly opposed to his earlier teaching. The letter seems to suggest that he really had abandoned the System because he felt it was wrong rather than because he thought it should be reconstructed. Many of the precepts seem to be closely aligned with the Direct Path teaching elucidated on your website. Do you know about the letter and is it genuine? It doesn’t seem plausible to me.

A. Yes, we are aware of this supposed document and it does not exist. The librarian at Yale has done a careful search and she confirms that no such envelope was discovered and no such text is in their archive. The writing style is clearly not that of Ouspensky and it conflicts with other documentary evidence that we have about Ouspensky’s last days. He never wrote any of those things. The explanation is that this was a hoax entitled the “The Fifth Way”, written and published on the internet in 2007. Another posting on the same website answering a query about the authenticity of the letter makes an even more outrageous spoof claim:

“… it is simply explained when one considers the little known fact that Ouspensky was born in Ireland. His original name was Paddy O’Spensky. O. himself did his best to keep this quiet, for obvious reasons. He once told me that even before emigrating to Russia he was prone to philosophizing and would present his theories to anyone who would listen. He was convinced that the Little People were a manifestation of higher consciousness, sent to help Irish people to awaken. There would be a global cataclysm which only the Irish would survive.”

If the feeling of separation in the body outlives enlightenment, what brings it to an end?

A simple, somewhat poetic answer is that it dies from neglect or starvation.

Enlightenment is the feeling-understanding that there are no separate, independently existing persons. What we really are is pure consciousness – unlimited, undivided, eternal. And there’s only one of them! So there’s no room for a concept of a separate self – we recognise that it’s just a fabrication of mind. There is no longer ever any doubt – it becomes totally obvious. But the bodily experience of ‘feeling separate’ comes from deeply ingrained habits of thinking and feeling which for a while continue automatically, although normally with much less force. Those habits stem from much earlier efforts to protect or aggrandise the separate self that we once thought ourselves to be. But they are no longer fed and nurtured by this belief, so they gradually subside and eventually disappear. It’s an entirely natural, automatic process, but it typically takes a long time.

Rupert uses methods from Kashmir Shaivism to help us ‘cooperate’ with this natural process. He calls these methods ‘yoga meditation’. It’s a little bit like the idea of a catalyst in Chemistry – ‘a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself undergoing change’. It ‘cooperates’ with a process that happens naturally. Those who attend Rupert’s retreats are taught these methods after about three days, by which time pretty much everyone will have had at least a glimpse of their true nature. And I think the methods can still be useful at that pre-enlightenment stage. But they really come into their own after enlightenment. Francis Lucille describes them as ‘post-enlightenment sadhana’.

There are parallels with Ouspensky’s comments on the metaphor of the master of the carriage, the horses and the driver, which can be summarised as: ‘we must teach body and feelings what mind knows’.

In my experience, there was a point at which these techniques were suddenly recognised to be ‘exactly what I need’, and I started listening to Rupert’s yoga meditations every day. Quite soon the methods began to arise from time to time during the rest of the day. It’s a bit like a feeling of thirst or hunger – it’s not there all the time, but you respond to it when it is there. So you find yourself using these methods – perhaps listening to one of the yoga meditation audios, or simply using the methods while going for a walk, cooking, cleaning etc. Other times, the pull is simply from awareness – pulling you back to abiding as awareness – just simple enjoyment. In time, a kind of natural flow develops – mind and body respond to whatever is needed. It seems to be like that for quite a lot of people, but perhaps not everyone.

From time to time circumstances arise in which the old feelings of separation in the body are provoked and our response betrays the continued existence of the ‘residues of separation’. Some people seem to be good at pushing our buttons! We don’t worry about that or berate ourselves – we just see it for what it is, return to abiding as awareness and allow any feelings of agitation just to be there. No trying to get rid of them! At some point they will die down. There may be some obvious way we can correct any havoc caused by our egoic response or there may not. If not, it doesn’t matter. Just clear seeing will reduce its likelihood or frequency of reappearance. In time those egoic thoughts and behaviours appear less and less often.

What is important is not to regard these methods as a discipline or practice. Only a separate self can apply discipline to itself, or want to practise something in order to ‘get somewhere’. All that’s needed is to abide knowingly as what we are from pure enjoyment, and if and when you are drawn towards the techniques from the yoga meditations, then follow that natural pull.

Jenny, July 2017