Peter McGregor Eadie FRGS is an author, editor and lecturer on history and travel. His mother Margaret Watt Eadie became a pupil of P.D. Ouspensky in the early thirties. As a boy between the ages of 5 to 14 Peter visited Gadsden and Lyne on occasions for parties and during school holidays. He met with Mr Ouspensky and Madame and many of their pupils during this period. From 1948 to 1982 he was a pupil of Dr Francis Roles, who inherited the role of continuing P.D. Ouspensky’s work after the latter died in 1947.
PETER MCGREGOR EADIE
P. D. Ouspensky in England
My mother, Margaret Watt Eadie was first introduced to the Work, as it was called, in the early nineteen thirties. She was travelling from Shoreham up to London on a train and she had a book on Yoga that she was reading (an unusual subject in those days). A man in the same carriage asked my mother if she was interested in the subject. She said she had been loaned the book by a friend and that, yes, she did find it interesting. A conversation developed and the man in the carriage, a Captain Bennett, was to introduce Mother to Mr Ouspensky and the Work. Captain Bennett was a pupil of Mr Ouspensky who had met with ‘O’ in Constantinople when Ouspensky had escaped from Bolshevik Russia.
Around the same time Dr Francis C. Roles was introduced to the Work by Dr Kenneth Walker. Dr Roles was later to be given the responsibility by Mr Ouspensky of continuing his work. Also Nicolai Rabeneck was introduced to Mr Ouspensky around this time. He was to run the New York Group after Mr Ouspensky’s death. He was introduced in 1932 and he told me that by the mid twenties the presence of Mr Ouspensky in London had become quite well known among the Russian émigrés as well as the intellectual and artistic circle in Bloomsbury.
Soon after, Nicolai Rabeneck was invited by Mr Ouspensky to join a Russian Group at which there was much discussion on the repetition of lives and eternal recurrence. Rabeneck said many questions came up on this subject and Mr Ouspensky answered them willingly. To some of the naive questions as to how for instance members of the Russian Group could find Mr Ouspensky earlier in Moscow ‘next time’ and at what restaurant, he answered with great humour. I mention this subject now because in a more serious context ‘Eternal Recurrence’, on which the whole book of Strange Life of Ivan Osokin is devoted as well as a chapter in A New Model of the Universe, plays an important part in Ouspensky’s teaching. To Mr Ouspensky, Eternal Recurrence – or repetition of lives – was not just an idea but a conscious experience.
I first became acquainted with Mr Ouspensky at the age of five when I went to a Christmas party for members’ children held at Gadsden in 1931. Mr Ouspensky was for me a leading figure in the background of my awareness. Madame Ouspensky, who I was later to learn was quite a frightening disciplinarian to many members, was very kind and warm-hearted towards me as a young boy. Closer acquaintance was the result of a Christmas party for children that was also I imagine was a severe test for parents. An important principle in Mr Ouspensky’s teaching, which will be discussed later in more detail, was the non expression of negative emotion. And at this party which was attended by many girls in pretty frocks and several schoolboys two of whom, known as the Carnegie boys, each had bright red hair and looked like ‘Just William’ and then there was Lonya (Madame’s grandson) who was as wild a Russian character as any you will find in their literature. Now as well as the sumptuous fare the organisers served a supply of lemonade and in front of each boy, beside crackers was a water pistol. Well guess what happened? Soon every boy was wringing wet and there wasn’t a dry frock in the house. When the lemonade ran out Lonya decided to fetch a bucket of water and ordered me, some five years his junior, to hold his grandmother so that she could not stop him. This I did. Looking back I can imagine the embarrassment of my poor mother, although to give her due she never spoke of it. Madame was a Russian through and through and contrary to expectations must have warmed to rebellious spirits because whenever I came to Lyne during school holidays there were always sweets left by her for me. And I visited Lyne from the ages of five to thirteen until the outbreak of WW II in 1939.
The war created a long gap in Mr Ouspensky’s direct teaching in England as both he and Madame left for Franklin Farms in New Jersey where Mr Ouspensky continued to lecture in New York.
My mother, who had been a Red Cross nurse in the First World War was asked to take another child and myself to Canada in 1940. I grew up on the west coast in Vancouver attending school and university a long way from all the people connected with the Work both in England and a long way from Mr and Madame Ouspensky in the eastern United States. But I never forgot the pupils of Mr Ouspensky, who as an only child I was often allowed to be with and to hear their discussions about Ouspensky’s teaching when they talked freely among themselves. I listened in silence to their observations and discussions. And because I was interested in the purpose of life, I had many talks with my mother about Ouspensky’s teaching.
Children can be very perceptive and all the ‘Ideas’ went very deep and on the eve of my 21st birthday in 1947, after a decade had passed’ I wrote to Mr Ouspensky and asked if I could join his Group. In this way I came into the Work and brought my mother back with me. I began to study as a grown up these ‘Ideas’ when Dr Roles continued Mr Ouspensky’s work in 1948 here in England.
So now, what about Mr Ouspensky the man? At the time I came in contact in the early thirties I saw that his pupils looked upon him as a teacher with the same reverence as later pupils were to look upon the Shankaracharya. This feeling, to-day, is probably only remembered by one or two people who actually knew him.
Personal comments about Mr Ouspensky recorded from past pupils bear this out. Alan Bray, as a young man, said after attending his first lecture with Mr Ouspensky: ‘I found it bewildering, new to one challenged many of my conceptions raised many doubts yet after the meeting a voice inside me said ‘If you lose touch with this you will regret it the rest of your life.’ Towards the end of his long life he wrote: ‘Integrity, strength, inflexibility in his search for truth, attention and knowledge are among the qualities which gave Mr Ouspensky an authority . . . necessary for the protection of truth and the welfare of his followers’.
And Dr Roles, who had the most powerful intellect of anyone I have ever known, is recorded as having said: ‘I never plumbed the depth of Mr Ouspensky’s knowledge’. Certainly when I read Mr Ouspensky’s books, I wonder how any man could have garnered such knowledge in one life, especially when I realised that two of his main books Tertium Organum – A Key to the Enigmas of the World and A New Model of the Universe, where the author rolls back the influence of esotericism on all aspects of human knowledge, were written by the age of 34.
In some ways Ouspensky’s first book called Kinemadrama, a novel written when he was 27 and later published again in English in the year of his death under the title: The Strange life of Ivan Osokin tells us most about Ouspensky the man. It is the story of a young person who destroys the opportunities that life presents to him. So in the story he goes to a magician and asks to be sent back in his life so that he can do things differently next time. He finds, however, that he is unable to change anything and returns again to the magician.
This time however he learns through good questions that to change anything he must first change himself and for this he requires help.
Mr Ouspensky realised that if he wanted to develop to his full potential he must seek help from men who know and had travelled the path to full consciousness. Hence Mr Ouspensky went looking for esoteric schools in the Middle and Far East for this help. The chapter In Search of the Miraculous in his book A New Model of the Universe describes his findings. Perhaps his most interesting experience was seeing the Mevlevi Turning Dervishes back in 1908 whom he said were the ‘soul of Constantinople’. Through his original observations, we at Colet nearly 50 years later were to make contact with the Turning Dervishes in Turkey and to be taught by them. The ceremony of the Mukabeleh can be seen here at Colet House by visitors on request.
World War I halted Mr Ouspensky’s search for School and forced him to return to Russia. However on his return to Russia he found a system of knowledge and practice taught by a remarkable man called Gurdjieff that took him over an interval in his learning. Later Mr Ouspensky continued to pursue his own aim in England and Gurdjieff continued his work in France.
When he had finished translating his book A New Model of the Universe into English in 1931 Mr Ouspensky turned his attention fully on his main aim of finding a School. He believed that in order to get help from the Inner Circle of humanity he had to create sufficient disturbance to catch their attention. In order to do this he turned his efforts to increasing the number of his followers.
He now established what he called a ‘preparatory school’ and in the late thirties with the purchase of Lyne in 1936 and the purchase of Colet House in 1938 his work blossomed. Lyne provided the opportunity for people to work on their Being. And this house, Colet House gave Mr Ouspensky the opportunity for larger gatherings of people to discuss higher knowledge. Mr Ouspensky maintained that work on being and higher knowledge were the two elements that lead to Understanding.
Members were told that we never remember ourselves. And at Lyne the emphasis was on Being. Members were put to work for long hours and were expected, while carrying out their tasks, to try to self-remember and have attention. This was the way to create the energy needed to attain higher consciousness. And members did not, as some might think nowadays, find their tasks onerous but rather a privilege and an opportunity.
One important aspect of this work on being was the need to try to turn negative emotions which everyone of us is subject to into positive emotion. So continuously people were tested to gauge their ability not to express negative emotion. This often took the form of having to accept harsh treatment which of course led to those who didn’t see the reason or couldn’t take the aggro, leaving. But by far the majority stayed because they knew, as Mr Ouspensky would have put it, that you have to get rid of ‘false personality’ or false ‘I’s’ before the ‘Real I’ or the ‘Real Self’ can take over the throne.
Negative emotion, Ouspensky would say, destroys all man’s possibilities, but fortunately these emotions have no real centre in man. Soon a man on the way can see that negative emotion burns up and wastes the special energy or ‘Sattvic’ energy that one creates by right effort. On occasions when a man or woman manages to turn negative emotion into positive emotion, it gives an enormous lift to his or her understanding and often to other people involved.
On the knowledge side Mr Ouspensky taught that man is made up of many ‘I’s’ and many of them contradict each other and often one ‘I’ can forget what another ‘I’ decided to do or promise so we are always changing. Only man who is Self-conscious or as it is put nowadays Self-realised can speak from ‘Permanent ‘I’’. But first of all it is necessary to have a Permanent Aim. Man with Permanent Aim was a definite step on the ladder of development where the pupil comes under the ‘Pull of the Way’.
One fascinating aspect of consciousness is the emotional quality of it which is conscience. Mr Ouspensky emphasised: ‘What is needed is a method to bring man to Conscience. Conscience is kept asleep by perpetual thinking. What we call ‘myself’ is really a mass of conflicting ‘I’s’ which are kept from seeing each other by the ‘illusion of unity’.
In New York Dr Roles reports Ouspensky told his Group there that ‘Conscience expresses simple truths, what all normal people feel in their hearts, like ‘fair play’ and ‘do to others what you would like them to do to you.’ Dr Roles adds: ‘For instance if you do not like people criticising you behind your back, you should stop that habit yourself – before, not after, the harm has been done.’
Mr Ouspensky made it a rule not to talk about a third person if they were not present. He knew that nothing destroys the fabric of a society more than this activity. It also has another mechanical effect in that it stops the person seeing another afresh for all he sees is the picture that he has formed of that person and real communication between the two people dies. That is why in his book on negative emotions Ouspensky points out if you find yourself in the position of disliking someone you must observe and change how you think about him or her. Thirdly it was said that the person who is speaking negatively about another is actually talking about himself or herself.
Everything Mr Ouspensky taught on a personal level had purpose and was aimed at observing and seeing oneself. To this end he would sometimes put to work together at Lyne people who couldn’t understand one another and who because of this in ordinary life would never meet or get to know one another. Once one makes contact in essence with someone who affects one this way then a very real relationship takes place. And this helps the people involved to change and become less mechanical in their attitudes.
The knowledge Mr Ouspensky imparted fell into two categories. First the study of man connected with his possible evolution. The analogy he drew on is the one seen in nature – the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. Ordinary man’s greatest impediment is that he does not realise he is asleep, that is a nearly permanent state of identification, and believes he is awake and fully self conscious. Ouspensky emphasized that in reality we never remember ourselves. He said: ‘We consider ourselves as one. This is our chief illusion.’
To find the Real Self, Ouspensky, Dr Roles and the Shankaracharya (Dr Roles’s second teacher) all say the same thing. One needs to find the silence. To do that we have to come away from those turning thoughts, changing feelings and conflicting wills. The method Ouspensky advised to bring about greater consciousness which leads to Unity, was Self-remembering. In this respect he asked people to try and stop thoughts for periods of 5 minutes. ‘To remember oneself’ he said ‘Means the same thing as to be aware of oneself – ‘I am’’. Sometimes this comes by itself; it is a very strange feeling. It is not a function, not thinking, not feeling; it is a different state of consciousness.’
Those who have been initiated into the mantra meditation in the Advaita tradition and have gone ‘deep’ recognise directly what Mr Ouspensky means when he says ‘it is a different state of consciousness’. Likewise in the Mevlevi tradition, the turner who comes on balance enters this different state. Both these methods, turning and meditation, are available through the Study Society.
However, ‘waking up’ as Mr Ouspensky put it requires constant effort. It is no good, as the Magician tells Ivan Osokin in his novel to want to change to-day and forget it to-morrow. What you want has to be a deep realisation. Mr Ouspensky had a diagram which showed that man consisted of a house of seven centres – Intellectual, Emotional, Moving, Instinctive, Sex and two higher centres, Higher Emotional and Higher Intellectual. And he would add that ordinary man lives in the basement of this potentially splendid house. Most of these centres which later became referred to as minds reflect duality. For instance the Intellectual Mind functions on a Yes/No basis, the Emotional Mind in Like/Dislike, the Physical Mind on Pleasure/Pain. But he said that the Higher Emotional and Higher Intellectual minds which are always working in us show no such duality or division and it is these minds which are heard and guide us in states of Higher Consciousness.
In Tertium Organum Ouspensky writes that Dualism is the chief idol we have to get rid of. We must become accustomed to the thought that separateness and combination are not opposite in the real world but exist together at the same time, without contradicting each other. We realise in the real world the same thing can be both part and the whole, i.e. that the whole without changing can be its own part. We must understand that there is no contraposition and that each thing is a certain archetype of the all. Mr Ouspensky revealed that man is a cosmos or universe in himself with everything in himself from mineral to God, while also being part of a larger cosmos with everything in it from mineral to God.
I have now come to the conclusion that it would be easier to put Tolstoy’s War and Peace into a one act play than to encapsulate Mr Ouspensky’s teaching in a short talk!
On the level of the individual an enormous amount of information was imparted regarding for instance the different aspects of man’s make up, his essence, which he is born with, his personality, which he creates during his life, and his soul. Regarding the Soul, Ouspensky said after he had stood by the Empress’s tomb in the Taj Mahal: ‘I understand that the Soul is not enclosed in the body but that the body lives and moves in the Soul.’
When Dr Roles was asked in an interview by Dr Peter Fenwick what it was that particularly interested him in Ouspensky’s teaching, Dr Roles replied that it was the psychological part, dealing with getting to ‘know oneself’ and what is meant by consciousness.
Mr Ouspensky pointed out that the permanent state of Self Consciousness and Objective Consciousness could only be attained through correct work on oneself and with guidance from a man who had gone the full way.
Besides imparting an enormous amount of knowledge pertaining to man’s make up and psychology Mr Ouspensky also provided knowledge on the universal scale. This knowledge included the Ray of Creation arising from the Absolute and passing down through all levels – all worlds, milky way, sun, planets, earth and through to earth’s satellite, the moon. Into this huge octave the scale of man as an individual did not enter. But on another scale, in another, smaller, octave starting at sun level or to be more precise unmanifested sun he had an important role in creation. He was referred to as the growing point in the biosphere. And the biosphere was essential to the development of earth as an organism in itself. At that time there was no obvious confirmation that the Earth was an organism – that came later with the advance of science and technology when we saw a photograph of Earth from Outer Space.
Every octave large or small has two intervals and these have to be filled and this led to explaining to us how these were filled. It was part of the law of seven.
Also in connection with this subject was the law of three. This manifests itself in the Absolute as the three in one and the one in three. And then as creation descends passes through different bodies, such as those mentioned above, in the Ray of Creation, the number of laws increase. The Earth was said to come under 48 laws.
In the positive aspect it is possible through evolution for man to escape from many of these laws thus indicating that as his consciousness increases so his intelligence develops and his role in creation changes to a higher level.
Other esoteric knowledge on cosmoses, the step diagram portraying the cosmic food chain, and the hydrogen table showing the different refined levels of energy available in the universe and in man were also discussed. Altogether the knowledge on man and the universe enabled the student to create a map for himself of life and how everything fitted together, which through experience and insight changes from good information to deeper understanding.
In 1941 soon after the outbreak of WW II everything changed in the pattern of Mr Ouspensky’s work. Colet was commandeered by the Admiralty and Lyne could not continue to function properly as men and women enlisted and were called away. School work in such situations became impossible in England and Madame and Mr Ouspensky left for Franklin Farms in New Jersey where Mr Ouspensky continued to lecture in New York.
Mr Ouspensky returned to England after the war and gave a few more lectures to many of his former group at Colet in 1947. Peter Stern, who attended, expressed what was occurring at that time when he wrote: ‘I got the impression from several things that Mr Ouspensky said that we had to try to reconstruct all that we had been given. I believe that some people felt that Mr Ouspensky had abandoned what he had tried to pass on. It seemed very clear that he hadn’t but he urged that we shouldn’t go on talking in the same way, that there must be a fresh approach.’ Dr Roles conveyed the same to me in a private conversation.
At these meetings Mr Ouspensky needed to shake people up. He kept asking people what they wanted. He needed people to formulate their aim. This is considered important in school work, not easily done and seemed now necessary for the continuation of his work.
In 1947 time was short for Mr Ouspensky who was seriously ill and October 2nd was to be the date of his death. He now had to prepare for his work to continue. He stated in Tertium Organum and I quote: ‘Everything that arrests the movement of thought is false’ – or, as we know mechanical repetition of knowledge can become dogma.
By analogy I see the Work as a plant whose stem was to push its way out of the ground under Mr Ouspensky’s regime but the flowering was not to come in his time but in that of Dr Francis Roles, his chosen disciple, called upon to continue his work.
The preparation for Dr Roles to take on the continuation of the Work began back in 1933 when the doctor persistently asked Mr Ouspensky about how to ‘love your enemies’. Time and again the answer was that this was ‘too far away’. Then one night in June they happened to be sitting talking in the dining room at Gadsden when Dr Roles mentioned again “how everything would be different if we could love our enemies.”
O said: “You don’t know what it means. First of all have you got any enemies?”
R thought for a moment and mumbled: “I can’t think of any at the moment but I’m sure I have had enemies.”
O replied: “No, serious enemies I mean. If I had an enemy I would shoot him. Have you someone you want to shoot?”
“Well” R admitted, “So and so annoys me very often and I’m sure she hates me but it has never occurred to me to shoot her. Perhaps because our relations change all the time – sometimes we like each other.”
“That’s it” O almost shouted, “Such as we are we change too much. We are all the time changing. We cannot even have enemies. One minute we like, next minute we hate.”
Now the conversation between the two continued in a genial manner. Then O left the room for half an hour and came back in a different mood. and in answer to one of R’s well thought out questions, O said it was useless to talk to anyone who had no understanding and told Dr Roles he would be better to go and amuse himself elsewhere. By this time R was furious and glared at O quite murderously.
Ouspensky met his gaze and said quietly: “Now do you want to shoot me?”
“Yes” said Roles “I believe I could.”
“Now am I your enemy?” said Ouspensky.
Roles gasped and said “I begin to see.”
“Suppose”, Ouspensky said, “Man who has knowledge. You come to him . . . He establishes special relation with you. Suppose he treats you badly. He shows you some weakness and you are angry and suspicious. How can you change anything if he who is your friend can seem to be your enemy? ‘Love your enemies’ can only have meaning in School.”
Roles asked “How can one learn to do this?” Ouspensky replied “Much has to come first. But what can you try to do? You can reason with yourself, to prepare yourself. Then when I speak to you, you can try not to express your negative feelings and you can try to keep your thoughts from turning about it. But you will not for a long time be able to love.”
12 years have passed. The scene changes to the front drive of Lyne Place on the evening of the 17th September 1947 about a fortnight before Mr Ouspensky’s death.
Dr Roles wrote as follows: ‘During the past few days Mr Ouspensky had been putting himself and those who were with him through a series of increasingly severe tests of endurance. On the evening of the previous day he had come in having been in the car with one short break for 24 hours. I quote from the account in Last Remembrances.
‘. . . and even then he would not rest, but after lunch insisted with Miss R [Miss Romer, his nurse and a member of the Society], in climbing up and down and again up the stairs to his room – though only a few weeks before, those with him had begun to doubt that he still had the strength to mount them once a day to go to bed. All this, night and morning, he conveyed an extraordinary impression of will, will as a force by which a man can make his body do the impossible.’
This seems to me a living example of ‘super effort’ sometimes referred to in the Work. It enables a person to draw on higher energy stored in the body for a particular purpose. In Ouspensky’s case he used it for a conscious aim.
Dr Roles continued: ‘By next morning Ouspensky was ready early again and they had set off driving in a hired car, and only returned to Lyne at 8 o’clock that night during which time O had eaten nothing. They hoped he would now come in and have his dinner and rest. But he laughed at them and appeared very cheerful but continued to sit where he was. He seemed determined to be as unreasonable as possible. The driver wanted to get home and became very restive. Finally, the taxi proprietor had to come and rescue him, immobilising the car so that we couldn’t use it. Towards midnight, Dr Roles, stiff and cold, remembers being stirred to the very depths of indignation by something Mr Ouspensky said to him in front of others. But suddenly an echo of that old conversation came to Dr Roles’s mind. He remembered that he had agreed to accept this relationship with O, that he would love him whatever he did, that he would have no doubts in his rightness and suddenly he became calm and laughed to himself.’
It seemed to the Doctor afterwards that something changed in him then which was to remain ever after. It was not a coincidence that ten minutes later O began to unfold plans to the Doctor for the ‘Reconstruction of the System’ and the continuation of the Work after his death, beginning with the words: “I had to move you from where you were. Now I can speak…”(The full record of this event is reported in P. D. Ouspensky Commemoration Issue, The Bridge, 12, pp 231-234).
A fortnight later, Mr Ouspensky left the stage. Dr Roles said, and I quote: ‘There were prolonged periods of Cosmic consciousness before Mr Ouspensky died, and I saw him reach full liberation with my own eyes.’
But before telling you about Mr Ouspensky’s instructions on how to continue, I would like to recall a comment that Dr Roles made to me in private conversation many years ago. He told me there was a problem with the method of Self Remembering in that the only person who seemed to be able to really make it work as a method was Mr Ouspensky himself. And that is one of the reasons he set Dr Roles the task of finding another method. There is an amusing story that tells of how a member was asked by Mr Ouspensky to meet him at the Gard du Nord in Paris. The man turned up on time with a very worried look on his face and said “I know you wanted me to remember something when we met. Did you want me to buy something?” “No” said Mr Ouspensky “I just wanted you to remember yourself when we met.”
Regarding Mr Ouspensky’s instructions to the doctor on how to continue. He wanted him to keep abreast of the scientific discovery mainly taking place in the west and to look for an easier way to remember the Self. ‘You must go and find a method by which we could achieve Self- Realisation. If you find the method, you may find the source of the tradition.’ Dr Roles found the method of mantra meditation and he and others were initiated by the Maharishi. This led to the introduction of Dr Roles to the Shankaracharya, the head of the Advaita the non-dualistic tradition for Northern India. When they met the Shankaracharya Shantanand Saraswati said to Dr Roles: ‘I have been waiting for you.’ For twenty years Dr Roles listened to the guidance of this Realised man and was able to carry on Mr Ouspensky’s work deepening his own understanding and passing on the higher knowledge to members of the Society.
The Shankaracharya’s last words to the doctor when they parted were: “The tradition which the Shankaracharya is furthering at this stage and time, and to which He belongs is also the Tradition to which you belonged before meeting, and which you are now pursuing and will be with you for ever after.”
As a result of Dr Roles’s carrying out Mr Ouspensky’s instructions to him to try to find the source of the teaching and a method the Society has flourished. Apart from this country there are groups all over the world, in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico and the United States. In this house, which the doctor always referred to as Mr Ouspensky’s house, we try to make from our own understanding a seamless garment of all that we have been given by Mr Ouspensky, Dr Roles and the Shankaracharya. Their teaching is all one and the people who are connected with them wherever they may be – past, present and future are all one.