Wallace Martin: Lecture, 2007

Wallace Martin, who died in 2010, was Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Toledo. He was author of The New Age under Orage and Recent Theories of Narrative. He also edited and contributed to books on literary and critical theory.
Length 30’06”

Listen to talk


Cultural Influences on Ouspensky in Russia

In the Introduction to A New Model of the Universe, Ouspensky describes a moment1 in 1906 or 1907 when he was sitting in the office of a Moscow newspaper. He was supposed to be writing an article on the forthcoming Hague Peace Conference. It must have been 1907, because the “forthcoming” conference began on June 15th of 1907. Our conference takes place a century and a few weeks later.

Finding his journalistic assignment tedious, he opens a drawer of his desk which is (I quote) “crammed with books with strange titles.” Among these were The Occult World, Life and Death, Atlantis and Lemuria, The Temple of Satan – books written by Theosophists, a spiritualist, the founder of the French occult revival of the 19th century, and a Rosicrucian who wrote two books on Tarot cards. Strange as they seem today, those books are discussed in studies of occultism in early twentieth-century Russia. As one scholar says,2 “the occult excited an extraordinary amount of interest among educated Russians of the emerging middle class.” That period is now known as the silver age of Russian literature, or the second golden age, and as the age of the Russian religious and philosophical renaissance. My emphasis will be on aspects of culture that serve as the background of Ouspensky’s thought. He was of course not simply one who reflected his time, but someone who shaped it – as is evident in the wonderful exhibition that surrounds us.

In a brief account of his life,3 Ouspensky says that “in 1907 I found theosophical literature, which was prohibited in Russia – Blavatsky, Olcott, Annie Besant, Sinnett, etc.” Relaxation of government restrictions led to the legal registration of the St. Petersburg Theosophical Society in 1908, and Ouspensky became a member after moving to St. Petersburg. In 1916, the philosopher Nicolai Berdyaev4 referred to him as “the most independent and talented Theosophical writer we have.” Theosophy claimed to be a “synthesis of religion, philosophy, and science” – a welcome prospect, given the fragmentation of knowledge in the early 20th century. It provided access to a wide range of Eastern, mystical, and traditional thought that had not previously been accessible. The most important Russian philosopher of the late 19th century, Vladimir Soloviev, also proposed5 a synthesis of religion, philosophy, and science; as a result, Theosophy served as a reinforcement of ideas current in Russia, rather than a startling new development. To those three areas, we must add another in order to represent the culture of the time.  As you  probably know, Ouspensky  said that there are  “four ways6 that lead  to  the Unknown, four forms of conception of the world – religion, science, philosophy, and art.”

In Russia as elsewhere, Theosophy was particularly attractive to artists. In music, there was Scriabin, and in painting, Kandinsky; among the symbolist poets whose work it affected were Andre Biely, Alexander Blok, and Viacheslav Ivanov. Russian artists were participating in what Biely called a “revolution of the spirit.”7 Like Ouspensky, they looked on art as a source of emotional understanding that reveals mysteries. Russian symbolism is very different from the French and English movements with which it shares a name, though it does have something in common with the poetry of Yeats. In relation to 19th-century trends, one might say that the Russians tried to bring realistic literature to life by a transfusion of romanticism. In the eyes of Biely and Ivanov, leaders of the movement, its purpose was nothing less than the creation of life.8 The artist creates by putting the spirit into physical material – sounds, shapes and colors, or words. Through this act, the true work of art is alive. But by a further analogy, the work of art can infuse a higher spirit into society, bringing about a real transfiguration of the world. This conception of the transcendent purpose of art finds few advocates today, but it persisted in the futurism and socialist realism of the Soviet period9: art was not simply a representation of reality, but a means of changing society.

When we think of literature and religion, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy come immediately to mind. In the early twentieth century, the influence of theosophy and the occult was fused with that of the Russian religious renaissance. The Orthodox church was a marginal participant in this change. Censorship, as Ouspensky noted, prevented the publication of theosophical texts. On the other hand, the government and church permitted publication of theological speculation that might be permitted in the West, but would be considered heretical in Roman Catholicism. Here again the influence of Soloviev is a crucial reference point. He inspired the poetry10 of Biely and Blok and commended their poetry while they were still in their teens. A materialist and atheist11 early in life, he returned to religion before completing his master’s degree in 1874. Later, while studying Indian and gnostic philosophy at the British Museum, he had the second of his three visions of the divine Sophia, the “eternal feminine,” which he conceived as (quoting) “the spiritual center of the cosmic organism, the living whole of the universe.” (She is Wisdom in the biblical book “The Wisdom of Solomon,” which is apocryphal in Protestantism.) For Soloviev, experience and thought, the empirical and the rational, intuition and intellect, leave humanity divided. They can be fused only through experience of another kind of knowledge, which he understood as intuition or mystical cognition. One seeks it12 in order to to combine one’s life with divine life, to extend the grace one receives to others, and then to extend it to the whole of the world. (Ouspensky told one of his followers, Nicolai Rabeneck, that he wished he had tried to meet Soloviev before his death in 1900.)

Soloviev’s  thought  was  an  important  source  of  the  renewed  interest  in  religion  and philosophy. In the first decade of the century, artists, intellectuals, professors, and priests took part in discussions of the relationship between the two. The St. Petersburg Religious-Philosophical Meetings13 were initiated in 1901 by intellectuals, with the reluctant participation of the church. The meetings attracted up to 200 people and a periodical provided accounts of the proceedings. According to one participant, the priests were surprised14 by the ignorance of the laymen concerning church doctrine, and the laymen were astonished to find that the priests knew little about culture and events of the day. The Over Procurator of the Holy Synod suspended the meetings in 1903. It must be confessed that the ideas of apocalyptic zealots, who were sometimes connected with religious sects in the countryside, could be alarming. Dmitri Merezhkovsky,15 a founder of the St. Petersburg Meetings, announced the coming of the Third Testament, superseding the Old and New Testaments and ushering in an era of peace, harmony, and the merging of Christian and pagan love. There were however other groups, such as the Brotherhood of the Christian Struggle,16 that combined social activism and orthodox religious views.

Russian philosophers of the 19th century are usually characterized as Slavophiles or Westernizers. Lesley Chamberlain presents17 the difference as follows: “The Slavophiles were religious conservatives, the Westernizers atheist progressives, which put them in different camps with regard to science and reason.” For the Westernizers, science replaced philosophy, and religion was irrelevant. The Slavophiles needed neither science nor philosophy to justify their religious and racial beliefs. By the end of the 19th century, the difference between these groups seems to have been reduced to a stark choice: either preservation of the government, based on an emperor whose rule was defined as “autocratic and unlimited”; or a violent revolution, with the resultant form of government to be determined later. Neither group depended on reasons, evidence, and argument for the justification or success of its cause. In 1850 a government edict declared18 that “it has not been proved that philosophy can be useful, but it may be harmful.”

This may explain why the Tsars closed the philosophy departments19 for many years in the 19th century – and why, in 1922, the Communists20 put most of the well-known philosophers on a boat and shipped them abroad.

The interaction of religion and philosophy21 increased dramatically after the unsuccessful revolution of 1905 and the consequent changes in government policy. Meetings of the Moscow Religious-Philosophical Society, founded in 1905, attracted audiences of 200 to 600 to its meetings during the next two years. Beginning with scholarly dis-cussions of the relation of the church to society, by 1906 the group had formed what it called a “Free Theological University” which offered courses taught by advanced students and occasionally by professors. That organization helped found its St. Petersburg counterpart in 1907. Among those attending the St. Petersburg meetings in 1908 and 1909 were the poets Blok and Ivanov, and some Marxists who had little use for religion.

There was one organization22 in Russia devoted to the study of philosophy – the prudently named Moscow Psychological Society, founded at Moscow University in 1885. By the 1890s, according to one of its members,23 the Society had moved away from psychology and become “a philosophical society in the broad sense of the word.” Tolstoy and Soloviev were among the speakers at meetings during the early years. One stimulus of its activities was an opposition to positivism.24 In Russia and in Western Europe, the word positivism was used25 “to characterize the whole tendency to discuss human behavior in  terms  of analogies  drawn  from natural science.” In this sense, positivism encompassed mechanism, materialism, reductionism, and naturalism. These theories, like their counterparts today, assumed that all human experience was caused by, and could ultimately be explained by, knowledge of its physiological origins. The positivist commitment left no place in the world of knowledge for philosophy, which would be seen as a form of ideology.

In the first issue of the scholarly journal published by the Moscow Psychological Society (1889), an article by S. N. Trubetskoi26 introduced what was to be a major premise in the writings of the group (quote): “The question of the nature of consciousness is the principal question of philosophy…for in consciousness we know everything that we know.” On encountering a statement like that, those who were collectively known as positivists, despite their differences, would recognize its source. They had a single word that referred to all of their opponents: they were called idealists. This word was applied to those associated with the Moscow Psychological Society and also used by its members (along with “neo-idealism”) to characterize themselves.

What follows is a brief, simplistic excursion into philosophy. Its only possible justification is its relevance to Ouspensky.

Ouspensky’s Tertium Organum begins with a discussion of Kant, and the basic distinctions that Kant makes lie at the heart of the issues that interested the Moscow idealists. Science begins from the sensations that we experience and organizes them in revealing, even astonishing ways. That organization – for example, the charting of events in time and space, to discover connections and causes – adds elements that sensations themselves don’t contain. Sensations don’t arrive from nerve endings labeled time and space, with numbers attached; those are ideas we add to them. We must add such ideas if we are to make any sense of experience. To distinguish before from after, we must assume that something else also exists – a person, a mind that has a continuous existence between the before and the after and is able to connect them. Kant calls the sensations phenomena, and the ideas that we add to them, noumena. His analysis is brilliant, but it brings with it both good news and bad news. The good news is that we must have a coherent consciousness, an enduring self of some sort, that can make sense of the world. That puts an end to all the skeptical nonsense of Hume, and the doubts he cast on causality and the existence of a self. It shows that positivists can’t simply deny the unique presence of consciousness in the world because even their arguments depend on what they have added to sensations and the material world. A consciousness and a self really exist, along with physical matter. On the other hand, we can never know anything about reality as it is in itself because all we know about it is our sensations. And since knowledge depends on sensations, we can never have rational knowledge of anything that transcends experience – such as God, personal survival after death, or what happened before time began. That’s the bad news. As a famous American philosopher said concerning Kant’s conclusions (transcendental consciousness exists, but it can never know reality), “Thanks a lot” (Stanley Cavell).

The conflict between the Russian positivists and idealists was brought to a head by the publication of a collection of essays sponsored by the Moscow Psychological Society, in 1902. Its title was Problems of Idealism. The Westernizers – loosely speaking, the positivists and Marxists – assumed that anyone connected with idealism must be a Slavophile who was committed to the Orthodox church and the Tsar. But this anthology contained essays by four people27 who had until then been Marxists – Peter Struve, Sergei Bulgakov, Semyon Frank, and Nicolai Berdyaev.

They had credentials to authenticate their Marxism: Berdyaev had been exiled, Frank had been arrested and forced to continue his studies in Germany, and Struve used a pseudonym because he had founded an illegal journal published in Germany. Their commitment to social and political reform could hardly be questioned.

Kant provided them28 with a criticism of positivism that brings philosophy into the sphere of ethics and politics. Ideas about right action and goodness are based on reason. Positivism has no path that can lead from what is to what ought to be. The capacity to resist one’s one desires or to help others is a defining trait of humanity. It is also evidence of the freedom of consciousness from physical and social determinism. Governments and laws place constraints on that freedom, but in the modern era those restraints require a rational justification. Implicitly and sometimes explicitly, these arguments against positivism and its apparent indifference to personal freedom became criticism of the revolutionary Marxists.

The anthology Problems of Idealism, along with two books on the subject written by Akim Volynsky,29 one of Ouspensky’s friends, prompted a flurry of responses – eight books in all, the last of which was by Lenin. Never having paid much attention to philosophy, the Marxists were prompted to formulate positions on the subject. Most of them accused the idealists of not believing in the existence  of reality. The  very word “idealism” lends itself to that misunderstanding. However, those associated with the Moscow society, and Kant himself, had to believe in reality. Without it, their philosophy would collapse. Their opponents tried to represent them as covert supporters of the Tsar and the orthodox church, but their call for freedom of conscience and the separation of church and state were obviously criticisms of the government. Politically, what they sought was a third path, one lying between the extremes of violent revolution and the status quo. A constitution, an elected government, and some form of socialism were the goals endorsed by the ex-Marxists and others. Two of them, Bulgakov and Struve, occupied important positions in the Constitutional-Democratic or Kadet party after the revolution of 1905.

Some of the Russian idealists, however, did not concern themselves with political issues. Like German neo-Kantians who tried to reunite noumena and phenomena, they proposed a third principle that would connect the mind with reality itself, rather than with its appearances. A failure to recognize their emphasis on this third principle, according to Mihajlo Mihajlov,30 has led Western writers to overlook the uniqueness and importance of the Russian neo-idealists.

Many of them had encountered this problem when they studied in Germany31 (Bulgakov, Frank, Struve, Novgorodtsev). How can consciousness gain access to things as they really are? How can it obtain the objective truth that, as Isaiah Berlin once said, Russians believed in “more than anyone else in the modern world”? The very word “belief” suggests that modern philosophy will have to be joined with theology, if it needs belief to support it.

To unite consciousness and reality, they posited (and here I quote Mihajlov32) “three, not two, levels of existence. One level is the world of objects, that is, the physical world. The second level is the spiritual world, the world of ideas, which opens itself up to the human mind and consciousness. And the third level is unobservable reality, in which both worlds – material and spiritual, are united in some mysterious way” (unquote). As Mihajlov says, this solution was the product of a culture in which philosophy and religion were never set apart as they had been in Western Europe. He also says that the philosophers of the Russian renaissance will not be understood until the common foundation of their thought has been explained. Unable to supply that foundation, I will just mention a few of the third elements that they proposed.

For Semyon Frank, the world that surrounds us and the being of our inner life are supported by “that layer of reality which is first basis and all-unity,”33 which “somehow unites both of these different worlds.” Berdyaev at one stage34 saw the conscious and unconscious as united in a superconscious. The arguments supporting their conclusions about this third element fill the pages of their books, but they repeatedly say that something other than reason is necessary for an understanding of what they mean. At one point, Soloviev explains the problem35 as follows: Kant doesn’t explain how consciousness can give us reliable knowledge about an exterior world. Some third principle is needed, “and yet” (quoting him here) “no third principle is accessible to our knowledge.” He calls this third kind of knowledge “faith, if we understand that word as meaning not subjective conviction” but “an intuition of an essence distinct from our own,” or “mystical cognition.” Soloviev had experienced such intuitions, but no philosopher can provide a formula to make them occur.

The idea of a third realm of understanding, for Soloviev and others, was conceived as a path toward the future state of humanity described in the book of Revelation. The precarious political situation contributed to the sense that radical change was imminent. What lay in the balance was the character of that change. Was it to be collective violence, or a revolution of the spirit? The religious ideal led toward incorporation of the divine spirit in humanity, what the early church fathers called “Godmanhood.” Taking up the challenge posed by religion, the materialists posed the goal of Mangodhood – an ideology created by Gorky, Lunacharsky, and others. Self-sacrifice (and possibly the sacrifice of others) would be not for eternal life but for the future of mankind, with humans becoming gods who controlled everything that happens. Berdyaev wrote an essay36 in which he claimed that the goals of the revolutionaries – transformation of society and a utopian future – were an inverted image of the apocalypse and the millenium envisaged by the Christian tradition. These two visions prompted two interpretations of Nietzsche’s “Superman,” which Ouspensky discussed37 in a paper delivered to the Theosophical society that later became a chapter in A New Model of the Universe.

Nothing has been said so far about the fourth area of culture that, Ouspensky said, leads to the unknown: science. Neither party in the dispute about the future of Russia pointed out that they lived at a time when the mechanistic certainties of 19th-century science were being overthrown, leading to what one physicist,38 in 1907, referred to as “the crisis of contemporary physics.” In trawling through information about members of the Moscow Psychological Society, I came across a name that has since become famous: Vladimir Vernadsky.39 In 1902 he published an essay in the society’s journal defending the idealist interpretation of science. Between then and his death in 1945, he introduced the idea of what he called the biosphere – the interactions that bind organic life together – and (in connection with Eduard Le Roy and Teilhard de Chardin), the noösphere – the conceptual realm in which humanity understands itself and the universe. His ideas live on in the Russian cosmism of today and have been praised by Western environmentalists.

In The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution, based on lectures that Ouspensky delivered in 1934, the following passage40 appears: “A Russian philosopher, Vladimir Soloviev, spoke about the being of a stone, the being of a plant, the being of an animal, the being of a man and the divine being.” Ouspensky discussed these levels of existence in Tertium Organum. The distinction between the levels is connected with the theory that each one has a kind of consciousness, an idea referred to as pan-psychism. As a reviewer in the Times Literary Supplement said earlier this year,41 people who give credence to pan-psychism (quote) “tend to be regarded as slightly loopy.” The comment appears in the review of a book entitled Consciousness and Its Place in Nature. The advocate of the theory turns out to be Galen Strawson, a respected philosopher who has taught at Oxford, Reading, and the City University of New York. The reviewer concludes that (quote) “there are strong (and quite sober) reasons for thinking pan-psychism is true.”

In a paper that he presented42 at a meeting of the St. Petersburg Theosophical Society in 1913, later published in the Society’s journal, Ouspensky commented on the dispute between the idealists and positivists. He argued that the scientific revolution then in progress had altered the very terms of the argument. The emerging pictures of the universe, he said were (and I quote) “more revolutionary for philosophic thought than Copernicus, who moved the Earth out of the center of the universe. Natural science has not had more brilliant prospects since Newton’s Age.” (This made me think of the first sentence of a book by Professor Needleman,43 who is with us today: “It is necessary to think in a new way about science.”)

Rather than dismissing the scientific methods of positivism, Ouspensky says that “it set [the] human mind free from superstitions and dualistic spiritualism”44 – that is, the kind that sought material evidence for survival after death. However, positivism (quoting again) “now gives place to a direction with a wider program – idealism.” Such comments suggest that Ouspensky was not only aware of but intellectually engaged with trends of his time that he seldom mentioned in his writings. For him, as for the neo-idealists, Kant provided an unavoidable philosophical starting-point. However, rather than trying to put consciousness and reality back together through one of the third paths explored by neo-idealists, Ouspensky proposed and pursued a third organum or method.

If the opposition of consciousness to reality creates an insoluble problem, an alternative third path would be to explore the conventional understanding of those terms, through reference to recorded experiences of the past, and psychological as well as scientific experiment in our own time. For example, the separation of time and space that lies at the root of Kant’s conception of the mind was transformed by the idea of time as the fourth dimension of space. One objection to that conception was the fact that the mind doesn’t think of time and space in that way. Rather than accepting Kant’s idea of the mind, which determines what we can experience, Ouspensky undertook experiments to discover if he could open the mind to new experiences that correspond to the new reality that science has discovered. The expansion of both consciousness and understanding might lead toward their unification. In proposing new methods rather than an answer, Ouspensky’s thought before 1916 seems to have planted signposts along a path that might lead to a different future.

A great deal has changed in the century since Ouspensky set aside his work as a journalist to look at books which, he remarked, had “a strange flavor of truth.” One of the changes has been that most of the books of the neo-idealists are back in print or in print for the first time in Russia, along with books on theosophy and the occult. Those books provide a context which sheds light on Ouspensky’s thought, as I have tried to show. At the same time, his own books seem to speak to us directly, despite differences of time and culture.




Bely, Andrey. Selected Essays of Andrey Bely. Trans. Steven Cassedy. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1985. Useful long introduction.

Berdyaev, Nicolas. The Russian Idea. London: Centenary Press, 1947.

Berdyaev, Nicolas. The Meaning of the Creative Act. New York: Collier, 1962.

Berlin, Isaiah. “Introduction.” Russian Intellectual History, ed. Marc Raeff. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1966.

Berry, Thomas. Spiritualism in Tsarist Society and Literature. Baltimore, 1985.

Carlson, Maria. “No Religion Higher than Truth”: A History of the Theosophical Movement in Russia, 1875–1922. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1993.

Chamberlain, Lesley. Motherland: A Philosophical History of Russia. London: Atlantic Books, 2004.

Chamberlain, Lesley. The Philosophy Steamer: Lenin and the Exile of the Intelligentsia. London: Atlantic Books, 2006.

Clowes, Edith. The Revolution of Moral Consciousness: Nietzsche in Russian Literature, 1890 – 1914. DeKalb: Northern Illinois Univ. Press, 1988.

Evtuhov, Catherine. The Cross and the Sickle: Sergei Bulgaov and the Fate of Russian Religious Philosophy. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1997.

Hughes, H. Stuart. Consciousness and Society. New York: Knopf, 1958.

Ivanov, V. I. Selected Essays. Ed., with introduction, by Michael Wachtel; trans. Robert Bird. Evanston: Northwestern Unive. Press, 2001.

Kashchenko, Sergey. Pyotr Demianovich Ouspensky: Moscow – St. Petersburg 1878-1917. Vyborg – London, 2007.

Kornblatt, Judith Deutsch, and Richard F. Gustafson, eds. Russian Religious Thought. Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1996. “Introduction” by the editors; essays on Soloviev that are useful.

Landmarks: A Collection of Essays on the Russian Intelligentsia 1909. Ed. Boris Shagin and Albert Todd, trans. Marian Schwartz. New York: Karz Howard, 1977.

Leighton, Lauren G. The Esoteric Tradition in Russian Romantic Literature: Decembrism and Freemasonry. University Party: Pennsylvania State Univ. Press, 1994.

Lossky, N. O. History of Russian Philosophy. New York: International Universities Press, 1951. Maslenikov, Oleg A. The Frenzied Poets: Andrey Biely and the Russian Symbolists. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1952.

Merezhkovsky, Dmitri. Various materials available on the web.

Mihajlov, Mihajlo. “The Great Catalyser: Nietzsche and Russian Neo-Idealism.” In Rosenthal 1986, pp. 127-45.

Ouspensky, P. D. “About Superman.”

Ouspensky, P. D. “About The Last Verge” [novel by M. P. Artsybashev; Eng. trans. entitled Breaking-point].

Ouspensky, P. D. A Further Record Chiefly of Extracts from Meetings held by P. D. Ouspensky between 1928 and 1945. Capetown: Stourton Press, 1952.

Ouspensky, P. D. A New Model of the Universe. New York: Vintage, 1971.

Ouspensky, P. D. The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1951.

Paperno, Irina, ed. Creating Life: The Aesthetic Utopia of Russian Modernism. Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1994. Useful discussion of Soloviev’s influence on the Symbolists.

Poole, Randall A., ed. Problems of Idealism: Essays in Russian Social Philosophy. “Translated, edited, and introduced by Randall A. Poole; Forward by Carly Emerson.” New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2003. Translation of the renowned 1902 book.

Poole, Randall A. “The Neo-Idealist reception of Kant in the Moscow Psychological Society.” Journal of the History of Ideas 60.2 (1999): 319-43.

Putnam, George F. Russian Alternatives to Marxism: Christian Socialism and Idealistic Liberalism in Twentieth-century Russia. Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1977.

Pyman, Avril. A History of Russian Symbolism. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1994.

Read, Christopher. Religion, Revolution and the Russian Intelligentsia 1900–1912: The Vekhi Debate and Its Intellectual Background. London: Macmillan, 1979.

Rosenthal, Bernice Glatzer, ed. Nietzsche in Russia. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1986. A useful collection of essays.

Rosenthal, Bernice Glatzer, ed. The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1997. A comprehensive and fascinating volume. Among the essays: “Fashionable Occultism: Spiritualism, Theosophy, Freemasonry, and Hermeticism in Fin-de-Siècle Russia”, by Maria Carlson; “Fedorov’s Transformations of the Occult”, by George M. Young Jr.; “The Magic of Words: Symbolism, Futurism, Socialist Realism”, by Irina Gutkin. The Appendix contains useful bibliographies of Russian occult journals, monographs, and journalism.

Rosenthal, Bernice Glatzer and Martha Bohachevsky-Chomiak, eds. A Revolution of the Spirit: Crisis of Value in Russia, 1890–1918. Trans. Marian Schwartz. Netwonville, MA: Oriental research Partners, 1982. Translations of  essays, by Soloviev,  Grot, Diaghilev, Romanov, Berdiaev, Bulgakov, Ivanov, Merezhkovsky, G. Florovsky, Novgorodtsev, Struve, Bely, Blok, Trubtskoy. “Introduction” and “Afterword” by the editors.

Solovyov, Vladimir. The Crisis of Western Philosophy (Against the Positivists). Trans. Boris Jakim. Hudson, NY: Lindisfarne Press, 1996.

Struve, Gleb. “The Cultural Renaissance.” Russia Under the Last Tsar, ed. Theofanis George Stavrou. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1969. Pp. 179-201. Gleb Struve is the son of Pyotr Struve.

Taylor, Merrily E., editor and compiler. Remembering  Pyotr Demaianovich  Ouspensky. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1978.

Vernadski, V. I. “The Biosphere and the Noösphere.” AmericanScientist 33.1 (Jan. 1945): 1-12.

West, James. Russian Symbolism: A Study of Vyacheslav Ivanov and the Russian Symbolist Aesthetic. London: Methuen, 1970.

Woehrlin, William F., Ed. & trans. Out of the Depths (De Profundis): A Collection of Articles on the Russian Revolution. Irvine: Charles Schlacke, Jr., 1986. Translation of the famous anthology of 1918, which was never published in Russia.

Zernov, Nicolas. The Russian Religious Renaissance of the Twentieth Century. New York: Harper & Row, 1964.


Supplement: Ouspensky, the Fourth Dimension, and Russian Art & Literature

For those interested in pursuing connections between Ouspensky and the arts, the following selective bibliography will be useful.

Bowlt, John E., and Olga Matich, eds. The Russian Avant-Garde and Cultural Experiment. Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1996. Essays (14) on visual arts (including film) and connections between the avant-garde and the sciences; aesthetics; theology and the art; daily life; socialist realism. Covers the period 19081925.

Cassedy, Steven. Flight from Eden: The Origins of Modern Literary Criticism and Theory. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1990. Pages 178-80 provide a concise summary of Ouspensky’s influence on Russian Formalism.

Danto, Arthur C. “Paint It Black.” The Nation, Aug. 18, 2003. Available on the web at: . A useful explanation of the artistic and spiritual aspects of Malevich’s famous painting “Black Square”.

Henderson, Linda Dalrymple. The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1983.

Kruchenykh, Alexei (Aleksander). “New Ways of the Word (the language of the future, death to Symbolism)”. in Russian Futurism through Its Manifestoes, 1912-1928, ed. Anna Lawton, trans. Anna Lawton and Herbert Eagle. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1988. Kruchenykh’s essay spliced Ouspensky’s ideas into Russian futurist art and poetry.

Simmons, W. Sherwin. “Kasimir Malevich’s ‘Black Square’: The Transformed Self, Part One: Cubism and the Illusionistic Portrait”, and “Self: Part Two: The New Laws of Transrationalism.” Arts Magazine 52.2 (1978): 116-25, and 53.3 (1978): 130-41. Several references to Ouspensky, including the suggestion that his book on Tarot cards influenced painters.

Weisberger, Edward, ed. The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890-1985. New York: Abbeville Press, 1986. The following essays are of particular interest in connection with Ouspensky: “Esoteric Culture and Russian Society”, by John E. Bowlt; “Beyond Reason: Malevich, Matiushin, and Their Circles”, by Charlotte Douglas; “Mysticism, Romanticism, and the Fourth Dimension”, by Linda Dalrymple Henderson; “Occult Literature in Russia”, by Edward Kasinec and Boris Kerdimun.

Williams, Robert C. Artists in Revolution: Portraits of the Russian Avant-Garde, 1905-1925. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1977. Pages 118-25 useful on the 4th dimension and Malevich; the footnotes provide the sources of connections to Ouspensky.



1   A New Model, p. 4

2   Carlson, “Fashionable Occultism”, in Rosenthal, The Occult…, p. 135.

3   Ouspensky, A Further Record, quoted in Taylor, p. 11.

4   “Typi religiozoni mysli”, Russkaia mysl’ 11 (1916):1 (2nd pagination), in Carlson, No Religion…, p. 74

5   Lossky, p. 97

6   A New Model, p. 31

7   Biely, “Revolution and Culture”, in Rosenthal, A Revolution of the Spirit, p. 296.

8   Paperno, pp. 1-23.

9   Irina Gutkin, pp. 244-46, in Rosenthal, The Occult.

10   Pyman, 202-25.

11   Lossky, 81-93.

12   Richard Gustafson, “Soloviev’s Doctrine of Salvation”, in Kornblatt, 40-41. 13 Putnam, 57, 61-63.

14   Putnam, 62.

15   Putnam, 64-65; Read, 124; various web sources.

16   Putnam, 70-78.

17   Motherland, 46.

18   Lossky, 171

19   Different sources give different dates; the majority says that the closure was from 1826 to 1863

20   Chamberlain, The Philosophy Steamer.

21   Putnam, Chapter III (56-92).

22   Poole, Problems of Idealism, xii, 1-13

23   A. A. Kizevetter, Na rubezhe dvukh stoletii,1914; reprinted Newtonville: Oriental Research Partners, 1974; cited by Poole, Problems of Idealism, 3.

24   Soloviev’s book The Crisis of Western Philosophy: (Against the Postivists), published in 1874, initiated this trend.

25   Hughes, 37.

26   Poole, “The Neo-Idealist Reception”, 320.

27   “Biographies”, in Landmarks, 185-93.

28   These issues are discussed by Poole, Problems…, 18-34

29   The information about his friendship with Ouspensky came from Nicolai Rabeneck. For information about Volynsky and the responses to Problems of Idealism see Read 22; 40-56.

30   “The Great Catalyser”, 133-35.

31   “Biographies”, in Landmarks, 185-93.

32   Mihajlov, 133.

33   Mihajlov, 142.

34   Lossky, 237.

35   Lossky, 96.

36   “Socialism as Religion”, in Rosenthal, Revolution… “Godmanhood…Mangodhood” – Read, 58, 63-4, 76-7, 88-92; Rosenthal, in Nietzsche in Russia, 65, 25-27; A. L. Tait in the same volume, 278-79.

37   “About Superman”, presented in 1913 (Rosenthal, Nietzsche in Russia, 47) and published the same year (Kashchenko, 25).

38   Abel Rey, quoted by Philipp Frank in Modern Science and Its Philosophy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1949), 2.

39   See Vernadsky’s article; Michael Hagemeister, “Russian Cosmism in the 1920s and Today” in Rosenthal, The Occult, 185-202; Mercè Piqueras, “Meeting the Biospheres: on the translations of Vernadsky’s work”, International Microbiology 1 (1998): 165-70.

40   The Psychology of Mann’s Possible Evolution, p. 78; the passage from Soloviev appears in his book The Justification of the Good.

41   Times Literary Supplement, 3 Apr. 2007. 42 “About The Last Verge”.

43 Jacob Needleman, A Sense of the Cosmos: The Encounter of Modern Science and Ancient Truth (Garden City, NY: 1975).

44 “About The Last Verge”.

Return to top