1909–1920: St. Petersburg

 
Nevsky Prospect c1900

Nevsky Prospect c1900

St. Petersburg was the capital of Russia, more Western-looking than Moscow and with a more vibrant intellectual life. The ‘Silver Age’, spanning about 1890-1920, was an exceptionally dynamic cultural era in Russian history with a real sense of change and emancipation in an unsettled political atmosphere.

Ouspensky was a member of the Russian Theosophical Society for much of the 1909-1915 period. He was listed on the editorial board of the society’s journal. He lectured at their meetings and was widely regarded as one of their most prominent members.

He started to publish his own writings, Fourth Dimension (1910) followed by Tertium Organum (1912). Much of what later went into A New Model of the Universe (1931) was also written and in part published during this time. He published his novel Kinemadrama (1915) based on the concept of recurrence, later published in English as Strange Life of Ivan Osokin (1947).

Suvorin Press, St. Petersburg (Ouspensky's employer)

Suvorin Press, St. Petersburg (Ouspensky’s employer)

He seems to have lived by his pen with a very modest life style; he just had a single rented room.

Stray Dog Café

Stray Dog Café

The addresses of apartment blocks where he lived have been discovered from police and other archival documents, and his involvement in café society is known from the account of Anna Butkovsky-Hewitt. His attendance at the ‘Stray Dog’ café brought him into contact with many of the leading intellectuals, writers and artists.

His search for the truth covered a wide area, but he was looking for something that would offer a practical way forward; by 1913 he was simply looking for the ‘miraculous’. He travelled to India and Ceylon looking for esoteric schools. On his return he gave public lectures in St. Petersburg and Moscow; synopses of these have been found.

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