1920–1921: Constantinople



When the Ouspenskys arrived in Constantinople in early 1920, the city was full of Russians including several of Ouspensky’s St. Petersburg friends. With their help Ouspensky again began gathering people and started giving lectures at the offices of a Russian language newspaper, the Russki Miyak.

Gurdjieff arrived in June and the two men resumed a close association. Ouspensky handed all his new students over to Gurdjieff and ceased for some time to lecture independently. He helped Gurdjieff to re-establish his Institute, drafting the scenarios for Gurdjieff’s ballet ‘The Struggle of the Magicians’, created from the special movements and dances which would in future form the centre of Gurdjieff’s work.

Relations between the two men remained cordial and their frequent explorations of the city and the bazaar included a visit to the Mevlevi ceremony of the Mukabele which Ouspensky had first witnessed in 1904.

Ouspensky himself did not join the Institute, though he gave weekly lectures there at Gurdjieff’s invitation and in which Gurdjieff himself took part. Gurdjieff authorised Ouspensky’s plan to publish an account of Gurdjieff’s St. Petersburg lectures which would eventually be published as In Search of the Miraculous.

Despite their renewed collaboration and friendship Ouspensky again experienced the reservations which had first arisen in Essentuki and he now finally made the decision to work on his own. Once Gurdjieff’s Institute was well established he resumed lecturing independently.

Boris Ferapontoff kept extensive notes of Ouspensky’s lectures in Constantinople (a copy survives in the P.D. Ouspensky Memorial Collection at Yale University). These notes show that Ouspensky had begun to teach a synthesis of his own ideas and Gurdjieff’s system. Indeed the join between the two was seamless; the ideas he had put forward in Tertium Organum were now integrated by reference to the system.

He began to further develop some of the system ideas, for example the ‘law of three’, and to differentiate the phenomena arising from the six possible combinations of the three forces in a way which eventually led to his own teaching of ‘the six activities of man’.

He spoke of the different matters described by the ‘Food Table’ in a detailed manner not found in later published accounts. His own extensive knowledge of anatomy and physiology was apparent.

The System’s teaching of the ‘centres’ of consciousness which make up the human endowment was further developed by Ouspensky’s own understanding of the relationship of time between different cosmoses. According to Ferapontoff’s notes:

Different rates of perception of different centres. Man perceives more or less, depending upon the centre with which it is done. The rate of perception of centres is proportionate to the speeds of the three worlds. The rate of work of the formatory apparatus corresponds to the speed of man’s impressions. That of the moving centre – to that of mankind. That of the emotional centre – to that of earth. In the same phenomena receptivity is greater.

The notes also indicate that at these public lectures Ouspensky revealed a great deal that in later years would be spoken of only in private.

In May 1921 Ouspensky received a telegram from Lady Rothermere who, enthused by her reading of Tertium Organum and forwarding a substantial cheque for expenses, invited him to proceed immediately to London.

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