Peter Demianovich Ouspensky (March 4, 1878–October 2, 1947) was a Russian esotericist known for his exposition of the early work of George Gurdjieff. Ouspensky studied with Gurdjieff for ten years, from 1915 to 1924. Around 1930 Ouspensky moved to London where he began to teach the Fourth Way. His best known works include, The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution, In Search of the Miraculous, The Fourth Way and A Further Record.

Ouspensky on Know Thyself

Ouspensky outlined the path to self-knowledge before his students. Man, in his normal condition, was ignorant of himself – a ‘lying’ machine, according to one of his definitions. Self-knowledge was too high to serve as a beginning step; self-study was where man could begin, in observing himself and compiling a collection of ‘photographs’ that captures his unconscious behaviour in different moments of the day.

To know oneself—this was the first principle and the first demand of old psychological schools. We still remember these words, but have lost their meaning.

We think that to know ourselves, means to know our peculiarities, our desires, our tastes, our capacities and our intentions.

The most fundamental thing is to know oneself, although if certain things do not change you cannot know yourself.

To know oneself is a long process. First we must study.

Very soon after starting to observe himself, a man will begin to distinguish useful features and harmful features in himself, that is, useful or harmful from the point of view of his possible self-knowledge, his possible awakening, his possible development. He will see sides of himself, which can become conscious, and sides which cannot become conscious and must be eliminated.


Further Reading:
Gurdjieff on Know Thyself
Emerson on Know Thyself
George Sand on Know Thyself