90 of 92 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2000
One aspect of this book, The Fourth Way, that affects some negatively is it can seem to present an avalanche of separate ideas that can seem to overwhelm. Learning to awaken and practicing to awaken shouldn't seem like an act of trying to hold a thousand different ideas in your mind at the same time. Yet, as you study the ideas that are presented in this book (and the Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution and In Search of the Miraculous, to name two of the other more famous ones by Ouspensky...) you find that there are a handful of central ideas presented that have more weight and that act as a center-of-gravity of the entire language. When these central ideas are identified (Self-Remembering, Non-Identifying, Separation, External-Considering and the subtle practice of Transforming Negative Emotion are five of the most central ideas of the entire Work language...) you can then sort out all the rest of the seemingly vast array of things to observe or do or not do or ponder, etc...and see where they fall and where their place is relative to the central ideas and practices. Always re-orienting yourself by the light of the central ideas and practices. This book, the Fourth Way, also presents the cosmological side of the Work. Five of the central ideas of the cosmological side are the Ray of Creation, the Law of 3, the Law of 7, Scale (or, 'Degree') and Relativity. These ideas are used as metaphor and as models to understand the psychological side. This book is not dry and 'overly' (choose your own word) intellectual (nor is it boring if you are truly enthusiastic about learning rare ideas of a high order, ideas, by the way, that may indeed be found in various religious writings and schools but are hardly presented in such practical and precise and, yes, poetic and mysterious language). These ideas ARE poetic and mysterious and your understanding of their inner meanings and connections (not to mention your ability in actually practicing them) can increase as far as you can climb with your effort and your inspiration.
45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2006
After coming across this book a number of interesting developments coincided in my life, leading to enormous growth that was helped greatly by reading "The Fourth Way"... appropriately enough, one of Ouspensky's ideas is that we create a "permanent center of gravity", meaning that when we focus on esoteric knowledge events will happen in our life (e.g. meeting particular people, going through particular circumstances) that facilitate our growth.
This book is an incredible guide for people who desire self-knowledge, and are willing to put in the effort necessary to learn about their own psychology. The book is concerned with how we think, and ways to observe our self. An interesting entry point into this book is to simply observe your thoughts for a day... how does one thought lead to another? Where do they seem to arise from? When you are distracted, how much of your surroundings are you aware of? When you become distracted, do you tap your feet or unconsciously move your fingers or hands? If you aim to observe your self for one day, you will likely notice that your attention is swayed from one thing to another, and you have many unconscious habits and patterns of acting/reacting.
The scope of this book is absolutely enormous. I refer back to it all the time, and always find new wisdoms in it. Having recommended it to many friends, I've found it consistently blows away people who put the effort into reading it and observing themselves. This book is useful, interesting and in-depth, whether you have been practicing self-observation (e.g. meditation or self-analysis, body awareness through yoga or tai-chi or other disciplines) for years or just starting now.
This book is an excellent introduction to the ideas of Gurdjieff, and is written in a style that clearly elucidates the concepts of esoteric psychology (which I won't go into here, because other reviewers have and there is plenty of information floating through the internet). While Gurdjieff writes in a very challenging style that resembles that of Sufi parables (demonstrating his ideas through metaphor, storytelling or analogy) Ouspensky comes from a scientific background and approaches mysticism in a more rational and straightforward way... everything is outlined concisely and precisely, though there is still plenty of room for readers to interpret and apply in their own unique ways. The question/answer format of the book really helps guide the reader through that are covered.
This book is excellent for anybody interested in practical esotericism, psychology, mysticism and magic, or self-improvement and self-observation. The book is an immense source of information that provides foundation for self-knowledge, and its many meanings unravel more and more with every read. It is definitely the type of book that can enrich your life and make everything around you more interesting, helping you develop immensely.
[A note for people already familiar with the book... my personal opinion is that some of Ouspensky's writing is still metaphoric... for example, a few reviewers have complained about the idea of "feeding the moon". I find the moon idea very weird, but interesting when compared to writings about the Kabbalistic Tree of Life and the astral plane (e.g. Eliphas Levi, Israel Regardie, Dion Fortune). Perhaps it's a metaphor for the lunar part of the astral plane or the "gross region of the metaphysical cosmos containing the cast-off astral remnants of living creatures, the bestial and mental filth sloughed off by human beings in the ascent after death to higher spheres". Who knows? ]
53 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on August 17, 2000
The Fourth Way is a collection of questions and answers transcribed at meetings with Peter Ouspensky (or is it now PC to spell it "Uspenskii"?), a teacher of the fourth way system presented by Ouspensky's teacher, G.I. Gurdjieff. There is great substance in the book, and if one were able to distill it all, it may be that it contains practically everything one might really need to know about awakening. But substance must be transmitted in a form that is palatable. I have always found the book unbearably tedious and didactic. Ouspensky was without doubt a sincere man, and he may well have been a great teacher; his pupil Rodney Collin (who wrote some wonderful books himself) certainly thought so. His writings (and I've read quite a lot of them, including his papers at Yale's Sterling Library, which contain a few gems) also reveal him to have been stuffy, pompous, and to my mind overly intellectual. Reading The Fourth Way, one might imagine that awakening is not only a terribly complex matter, but requires familiarity with a vast array of concepts. 'Tain't so. Partly because of his era, and perhaps because it pleased him to imagine that he possessed information that was truly unique, Ouspensky also labored under the illusion that the fourth way system was, as he liked to call it, "esoteric." This is quaint, but what was "hidden knowledge" to Westerners sixty years ago can now be found in countless works in almost any bookstore, and is taught by genuine teachers of Buddhism, Sufism, and other traditions. One need not join a fourth way cult led by some self-appointed Gurdjieff wannabe and get humiliated and milked in order to awaken. (Although, based on some of the reviews of this and other Gurdjieff-related works, the tradition of "seekers" imagining that they possess the One Truth and all others are pathetic, benighted souls is alive and well.)
Regardless of the usefulness or uniqueness of the methods, however, the book itself is turgid and one of the most boring of its genre. This does not make it any more "practical" than a book that is interesting or inspiring; it simply makes it more boring. It's like being given unnecessarily unpleasant medicine by a musty old aunt who imagines that she knows all anyone could possibly know about health care. Now Ouspensky's In Search of the Miraculous is a different story altogether. It not only contains most of the essential material, but presents it in a way that holds the reader's interest. That one's a classic, and strongly recommended.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 1999
I consider THE FOURTH WAY to be one of the top 100 spiritual books I have ever read. It describes a practice called Self-Remembering which makes us present-in-life and lifts us out of our robotic habits. It describes the emotional and chemical changes which happen in our body and mind when we do this practice. It talks about the two most important places to apply this willed effort (when we remember and when we are under an negative emotion which makes us not want to do it). The book gives a comprehensive advanced psychology which allows us to make deep sense of this practice. The only reservation about the book is that it makes the practice seem harder than it needs to be and it makes the theory feel overintellectual at times. This detracts from its practical value.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2001
This book is much more accessible if you read Ouspensky's masterpiece In Search of the Miraculous first. Without doing so it will likely seem tedious and obscure, since the concepts necessary to appreciate it will be lacking.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 1998
The Fourth Way is one of a series of books that Ouspensky wrote describing his studies with G.I. Gurdjieff, his guru and guide who showed him the way to achieve a higher conscience through practical study and work that virtually anyone can do. A primer would be "In Search of the Miraculous." After you have read that, you will be ready The Fourth Way -- that is -- maybe. The Fourth Way is basically a how-to book on achieving a higher state of conscienceness that taken in all at once by the beginner can literally blow ones mind. Ouspensky even warns the reader that certain tecniques that he shows in the book can "break down buffers" that are needed to, well, keep one's sanity. This is heavy stuff -- great stuff, but beware, you will never see the world the same way ever again. Jim Wolf
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2004
One must keep in mind when reading this book that the author hammer the idea that all religious ideas are "models", so one must first learn the "language" to understand the ideas presented. So if you understand this, than the book may open your mind.
Second and for me the most important issue is that the book show you HOW to shut down the inner dialogue. I first read it and some years later reread it, and I managed to shut the dialogue down after a year of struggle, that was more than 25 years ago now. This keep your mind function mostly in Theta state and it gives you less stress and more insights into whatever you are "looking at".
PS. It does not make you above influenced on stress on a physical level, so change may be needed, but change are handled better.
By the way, Ouspenskys teaching is classified as Sufism (Islams esoteric branch), many don't know this but read up from this side also.
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2004
There's things that bothered me about the concepts brought forward in this book and there were other sections in it that were really rewarding.
The author Uspenskii goes through a marathon of questions and answers with a journalist (or is it a member or members of the audience, this is not clear) displaying the main ideas of the "school" as they are concentrated in a system of life-approaches called "the way". This is, by the way, a bulky book spanning over 600 pages.
This concept is basically focused on self awareness even if this is expressed in different terms, which in turn is nothing new in its own as this has been explored by the Chinese, Egyptians and Greeks 1000s of years ago. What might (and that's a big "might") be new here is the way this is achieved as Uspenskii talks repeatedly about "remembering oneself" hence achieving a primary state of awareness and working your away into deeper states as you become more concious, or, as he puts it, "not alseep".
There's of course plenty of food of thought as he develops this idea to his questioner:
-he states that most people need or (wind up doing so )to lie numerous times a day since they are not knowledgeful for the most part about what they're talking about, therefore they talk conciously about things they dont know.
-lies are a further way of keeping someone asleep as he perceives himself and the world around him as something other than they really are.
-In any case noone "posseses" only one self but several selves that vie for dominance and become expressed in different occasions and circumstances. But there are also "fake" or negative or imaginative selves that can slowly set a stronghold in the inner world of someone and thus perpetuate the "sleep".
This, along with countless other ideas that are presented in the "4th way" are, indeed, tremendously interesting and could be used to develop oneself further into what one really is.
The problem with Uspenskii is that throughout the book he maintains with a passion that all this cannot under any circumstances be achieved without the help of the "school"
which is an institution set up by himself after the inspiration he received from Giurdiiev (the one who conceived this whole philosophy).
This, in my mind, is a terribly stretched point, if not a rather suspicious one. There's no reason why someone could not achieve awareness on his own (people have done it to certain degrees for ages) especially when Uspenskii does a very unconvincing job explaining why someone would needthe "school's" help. There's several examples of people, who, yes, seeked "help" or inspiration in outer sources but did not need to attend a "school". As there are examples of the opposite too.
He's asked about this several times in the book and his answers are always vague and evasive. Another quite obvious contradiction, is that, while Uspenskii basically advocates detachment and non-identification with anything, he asks in reality that one identifies with the school, for how could one arrive to the belief that he needs a school without identifying with the idea that alone he's useless in that cause?
In any case, even with this rather dodgy occurence in his layout, Uspenskii does present a very insightful concept albeit one that could, in popular terms, be called a "best-of ancient philosophies".
The ideas presented by this Russian philosopher are definitely deep-cutting and can become very powerful tools in one's effort to evolve. Recommended but not for those who have a weak spot for being dominated by someone else's world.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2011
This details the beginning and ongoing development of the teachings of P.D. Ouspensky that evolved from his years of emersion in Eastern wisdom and the teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff. It is an outstanding follow up to "In Search of the Miraculous, Fragments Of an Unknown Teaching", his classic work published in 1949 and still in publication. It is my sense that the reader is drawn to such books when their spiritual path crosses a point where they beckon. It is then, while reading, an immediate sense of "the familiar" or "truth" is intuitively experienced. Read other reviews for details and should this book call to you, read it. If not, don't force it. Try something else. Maybe "The Power of Now", by Eckhart Tolle or "Faith" by Sharon Salzberg. It is not a matter of spiritual progress. It is simply where or if it pops in on your unique path.
13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2002
This should NEVER be the first book bought or read about "The Work," or "The Fourth Way"--which is why its title is so problematic. It is preferable to start almost ANYWHERE else, even (though not preferably, in my opinion) that bizarre opus known as "All And Everything."
However, for those who know and are serious about these ideas in their more practical form, and who try to incorporate them into their daily life, this is a treasure. PDO was able to take any of his students' questions and with laser-like precision, and a total lack of obfuscation, elucidate upon anything critical to Work. Whenever I feel stuck, or need a jolt of inspiration in my efforts I can use the index in the back and instantly re-connect with the ideas in their most sharp relief.
To read this through the first time will almost certainly prove trying, especially for those who have no valuation of this as anything above "B influence" work (or in non-Work language, all other "spirituality" and "literature") from elsewhere. But if you need knowledge, it's in these pages and you can refuse it or accept it in any form you see fit--linear or non-linear.