Ouspensky analyzes certain older schools of thought, of both East and West, connects them with modern ideas and explains them in the light of twentieth-century discovery and speculations in physics and philosophy. In the process he explores relativity, the fourth dimension, Christian symbolism, the tarot, yoga, dreams, hypnotism, eternal recurrence, and various psychological theories.
The book closes with an examination of the role of sex in the evolution of man toward superman. Anyone interested in the occult, mysticism and the relationship of those elements to scientific developments in the modern world will find much to ponder in these stimulating, thought-provoking pages.
P. D. Ouspensky (1878-1947), along with Aleister Crowley, Madame Blavatsky, and George Gurdjieff, was one of the most important and influential figures in the occult movements of the twentieth century.
In 1907 he became interested in Theosophy. By the autumn of 1913, aged 35, he journeyed to the East in search of the miraculous. He travelled in Europe and the East- India, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Egypt- in his search for knowledge. While visiting Theosophists in Adyar, he was forced to return to Moscow after the beginning of the Great War.
After his return to Russia and his introduction to Gurdjieff in 1915, he spent the next 10 years studying with Gurdjieff directly under his supervision, and he later supported the founding of a school.
In 1917, he published a book in Russian entitled A New Model of the Universe. The work, as reflected in its title, shows the influence of Francis Bacon and Max Müller, and has been interpreted as an attempt to reconcile ideas from natural science and religious studies with esoteric teachings in the tradition of Gurdjieff and Theosophy. The work has attracted the interest of a number of philosophers and has been a widely accepted authoritative basis for a study of metaphysics. According to Ouspensky: "The idea of esotericism ... holds that the very great majority of our ideas are not the product of evolution but the product of the degeneration of ideas which existed at some time or are still existing somewhere in much higher, purer and more complete forms." (p. 47)
Ouspensky's lectures in London were attended by such literary figures as Aldous Huxley, T. S. Eliot, Gerald Heard and other writers, journalists and doctors. His influence on the literary scene of the 1920s and 1930s as well as on the Russian avant-garde was immense but still very little known. It was said of Ouspensky that, though nonreligious, he had one prayer: not to become famous during his lifetime.