A New Model of the Universe
by P.D. Ouspensky
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Foremost occultist analyzes certain older schools of thought, of both East and West, connects them with modern ideas and explains them in the light of 20th-century discoveries and speculations in physics and philosophy. Fascinating discussions of relativity, the fourth dimension, Christian symbolism, the tarot, yoga, dreams and more. Stimulating and thought-provoking.
Encyclopaedic in its character, A New Model of the Universe covers a vast range of subjects with the common theme of the nature and meaning of man’s existence. On an essentially religious level Ouspensky examines the ways to study the New Testament and includes his thoughts on Esotericism, the problem of Superman and the symbolism of the Tarot and the systems of Yoga. He goes on to explore the recent ideas of the New Physics: relativity, problems of space and time, three-dimensional time, the fifth and sixth dimensions and his own model of the Universe.
PREFACE TO SECOND EDITION
ONE of the American reviewers of the first edition of the "New Model of the Universe" remarks that two ideas in this book presented particular difficulties for
him: the idea of esotericism and the idea of the psychological method. It cannot be denied that, in general, these ideas are very far from modern thought.
But as there is no sense in reading my book without having some conception of the meaning of these two ideas I will try here to show ways of approach to them.
First of all both ideas need the recognition of the fact that human thought can work on very different levels.
The idea of esotericism is chiefly the idea of higher mind. To see clearly what this means we must first of all realise that our ordinary mind (including the mind of a genius) is not the highest possible order of human mind. The human mind can rise to a level almost inconceivable for us, and we can see the results of the work of higher mind, those most accessible to us in the Gospels, and then in Eastern Scriptures: in the Upanishads, in the Mahabharata; in works of art such as the Great Sphinx at Gizeh, and in other memorials though they are few in literature and art. The true valuation of the meaning of these and similar memorials and the realisation of the difference between them and others which have been created by ordinary man, or even by a genius, needs experience, knowledge and a special training of the mind and perception and, perhaps, special faculties not possessed by everyone. In any case nothing can be proven.
So that the first step towards understanding the idea of esotericism is the realisation of the existence of a higher mind, that is, a human mind, but one which
differs from the ordinary mind as much as, let us say, the mind of an intelligent and educated grown up man differs from the mind of a child of six. A genius is only a "Wunderkind ". A man of higher mind possesses a new knowledge which ordinary man., however clever and intelligent, cannot possess. This is esoteric knowledge.
Whether people of higher mind exist now and have existed always, or whether they appear on earth only at long intervals, is immaterial. The important point is that they exist and that we can come into contact with their ideas and, through these ideas, with esoteric knowledge. This is the essence of the idea of esotericism.
In order to understand what I mean by the " psychological method " it is necessary to realise first that the ordinary human mind, the one we know, can also
work on very different levels, and then to find the relation of the " psychologicalmethod " to the " esoteric method ".
We can see different levels of thought in ordinary life. The most ordinary mind, let us call it the logical mind, is sufficient for all the simple problems of life. We can build a house with this mind, obtain food, know that two and two make four, that the "Volga falls into the Caspian Sea" and that "horses eat oats and hay ". So that in its proper place the logical mind is quite right and quite useful. But when the logical mind meets with problems which are too big, and when it does not stop before them but starts out to solve them, it inevitably falls down, loses touch with reality and becomes in fact " defective ". To this " defective mind " and " defective method " of observation and reasoning humanity owes all superstitions and false theories beginning with the "devil with a goose's foot" and ending with marxism and psychoanalysis.
But a logical mind which knows its limitedness and is strong enough to withstand the temptation to venture into problems beyond its powers and capacities
becomes a " psychological mind ". The method used by this mind, that is, the psychological method, is first of all a method of distinguishing between different
levels of thinking and of realising the fact that perceptions change according to the powers and properties of the perceiving apparatus. The psychological mind can see the limitations of the " logical mind " and the absurdities of the " defective mind "— it can understand the reality of the existence of a higher mind and of esoteric knowledge, and see it in its manifestations. This is impossible for a merely logical mind.
If a man of logical mind hears about esotericism he will at once want to know where the people are who belong to the esoteric circle. who has seen them, and when and how he can see them himself. And if he hears that for him this is not possible he will then say that it is all nonsense and that no esoteric circle exists at all. Logically he will be quite right. But psychologically it is clear that with such demands he will not go far in his acquaintance with esotericism. A man has to be prepared, that is, he must realise the limitedness of his own mind and the possibility of the existence of another, better, mind.
Nor will esoteric ideas, that is, ideas coming from higher mind, say much to a logical man. He will ask, for instance: "Where are the proofs that the Gospels were
written by people of higher mind?"
Where indeed are the proofs? They are there, everywhere, in every line and in every word, but only for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. But the logical mind can neither see nor hear beyond a very small radius or the most elementary things.
This limitedness of the logical mind renders it powerless even before quite simple problems of ordinary life once they go beyond the limits of its accustomed
The man of logical mind who demands proofs for everything, at the present time, for instance, looks for the cause of the world economic and political crisis
everywhere except where it actually lies.
And even if he were told that the causes of the crisis lie in the existence of the Soviet government in Russia, and in the recognition and support of this government by other governments, he would never understand it. He is accustomed to think In a certain way and he is unable to think differently. For him the bolsheviks are a " political party " like any other party, and the Soviet Government is a " government " like any other government. He is unable to see that this is a new phenomenon different from anything he knew before.
Where are the proofs of this? he would ask.
And he will never see that this needs no proofs. Just as no proofs are needed of the inevitable appearance of the plague in his house when there is plague in the house opposite against which no steps whatever have been taken on the spot. But a man of logical mind cannot see that Soviet Russia is a plague-house. He prefers to believe in the " biggest social experiment in history," or in the "evolution of bolshevism", or in " bolsheviks giving up propaganda "; as though plague can " give up " propaganda and as though negotiations and treaties and " pacts " with plague were possible. In this particular case, of course, the man of logical mind errs almost consciously because he cannot resist the temptation to take advantage of the opportunity of snatching a profit out of the plague-house. The inevitable result is that the plague appears in his house. But even when it appears the man of logical mind still does not want to understand, from where it has come, and demands proofs".
But " proofs " are by no means always necessary in order to accept or to deny a given proposition. There are " psychological proofs " which mean much more than facts because facts can lie but psychological proofs cannot lie. But one must be able to feel them.
The term " psychological method " comes from " psychological proofs ". On the basis of these proofs it is possible to see the defects of logical thinking in regions inaccessible to it or in questions too big for it, and, in exactly the same way, it is often possible to see the direction in which lie probable solutions to problems which seem, or appear to be, insoluble. But this does not mean that with the help of the psychological method it will always be possible to find solutions to problems too difficult or too big for the logical mind. Real solutions canmcome only from higher mind possessing higher knowledge, that is, from esotericism. This is the difference between the psychological method and the esoteric method.
Let us try to imagine the four methods of observation and reasoning in relation
to the room in which I am writing this. The defective method is based upon a glance
at the room through the keyhole or through a narrow slit and its characteristic feature
is the certainty that what is seen through the keyhole or the slit represents all there is
and that there is and can be nothing else in it except what is visible in this way.
Given a certain imagination and a tendency towards superstition the defective
method can make something very strange or monstrous out of an ordinary room.
The logical method is based upon a glance at the room from one definite spot, at
one definite angle, and usually without enough light. Too big a confidence in it and
the defence of this angle of vision makes the logical method defective.
The psychological method compared with the two first would be like a view of
the room in daylight, moving about in it in various directions, knowing the objects in
it and so on. It is quite clear that it is possible to learn more about the room in this
way than by the logical method, and that it is possible to find many mistakes and
wrong conclusions of the defective method.
The esoteric method of approach to the study of the room would include not
only the whole room with everything it contains but the whole house, all the people
in it with all their relationships and their occupations; and further, the position of the
house in the street, of the street in the town, of the town in the country, of the
country on the earth, of the earth in the solar system and so on. The esoteric method
is limited by nothing and always connects every given thing, however small it may
be, with the whole.
Examples of " psychological ", " logical " and " defective " thinking abound
around us. Occasionally we meet with the psychological method in science. In
psychology itself the " psychological method " leads inevitably to the recognition of
the fact that human consciousness is merely a particular instance of consciousness,
and that an intelligence exists which is many times superior to the ordinary human
intelligence. And only a psychology which starts from this
proposition and has this proposition as its foundation can be called scientific. In other
spheres of knowledge psychological thinking lies at the root of all real discoveries,
but it usually does not keep long. I mean that as soon as ideas which have been found
and established by the psychological method become everybody's property and begin
to be looked upon as permanent and accepted, they become logical and, in their
application to phenomena of a greater size, defective. For instance, Darwin—his
discoveries and his ideas were the product of psychological thinking of the very
highest quality. But they had already become logical with his followers and, later on,
they became undoubtedly defective, because they stood in the way of the free
development of thought.
This is exactly what Ibsen's Dr. Stockmann meant when he spoke about ageing
There are truths, he says, which have attained such an age that they have really
outlived themselves. And when a truth becomes as old as this it is on the best way to
become a lie. . . . Yes, yes, you may believe me or not, but truths are not such long
lived Methuselahs as people imagine them to be. A normally constructed truth lives
as a rule, let us say, fifteen, sixteen, at the most twenty, years, seldom longer. But
such ageing truths become terribly lean and tough. And the majority, having first of
all been created by them, later recommends them to humanity as healthy spiritual
food. But I can assure you there is not much nourishment in such food. I must speak
about this as a doctor. All the truths belonging to the majority are like ancient rancid
bacon or like rotten green ham; and from them comes all the moral scurvy which is
eating itself into the life of the people around us.
The idea of the degeneration of accepted truths cannot be expressed better. Truths
that become old become decrepit and unreliable;
sometimes they may be kept going artificially for a certain time, but there is no life in
them. This explains why reverting to old ideas, when people become disappointed in
new ideas, does not help much. Ideas can be too old.
But in other cases old ideas may be more psychological than the new. New ideas
can just as easily be too logical and therefore defective.
We can see many curious examples of the conflict between psycho-logical and
logical thinking, which then of necessity becomes defective, in various " intellectual
" reforms of old habits and customs. Take, for instance, reforms in weights and
measures. Weights and measures which have been created through the centuries, and
which are different in different countries, appear at the first glance to have taken one
or another form by chance, and to be too complicated. But in reality they are always
based on one definite principle. In each separate
class of things or material to be measured, a different divisor (or multiplier) is used,
sometimes very complicated, as in the English system of weights—16 ounces to a
pound, 14 pounds to a stone for comparatively small weights, and for larger weights
28 pounds to a quarter, 112 pounds to a hundredweight, 20 hundredweight to a ton,
or, for instance, a simple multiplier like 8 in the Russian measurement of grain which
is never repeated in relation to anything else This is real psychological method
created by life and experience because, thanks to different coefficients in different
cases, a man making mental calculations involving the measurements of several
different materials cannot contuse either objects of different denominations or the
measures of different countries (should he have to deal with the measures of different
countries) because each order of multiplier itself tells him what is being measured
and with what measure Those who do not like these old complicated systems are the
school teachers, who are, as is well known, the most logical people in the world
Different weights and measures seem to them unnecessarily confusing
In 1793 the Convention decided to replace the existing French measures by one "
natural " measure After lengthy and complicated " scientific " activity and research
such a measure was acknowledged as being one ten-millionth of one fourth part of
the earth's meridian, which was called a metre.
There is no direct proof of it, but I am sure that the idea of a " natural " measure
and the metric system was born in the minds of teachers of arithmetic, because it is
so much easier to divide and multiply everything by ten, having done away with all
other divisors and multipliers But for all ordinary necessities of life the metric
system of weights and measures is far less practical than the old systems, and it
weakens to a considerable degree a man's ability to make simple mental calculations,
which is very marked in countries where the metric system has been adopted
Everyone who has ever been in France remembers the French shopkeepers' pencil
and paper on which is often written 5+5=10, but there are very few who know that
this is one of the conquests of the Great French Revolution.
Exactly the same thing takes place in attempts to change the old orthography
All orthographies must certainly be adapted to new requirements, let us say, once in
a hundred years, and this takes place of itself, in a natural way But violent reforms
and the introduction of so called "phonetic" spelling (only "so called" because real
phonetic spelling is impossible in any language) generally upsets the entire trend of
the normal development of a language, and very soon people begin to write in
different ways and then to pronounce in different ways, that is, to adapt
pronounciation to the new spelling This is
the result of the application of the logical method to a problem which goes beyond
the limits of its possible action. And it is quite clear why: the process of reading and
writing is not a process of reading and writing letters, it is a process of reading and
writing words and sentences. Consequently, the more words differ from one another
in their form and appearance the easier does the process of reading and writing
proceed, and the more they resemble one another (as is inevitable in " phonetic "
spelling) the slower and the more difficult is the process of reading and writing. It is
quite possible that it is easier to teach " phonetic " spelling than the normal spelling,
but for the rest of his life the man who has been taught in this way is left with a most
unsatisfactory instrument for learning other peoples' ideas and for expressing his
This is exactly what is happening now in Russia. Just before the revolution a
commission of teachers (there is no doubt of it in this case) under the presidency of
the Rector of Moscow University, was formed for the investigation of ways of
reforming spelling. This commission worked out a very absurd " new spelling "
absolutely unsuitable for the Russian language, breaking all principles of grammar
and contradicting all the laws of the natural development of the language. This "
spelling " would never have been accepted if the Academy and the literary circles
had had time to express their opinion on it, that is, if the revolution had not occurred
just at that time. But having come into power the bolsheviks introduced this new "
spelling." And under its influence the language at once began to deteriorate and to
lose its strength and clarity. If " phonetic " spelling were to be introduced into
English speaking countries, the English language would very quickly disappear and
twenty or thirty varieties of " pidgin-English " would take its place.
Another interesting example of the logical method as opposed to the
psychological, one which is now almost generally accepted in several countries, is
the co-education of boys and girls. Logically co-education seems to be quite right,
but psychologically it is absolutely wrong, because by this system both boys and
girls alike lose many of their characteristic features, particularly those which should
be developed in them, and they both acquire other features which they never should
have. And besides, both of them learn to lie immeasurably more than they could
learn even in the best of the old kind of schools.
Let us take other examples. What could be more logical than the Holy
Inquisition with its tortures and burning of heretics; or bolshevism, which began by
destroying schools, universities and technical institutes, in this way cutting off its
own supply of trained specialists necessary for the new industrialisation which has been so much
advertised? If this is not so, then why do the bolsheviks need foreign engineers? In
this respect Russia for a long time lived on its own resources. And further, what can
be more logical and, at the same time, more unsuccessful than all possible
prohibitions, like the American experiment in prohibiting alcoholic drinks? And
what can be easier? Any fool, if he has the power in his hands, can find something to
prohibit and in this way show his vigilance and his good intentions. All this is the
result of the logical method. The danger of the logical method in all possible spheres
of life lies in the fact that at the first glance it is the easiest and the most effective
The psychological method is much more difficult and, in addition, it is often
very disappointing because, by following the psychological method a man often sees
that he does not understand anything and does not know what to do. Whereas by
following the logical method he always understands everything and always knows
what to do.
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