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Some Insights from Ouspensky's Tertium Organum

There is a book that I recently read called Tertium Organum by a man named P.D. Ouspensky.


This book is a great read and contains much food for thought that is worth going over and re-quoting. The main ideas of interest to me were three.



1) The notion that our idea of motion or space-time is a reflection of our ignorance, of our not being able to perceive the 4th dimension in it's total aspect.


2) The notion of the three levels of potential power, from physical, to biological to psychical.


3) The idea of how the invisible sphere of the psychical is connected not within time but outside of time and this is why ideas can hide (seemingly disappear in time) and then reappear seemingly unconnected by physical causes again "in time". Resurrected by some book or phrase that was remembered and re-uttered again later on in time.



Below are 2 of the 3 areas of interest above discussed in P.D. Ouspensky's actual quotes taken from Tertium Organum. The first area of interest, that our subjective perception of motion or spacetime is merely a reflection of our ignorance of the 4th dimension will not be covered here in this blog, but might be covered in a later blog tentatively titled "Are motion and spacetime a reflection of our ignorance of the 4th dimension?"


On the Three Levels of Potential Power

Physical, Biological, Psychical

Volcano, Living Cell, Book





Also containing arguments against the Positivist Philosophers arguments


Everything below this is a quote from P.D. Ouspensky's Tertium Organum in a way that amalgamates and concisely summarizes and explains the aforementioned subjects of interest.

Modern physics assumes electro-magnetic phenomena as the basis of all physical phenomena.


By no combination of physical conditions can science create life, just as by chemical synthesis it cannot create living matter- proto-plasm.


In similar manner, physical, chemical and mechanical phenomena cannot themselves produce the phenomena of consciousness, i.e., thought. Were it otherwise, a rotating wheel, after the expenditure of a certain amount of energy, or after the lapse of a certain time, could generate an idea. Yet, we know perfectly well that the wheel can go on rotating for millions of years, and no single idea will be produced by it at all. Thus we see that the phenomena of motion differ in a fundamental way from the phenomena of life and of consciousness.


We know that at the basis of our procreative force lies desire-that is, a psychical state, or a phenomenon of consciousness. Desire is possessed of enormous potential force. Out of the united desire of man and of a woman, a whole nation may come into being. At the root of the active, constructive, creative force of man, that can change the course of rivers, unite oceans, cut through mountains, lies desire, i.e., again a psychical state, or a phenomenon of consciousness. Thus, psychic phenomena possess even greater unifying force with relation to physical phenomena than do the phenomena of life.


Physical phenomena of themselves, inside the limits of our existence and observation, never create, the phenomena of life and the phenomena of consciousness. Consequently we may with greater right assume that in the phenomena of life and in the phenomena of consciousness there is something which does not exist in physical phenomena.


We shall discover that sometimes an almost negligible amount of physical force may liberate an enormous, a colossal amount of physical energy. But all that we can ever assemble of physical force is powerless to liberate a single iota of that vital energy necessary for the independent existence of a single microscopic living organism.


From personal experience, from observation, from history, we know that ideas, feelings, desires, manifesting themselves, can liberate enormous quantities of energy, and create infinite series of phenomena. An idea can act for centuries and millenniums and grow and deepen, evoking ever new series of phenomena, liberating ever fresh energy. We know that thoughts continue to live and act when even the very name of the man who created them has been converted into a myth, like the names of the founders of ancient religions, the creators of the immortal poetical works of antiquity-heroes, leaders, prophets. Their words are repeated by innumerable lips, their ideas are studied and commented upon. Their preserved works are translated, printed, read, studied, staged, illustrated. And this is done not only with the masterpieces of genius, but some single little verse may live millenniums, making hundreds of men work for it, serve it, in order to transmit it further.


Undoubtedly each thought of a poet contains enormous potential force, like the power confined in a piece of coal or in a living cell, but infinitely more subtle, imponderable and potent.


This remarkable correlation of phenomena may be expressed in the following terms: the farther a given phenomenon is from the visible and sensed-from the physical, the farther it is from matter-the more there is in it of hidden force, the greater the quantity of phenomena it can produce, can leave in its wake, the greater amount of energy it can liberate, and so the less it is dependent upon time.


The microscopic living cell is more powerful than a volcano-the idea is more powerful than the geological cataclysm.


On Positivism


Positivism is very good when it seeks an answer to the question of "how" something operates under given conditions; but when it makes the attempt to get outside of its definite conditions (space, time, causation), or presumes to affirm that nothing exists outside of these given conditions, then it is transcending its own proper sphere.


In other words, it sees in causal and functional interdependence merely phenomena proceeding upon the surface, and studies the visible world, or the phenomena of the visible world, not admitting that causes can enter into this world which are not contained in it or that the phenomena of this world can possess functions extending beyond it.


But taking into consideration the phenomena of life and thought we shall inevitably recognize that the chain of phenomena often translates itself from a sequence purely physical to a biological sequence, i.e., one in which there is much of the hidden and invisible to us- or to a psychical sequence where there is even more of the hidden; but during reverse translations from biological and psychical spheres into physical sequences actions proceed often, if not always, from regions which are hidden from us; i.e., the cause of the visible is the invisible.


In consequence of this we must admit that it is impossible to consider the chains of sequences in the world of physical phenomena only.


Regarding the matter from this standpoint we see that, just as in the life of one man and in the life of a society there are many streams, at times appearing on the surface and sprouting up in boisterous torrents, and at other time disappearing deep underground, hidden from view, but only waiting for their moment to appear again on the surface, so do we observe in the world continuous chains of phenomena and we perceive how these chains shift from one order of phenomena to another without a break. We observe how the phenomena of consciousness-thoughts,