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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 25. 3rd October 1973

Talks with a Devil:

Talks with a Devil:

Who is Peter Ouspensky?

What is truth?

What is the function of organic life?

What is matter?

What is body?

Those were the sorts of questions that occupied the famous Russian mystic Peter Demiandvich Ouspensky all his adult life.

He realised that the quality of the answer depended on the way the question was put, i.e that his questions demanded more than ordinary thought-energy for their solution.

His life's work was a search for ways of harnessing the unlimited energies existing in the human body to the solution of his questions, and more generally, of harnessing these energies to the will of man.

Most of us believe that the body is composed of cells, that these are built up of molecules, these of atoms, etc. Ouspensky does not deny all this but asserts that man himself is the root energy from which all other orders of energy and matter arise. His problem is one of programming, he is somehow rigidly tuned in, by nature, to the everyday material world, and identifies automatically with the sheerly corporeal.

J.G. Bennett writes in his introduction to "Talks with a Devil": "Ouspensky wrote these two stories ('The Inventor', 'The Benevolent Devil'), to express his belief that the material world is the only reality. This belief, he said, is the source of most human troubles because people fight uselessly over unreal issues disregarding the only real problem which is that of liberation from attachment to matter."

Drawing of a naked man

If all the foregoing is accepted, the problem becomes one of waking up to the reality of the situation. Ouspensky believed for most of his life that individual efforts at detachment are insufficient and that only group efforts are workable.

"In the last weeks of his life in 1947," however he called upon his followers to make a fresh start in his or her own way.

Any one interested but as yet unacquainted with Ouspensky's writing would do well to read his "In Search of the Miraculous" (Routledge and Kegan Paul 1950).

"Talks with a Devil" was written a few years prior to "In Search of the Miraculous". These two stories are interesting to anyone already interested in Ouspensky's work. Astute observations abound. But read purely as fiction they seem overly cool, detached, and rather coy. Ouspensky unlike his one-time teacher Gurdjieff was a bit of a puritan. This book is not recommended to the unconverted.