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Tertium Organum

P. D. Ouspensky

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This is P.D. Ouspensky's Tertium Organum, which he believed was the third major philosophical synthesis, the previous being those of Aristotle and Bacon. Originally issued in Russian in 1912, this is the second, revised edition. It was translated into English and published in 1922. In this book, Ouspensky uses the concept of the fourth dimension as an extended metaphor for the esoteric nature of reality.

This book has 367 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1922.

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Excerpt from 'Tertium Organum'

THE most difficult thing is to know what we do know, and what we do not know.

Therefore, desiring to know anything, we shall before all else determine WHAT we accept as given, and WHAT as demanding definition and proof; that is, determine WHAT we know already, and WHAT we wish to know.

In relation to the knowledge of the world and of ourselves, the conditions would be ideal could we venture to accept nothing as given, and count all as demanding definition and proof. In other words, it would be best to assume that we know nothing, and make this our point of departure.

But unfortunately such conditions are impossible to create. Knowledge must start from some foundation, something must be recognized as known; otherwise we shall be obliged always to de-fine one unknown by means of another.

Looking at the matter from another point of view, we shall hesitate to accept as the known things—as the given ones—those in the main completely unknown, only presupposed, and therefore the things sought for. Should we do this, we are likely to fall into such a dilemma as that in which positive philosophy now finds itself—and by positive philosophy I mean a general trend of thought based on the data of those sciences which are now accepted as experimental and positive. This philosophy is founded on the existence of matter (materialism) or energy: that is, of a force, or motion, (energeticism); though in reality matter and motion were always the unknown x and y, and were defined by means of one another.

It must be perfectly clear to everyone that it is impossible to accept the thing sought as the given; and impossible to define one unknown by means of another. The result is nothing but the identity of the unknown: x=y, y=x.

This identity of the unknown is the ultimate conclusion to which positive philosophy comes.

Matter is that in which proceed the changes called motion: and motions are those changes which proceed in matter.


But what do we know?

We know that with the very first awakening of knowledge, man is confronted with two obvious facts:

The existence of the world in which he lives; and the existence of psychic life in himself.

Neither of these can he prove or disprove, but they are facts: they constitute reality for him.

It is possible to meditate upon the mutual correlation of these two facts. It is possible to try to reduce them to one; that is, to regard the psychic or inner world as a part, reflection, or function of the world, or the world as a part, reflection, or function of that inner world. But such a procedure constitutes a departure from facts, and all such considerations of the world and of the self, to the ordinary non-philosophical mind, will not have the character of obviousness. On the contrary the sole obvious fact remains the antithesis of I and Not-I—our inner psychic life and the outer world.,

Further on we shall return to this fundamental thesis. But thus far we have no basis on which to found a contradiction of the obvious fact of the existence of ourselves—i.e., of our inner life—and of the world in which we live. This we shall therefore accept as the given.

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