This is one of the most extraordinary books ever written. Ouspensky, a mathematician, writer, and intellectual meets a system of spiritual development, ancient but at the same time strikingly new in its formulation, and descibes it in lucid and even entertaining prose.
The teacher of this system was G.I.Gurdjieff. The origins of both the man and his teaching are obscure, and Gurdjieff did his best to make the teaching itself obscure to the point of absurdity. The reason for this, as stated in the introductory chapter of Gurdjieff's own book, 'All and Everything,' was to shake up our habitual thinking, to prevent the ideas being simply amalgamated with our habitual ways of thought. Gurdjieff having achieved this, it fell to Ouspensky to untangle the system again and present it for the modern mind. This he achieved not merely by an intellectual effort, but by verifying the system in himself. This book records the unfolding of the teaching almost in the style of a novel.
It is in this book that Ouspensky states most clearly one of the core ideas of the fourth way system: 'we do not remember ourselves.' Contrary to all our usual assumptions, we do not possess consciousness. Ouspensky's achievement of this initial and very humbling realisation is recorded with great candour. Yet this is the foundation of all that follows: a programme for the psychological and spiritual development of human beings.
In the opinion of this reviewer, this book, together with the much more intellectual 'The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution,' are Peter Ouspensky's greatest books. They contain insights, obvious to those who have studied the system seriously, which remain entirely absent from mainstream psychology and philosophy.