The Fourth Way

The Philosophy of the Fourth Way is partly based on the philosophy of the Fourth Way, a method for inner development brought to Western Europe by P.D. Ouspensky at the beginning of the last century.


Gurdjieff & Ouspensky

Pyotr Demjanovitsj Ouspensky (1878 – 1947) was a Russian philosopher. His teacher was Georgi Ivanovitsj Gurdjieff with whom he worked intensively for several years. They gained many followers in many countries. The core of the teachings and teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky is the Fourth Way System, a guideline for inner development that can be followed and practiced in everyday life. Ouspensky eventually settled in London, where he passed on the Fourth Way method in his The Study Society and to many followers (better: practitioners) including people from the School of Economic Science. This led to the creation of the School for (practical) Philosophy in the Netherlands in the early 60s, with many branches.

Ouspensky wrote several books, of which ‘In Search of the Miraculous’ is his most famous. The essence of what he wanted to convey can best be read in the relatively small book ‘The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution’ which he wrote shortly before his death and the Dutch edition of which was only published in 1979. In it, the Gurdjieff system is very compactly represented down to the smallest details. According to the insights of, it is as important a small book as, for example, the Bhagavad Gita.

Balance in development

The Fourth Way is a method for inner development that we can use in our daily lives, especially suitable for the Western person. It is a combination of the three traditional paths of development: that of the Mind (the philosopher or thinker), that of the Heart (the monk or devotee), and that of the Body (the fakir or yogi).

These three Paths, which each make our development possible from their respective Center (the rational, emotional, or movement/instinct center), are intended to eliminate all the wrong workings of those Centers. So:

  • The Rational Center, in addition to purifying the Feeling and Movement Center, must also curb/purify its own reasoning-based error
  • The Feeling Center, in addition to purifying the Reason and Movement Center, must also curb/purify its own wrong working of (negative) feelings and emotions
  • The Movement Center, in the purification of the other Centers, must also curb/purify its own unnecessary or excessive movement (also in the mind)

These three traditional paths each make complete development possible (they ultimately purify all three Centers) but are often no longer achievable in our modern society. Few people, for example, still choose to live in a monastery to follow the path of the heart (although many other devotional situations exist today). There are also very few fakirs to be found, although they can be found in some branches of bodywork (with the example of the Iceman Tim Hof).

The Fourth Way is therefore preferable in our current societal situation with work, family, and other obligations. After all, we can practice these three paths simultaneously (this is called the Fourth Way) in order to achieve a balanced inner emo-mental-physical development that enables us to be fully present in any situation and anchored in ourselves. The Fourth Way consists of purifying the three Centers, not in a state of seclusion, but in our daily lives, through daily development of these inner Centers in our house-tree-job-life. Our perception and our revaluation of what is happening in our Centers is the beginning of the inner work. Then unnecessary mechanisms, which can only exist in our unconsciousness and which burden and limit ourselves (and therefore often make us unhappy), will dissolve.

Four states

For us humans, there are four states of consciousness (possible): sleep – waking sleep – Self-consciousness – Objective consciousness.
In addition to our nighttime sleep, we are usually in the waking sleep, which we normally call being awake. In the waking sleep, we think, speak and act from many ‘I’s. These are stripped by identifications with all sorts of things. These I’s take turns (unnoticed by ourselves), don’t know each other or hardly at all, and together form our ego. As a result, we as a person/individual have no sustainable Self and Will. (Ouspensky did not use the term ego in his books, because it was not yet fashionable then). The ego is our identified personality. The word personality comes from persona (Lat.) which means mask.

By observing these I’s and their changing of the guard during the day, we can truly wake up, i.e., we see and transcend the mechanicity of our thinking, speaking, and acting. In the long run, bringing knowledge into practice can lead to the state of Self-awareness. From that state, it is possible to live from our true essence with our personality as ‘work tool’. In Self-awareness, we continuously, unwaveringly, and completely unidentifiably love ourselves and therefore also all our neighbors. We experience an ultimate state of self-expression to express ourselves in life and flourish in everything we do. What we call self-awareness in everyday language is therefore different from what is meant here now and is called ego-awareness or reflective consciousness on

From Self-awareness – an inner state that is not easily realized – the possibility of growth to Objective consciousness opens up. In this, we are inseparably connected and we love unconditionally and inviolably all the previously experienced ‘not-myself’, and well in fully devoted service and expression to this so-called ‘not-myself’, because in unlimited experience of truth, it is Known that all this is precisely my-Self! This is the ultimate state that is described in the Vedic philosophy as Sat-Chit-Ananda – Being in Conscious Knowing Bliss.

Self-remembrance = being fully awake

The essence of what Gurdjieff and Ouspensky teach us is that we hardly know ourselves and are unaware of it. We mostly act mechanically and we continuously identify with ideas, feelings, and situations. As a result, everything happens to us. In waking sleep, our body is awake, but our mind is unconscious in the sense that we ‘do not remember ourselves’. So through self-remembrance and self-observation, we really need to wake up. And by first realizing that we are not awake and are in a kind of sleep. Fully realizing this means that we shouldn’t think that we are already awake, from imagination, but that we – every time we are awake for a moment – see that we weren’t awake and had forgotten to remember ourselves.

Inner development is therefore only possible if we deeply recognize that we are (still) not awake and therefore (still) not developed or inwardly free. Sometimes a shock is needed to realize this. But this recognition can also arise gradually and in harmony by continuously and unwaveringly giving the Observer in us the chance to inform us about how our inner state is. Our neutral Observer is the one who remembers himself (by watching what he is not). This inner observation, and following the information we then gain, is necessary and then this self-remembrance will become more of a self at some point, which is something very different from things mechanically happening by themselves. In a feeling observation of ourselves, we perceive our environment. Over time, we will have moments of self-remembrance more often during the day. Those moments when we truly observe will then last a little longer each time. The silence and stability we then start to experience gradually becomes deeper. Then our entire mental instrument will serve us to truly become inwardly free, unidentified, with a sustainable Self and Will, and truly awake and able to ‘do by not doing’.

Permanent effort in relaxation and inner discipline is needed for inner unity. This is following what we know. Anyone who ultimately becomes one inwardly is in Self-awareness, is always at peace, whatever they think, whatever they feel, and however they move and act, in any situation whatsoever.


© Michiel Koperdraat