Esotericism (LVIII): Ouspensky’s last days (3)

Esotericism (LVIII): Ouspensky’s last days (3)

- in Esotericism

1. Rodney Collin Smith is designated in the Last Remembrances of a Magician, appears to be the most important character in the story of Ouspensky’s final years, not just days. Born in 1909 he was in his early 40’s when by chance he accompanied Ouspensky on the steamship to America, stayed with him for most of those six years and rejoined him at Easter in 1947 at Lyne Place until Ouspensky’s death (Oct. 2nd).

He is supposed to be writing Last Remembrances of a Magician together with Dr. Roles but most of the writing must have been done by him (in my view, all of it). Any information contained in the document referring to Ouspensky’s stay in USA could come only from Collin Smith since Dr. Roles was in England throughout that period.

Unfortunately Collin Smith says very little about Ouspensky’s illness and his conduct in America, especially the early period when Marie Seton was there and so we could cross check their accounts: the one by a devout follower, the other by a sympathetic but rather irreverent young woman.

2. Collin Smith is never at a loss to indulge in his own subjective appreciation of events and interpretation of Ouspensky’s words and deeds.

Thus in the summer and winter of 1946 even as “they” (who?) sat with Ouspensky in the study eating zakouska and drinking Traminer, with Ouspensky’s large cat Ripples lying before the fire, “they” had the impression “of Ouspensky moving farther and farther away on the other side of a great gulf… so that communication grew more difficult”.

Ouspensky could say for instance “Cat watches” or “Open the bottles” and these were symbols “of some deeper truth”. The second is then explained as referring “to try everything, leave nothing undone, taste all experience… unlock all secrets.” But the “Cat watches” is not elucidated! Are we to understand that the cat symbolises the Higher One-Self who is always observing without being affected?

All this “accorded with his (Collin Smith’s) own long growing feeling that one must come to one’s own truth independently of – almost in spite of – the extraordinary explanations of every phase of life they intellectually possessed” (p19)!!!

3. One November evening when Collin Smith was alone with Ouspensky, “in a very gentle and open mood”, then Mrs. Collin Smith joined them too. They drank but hardly spoke and Collin Smith “almost never” had felt “such complete trust, respect and certainty”.

This is totally subjective. And as the narrative proceeds, especially in the “classified” chapters (e.g. 12,13) Collin Smith changes in mood more frequently and easily than his underwear. It is difficult to place much credence in Collin Smith.

In the previous paper we saw that Collin Smith thought of Ouspensky’s “incredible honesty” in denying that he ever gave a teaching and help to people or that he said people were machines (things which Ouspensky did for 20 years!). It was so unusual an honesty that it appeared as “a trait of superman” and “half the hearers were left baffled”!

It was a way, continues bravely Collin Smith, whereby Ouspensky “tore away the illusion of common aim which lies at the back of many hypocrisies” (p17). The writer constantly seems so conceited!!!

4. After his return, Ouspensky started his second meeting by announcing that he had had an interesting meeting in New York in which had come “many people that he knew before… people that [he had] met in Petersburg.” And after some unrelated question from the audience Ouspensky continued: “I met many people I didn’t expect. Several quite unexpectedly without knowing one another, and they met. Most of them I met in Petersburg. All sorts. Or two or three. Well, I wanted to begin in that way”.

Nobody remembered such a meeting in New York. Nor did Collin Smith. But he did later remember that Ouspensky had once said back in America that “all his old friends came to see him, sat around the table, people from all periods of his life, from Petersburg, from Moscow and talked to him”.

This sounds to me like advanced senility recalling with nostalgia its past when it was perhaps much happier than at present. But our writer, who never, it seems, appreciated the fantastic vagaries of discursive mind, sees here “some definite exercise in preparation for recurrence” (p19) – that is next life.

How reminiscing with imaginings is an exercise for recurrence is beyond both my limited emotional and intellectual comprehension.

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