This is the first book on the Fourth Way that I picked up to read, however I would absolutely not suggest it to anyone else looking to get into the Fourth Way for the first time. Instead, I would suggest the book, In Search of the Miraculous also by P. D. Ouspensky. It gives a much easier introduction to the system because it reads more as a story of Ouspensky’s relationship with Gurdjieff, the man who brought the system to the West. However, once a person is familiar with the majority of the Fourth Way concepts and has a relatively firm grasp of the terms used, The Fourth Way is an excellent book for expanding one’s knowledge on the subject.
The book was not written by Ouspensky as such, but was gathered together after his death by his students who had written down, the best they could, verbatim accounts of many of his talks on the Fourth Way system. So each chapter reads like one of Ouspensky’s talks, which always started out with a very short lecture on some particular area of the teachings. Then the rest of the chapter presents questions from his students and his answers to them. This method of question and answer was what he used to get a real idea of what his students wanted to know or didn’t understand, rather than simply lecturing on and on about things that they may not have been interested in and would simply ignore.
The reason that this book is not a good entry into the system is that it discusses a fair amount of the ideas in a manner that assumes some pre-knowledge about it, but also because it is incredibly dense. It takes a real conscious effort to read the book as mechanically reading through it to the end would be useless and one would gain next to nothing. I tend to read pretty quickly, but it took me a long time to read the book the first time through as I read very carefully everything to make sure I was understanding it as best as I could. But the ideas are so complex, so high level, and so dense that I have read the book multiple times and still need to keep reading it to really grasp much of what is being said.
It is also helpful to be able to look up particular issues within the system through the index and to read a selection of discussions on the topic to either refresh one’s memory on it or to try to get a better grasp on areas that are personally confusing or need expansion. Each chapter also starts with a short list of topics discussed in the chapter that are duplicated on the contents page, to more easily skip ahead to things that are needed.
Some of the material, such as the discussions of the Ray of Creation, the levels and rules of the Planets, Solar Systems, and the Universe, and the emphasis on mathematical grades of the seven notes of the scale can become very confusing and overwhelming if one thinks that they should understand everything that is taught. These sections could honestly do with a separate guide discussing them in better context, as otherwise they can sound like borderline nonsense, especially to someone who is not scientifically inclined. Though I use “scientifically” in a general sense, one that would not be agreed to by many scientists these days.
I would highly suggest the book to anyone who is looking for a greater understanding of the Fourth Way, especially if they have read one or two other books on the system. Even a complete, and brave, newcomer to the Fourth Way could get a lot from it if they are ready for some real work!