Book Name

Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution by Peter Ouspensky


Sit Down and Read

One Line Summary

How far can man go?

The Setup

Have you ever felt that there is a tremendous difference in the mental evolution of certain people? In common language, we talk about maturity or growing up. But can we say for certain that the average person really accomplishes this? Could it be that there is still much more room to evolve than most people believe?

Ouspensky says yes. In fact, the possibilities for a human’s mental growth is so far beyond the average person that it’s enough to make them still seem asleep.

This book, Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution, examines this evolution. What is mankind’s current state? What is the ultimate end goal? And how can this gap be traversed?

It’s a short but powerful book that talks about psychology in a way that most people would have never considered. His conclusions are both enlightening and possibly disturbing, depending on your point of view.

On one hand, we are in a tough situation with regards to our own development. But on the other hand, if you’re reading my blog, than you’re probably the kind of person who wants to grow. You want to see how far you can go with your own potential. The possibilities Ouspensky presents in this book are so inspiring that you will be glad you’ve come across this knowledge.

 Why it’s Awesome

“Man does not know himself. He does not know his own limitations and his own possibilities. He does not even know to how great an extent he does not know himself.”

-Peter Ouspensky

Did you know that you’re a machine? I don’t mean in the sense that you’re made of metal or anything like that. I mean that you’re fundamentally mechanical in the way that you act.

Machines are pre-programmed. When I press the “on” button on my laptop, it fires up. Assuming it doesn’t break down at some point, it will always do this. It will always perform a certain way given a set of external inputs.

This is how you live, although people don’t like to admit this. We like to believe in free will because 1) it gives us a sense of control and 2) it certainly does seem like we have some sense of control. After all, if I ask you to make a fist with your hand, you can do that. And every day you make practical decisions.

But this is not looking into the question deeply enough. Fundamentally, people are still machine-like in their actions. They fall into unconscious behavior patterns that can easily be predicted. In essence, they are walking around in a dreamlike state.

We can, and often do come out of this dream-walking. It’s called self-consciousness, or being present. It’s essentially when you are aware right now that you’re existing. People would like to believe that they’re typically present to what is happening, but actually they’re not. We only have memories that make it feel like we were present.

This is a very tricky thing to try and explain, so let’s do an experiment.

Set a timer for 1 minute. During that one minute, I want you to be self-conscious. Just be aware that you are sitting here, existing and experiencing life. Notice that being aware is not the same thing as thinking. When you’re done, come back to reading this post.


If you’re like most people, that was difficult. To try and keep ourselves self-conscious is almost like trying to keep your head above water as you sink. You probably did okay for a bit, but slowly you caught it slipping away from you.

So we’ve shown that maybe you’re not always as awake as you think you are. Business play on this fact all the time. What is fast food but food that is designed to appear to your unconscious desire for salt and fat? You know you shouldn’t eat it, but you fall unconscious and do it anyway. Business know that as a machine, when presented with a certain input you’ll perform a certain action.

But this is not a death sentence. Clearly not everyone is running around eating McDonalds 24/7. Why?

The answer is that we can raise how self-conscious we are. This is where Ouspensky starts to talk about what is possible in terms of man’s psychological evolution.

Ouspensky explains that there are four main types of consciousness: sleep, relative consciousness, self-consciousness and objective consciousness. Sleep is exactly what it sounds like, i.e you are physically asleep. Relative consciousness is what most people consider being awake and going about their everyday lives. This is the average consciousness.

Self-consciousness, or presence, is what I just demonstrated people lack. Objective consciousness is consciousness that views things objectively and truthfully as opposed to how we want them to be. Each successive stage represents a higher evolution in man’s psychology. However these stages are relatively arbitrary, and in reality consciousness is more like a spectrum than stages that you simply jump to.

Notice that most people would say that they already process self and objective consciousness even though they actually don’t have much of either. Everyone believes their truth is the “right truth”. By believing that they already have evolved to a certain stage, it stops them from pursuing more. So the first condition for climbing this ladder is understanding your lack of consciousness.

The fact is that we don’t view our reality objectively. Not even close. What we believe in is actually whatever is useful to us.

There is a classic example in self-development which demonstrates the power of this selective focus. Take a minute and look around your room for only objects that are the color RED. Red, red, red. It’s all about red.

Did you do it? Good. Now without looking, tell me what you saw was BLUE.

Oh you can’t do it? Why not? Because you were looking for red. In fact, you probably even fudged the results a bit. That maroon color object? Close enough.

So your selective focus is extremely powerful. Now imagine you don’t do this with just colors, but with everything. Every belief you have. Everything you experience is filtered through this selective focus to such a degree that it’s like you’re living in your own world. You’re not even close to objective.

This is always why the second stage of consciousness is called relative consciousness. We live in a relative world of truth, where nothing is absolutely true but people talk and act as if their ideas are true. Ouspensky then makes the claim that therefore one of the chief aims of psychology is the study of lying, i.e believing things to be true when they cannot be.

Besides lying, Ouspensky also adds that psychology is the study of oneself. You have to observe and know yourself and all the ways you fall into being a machine. When does the machine work? When does it fail?

This self-observation is the key to ascending these stages of consciousness. Once you have observed something, you are now conscious of it. Light has illuminated the shadow.

You might be wondering at this point okay, but why? Why should I worry about this stuff? I just want to make more money, get in a relationship, etc.

Here’s why: you cannot be happy in lower stages of consciousness. If you admit that you do everything ultimately because you wish to be happy, then this sort of work will be extremely important to you eventually. It isn’t going anywhere.

Why can’t you be happy in lower stages of consciousness? Because in lower consciousness, you’re still identified with your negative emotions. I’ll quote Ouspensky here because the way he describes this is beautiful:

Man must sacrifice his suffering.

‘What could be easier to sacrifice?’ everyone will say. But in reality people would sacrifice anything rather than their negative emotions. There is no pleasure and no enjoyment man would not sacrifice for quite small reasons, but he will never sacrifice his suffering. And in a sense there is a reason for this.

In a quite superstitious way man expects to gain something by sacrificing his pleasures, but he cannot expect anything for sacrifice of his suffering. He is full of wrong ideas about suffering—he still thinks that suffering is sent to him by God or by gods for his punishment or for his edification, and he will even be afraid to hear of the possibility of getting rid of his suffering in such a simple way.

The idea is made even more difficult by the existence of many sufferings from which man really cannot get rid, and of many other sufferings which are entirely based on man’s imagination, which he cannot and will not give up, like the idea of injustice, for instance, and the belief in the possibility of destroying injustice.

This is incredible point Ouspensky is making. People aren’t happy not because they can’t, but because they refuse to be. However, at the same time people consciously believe they are “moving towards happiness”. They don’t do anything that they don’t think will make them happy.

Think about it this way: if you found out tomorrow that someone in your family had been killed, would you want to be happy? Don’t be so quick to answer.

Most people would say of course not. Anger and depression are appropriate emotions at a time like this. And yet, neither anger nor depression do anything to rectify your situation of bringing your loved one back to life or bringing the killer to justice.

We are attached to our own suffering. We love the drama and the sense of significance to our lives that it brings. It’s only when we start to rise in these levels of consciousness that these old conditioned patterns start to fall away.

Why Does It Suck

As brilliant as this book is, it can be very difficult to follow along with if you haven’t already made an in depth study of these kind of ideas. So I don’t necessarily recommended it for beginners of self-development.

It’s also easy to get confused from reading this book that moving up the chain of consciousness implies you never come back down. Not at all. Everyone oscillates in and out of these higher stages no matter where you are in your journey. In fact, one of the things you’re going to have to be on the lookout for is how am I falling back asleep? What pulls you up and what pulls you down?

The Wrap Up

The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution is an incredible book that will inspire you as much as it will challenge your conventional wisdom about life. We are at stage in human history where these kind of questions are going to become increasingly important to a generation who demands living the highest quality life. And ultimately, that is what I’m concerned with on this blog.

I don’t want to share with you ideas on how to fit nicely in the machine. I don’t want to share with you guys how to just not hate your life. I’m sharing with you what I’ve found on how to love your life. I want tears of joy and gratitude to roll down your face when you think of the quality of your life. I want people to look at your life in bewilderment about how you’re able to do the things you do. That’s what ultimately possible for you.

I’m not saying my life is perfect. I’ve still got plenty of my own issues I’m working out, which is why I’m continuing to learn and read. But I look at the direction I was heading in before I started self-development and it terrifies me. It’s been an incredibly difficult but so worth it.

So if you care about reaching your own potential as a human, read this book. If you want to push the limits of mentally what you’re capable of, read this book. If you want to know what it’s like to experience true happiness, read this book.

Published by Austin Kourakin