Tertium Organum, Chapter 8 (Human Beingness)


The following is a summary of Chapter 8 of Tertium Organum by P D Ouspensky.

In this chapter Ouspensky examines the perceiving apparatus to find the exact relationship of inner life to the outer world.

The basic unit of our perception is a sensation, which is an elementary change in inner life that is produced concurrently with some change in the outer world. The sensations leave a trace in memory.

These memories become associated into groups called “representations” according to their common character, or by time of receipt.

Representations relate to specific objects. Associations among representations then give rise to general concepts.

The formation of concepts leads to the formation of words and the appearance of speech. A concept stands for the inner aspect, while the word stands for the outer aspect. ‘Words’ corresponding to representations, consists of proper names. Those corresponding to concepts, consist of generic nouns.

Speech consists of words. In our speech words express concepts or ideas.

An idea is a complex or an abstract concept.

An average man has three units of mental life – sensation, representation and concept. But there seems to appear a fourth unit in which the element of perception is always connected with the emotional element. The interpretation of emotional experiences and emotional understanding is the aim of art.

The laws of irritability: External irritation makes the cell respond by motion. Every irritation experienced leaves a certain trace in the cell, rendering it more susceptible to further irritations. But after sufficient repetitions it accepts that irritation as parts of its environment and ceases to react to it. Here we seem to have the rudiments of memory, fatigue and habit.

By reflex actions of an organism are meant actions where the whole organism or its separate parts act as the cell does, i.e. within the limits of the law of irritability. As a rule consciousness perceives them as an already accomplished fact.

By instinctive actions are meant actions which are expedient but performed without any consciousness of choice or purpose. They arise in connection with pleasure or pain.  Such actions may appear to be conscious, almost bordering on clairvoyance, but they are explained solely by subordination to pleasure-pain.

By rational action is meant an action known to the acting subject before it is performed — an action which the acting subject can name, define, explain and whose cause and purpose he can point out before it has taken place. Rational actions become customary, unconscious and automatic through frequent repetition.

Reflex, instinctive and rational actions are determined solely by changes in the external world. Nothing comes from the being. Conscious actions come from something else besides the changes in the external world. They are usually confused with rational actions.

An animal does not think out its actions, but lives by emotions, obeying the emotion which is strongest at a given moment. Animals have no concepts because they have no speech. Thus, all the actions of animals, at times very complex, expedient and seemingly rational, can be explained without assuming the existence in them of reasoning and mental conclusions.

For animals, every single object exists by itself as representation with emotional qualities. An animal has no concepts. It must know a given object and remember it with all its characteristics and peculiarities. Consequently the memory of an animal is much more burdened than ours.

The distinguishing feature between a man and an animal is the familiarity with the action of a lever. In the mental sphere a syllogism is literally the same thing as a lever in the physical sphere.

Concepts are mental algebra with the help of which we think.

We mix together many things that are totally different; our divisions are very often wrong and this hinders us in our examination of ourselves, and in our future evolution.

Logic is the laws of the relation of our inner life to the outside world. 


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  • vinaire  On July 15, 2015 at 7:36 AM

    As the universe moves from static to kinetic, first there is emergence of space filled with potential. Then there is a band of perception paralleling the electromagnetic spectrum. Next there is a band of concept and ideas paralleling the atomic configurations. Beyond that there is the band of self-awareness or consciousness paralleling the physical forms. This culminates into human consciousness and human form.


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