It declares that the whole is born out of the whole, and yet that which remains behind is always whole; in the end the whole is absorbed into the whole, and even then the whole increases not at all, it remains as it was before. This is a very great antimathematical statement. P. D. Ouspensky has written a book called Tertium Organum. He was a renowned mathematician of Russia, who in later years, as a disciple of a remarkable western master, Gurdjieff, became a mystic himself. He was a mathematical genius, his intelligence penetrating the heights and depths of his subject.
The first statement he makes in this wonderful book is that there are only three great canons of thought in the world. The first, entitled Organum, is by Aristotle, father of the Western science of logic. Organum means the principle of knowledge. The second book is by Francis Bacon and is called Novum Organum–the new principle of knowledge. And the third one is his own book, which is called Tertium Organum – the third principle of knowledge. He follows this statement with a short sentence that has puzzled many people: “Before the first existed, the third was.” That is, the third principle was already in the world before the first principle was discovered. The first book was written by Aristotle two thousand years ago, the second by Bacon three hundred years ago, and the third one was written some forty years ago. But Ouspensky says the third existed in the world before the first was written, even though he wrote this third book only forty years ago. When anyone asked him the meaning of this crazy, illogical statement, he replied, “Whatever I have written is not written by me. It was already in existence; I have simply proclaimed it.”
The earth was under the influence of gravity before Newton was born. The earth attracted a stone before his birth in the same way that it has done ever since. Newton did not invent the principle of gravitation, he only revealed it. He opened what was hidden, he made known what was unknown. But gravity was already there before Newton; otherwise Newton himself would not have been there. Newton could not have been born without gravity. Gravity can exist without him, but he cannot exist without the earth’s gravity. It existed already but was not known in the world.
Ouspensky says his third principle existed before the first was known. It is quite a different matter that it was not known; and perhaps it is wrong to say it was not known, because what Ouspensky has said throughout his book is contained in this small sutra. His Tertium Organum is a very valuable book. His claim that there are only three such great books in the world – and the third his – is not false. He does not say so out of vanity, it is a fact. His book is as important as that. If he had not said so, his silence would have been a false humility. It is a fact, his book is that important. But everything he says in it is there in this small sutra of the Ishavasya Upanishad.