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The Fourth Way

The Work speaks of four different ways to work on ourselves. The first way or the way of the fakir (an ancient Muslim term for an ascetic) works on the will through mastering the body.  The second way, or the way of the monk, works on the will through the mastering of emotions.  The third way, or the way of the yogi, works on the will through knowledge and intellect.  Traditionally, these three ways required some form of renunciation of the world and of one’s life. The Fourth Way is the way of the householder in the world, where all aspects of oneself are addressed simultaneously amid ordinary life.


“[T]here is a Fourth Way which is a special way … It is different from others first of all in that there is no external giving up of things, for all the work is inner.  A man must begin work in the same conditions in which he finds himself when he meets it, because these conditions are the best for him … So at first one continues to live the same life as before, in the same circumstances as before.  In many respects this way proves more difficult than the others, for nothing is harder than to change oneself internally without changing externally.”

– P.D. Ouspensky, The Fourth Way


“[T]he Fourth Way differs from the other ways in that the principal demand made upon a man in it is the demand for understanding. A man must do nothing that he does not understand, except as an experiment under the supervision and direction of a teacher. In the Fourth Way the more a man understands what he is doing the greater will be the results of his efforts. This is a fundamental principle of the Fourth Way. The results of work in it are in proportion to the consciousness and understanding of the Work. No ‘faith’ is required in the Fourth Way; on the contrary faith of any kind is opposed to the Fourth Way. In the Fourth Way a man must see for himself. He must satisfy himself of the truth of what he is told.”

– Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, “The Four Bodies of Man – Paper III, The Four Ways,” Vol 1, pp. 233-234


See the February 2020 issue of The Mark for various articles on the Fourth Way and life as teacher.