Why I came to India to seek the miraculous?

I was sure that the way to the unknown could be found in the East while nothing could be found in Europe

Author P D Ouspensky
I returned to Russia in November, 1914, that is, at the beginning of the first world war, after a rather long journey through Egypt, Ceylon and India. The war had found me in Colombo and from there went back through England.

When leaving Petersburg at the start of my journey, I had said that I was going to “seek the miraculous”. The “miraculous” is very difficult to define. But for me this word had a quite definite meaning. I had come to the conclusion a long time ago that there was no escape from the labyrinth of contradictions in which we live except by an entirely new road, unlike anything hitherto known or used by us. But where this new or forgotten road began I was unable to say. I already knew then as an undoubted fact that beyond the thin film of false reality, there existed another reality from which, for some reason, something separated us. The “miraculous” was a penetration into this unknown reality. And it seemed to me that the way to the unknown could be found in the East. Why in the East? It was difficult to answer this. In this idea there was, perhaps, something of romance, but it may have been the absolutely real conviction that, in any case, nothing could be found in Europe.

On the return journey, and during the several weeks I spent in London, everything I had thought about the results of my search was thrown into confusion by the wild absurdity of the war and by all the emotions which filled the air conversation and newspapers, and which against my will often affected me.

But when I returned to Russia and again experienced all those thoughts with which I had gone away, I felt that my search and everything connected with it, was more important than anything that was happening or could happen in a world of “obvious absurdities.” I said to myself then that the war must be looked upon as one of those generally catastrophic condition of life in the midst of which we have to live and work and seek answers to our questions and doubts. The war, the great European war, in the possibility of which I had not wanted to believe and the reality of which I did not for a long time wish to acknowledge, had become a fact. We were in it and I saw that it must be taken as a great memento mori showing that hurry was necessary and that it was impossible to believe in “Life” which led nowhere.

The war could not touch me personally, at any rate not until the final catastrophe which seemed to me inevitable for Russia and perhaps for the whole of Europe, but not yet imminent. Though then, of course, the approaching catastrophe looked only temporary and no one had as yet conceived all the disintegration and destruction, both inner and outer in which we should have to live in the future.

Summing up the total of my impressions of the and particularly of India, I had to admit that, on my return, my problem seemed even more difficult and complicated than on my departure. and the East had not only lost their glamour of the miraculous, on the contrary, this glamour also had acquired new shades that were absent from it before. I saw clearly that something could be found there which had long since ceased to exist in Europe and I considered that the direction I had taken was the right one. But, at the same time, I was convinced that the secret was better and more deeply hidden than I could previously have supposed.
[ Excerpts from "In Search of Miraculous" published in 1949 ]
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