Design for G. I. Gurdjieff's Prospectus at the Prieuré,
Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, 1922
You stretch over the heavens like a tent, your Radiance covering the waters; you shine through the clouds, and ride on the wings of the wind; the wind, like the Breath of Life, carries your Word, fire refines the dross of our souls.
You set the earth on its foundations, strong and secure; you covered it with the deep like a garment,
with many waters that life might come forth. … You brought harmony to all the earth, that life might spring forth in abundance. …
All of creation looks to you … You … send forth your Spirit, and the earth, though not without turmoil, is renewed….
You are ever-present to us, even as the earth trembles … I will abandon myself into your hands as long as I live. Amen
- from Psalm 104, Nan Merrill, Psalms for Praying
"This is not a universe created in some remote period of antiquity by an external Deity but a universe which is the Deity, existing in the eternal now, outside passing time, a celestial keyboard on which the notes exist and from which harmonies are produced by the roving fingers of time."
- J. H. Reyner, The Universe of Relationships
In our exploration of the two fundamental laws described in the Work, we are learning that we have the means to unfold into the fullness of our own divine-humanity. We have – if we knew how to play it – this celestial keyboard within us. Last week we reviewed the Law of Three and its manifestations. Now we will turn to the other fundamental law: The Law of Seven.
Also known as the Law of Order or Law of Manifestation or the Law of Octave, this law describes how manifestation or action happens in time. It recognizes that creation unfolds in some order. At the same time, order imposes certain restrictions and conditions to creation.
"The Law of Seven governs succession of events. It states that whenever any manifestation evolves, it does so nonlinearly. There is an orderly discontinuity in every progression of things, in every series. This lawful discontinuity is preserved in our musical scale which, as singing up and down any octave will show, is composed of unequal steps. Do, re, and mi are equally distant from one another, but between mi and fa there is a half-step instead of a full step. Proceeding up the scale, we have sol, la, and si (ti in some usages) separated by full intervals, but si and do having a half-step between them again.
"The Law of Seven explains why when something begins it does not just continue and continue ad infinitum; why a rainstorm abates or a grudge finally loses its venom. And the Law of Seven is behind the fact that there are no straight lines in nature. It is also reflected in the Ray of Creation. …
"The Law of Seven may also be called the Law of Shock, for if an additional force or energy enters a process between mi and fa, it will proceed on course until the si-do interval, and if another shock or influx of energy is given at that point, the process continues to its conclusion at do. …
"The octave relationships in the Law of Seven exist in all processes, according to Gurdjieff. Seeing them is a matter of arraying whatever is to be studied appropriately or finding the right metric. In chemistry there is a very clear example in the periodic table of elements, in which the essential characteristics of chemical elements are seen to repeat themselves every eighteen elements when they are ordered according to atomic weight. It is, however, unnecessary to search very far for examples of octave relationships since they are present in every project we undertake, from cooking a meal to building a house."
- Kathleen Riordan Speeth, The Gurdjieff Work
The Ray of Creation and A Descending Octave
There are descending octaves and ascending octaves. First, let us a take a look at a descending octave, the most notable being our Ray of Creation, the path of divine generation and division into multiplicity:
Notice that the discontinuities appear between the Absolute and the level of all worlds, and between all planets and the earth. Kathleen Speeth notes: "The first of these gaps or discontinuities is bridged by the force of creation engendered by the Absolute itself. The second requires our biosphere: the sensitive living film of organic life on earth acts as a transmitter of energy between the planetary level of the Ray of Creation and our own planet and its satellite moon, the lower part of the Ray." Humanity and all living things thus contribute to the workings of the Ray of Creation.
"When this system is presented in a purely formal way, the Ray of Creation is given in terms of the external universe. … But the Ray represents levels of Being and is internal as well as external. That is, the Sun represents in the external meaning of the Ray the actual Sun. In the internal meaning it represents beings at that level in the vertical scale of being. But you can understand it as you like to begin with – that is, literally or psychologically – for the two correspond – that is, different levels in the external universe are representations of different levels of intelligence which are internal or psychological. If we speak of the intelligence of the Sun we can understand that it is higher than the intelligence of the Earth simply from external representation, for the Sun has infinitely more energies and radiance than the Earth. But the Ray should be actually understood in both senses for outer and inner correspond and everything internal has something corresponding externally. … For this reason complex psychological ideas can be represented in visual imagery, drawn from outer objects, as in the case of a parable. And for the same reason, to take Man apart from the universe in which he is born is an error. The Universe is macrocosmos and Man is microcosmos."
- Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "The Law of Seven, Part II," February 14, 1942, Vol. 1, p. 124
The Work Octave and An Ascending Octave
The Work octave is an example of an ascending octave, a return to Source, the path of regeneration, or spiritual ascent.
Si – doing
La – willing
Sol – aim
Fa – understanding
Mi – acknowledging difficulty
Re – knowing, application of Work ideas
Do – hearing, valuation
"[As we explore] the Law of Seven and the Law of the Octave from the psychological side. … One can observe octaves in oneself – or rather, one can observe the beginnings of octaves. Everything you set out to do can be called the beginning of an octave. When you decide to do something, you sound do. If this do is weakly sounded, nothing will happen. But if it is sounded more strongly you may reach the note re and even the note mi. But here you reach the 'place of missing semi-tone' and here a shock is necessary to enable you to reach the note fa. This rarely happens. It may happen accidentally. But as a rule it does not happen. That is why in this Work it is said that life is full of broken octaves. People start something and give up. …"
[To connect this idea to the Law of Three, it is at the point of mi, that we often encounter the second force that mechanically leads to the same old outcome. Calculation of second force and application of the first conscious shock of Self-remembering at this point can lead to the possibility of being carried over the mi-fa interval. A new, fresh arising can be born.]
"You must remember that Man is created a self-developing organism and that means he only develops by efforts, for all evolution of Man is conscious – that is, by conscious effort. There is no mechanical evolution. And we need not be surprised to find many difficulties. The Law of Seven makes things difficult by its very nature."
- Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "The Law of Seven, Part II," February 14, 1942, Vol. 1, p. 125
"Creation is not about a static world but a relationship between the dynamic being of God and a world in process of coming to be. The openness of the cosmos to what is new, its capacity to leap forward, the emergence of intelligent beings, all direct the believer to the nature of the Divine Presence empowering the whole cosmic process. From a theological perspective, we must admit that the one God creates the whole cosmos as one diverse but interrelated system. The same creator is present to every part of the cosmos. Creation is a relationship between God's absolute being and the finite being of creatures whereby finite beings are continuously constituted in existence by God. Creation is not something that happened at the beginning of time but is rather the continuing relationship of the world to its transcendent ground. In the history of evolution, creatures become more than they were – a process whereby reality becomes not just more than it was but essentially different. This process of transcendence reflects the spiritual nature of the physical world, the capacity of matter for spirit, and for evolution toward spiritual maturity and self-reflection."
- Ilia Delio, Christ in Evolution
The law of unity is all-embracing.
Everything in the universe is One, the difference is only of scale;
in the infinitely small we shall find
the same laws as in the infinitely great. As above, so below.
- G.I. Gurdjieff
- Read through this email a few times this week. Reflect and listen for any topic that comes to meet you, perhaps mapping your own engagement with the Work on the ascending Work Octave.
- Give gratitude for the Living God, this wondrous, evolutionary cosmos, those who have prepared the way for us, and our own evolving life as a Christic being.
- You may wish to read more about the vast subjects of the Law of Three and the Law of Seven in pp. 108-134 in the Commentaries, Vol. 1.
Attend tonight's class: 7pm Central Time via Zoom only.