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For the Week of January 20 – 26: The Ray of Creation 

The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai (12th century)

Between All and Nothing passes the Ray of Creation.
- G.I. Gurdjieff

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said to him, Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him."

Jesus answered and said to him, "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above."

Nicodemus said to him, "How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely, he cannot reenter his mother's womb and be born again, can he?"

Jesus answered, "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, 'You must be born from above.'"
- John 3:1-7

Last week we considered our place in the universe through the Work idea of the microcosmos and megalocosmos. This week, we ponder our function in the universe in light of another key Work idea, the Ray of Creation, aided once again by insights from contemporary science. The Ray of Creation tells a story of humanity asleep, incomplete, undeveloped, but capable of evolution, with higher influences ceaselessly trying to help us to arise, awaken, and realize the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.

To begin, a "ray" is a line extending from a single point to infinity similar to an arrow or a one-way street sign. In the Big Bang universe, we can imagine an infinite number of these rays emanating in every direction from the singularity or the Absolute. Between All and Nothing, these rays of creation connect all the vast galaxies, stars, planets, and cosmic manifestations each in their own unfolding line of succession. The Ray of our planet Earth is known in the Work as the Great Ray. This ray unfolds in a pattern corresponding to the notes of the Western major scale. Last week's discussion of string theory (in which all matter arises from very fine vibrations at different frequencies something like musical notes vibrating a cello string) provides powerful leverage for us to appreciate why the octave is such a central idea in the Work. According to Gurdjieff, the original names of each note in the major scale are references to each level of the Great Ray in descending progression:  dominus (Holy Absolute), siderum (all galaxies, or Laniakea -"immeaurable heaven"), lactera (Milky Way, our galaxy), sol (our sun), fatum (fate, our own solar system or sphere of planetary influence), mixtus orbis ("mixed realm," our planet Earth), regina coeli (queen of the heavens, the moon), and back to dominus (Holy Nothing). The semitone intervals between the notes mi-fa and si-do are an important aspect of this Work idea, representing points along the Ray called "intervals" where outside influence is necessary for further progression.

The Work idea describes two different but parallel rays running through the human being: the Great Ray, which is a descending octave, and the ascending Evolutionary Ray (Cynthia Bourgeault calls this the "ray of being"). Both rays channel through us, flowing in opposing directions. Our aim is the third force reconciling our relationship with these two rays of creation and evolution. As Gurdjieff explained to Ouspensky, "Humanity, or more correctly organic life on earth, is acted upon simultaneously by influences proceeding from various sources and different worlds: influences from the planets, influences from the moon, influences from the sun, influences from the stars. All of these influences act simultaneously; one influence predominates at one moment and another influence at another moment. And for [humanity] there is a certain possibility of making a choice of influences – in other words of passing from one influence to another. The whole thing, all work on oneself, consists in choosing the influence to which you wish to subject yourself, and actually falling under this influence. And for this it is necessary to know which influence is more profitable" (as quoted in Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "Thinking from Life and Thinking from The Work," February 1, 1943, Vol. 1, p. 240).

The Great Ray describes creation, which involves a descending octave in which each level of manifestation is entirely contingent on the level above it, and thus under more constraints or what the Work refers to as "more laws." This is represented numerically – World 3 represents the Absolute or Great Attractor, World 24 the Sun, World 48 our planet Earth, and World 96 is our moon, for example. The all-important corollary of this idea is that each stage in the ray "feeds on" the one above it, exerting a downward energetic drag. The moon functions in this way, according to the Work idea, such that its influence on planet Earth affects not only tidal movements but also the behaviors of living beings including ourselves. As Maurice Nicoll explains, "To be under the moon is to be under the greatest possible mechanicalness and, as you know, this is the case in a [person] who is fast asleep, governed by every form of negative emotion, hate, internal considering, and so on. By work on oneself one can come under fewer and better influences or laws" (Commentaries, "Center of Gravity," November 29, 1947, Vol. 3, p. 1090).

The Evolutionary Ray moves in the other direction, ascending from the densest, least conscious worlds (World 192) to fullness of creation, or what Teilhard de Chardin refers to as the Omega Point. As Cynthia Bourgeault explains, "Gurdjieff's second map, his diagram of the worlds, is more interior. In Teilhardian terms, it describes the 'within of things.' You might think of it impressionistically as a 'ray of being' running roughly parallel to the Ray of Creation while offering its own distinctive counterpoint. But again, bear in mind that these worlds (or 'levels of consciousness,' as we might be inclined to relabel them in the terminology of our own times) are not just interior or subjective experiences, but actual spheres of causality" (Eye of the Heart, p. 30).

The Work says this evolutionary ray is constantly seeking to reach us, and help us to evolve for the sake of the greater cosmos. Teilhard's vision is helpful in clarifying the significance of this lateral octave as it relates to us. He emphasized that this evolutionary force was present in everything that exists in the universe and works against entropy. We humans occupy a particularly important spot within creation, just as the Work idea indicates, and Teilhard sees that our purpose has to do with increasing consciousness on this planet, not for ourselves alone but for the whole. The same principle is described in the well-known words of Saint Augustine of Hippo, "Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee." This ray of being suggests that the human person, though not by any means the center of the universe, was created to play a special role in the transformation of itself as well as all matter within our own cosmos and the ones above and below.

Ilia Delio describes our function within this evolutive ray, "The incarnation of Jesus speaks to us of a world that is now being personalized in and through the human person, who is no longer the center but the arrow of the evolutionary process. The destiny of humanity and the aim of the cosmos are intertwined in the mystery of Christ. If creation is to move forward toward its completion and transformation in God, what took place in the life of Jesus must take place in our lives as well. God evolves the universe and brings it to its completion through the cooperation of human beings. Thus, it matters what we do and how we live in relation to God, for only through our actions can we encounter God. Teilhard spoke of the human person as a co-creator. By this he meant we are not passing through a stormy world like a ship on a turbulent sea; rather our choices and decisions shape the future direction of evolution. We are created to evolve into a new future; the choices we make in love and for love co-create our future. When we see ourselves as part of a larger whole, we act on behalf of the whole of which we are part. 'I no longer see myself as protecting the rainforest but rather that I am part of the rainforest protecting myself. I am that part of the rainforest emerged into thinking.' … Finding ourselves in deep communion with the whole earth community is integral to Christogenic life and a new basis for ethics" (The Unbearable Wholeness of Being, pp. 194-195).

Cynthia Bourgeault underscores this all-important meaning of the spiritual journey in light of the Ray of Creation: "Whatever we like to think we're up to in our philosophical or spiritual fantasies – saving the world, saving our souls, attaining full enlightenment – in terms of cosmic exchange, we are transformers, of molecules and of meaning in equal measure" (Op. Cit. p. 44).


Embody these ideas:

  • Sitting comfortably, try to sense both rays within yourself at the same time. Which one did you sense first? Does one feel more powerful, important or interesting than the other? Adjust your posture as you continue the exercise. Visualize these rays as you alternate between slumping and sitting upright, paying close attention to the connection between posture and state. Repeat the experiment using different postures associated with prayer such as kneeling, genuflecting, or prostrating, while continuing to sense both rays simultaneously.
  • As with last week, after your morning or evening Centering Prayer period, watch this short video (about 4 minutes in length) of Laniakea ("immeasurable heaven"): contemplate the meaning of these ideas and the Ray of Creation of which we are a part. 
  • Read aloud this poem, allowing its resonances to wash over you, enlivening your emotional center. What do you experience?

The Kingdom of God
In no strange land

O World Invisible, we view thee,
O World Intangible, we touch thee,
O World unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!

Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air –
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumor of thee there?

Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars! –
The drift of pinions, would we harken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.

The angels keep their ancient places;
Turn but a stone, and start a wing!
'Tis ye, 'tis your estranged faces,
That miss the many-splendored thing.

But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry; and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.

Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry, clinging Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water,
Not of Gennesaret, but Thames!
- by Francis Thompson

January Practice: Holding A Rock

Take your favorite rock: ponder its journey to your hand. Inter-Be with the rock and see what connections arise as you participate in conscious connection with the rock, with the Now.

Attend The Journey School Thursday Class Tonight: All are encouraged and welcome to attend tonight's class for a review of these teachings and how they are landing in you: 7:00 pm Central Time via Zoom only.

  1. Click on this link and Zoom should open automatically on your laptop or tablet:, or
  2. Open Zoom, click on Join Meeting and enter this meeting ID: 996-101-9778, passcode: CCH
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