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For the Week of January 27 – February 2: The Side Octave 

Earth and the Milky Way Galaxy

The conditions to ensure the passage of forces from the planets to the Earth are created by the arrangement of a special mechanical contrivance. This mechanical contrivance, this "transmitting station of forces" is organic life on earth.
- G.I. Gurdjieff

I am the light of the World.
- John 8:12

Last week we pondered our function in the universe in light of a key Work idea, called the Ray of Creation. This week, we aim to explore a further key aspect of the Ray of Creation, which the Work calls the Side Octave.

A Nested Universe

Before we explore the Side Octave, let's first look at the broader picture. Modern images of the Milky Way Galaxy, as well as increasing awareness of our regional supercluster Laniakea (see last week's video HERE), have helped us conceptualize and understand our place and location in the visible universe. Such visuals expand our awareness and understanding, and beautifully weave into the intellectual map of reality that the Work calls the Ray of Creation. By way of a simplistic analogy, we can think of the overall picture of the Ray of Creation as nests within nests. The higher contains the lower, the parts are within the whole, like a Russian nesting doll.

For the sake of our review and setting our stage of understanding, here's an imperfect diagram of the Work's conceptual cosmological map. It's imperfect in part because it conveys only one dimension and appears to be linear, like a ladder. However, in reality, as we understand it, the Ray of Creation is probably more like swirling spirals within spirals, and certainly multi-dimensional – in both directions, as we learned last week: the movement of creation and multiplicity downward and the analogical movement of the evolution of being and consciousness upward.

So, for now, just notice the movement from the Absolute "above" to the Moon below, by way of superclusters (all galaxies), then our galaxy (the Milky Way), then our sun, then the earth and finally the moon. Notice also that the number of each "World" doubles all the way "down" the Ray, starting with World 1 and concluding with World 96. These numbers represent a kind of quality or characterization of each "world" and specifically relate to what the Work calls the number of laws each operates under. At this point, there is no need to concern yourself with the numbers. We can understand the general idea without understanding the specific aspects of its total teaching.

In sum, this picture places the context for our exploration of the cosmos and the Side Octave within a larger whole, and resonates completely with the ancient esoteric and hermetic wisdom saying, as well as Jesus' guidance to his disciples on how to pray (Matthew 6):

As above, so below.

Thus, given this model of the universe, we can affirm that this is a nested, fractal universe, in which the patterns of the macrocosm are found in the microcosm, where divine DNA infuses every particle, and evolution is divine creation unfolding into fullness by means of the Law of Three and the Law of Seven.

A Growing Branch Stemming from the Tree of the Universe

Conceiving the universe as the Ray of Creation makes sense. What is unique to Mr. Gurdjieff's teaching, however, and may be harder to grasp intellectually, is our subject this week: the Side Octave.  

By way of another analogy, the Side Octave can be visualized as a smaller tree branch growing off the larger main trunk. The Side Octave begins from the Sun and terminates with the Moon. In between is earth and organic life. Here's an image to convey the general idea of the Side Octave of the sun, and the planets stemming off from the Sun and totally related to and sustained by the sun:

Like a tree, whose roots and main trunk convey energy to the tiny growing tips of twigs far away from the center of the tree, is a description and theory of how the will of the Absolute, which is the creative force of Love, can energetically be transmitted and received by life on earth and especially by humanity. 

Analogous to the way in which our atmosphere makes the tremendous power of the sun available to us without annihilation, so the Side Octave allows higher influences and energies to transmit beyond the level of galaxies and planets to organic life on earth. And then for us to do something conscious and creative in the form of embodied reciprocal maintenance with that energy, versus just eating, drinking and being merry, consuming without consciously giving back, whether in the form of love, efforts or worship. In fact, there exists the possibility of not only ignoring the opportunity to receive such energies to develop oneself, but there is also the possibility of simply "feeding the moon" with hatred, laziness and hard-hearted negativity.

The idea of the Side Octave (or Lateral Octave) is so significant that it is worth re-reading two exceptional, though in-depth quotations on the subject provided by Maurice Nicoll. Both quotations convey something of the quality of accommodation God/Absolute makes to convey life and energy, force and will to humankind and life on planet earth and provides us a clear picture as to why this idea is so important as well as potent. Nicoll writes (emphasis added):

"Man does not appear in the Ray of Creation … Only the earth appears. But in order to enable the forces coming down the Ray to pass easily to the earth and moon an apparatus must be created between the notes fa and mi – that is, between the planets taken as one whole, and the earth taken as a part. For this purpose, a small octave is created from that level of creation externally represented by the Sun … [which] sounds the note do. … The three notes la, sol, fa that are sounded between the planets and the earth form organic life. Organic life is a sensitive living film that lies over the surface of the earth and acts as a transmitter of the forces passing between the upper and lower parts of the Ray. Man is a part of organic life and it is in this specially created apparatus for transmission that he appears in the Ray itself. By organic life is meant every form of life on the earth … every form down to the most minute living cells. This sensitive film, which collects influences from the upper part of the Ray and transmits them to the earth and the moon, is created from the level of the sun and its appearance in the great Ray of Creation is due to the point of check where a shock is needed between the notes fa and mi, arising from the nature of the Law of Seven" (Commentaries, "The Law of Seven," Vol. 1., pp 123-4).

"[T]he Sun, in creating the small octave, has two objects which it is essential to grasp and distinguish between very clearly. [The first] object is to create a sensitive transmitting machine between the great notes fa and mi in the Great Ray to enable the force to pass to the earth and moon at the termination of the Ray. From this point of view organic life, including man, exists only for the purposes of the Ray [the evolution of the earth and the moon]. …In creating the small Octave, the sun is not merely creating on behalf of the Ray itself to fill a missing place but is also acting for itself. The sun wants something apart from the needs of the Ray of Creation. It is here that the possibilities of man are found. … The intelligence of the sun wants something for itself in creating man on earth, quite apart from the necessities of the Great Ray. What does it want? It wants man to ascend from the level of the earth to the level of the sun. For this reason it creates man as something incomplete, as an unfinished being. In what sense incomplete? In regard to being a part of organic life, serving the purposes of the Ray of Creation he is complete and nothing more is required of him than the life he ordinarily leads. He is capable of living on earth as he is. He is then said (in the Work) to serve nature. But in regard to his real origin from the Octave from the sun he has another destiny locked up in him. … Man has in him far more than is necessary for the purposes of serving nature. … In regard to the second object of the sun, man is created on the earth as incomplete in order that he may develop up to the level of being represented by the Sun. It is in this sense that man is said in the Work to be a self-developing organism. Man is thus an experiment of the sun, placed on the earth. … If you will … really try to understand the meaning of the Ray of Creation and the Octave from the sun, many inexplicable and apparently irreconcilable things will become clear to your mind. …[Y]ou will be able to begin to think rightly about life on earth and … your own situation" (Commentaries, "The Law of Seven: The Sun Octave," Vol. 1, pp. 126-127).

In conclusion, these two quotations provide us two key foundations to build upon for further understanding. First, the sacred intention of and for organic life on planet earth, with or without humankind. And second, the central part humankind can play in our individual and communal development and evolution of our Being, so that we are not just human beings who feed the moon with negativity and unconscious behavior, but solar-human beings, attuned to the light of the world. Beings who contribute to the ongoing Work of God and the conscious evolution of the species and planet more and more into the quantum field of connected love.

We can become participants in the divine nature not just slaves to our lower human nature. We can follow the Son of God, Christ Jesus, the light of the World, and find rich similitudes in meaning between the sun of this planetary system, and the Son of God. As the sun is the center for our embodied life on earth, so too the Son is the center for our restless hearts.


Embody these ideas by …

  • Sitting comfortably outside on a clear day, try to sense and feel your body in relationship to the sun. Can you feel your place, in the city, in the state, in the country, on the planet, in the solar system, in the Milky Way? Can you feel your relationship to the sun? Can you feel into the sun as the source of all of life on planet earth, including your own life? Who would you be without the sun? Read the story (Luke 9) of the Transfiguration and ponder what this story means for you.
  • If you have not done so already, watch this short video (about 4 minutes in length) of Laniakea ("immeasurable heaven"): contemplate the meaning of these ideas and the Ray of Creation and the Side Octave of which we are a part. 

January Practice: Holding A Rock

Hold a rock. Or, lift dirt from earth in your hands. Feel the weight, texture. Sense and feel it. Close your eyes. Smell the rock or soil. Wonder: How did this come to be here? Ponder: What do I have in common with this rock or soil?


Of special note: This evening, we are pleased to welcome back Robin Bloor. We can expect to once again be enlivened by Robins warm and loving presence as he teaches and engages with knowledge and being.  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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