Gurdjieff’s Solar/Lunar Dychotomy

To simply consider the Full Moon invites Luna directly into your head.
The evolutionary process has burrowed her image deep into our cerebral cortex. We can’t escape her colossal, fat roundness — pushing out the boundaries of our inner vision.
The Sun radiates and sustains whereas the Moon reflects and craves, as Martha Heyneman writes, always the Moon “…is tugging at everything on her side of the surface of the earth. She sucks on the very rocks. As she passes overhead the earth’s crust rises a few inches beneath her and is elsewhere compressed, kneaded as a cat kneads your stomach.”
Astrologically we associate the Moon with Mother, but is that correspondence correct? According to the Russian mystic G.I. Gurdjieff the Earth and the Moon are in a kind of symbiotic relationship with one another. As he explained to P.D. Ouspensky, as recounted in the book In Search of the Miraculous: “The moon is a huge living being feeding upon all that lives and grows on earth. The moon could not not exist without organic life on earth, any more than organic life on earth could exist without the moon.” Gurdjieff describes the Moon as a planet-in-the-making that depends on vital forces generated by life on Earth to continue her process of ‘warming’. The Moon’s evolution. This is a very different understanding from what Western astrology teaches us.
Why do we often feel anxious during the Full Moon? And why is the Full Moon phase considered one of heightened spiritual activity? Consider the phases in life when you’ve changed homes, ended a longterm relationship, lost your job, or experienced the death of a loved one. Psychologists consider those four ‘life events’ as some of the toughest emotional adjustments we ever make. Within the realm of planetary and luminary aspects, the moment of the Full Moon corresponds to a similar set of shocks.
At the exact opposition, the Moon has momentarily lost her function — that of ‘gathering’ light from the Sun. Too, Luna and Sol undergo a pivotal relational ‘shift’, the cycle of waxing changes to one of waning, a loss of light. This, too, is akin to a death. Post Full Moon, all of the solar light that the Moon has gathered is drained away — night after night — as Luna moves back, bereft, to complete darkness during the New Moon phase — her next conjunction with the Sun.
In traditional astrology, before contemporary psychology was integrated into the stargazer’s methodologies — the Moon was considered greedy.
Wizard astrologer John Frawley describes the lunation cycle this way: “The waxing Moon can be characterized as greed for what it has not yet got; the waning Moon as greed for what it once had but has lost. At Full, it is full; its greed is momently satisfied. It has all that it can want, its capacity is filled. With its greed at last sated it has no power, for its whole motive force has gone.” (Italics are mine).
The anthroposophic Rudolph Steiner reminded us that human beings are a direct reflection of the cosmos and that our consciousness is imbued with the entirety of the universe. In The Sun Mystery lectures he wrote: “Throughout a human lifetime, what happens in the head remains an image of the entire cosmos. The very fact that we have a head means that each of us carries an image of the entire cosmos around with us…In fact the Earth perceives the cosmos through human beings…”
During the Full Moon we could say that, spiritually, a veil parts, a haze is pierced, and the Moon’s powerful pull drops momentarily ‘off the grid.’ An opportunity is under way, a kind of shock moment where the matrix of the solar system opens within our consciousness in a flash of totality — freed momentarily from the Moon’s constant demand. The exact position and angles of the planets are vivified — are felt directly, palpably. Which is to say, we’ve a greater opportunity for sensing presence, how we are situated exactly — at this moment — unencumbered by ego. The Moon’s craving corresponds to our ego’s craving, the self’s constant niggling, fidgeting and agitation; its inability to be still. The gnawing sense of there being ‘too little’ or too much of this or that –the  lunar-like state. At Full Moon there is a gap and a cessation.
In his fascinating book Disruption, the Gurdjieffian philosopher David Appelbaum notes: “When consciousness is fractured, its world-making powers are momentarily disrupted. In the gap, during which spatio-temporal categories of thought cease to apply, consciousness realigns with that which it is meant to serve: The moment of self-remembering…”
Within the cyclic dance between the luminaries, the Full Moon moment is akin to Gurdjieff’s ‘stop exercise.’ The stop exercise was one of Gurdjieff’s most literal techniques to develop his students’ capacities for ‘self-remembering.’ A directed form of attention that reminds one of their presence and “I Am-ness.” We are afforded this moment, a cosmic fiat — at the moment of each Full Moon. This ‘stop’ might reveal key elements to our behavior that complicate alignment with our solar nature. The Moon reflects our history and habits; whereas the Sun sustains our present moment and the condition of presence. Henry Van Dyke wrote: “As long as habit and routine dictate the pattern of living, new dimensions of the soul will not emerge.”
Gurdjieff claimed that we experience two primary ‘pulls’ in life. Towards the Sun or towards the Moon. Both processes served a function within the Ray of Creation (his diagram which outlined the scale of all bodies within the universe), but efforts that awakened solar consciousness were of a non-mechanical sort and required applied, conscious effort and acts of self-remembering.
In Gurdjieff’s cosmology we live in a reciprocal universe. Nothing in life is ever wasted. All organic substance serves as a type of food for something else within the chain of existence. Human consciousness, too, is a kind of food. Either for the Sun or the Moon. To simplify Gurdjieff’s ideas, it could be said that if human consciousness is not aligned with — does not assist the Sun’s evolution — we are then fodder for the Earth and its ward, the Moon.
Everything we do mechanically from habit, from the desire for comfort, from our instinctive fear of change — all of that feeds the Moon’s hunger. It’s as if our abdicated solar light is passed along to the Moon and her desire for light and warmth. In this sense Gurdjieff’s statement that humanity’s constant creation of turmoil and dissatisfaction — the sturm und drang of existence — creates high-octane food for the Moon. Again, nothing in the universe is ever wasted.
Although Gurdjieff confirmed astrology’s relevance, his depiction of the universe had little in common with exoteric astrology. Instead of an anthropic projection onto the cosmos, Gurdjieff considered the Moon and planets not as rocks in space imbued with human qualities and conditions, but as beings unto themselves; evolving life forms that we, as Earth beings, have a reciprocal relationship with.
It might be helpful to consider the lifepath and function of the Moon-ruled sign Cancer, for clues to unraveling the Lunar quandry. As Debbie Kempton Smith once noted: “Cancer is the most powerful sign of the zodiac — without food and love life can not go on.” True, but given Cancer’s unusual position within the Zodiacal cycle, that of the summer solstice, when solar radiation is strongest — we have a true mystery. The Sun is at its most potent in Cancer and yet the sign is ruled by the Moon. In describing this unusual sequence, Dane Rudhyar once again presents us with the notion of a stop, pause and gap in preparation for the reception of greater consciousness; he writes in The Pulse of Life:
Cancer “…refers to a time of the year when the Sun moves very slowly; stands still. There is a stillness about it at the same time that there is the possibility of intense light. It is the moment of the longest days; yet astrology makes it ruled by the Moon, waiting until one more sign to glorify in Leo the creative radiance of the Sun.”
So the mystery of our relationship with the Moon is encountered in the sign Cancer as a stillness. Or rather the challenge to develop stillness within the classic moods and passions of the Cancerian psyche. If one considers the cusp between Cancer and Leo as the nexus — marriage point between the lunar and solar principles, an alchemy of awareness and balance — we have another way of comprehending Cancer’s dominion of the summer solstice. As Rudhyar notes, Cancer proceeds Leo because “…all great sacraments come when there is a pause, silence and tremor.” Taken within the Gurdjieffian cosmology — and the power of a full stop — we can see the potency of this moment — its potential and promise.
Opening photograph: Model of the bright side of the Moon (c. 1908). Photographer unknown.

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