—G. I. Gurdjieff
In 1916, hoping to interest the Russian intelligentsia in his teaching, Mr. Gurdjieff asked his students to spread the ideas. It’s likely that the idea about man being not only a puppet of the moon but also its “food” was one they rarely, if ever, spoke about. It’s just too strange. Even today, some 90 years later, there is little discussion about the unique place given the moon in the teaching. If mentioned at all, it is taken either as a fable or as a metaphor for the creation of the moon in oneself. But Gurdjieff maintained that all of his ideas could be taken in seven different ways, one of which is factual.
Gurdjieff’s ideas of the moon’s control and use of the organic life of the Earth, and that but for the moon’s need there would be no organic life, or at the least a very different organic life on Earth, seem to be unique to The Fourth Way. Is this idea—that all organic life and man in particular are intimately involved in the mechanical process of reciprocal maintenance—unique to Gurdjieff’s teaching or have modern science, other ways, teachings and religions spoken of this?
Today’s scientific thought considers the moon to be essentially dead and acknowledges only the gravitational influence of the moon, primarily the tidal effect. This influence could be considered a “measurable” influence. There is anecdotal evidence of the moon’s more “subtle” influence on human behavior, generally considered to be a negative effect, on a woman’s menstrual cycle and on plant growth. Belief in the moon’s subtle influence on life is widely held among diverse cultures and often incorporated into their agrarian and cultural practices and beliefs. Science to date has been unable to prove that these subtle influences on life are real.
Water & Life
Though there is perhaps a connection between the scientifically acknowledged, measurable influence of the moon as the cause of tidal movements, human behavior and women’s menstrual cycles, these studies are quite far from showing causation. The commonality may be that the moon does affect the movement of fluids on Earth. The human body is between 50 and 60 percent water, with the brain containing approximately 75 percent water. Plant life can contain up to 90 percent water. The one element that science believes to be indispensable for life is water. Scientific thought sees that the Earth has an abundance of water, a complex atmosphere and therefore an abundance of life. Conversely, until recently science believed the moon has no water, no atmosphere, and no way of acquiring either and therefore is dead and will likely always be dead. The part of this scientific thinking that has recently changed involves the presence of water on the moon. The moon is now believed to have small quantities of water in the form of ice at the moon’s south and north poles. The source and extent of water on the moon is unknown.
So, is the moon dead or merely a very young planet (in planetary terms) beginning its process of growth? Gurdjieff stated quite clearly that the moon is a being, a younger version of the Earth, evolving and growing with the help of organic life on Earth. That organic life is influenced and manipulated to provide what the moon needs for its growth. This Trogoautoegocratic system is a part of the teaching’s cosmology, as graphically demonstrated in the Ray of Creation. As a part of Fourth Way cosmology, the moon is near the end of the descending creative octave. It is in the creation, or origin of the moon, that current science belatedly has come to a very similar, though not identical, view as to the mechanics that led to the creation of the moon.
Gurdjieff’s Anulios Discovered
In the First Series Gurdjieff writes that the moon was created accidentally by the collision of the Earth with the comet Kondoor. The largest fragment created by this collision was subsequently captured and became Earth’s moon. After many years of favoring other theories, today’s science, for the most part, has come to accept the hypothesis of a giant collision as the causal event which resulted in the creation of the moon. This theory postulates that during the Earth’s early life, some four billion years ago, a planetoid of approximately the size of Mars collided with a young planet Earth. The ensuing debris that was the result of the collision accreted and formed the moon. Satellite investigations and analysis of the rocks brought back to earth by the Apollo manned space missions have provided many details of the composition of the moon. With the use of this information and computer modeling, modern science has generally come to believe that the moon’s origin is best explained by the giant collision hypothesis.
Amazingly, Gurdjieff also held that at the time of this collision a smaller moon, which he calls Anulios, was created. Some 20 years after his death this was scientifically verified. The New York Times reported in July 1970:
It has recently been discovered that the Earth and the moon do not make up an isolated, self-sufficient two-body system, as men have believed for centuries. Rather, they are part of a three-body system whose third member is a tiny “quasi-moon” only a mile or two in diameter. Toro, as this third body has been named, wanders around the sun five times in the time that it takes Earth to make eight circuits. When Toro comes too near earth—9.3 million miles at the closest point—Earth’s gravity tends to change Toro’s curvilinear path so that on its next passage it is further away from Earth; in turn, Earth’s gravity affects this revised path so that on its following pass it is closer to Earth.
While current scientific thought has relegated the moon to a chunk of dead rock exerting only a measurable gravitational influence on the Earth, this view did not always dominate man’s beliefs. The science, religions and peoples of the ancient world had a quite different view of the moon.
Pliny the Elder, a first century Roman naturalist, illustrates the scientific beliefs of his time which still held the moon as an influential presence on the organic life of Earth. “We may certainly conjecture that the moon is not unjustly regarded as the star of our life. This it is that replenishes the earth; when she approaches it, she fills all the bodies, while when she recedes, she empties them. From this cause it is that shell-fish increase with the increase of the moon and that the bloodless creatures especially feel the breath at that time; even the blood of men grows and diminishes with the light of the moon, and leaves and herbage also feel the same influence, since the lunar energy penetrates all things.”
Pliny’s words and observations, specifics aside, are not incompatible with Fourth Way teachings in that they represent a sweeping and dynamic view of the moon’s influence on organic life.
A Life-Giving Moon?
In the past, the moon was often seen as a living, life-giving and life-effecting being as represented by a particular god or goddess. Worship of the moon or its representatives and the orientation of life by the lunar calendar was a main focus of religious life. Time was measured by the cycles of the moon and the moon was believed to have an effect on the most essential aspects of life. Within the beliefs of the past there is often found a close association of the moon with liquids of life: water, rain, the ocean, dew, sap, milk, blood, semen, menstrual fluids. The crescent moon often represented a container of a life-giving liquid and is seen throughout the ancient world as a crown adorning the heads of gods and goddesses. The old polytheistic religions of the world are replete with moon gods, goddesses and beings associated with the moon: Thoth, Ancient Egypt; Bridgit the Enchantress, Celtic Ireland; Diana, Ancient Rome; Artemis the Divine Archer, Ancient Greece; Shing-Moo, Ancient China; Cybele, The Lioness, Ancient Phrygia; Sinn, Ancient Babylonia; Helcate, the dark one, Ancient Greece; Lilith, Ancient Sumeria; Khons, the forgotten Egyptian, Ancient Egypt; Caridwen, Queen of the Cauldron; Danu, the Good Mother, Ireland; Isis, Mistress of Majic, Ancient Egypt, and many others.
Though many of man’s religions of the past promoted these beliefs, people through their own observations, experiences and instincts could often confirm the basis of religious teachings. In the arid climes where civilization first arose, the moon was generally the most important object and focus of religious ideas and observances. In juxtaposition to the sun, the other large dynamic celestial presence in their lives, the night and moon were welcomed. The desiccating sun, often seen as a destroyer of life, was gone, cooler temperatures enveloped the world, dew was formed and life became tolerable. The tangible relief that people felt in the setting of the sun and rising of the moon confirmed the soundness of many of their religious beliefs. Throughout the records that have come to us from the past there is extensive documentation of the widespread belief of life’s dependence on the moon. This view of dependence, to some degree, correlates with Fourth Way teachings. Gurdjieff says that it is the moon that exerts a mechanical control on all organic life on earth, though he also presents a less benign posture towards the moon: “The moon is man’s big enemy. We serve the moon.” While acknowledging the moon’s control, Fourth Way teaching brings a way to escape from this control, from mechanical life to “real life.”
Beginning with the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age (ca. 2000–1250 BCE) there began to be a lessening of the belief in the moon as the regulator and provider of life. Consequently, worship of the moon by the Earth’s peoples diminished. Concurrent with the moon’s decent there was an ascendancy of the sun in many of the religious beliefs of the world; the sun began to usurp many of the moon’s powers. This process of “solarization” was gradual and by no means universally accepted and was often met with resistance. Sun worship is essentially a learned belief. As science grew, belief in the sun’s dominance grew. Worship of the moon had begun and then grew instinctively; worship of the sun grew as the minds of men were taken with calculations and rationality. The science behind sun worship was undertaken by priests, not the people. Sun worship was facilitated by continually placing the sun’s location further and further from the Earth. Despite resistance by people clinging to the more instinctive beliefs of the past, solarization continued unabated. The solarization process has of late culminated in man’s current scientific view of the moon. This view, conveniently, is not at a cross purpose to the prevailing Western religious doctrines or conventional societal thought. By their actions and beliefs, even outside of the current mainstream religious teachings, it appears that most modern Western people have, in effect, become worshipers of the sun. In the Western world, the moon, with its importance in the minds of men greatly diminished by science and religion, has been left to the realm of poets, pagans and peasants.
Food for the Moon
Within the polytheistic world there is a partial correlation with The Fourth Way’s teaching regarding man as a food for the moon. In the mythology and the teachings of several of these polytheistic religions is found the belief in the moon as the repository of the finer bodies of man. In Etruscan mythology, the moon or “Luna” is the underworld, where souls go to rest and the production of new souls begins. In Greek mythology, upon death the soul and psyche first go to the moon and then go to the underworld where there is a second death and a separation. The soul then goes to the moon and the psyche to the sun. The Bhagavad-Gita describes two paths souls travel after physical death; one is the path of the sun, also known as the bright path, and the other is the path of the moon, known as the dark path. Gurdjieff states that man is a food for the moon and these myths and beliefs to a degree correlate with his statement. Gurdjieff also states that, “We are like the moon’s sheep, which it cleans, feeds and sheers, and keeps for its own purposes.” Though pantheistic religions and mythology put man under the sway of the gods they do not equate man to the status of domesticated sheep. This degree of mechanical control by the moon over organic life on Earth and man in particular is probably unique to Fourth Way teaching. Gurdjieff’s statement also implies that the moon is somehow feeding man. There is indeed some basis in Hindu beliefs that man does, at least indirectly, receive something from the moon in the form of soma. Soma in Hindu mythology is an elixir of immortality that only the gods can drink; the moon is said to be the storehouse or cup of soma. Though soma is believed by some to be a plant-derived intoxicant or hallucinogen, this may be a distraction from its real meaning. A verse from the Bhagavad-Gita speaks to this: “Permeating throughout the planetary system I maintain all moving and stationary beings by my potency and having become the essence of the moon, I nourish all plant life.”
Certain yogis believe that soma is a life-giving fluid created from the finer bodies of man that is to be showered by the moon with her light that descends on vegetables to form vitamins; it is also present in the cerebrum and has an essential role in the reproductive process. “The astral body rises up to the moon, the sun or other heavenly stars…. All our noble and virtuous deeds, our prayers and oblations offered with faith project that astral fluid from our bodies to the higher regions. The moon being the nearest heavenly body and a satellite of the earth attracts the astral fluid thus projected up and converts it into soma which in turn falls on the electric atmosphere of the earth and showers with rains, it descends with rainwater and takes the form of sap in vegetables, and lastly takes the form of semen when vegetables are consumed as food.”
Thus apparently it is within the Hindu yogic tradition that the closest approximation of Fourth Way teaching is found regarding the mechanical relationship of reciprocal maintenance of organic life on Earth with the moon. Even here, though there is a correspondence, there is not a clear view of the extent of organic life’s interdependence with the moon. A search through the beliefs of religions and mythology of the Earth’s peoples in seeking direct correspondence with this part of Fourth Way teaching is striking in the lack of even a close correlation. That the external teachings and beliefs of the three main monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, have little in them that remotely resembles Fourth Way teaching is perhaps to be expected. The external trappings of all three of these great monotheistic religions were developed in a world saturated with pagan religions and were established in opposition to pagan beliefs. It is only within the polytheistic religions of the world that hints and similarities exist. The blunt clarity of Gurdjieff’s words is not to be demonstrably found within other teachings.
The lack of direct correlation in and of itself brings forth a question. What explains the uniqueness of this part of the teaching and why isn’t there a more direct correlation? Perhaps Gurdjieff answers this himself in the First Series “It might happen that having understood the reason for their arising, namely, that by their existence they should maintain the detached fragments of their planet, and being convinced of this their slavery to circumstances utterly foreign to them, they would be unwilling to continue their existence and would on principle destroy themselves.”
- Everything living on the Earth. P. D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous, pp. 84–85.
- The moon. Ouspensky, p. 83. “The moon is still an unborn planet…. It is becoming warm gradually and in time (given a favorable development of the ray of creation) it will become like the earth and have a satellite of its own, a new moon. A new link will have been added to the ray of creation. The earth, too, is not getting colder, it is getting warmer, and may in time become like the sun.”
- Gurdjieff stated quite clearly. Ouspensky, p. 25.
- The collision of the Earth with the comet Kondoor. G. I. Gurdjieff, First Series, p. 82.
- Toro. William Patrick Patterson, Eating The “I”, p. 44.
- Natural History. Pliny the Elder, Bk.11 C11 (No. 221).
- The moon is man’s big enemy. G. I. Gurdjieff, Views from the Real World, p.198.
- Bhagavad-Gita. 8.24 8.25 8.26.
- We are like the moon’s sheep. Gurdjieff, Views, p. 198.
- Hindu beliefs. René Guénon, Man and His Becoming According to the Vedanta (New Delhi: Oriental Books Reprint, 1981), p. 14: “Memory, being but a reflex of perception, can be taken as denoting, by extension, everything which possesses the character of reflective or discursive, that is to say, of indirect knowledge. Moreover, if knowledge is symbolized by light, as is most often the case, pure intelligence and recollection, otherwise the intuitive faculty and the discursive faculty, can be respectively represented by the sun and the moon. Traces of this symbolism are to be detected even in speech: for example, it is not without reason that the same root man or men has served, in various languages, to form numerous words denoting at one and the same time the moon, memory, the ‘mental’ faculty or discursive thought, and man himself insofar as he is specifically a ‘rational being.’”
- Bhagavad-Gita. 15.13.
- The astral body. Swami Vishnu Tirtha, Devatma Shakti (New Delhi: Swami Shivom Tirth, 1948), p. 50.
- It might happen. G. I. Gurdjieff, First Series, p. 88.
First printed in The Gurdjieff Journal.