Nature fluctuates. In one season it gives little and in another it bestows much. If this were not so, then mankind could live in nature as Adam and Eve lived in Paradise, feasting freely on its fruits. “There was not a man to till the ground, but there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground,” says the Book of Genesis, describing a self-sustained garden of abundance. Nature would do all the work and mankind would live unconcerned, eating, drinking, and making merry all year round. But nature’s uneven bestowal forces a need for preparing during times of feast for times of famine. Nature forces mankind to farm.
In the northern hemisphere, nature swings into its brightest and warmest extreme in June. June 20th will mark the summer solstice, the longest day and the beginning of summer. Till now, the farmer permitted his livestock to graze freely in fields of grass (see horse in the May Labor), but from now on he will have to store that grass to provide for his livestock through winter. The same holds true for every crop: its surplus will have to be preserved for future use, a process that begins with harvest.
The Chartres sequence of labors features three types of harvest: hay, wheat, and grape. Hay is harvested in June, wheat in July, and grape in September. Hay sustains livestock, wheat and grape sustain man. Indeed, any medieval farm in Europe would have had to harvest much more than this — or at least obtain much more through bartering with other farms — but these three harvests were chosen by the Chartres artists to represent the three archetypal forms of sustenance for the micro-cosmos man. Hay represents sustenance for the body (which the micro-cosmos man shares with the animal world); bread represents sustenance for the mind; and wine represents sustenance for the heart. These three make for a complete diet, “affecting simultaneously every side of man’s being,” as George Gurdjieff explained when he distinguished the fourth way from the other three, in the way it brought harmony to the micro-cosmos.
The micro-cosmos man, too, fluctuates, perpetually swinging from light to darkness, from detachment to identification, from certainty to doubt — on a faster timescale than the macro-cosmos nature. “Our understanding is always moving up and down,” says Peter Ouspensky. “At one moment we understand more, and at another moment we understand less. If we notice these differences… we shall be able to realize that there is a possibility of keeping those higher levels of understanding.”
How to preserve my understandings? I must first consider my fluctuations. Sipping my morning coffee, I have greater relativity towards the challenges of the day than later on, when my boss forces me to work extra hours. Walking my dog through town, I have greater inner calm than later on, when I return home to find my children quarreling. If I don’t work during the calm of one season I shouldn’t expect to be able to work during the storms of another. I must work when I can so that I can work when I must. Each time I make an effort to Be, I justify all my preceding labors by applying my entire being in this present moment. I preserve the harvest of my understanding by perpetually putting it into practice, now.
June invites us to review our understandings around the physical body and preserve them, lest they rot and ruin. Since formulating an aim in January this year (or since you joined this work), what have you understood about the physical body and its relation to your aim? If you do not factor what you’ve learned into your present efforts, then you are neglecting your harvest. What have you learned about haste, about being present while dining, or about working through physical fatigue?