This work teaches how to respond to the needs of the moment the way a farmer responds to the needs of each month. Clouded by imagination, he introduces artificial light. Plagued by emotional drought, he generates fresh inspiration. This is why it is called, The Work…
Grape juice is a poor yield of a vineyard and negativity is a poor yield of an emotional center. But wine-grapes aren’t harvested for grape juice and neither should we settle for the yield negativity. If we work with an end flavor in mind, then a challenging harvest needn’t necessarily portend a bad bottle. In September, we examined that harvest. In October, let us consider what it might mean to refine it into a profound elixir. Which emotions would accelerate our work if we could experience them more frequently, more durably, and more deeply?read more
This harvest concludes the three harvests featured in the annual cycle: hay, wheat, and grape. We’ve associated harvesting hay with work on the body, harvesting wheat with work on the mind, and harvesting grape with work on the heart. In the Chartres sequence, each of these harvests is spread over two months: hay is shown growing in May and gathered in June; wheat is shown reaped in July and threshed in August; and grape is shown plucked in September and barrelled in October. This two-step principle follows a repetitive pattern. The first step features the produce of nature. The second step features the farmer’s response to that produce. A farmer of land, after all, tames and refines nature. Likewise, a farmer of the fourth way tames and refines himself, which begs the question, what is the yield of the mind, body, and heart? What is harvest in the micro-cosmos man?read more
If we don’t harvest in July we can’t thresh in August. If we don’t uncover illusion we can’t Be. In this work — as in any work — one thing opens the door to another, while the neglect of one thing prevents the completion of another. Having discovered our wrong thinking in July, it invariably follows that we proceed to formulating right thinking in its stead. Our August labor will revolve around winnowing the right from the wrong at the moment the habit seeks to assert itself. To fit the moment, our weapon must be brief and potent. Our right thinking must be coined in the form of an aphorism, a succinct command, the smooth stone David used to stun Goliath.read more
How can we work with a well-established habit? Suppose I discover that fear of the future is a predominant negative emotion in my psychology. It regularly invents imaginary scenarios of catastrophe that pull me away from reality and hinder my ability to Be. My desire to work with this habit introduces a new active force to my work. But the inertia of having spent years indulging in fear opposes this initiative and serves as the passive force. In themselves, the two forces counteract each other in stalemate. They generate self-observation, but they don’t bring about change. The fear remains, and my inability to confront it only produces guilt, frustration, self-deprecation. In order to change, the pulling and hauling of two forces is insufficient; a third neutralizing force must intervene.read more
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?read more
Observe the first hour of your day. Which weed habitually saps your good earth? Is it chronic worry? Is it a bad mood? The point is not to let these negative emotions reach a degree of intensity that depletes your good earth. Be patient, recognizing that a newly-formed discipline is inevitably weaker than a long-established habit. If you persist, then in forty days you will be bundling and burning weeds and harvesting and storing wheat. But for now, your May Labor is to photograph the first negative ‘I’ that intrudes into your day, and start formulating a work discipline around it.read more
We are in search of the miraculous — not in Egypt, Ceylon, or India, but standing on the street where we live. The present is reliably there. It is up to us to Be there for it, to use it as a catalyst for self-consciousness. Our skills have improved. Having formulated aims around our habits during January, experimented with non-identification during February, pruned and refined our work during March, we are naturally brought to the position of asking ourselves: which of our efforts really work?read more
If you’re new to this teaching, now is the time to formulate an aim. If you’ve already formulated an aim in January, now is the time to examine whether it still reflects what you’d like to harvest. Bearing your aim in mind, what must you prune today to ensure a plentiful harvest tomorrow?read more
The habits we tackle in this work didn’t spring up last month. They grew in the course of years. We discovered this during January, as we labored to set an aim for 2017. One layer of habit gave way to another. Those who initially aimed to minimize unnecessary talk discovered an attitude of vanity beneath their talking. Those who initially aimed to curb haste discovered a need of pleasing others beneath their hurrying. Our formulation of aim began around habits the size of branches, and through self-observation expanded to encompass mature trunks. “And now the axe is laid unto the root of the trees,” says John the Baptist. “Every tree therefore which brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.”read more
Where were you a year ago, on the eve of 2016? Were you alone? Were you partying? Were you watching a firecracker spectacle from your kitchen balcony? Wherever you were, 365 days have gone by and the earth has completed a cycle around the sun. The celebratory nature of this annual milestone (or the lack thereof for those of us who spend it alone) creates memory, so that we can readily envision where exactly we were a year ago and gauge the duration of time that has elapsed. From our humble micro-cosmic viewpoint, we gain a glimpse into the grand cycle of a larger cosmos.read more
Detailed description of Chartres Zodiac and Labors of the Month Window
This early 13th century window was restored in 1993, and was donated, again, by vintners, carrying hoes in the tiny bottom corners (1 and 2), and pruning a vine in the bottom left circle (3). Opposite (4) is Count Thibault VI of Chartres… greeted by a group of kneeling people. Beneath his horse’s hooves is a Latin inscription, very difficult to decipher, because of earlier restorations, but which suggests that the window was donated by Thibault on behalf of Thomas, a count of Perche. Between these two signatures is another curious scene which takes place beneath an arch (5) probably inside a church. A bent figure is pulling upon a rope, perhaps bell-ringing, whilst two others (6), holding sticks, stand by watching.
The rest of this window should be read bottom upwards, with the Zodiac signs in the right half, including the central quatrefoils, and the corresponding monthly labors in the left half, the whole representing a calendar, the cycle of a year.
The Roman deity Janus (7), origin of the word January, is not feasting at a table, as on the Royal portal and elsewhere, but is standing, opening doors that represent the new year. Janus is usually represented two-faced, the one aged, the other youthful, again suggesting the cycle of time. The Janus shown here is a rarer example of a triple-faced figure: time being composed of a past, present, and future. He shares the quatrefoil with Aquarius (8) dressed in red and pouring water from a yellow pot.
Warmly clothed and hooded, February (9) is seated by a roaring fire toasting his hands and feet. Beside him is a jug of wine and a poker. Opposite (10), Pisces is represented in the usual way: two fish, head-to-tail, their mouths linked by a cord. March (11) is a hooded peasant pruning his vine. Opposite (12), is Aries, a ram standing amongst trees.
The months of April and May are inverted, so that, in the next central quatrefoil, are May (15) and Gemini (16). May is portrayed as a helmeted soldier, wearing chain-mail, carrying a shield and holding a banner, whilst his saddled horse grazes near him. Gemini, the Twins, in the same panel, are naked, and hold hands.
April (13), the month when nature is reborn, is personified by a woman standing between flowering trees, holding a bouquet of flowers in each hand.
Taurus, the Bull (14), like Aries, stands amongst trees. June (17) is mowing with a blue scythe. The inscription is JULIUS, although it is not certain whether this is an original mistake or that of a later restorer. Cancer (18) is a red crab-like creature. July (19) again has a mistaken inscription, JUNIUS, and is represented by a peasant cutting wheat with a sickle. He shares the third quatrefoil with Leo (20), the Lion.
August (21) is stripped to the waist and, with a flail, is threshing wheat. Various farming instruments are stacked to either side of him. Virgo (22), like April, holds flowers in each hand. September (23) is portrayed as two vintners cutting bunches of grapes off a vine, and treading them in a vat. Libra (24) is represented by a woman holding a pair of scales.
In the next quatrefoil, October (25) sits astride a barrel into which he is pouring new wine, and Scorpio (26) is shown as a green creature, with a twisted string-tipped tail.
November (27), although the inscription is DECEMBER is about to stun a pig with the back of an axe. Sagittarius (28) is a centaur, half man half beast, holding a bow in one hand, and arrows in the other. December (29) is feasting at a table on which are three Christian symbols, bread, wine and fish, as on the Last Supper table, and Capricorn (30) is half goat and half fish, the fish being a symbol for Jesus, whose advent is feasted in the sign of Capricorn. He (31), as Chronocrator, is enthroned in the uppermost panel. He is seated between two candles, and the Greek letters alpha and omega. Time, hence, is both linear and cyclic.
(Text by Malcolm Miller, from the book Chartres Cathedral)
January (as the triple-faced Roman God Janus) looks to the past, present, and future
A man warms his limbs before a fireplace
Pruning the vines
Presenting spring blossoms
May + Gemini
A crusader lets his horse feed on spring grass + Gemini
Mowing hay with a scythe
July + Leo
Harvesting wheat with a sickle + Leo
Threshing wheat with a flail
Harvesting and pressing grapes
October + Scorpio
Barreling wine + Scorpio
A pig fattened with acorns is slaughtered
Feasting on the produce of the year
The Alpha and the Omega
3. Pruning Vines
4. Count Thibault VI
“… living together to set up a convenient common measure of time in which all can concur, however misleading that common time may be. For this purpose they quite naturally have recourse to a unit of the time of the higher cosmos which embraces them. They measure their own, each others’, and their ancestors’ lives by the breathing of the Earth, that is, by the time the Earth takes to revolve about the Sun, by years.” – Rodney Collin (The Theory of Celestial Influence – Ch 11, Man in Time – Part III, Superhuman and Subhuman Times)
“The year in fact represents a great dance in which all men, animals, birds, trees and plants upon the surface of the Earth take part, no matter how quickly or how slowly they themselves pass through it.” – Rodney Collin (The Theory of Celestial Influence – Ch 11, Man in Time – Part III, Superhuman and Subhuman Times)
“Now a year is an extremely interesting and complete unit of time, full of inner connections and relations, and which may perhaps be taken as the classical pattern of an organic time-form. … A year is such an organic time-form, with its own functions or festivals and its own inner circulation between them. … and will represent a fixed common relationship for all of them.” – Rodney Collin (The Theory of Celestial Influence – Ch 11, Man in Time – Part III, Superhuman and Subhuman Times)
“… a year represents for a man not a line, but a rippling and scintillating web of trans-temporal echoes.
A year is not at all a unit of individual time, as we often suppose, but rather the scenery through which personal time passes. For man’s time moves against the background of the Earth’s time.” – Rodney Collin (The Theory of Celestial Influence – Ch 11, Man in Time – Part III, Superhuman and Subhuman Times)
“Let us mark 360 days of the year round the 360° of a circle, leaving uncounted and ‘outside time’ the five days between Christmas and New Year, between the end and the beginning. In this circle of the year tradition marks three major points – the festival of the midwinter solstice or Christmas, when all life is hidden and invisible; the festival of rebirth or Easter; and the festival of harvest. These three festivals are typified by the three stages of natural growth – root, flower and fruit – and in a very general way their intermediate periods represent, not only for plants, but for all living beings an ever-repeating cycle of gestation, ripening and reaping.” – Rodney Collin (The Theory of Celestial Influence – Ch 11, Man in Time – Part III, Superhuman and Subhuman Times)