While the nuclear bomb was being developed in the United States during the Second World War, there were a few scientists who theorized that once you started the nuclear chain reaction that caused the bomb to explode, that there would be no way to stop it, that it would destroy all the matter in the universe.
It, of course, says something about man’s destructive nature that, in light of this theory, he would still test such a device, but that’s not what I want talk about here. The point I want to make is that what the scientists who formulated this theory didn’t understand was the law of seven (also called the law of octaves). They didn’t understand that nothing continues forever.
The law of seven can be observed everywhere in the natural world and in everything we do internally and externally. If we understood the law of octaves, we could see more clearly how the universe unfolds, or how a tree grows, or how learning requires special efforts at certain, very specific, points.
The law of octaves explains many phenomena in our lives which are incomprehensible. ~ Gurdjieff
The law of seven is said to be the basis for the seven-note musical octave. The idea is that in nature, and in the universe at large, nothing continues forever in a direct line. Everything must deviate at definite intervals. If you take the standard seven-note octave, plus the first note to a new octave, you get eight notes: do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si, and do. What the law of seven says is that within these eight notes there are two definite intervals, one between mi and fa, and one between si and the new do. The intervals are called the mi/fa interval and the si/do interval. On an energetic level what this means is that the vibrations, which are increasing (or decreasing) at a consistent rate naturally slow down at these two intervals. Octaves can be ascending, where the vibrations increase, or descending, where the vibrations decrease. In an ascending octave the notes run forward, so that the first interval occurs in the middle at the mi/fa, and the second interval occurs at the end at the si/do. In a descending octave the notes run backward: do, si, la, sol, fa, mi, re, and do, so that the first interval falls at the beginning and the second interval happens toward the middle.
Reading a book (or reading this essay) can be considered a simple example of an ascending octave. Often what happens is that we begin with emotion. We are inspired by the subject or what we believe we are going to learn, but then about half way through the emotion drops off. Suddenly we don’t understand why we began reading the book in the first place or why we want to learn what the book teaches. This is the feeling of a mi/fa interval, a kind of emotional confusion about what we are doing and why we are doing it. At this point it is very easy for the octave to become something different, to change direction, or to deviate. In this example maybe the book will be set aside, and a new book will be started. The second book will be a new octave, with new inspirations and emotions, but again, the same thing will happen near the middle of the book; again the emotion will drop off and we will feel confused about our motivation. In order to move on, to complete the octave—in this case to continue reading the book—a certain effort is required. An effort to bridge the interval. That effort may take many different forms. It may be quite simple; you may simply use your will to read on, knowing that if you do this, your feelings of emotional motivation will eventually return. You may have an external force motivating you. Maybe you need to learn the material in the book in order to pass a test, and maybe passing the test will allow you to find a better job or allow you to make more money. The point is that some kind of effort needs to be made to keep the octave from deviating. Once this effort is made and a new note is sounded, then the emotion returns, and it’s possible for the octave to continue for a time. The second interval in an ascending octave happens near the end, when you are nearly finished and ready to move on. The feeling of the si/do interval is: I just want this to be finished. Again the emotion drops off. You’re ready to move on, but you’re still not quite finished with what you are doing. A second effort or shock is now needed to complete the book or whatever you happen to be doing.
In descending octaves the first interval comes at the beginning. In other words the octave starts with a change of direction. The intervals in descending octaves are not bridged, or if they are bridged, they are bridged mechanically. The octave happens automatically, usually changing direction at each interval. Many natural processes, things that just happen, like decay, are descending octaves. The detonation of a nuclear bomb is a good example of a descending octave. When you see films of nuclear devices being detonated, you see that there are two very definite intervals where the force of the explosion drops off. Since it is a descending octave, the first interval appears at the beginning, at the point right after the so-called mushroom cloud. The second major interval appears at about half the distance from the point of detonation and the outer ring of the destruction.
The law of seven is a little more difficult to observe than the law of three. The law of seven requires observation of a process that unfolds over a period of time. And it must be noted that there are octaves within octaves. If we go back to our example of reading a book, we can say that reading a book in its entirety is a single octave, but we can also say that each chapter is an octave, and that each section is an octave. And all of these different octaves have intervals. But the shorter the octave is, the less severe the interval, which means that the interval will be easier to bridge.
Like everything else our inner work—our efforts to remember ourselves, and to be present, and to transform suffering—are subject to the law of octaves. What this means is that the law of seven can become a tool that can help you understand how to keep our efforts moving forward; that is, toward more and more presence.
The idea of octaves demonstrates again the necessity for effort in your inner work. What the law of octaves teaches us about being present, for instance, is that there are times when you are not going to understand why you want to be present, or why you want to connect to higher centers. Another way of looking at this is that you will not always feel emotional about being present. It is a law that you will be able to be present for a time and then an interval will come. Nothing can continue at its present rate of vibration forever, including your attempts to be present. Something will always happen. Maybe you will simply forget about it, or maybe you will become identified. Something will happen to break the chain. But if you can observe the moment where you lose your motivation to make efforts, you have an opportunity: you can use your intelligence and your experience to make a special effort to continue to be present. And this type of effort, where there is no motivation, has a greater possibility to create being than the efforts you make when you are motivated. This is so because, at the moment when you bridge this interval, there is no momentum, and so it becomes necessary for you to work directly from will.