I don’t know about you, but I find the week comforting…
Over the years, I’ve built up a pattern of working through things that I need to do, in order to get to the things I regard as ‘me-time’.
There is the stuff of keeping an orderly house. Then the dog has to be walked… and time to visit my mother in her care home. In the summer, the garden takes up a lot of our week. Keeping on top of this does involve some early mornings and late nights – most of that for either the review of Silent Eye companions’ journals or the writing of blogs. But the ‘me-time’ is all the more special for that…Experience teaches that, if you can keep on top of things, the pattern of seven days works well….
But what would happen if we continued the days beyond seven, not into one, again, but numbered the next one ‘eight’, then gave it a new name… and so on? Perhaps we’d get to 365 and have a pot of tea before concluding it was boring…. Then pick up Sunday, again.
Does ‘the week’ really have any reality? Our week is cyclic: it comes round again on the eighth day. But nothing really comes around apart from the habitual patterns that fit into seven days. We cut the grass on Sundays, perhaps. We do the shopping on Saturdays. Weekdays, we collect the kid or grandkids from school…
These patterns of familiar events give us a warm feeling that the week really does exist, but what really exists is a seven-day cycle of recurring events made by ourselves. The traditional ‘working week’ is a big part of this, of course. It’s at the root of how we are trained to view the seven days as a real composite thing – in order to fit in with our society, even our world.
Can we find a reality in the larger cycles of our lives? To do this we need to find some boundaries – some natural cycles of definite character and presence – that will provide an anchor for the derivation of the week.
The year is the obvious starting point. Every 365 days (plus a quarter), we find a repeating cycle of four approximate seasons driven by the time it takes the Earth to travel around the Sun. We don’t actually see that, of course, though we do see the sun crossing the sky every day, bar a cloud or two.
But the sun does return to its annual start-point reliably … sort of…
It is, of course, the planets that move around an apparently stationery sun. In reality, the sun and its planets – including our home, Earth, are hurtling through the space of the parent Milky Way galaxy at more than a hundred miles a second, and all this at a right angle to what we think of as the ‘saucer’ on which the sun and planets lie – the ecliptic. See the above diagram for an illustration (original source itskosmos on Instagram)
The week is simply a series of days following nights; eventually leading to the changing cycles of nature as we progress from spring, to summer, to autumn to winter. The solstices and equinoxes are real events and can be measured. The year provides a primary ‘time container’ for the passing-time of life on Earth – something that has a substantive presence beyond any artificial concept.
All these belong to solar cycles: the orbits of planets – inclined on their axes of spin so that seasons exist. Were we not to be tilted at 23.5 degrees from the ‘vertical’ we would have no seasons, and the equator would be a fiercely hot hell-zone. We would have no instinctive feel for what time of year it was, and all our days would be of fixed duration depending on our degree of latitude.
Variation seems to be a key ingredient of a healthy life. From a perspective of consciousness, that is easy to understand: the mind gets bored if it is not stimulated by freshness. The body would quickly die without a constant exchange of material with the outside world to provide food, air and excretion.
We can see that some of the parts of our ‘time-container’ are valid boundaries, determined and backed up by the realities of physics. The day, and the year – with its solstice (longest and shortest) and equinox (equal night and day) – are actual physical occurrences that can be mapped onto, say, a ridge on the horizon, allowing for the precession of the equinoxes, a cycle that takes 26,000 years to complete.
Is the week still a mystery? The truth is its meaning and origination have slipped from our consciousness but is rooted in our ancient study of moon-cycles – something we find pretty but otherwise irrelevant to our busy modern lives.
Twenty-eight days was the approximation to the full cycle of the moon whose actual length is 29.5 days. This closely fitted the average 28-29 days of the full menstrual cycle of women: the basis of all human life on earth…
Before the patriarchal society imposed upon us by religion and power politics, women were the priests…and for good reasons.
The ancients knew of the magical nature of cycles of seven. Harmony emerged from a cycle of seven notes, repeated on higher levels with the eighth note being the same as the first but an octave higher. The proportions of frequency within the seven gave rise to endless harmonic innovation.
The seven-day week originates from the calendar of the Babylonians, which in turn is based on a Sumerian calendar dated to 21st-century B.C. Seven days corresponds to the time it takes for a moon to transition between each phase: full, waning half, new and waxing half.
Seven times four is 28: the nearest ‘whole’ number to the moon cycles and therefore key to reproduction in woman. The week was ‘born’…
Incidentally, the scientist and philosopher Rudolph Steiner developed a system of agriculture based on the cycles of the moon – Biodynamics. It was deeply in harmony with what became ‘ecology’ and rewards an increasing number of farmers who use it.
The sun and the solar system are moving at 200 kilometers per second, or at an average speed of 448,000 mph (720,000 km/h). Even at this rapid speed, the solar system would take about 230 million years to travel all the way around the Milky Way. So, the length of the week is fairly trivial, in galactic terms.
But not to us…
Were we to live on a desert island, off-grid and self-sufficient. We could forget the days, weeks and even months. The shortening, then lengthening days and their twin solstices and equinoxes would remind us of the four polar points as the years of our lives passed – a tiny blink in the life of the universe.
And yet the consciousness we hold, the seat of the ‘I’ which is the real jewel of creation – is still inexplicable to the great minds that map the universe we have just explored in our imagination.
The seven days of the week can hold a wonderful key to self-development. In next week’s post we will explore the use of this key.
©Stephen Tanham 2022
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.