The Four Watches

Bruce Michael

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"I'll stretch the day,

With Summer's recourse,
And live each minute of the journey."

-The Brothers

Summer does indeed stretch the day. But day remains day, and we straitjacket it by only applying our man made notions of what constitutes time.

" Four watches night hath, ere her fading Pause not-let each with kindly
deeds be rife.

And first, lay ye his head on the cool pillow,

Bathe him in dew from Lethe's water drawn.

Soon will the cramp-racked limbs be lithe as willow,

If new refreshed he sleep to meet the dawn.
dew from Lethe's water drawn.

Soon will the cramp-racked limbs be lithe as
willow, If new refreshed he sleep to meet the dawn.

Fulfil the fairest elfin rite,
Give him again to the holy light."


Goethe knew the secret of the four watches of the night. The second part of Faust opens with Ariel directing the spirits who are to take it in turns to
rule them :

Then the chorus of spirits weave together the magical utterances of the
four-night watches in the Serenade, Notturno, Mattutino, and Reveil.
[Reveille Old French Reviel to again awake]

In the Notturno (second watch) the soul of Faust sees in his body the glimmering reflection of the Stars.
. . " Glassed within the lake they glimmer

Gleam in Night's unclouded round." . . .
In the Mattutino, the healing of the body is accomplished
"Now the hours are spent and over,

Weal and woe are swept away.

Dream of health ; thou wilt recover Trust the gleam of new-born day!"
And then the future is indicated :
. . . . .. And in swaying silver billows
Waves the corn the harvest to ... . . . .

When the morning comes, sleep, as the Reveil says, is now a shell that has
to be cast away. Sleep has enveloped us like a covering. But the real man,
the spiritual individuality, now re-enters the heart-is " wise and swift to
seize " again his opportunity within the heaven-reflecting earthly body, and
casts the shell of sleep away. Ariel commands the spirits of the night to
disappear ; the waking man may not know nor hear them in the watches of the day, lest he should become deaf to the call of his earthly tasks.
"The twenty-four hours were once divided into the socalled Four Watches : four of the night and four of the day, each watch consisting of three hours.
The first watch of the night-6-9, the second, 9-12, the third 12-3, and the fourth, 3-6. Probably between 12 and 3 (midnight), the Earth's inhalation of the chemical ether is complete and the Sun has quite withdrawn its warmth and light. During this third watch of the night one could say that man's physical body is most deeply asleep, the life-forces contracted into the inner organs ; while the soul is " expanded " into its heavenly consciousness. Freed from its entanglement in the senses it becomes aware of the fundamentally spiritual quality of the bodily organs and processes. They are like mirrors, reflecting their spiritual archetypes, - in the words of St. Paul, " as in a glass darkly,"-so that in sleep all the disharmonies that are there as a consequence of human error, are seen in relation to their original purity.

"During the gradual return of consciousness, which may occur in the fourth
watch, the future glimmers into the past, -(which has been remembered and re-lived unconsciously in the second watch of the night,) -and from this union of the past and future, the present once more asserts its existence.
Consciousness returns at first through the limbs, then rises slowly through
the body. One is not completely awake until the whole process is finished,
about the third watch of the day. Then the waking man has reached the end of his daily " in-breathing."
"A process is taking place in the Earth's environment in day and night which is similar. It is well known that then atmospheric currents cause a kind of reversal of temperature levels. The work of Dr. Wachsmuth gives
calculations, diagrams, etc., showing that these processes are due to the
respective suctional. and centrifugal movements of the ether, which
constitute the breathing of the Earth's organism, and the interplay of
terrestrial and cosmic influences upon one another.
"Although the descending and ascending of the chemical ether and the
corresponding ascending and descending of the warmth ether, together
constitute the Earth's breathing, and its "circulation," yet the former is
carried out by the Earth itself, while the latter is under the direct
influence of the Sun. Here the life of the Earth and the life of man
correspond, because man can control his breathing, but not his circulation.

"But an apparent difference between man and the Earth is that the normal
human being is only capable of being either asleep or awake at the same time; while the Earth can " sleep " or "wake" both together. What is
outbreathing on one side of the Earth is in-breathing on the other : when it
is day in England for instance, it is night in Australia. For the whole
round of the Earth-not one part of it alone-possesses what is called
heliotropism the "eternal striving towards the Sun." Man possesses this too,and every creature. But in man it can become a conscious spiritual
From The Year & its Festivals, Eleanor C. Merry