Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Four Watches of the Night

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]

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



When soft breezes swell, and vagrant 
Haunt the green-embosomed lawn, 
Twilight sheds its spices fragrant, 
Sinks its mists like curtains drawn, 
Breathes sweet peace, his heart composes 
Like a child's that rests from play, 
On his eyes so weary, closes 
Soft the portals of the day. 

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." 


Now the Night more deeply darkles, 
Linketh holy star to star. 
Mighty torches, tiny sparkles, 
Glimmer near and gleam afar. 
Glassed within the lake they glimmer, 
Gleam in Night's unclouded round ; 
Throned aloft the moon's full shimmer 
Seals the bliss of peace profound. 

. . . 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!"


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 !
Vales grow green, and swell like pillows
Hills to shady rest that woo,
And in swaying silver billows
Waves the corn the harvest to.

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- "Who is wise and swift to seize" again his opportunity within the heaven-reflecting earthly body, and casts the shell of sleep away.


Wish on wish wouldst compass crowded,
Lift thine eyes to yon bright steep.
Only softly art thou shrouded,
Cast away the shell of sleep ! Falter not !
Thine heart embolden
When the throng faint-hearted flees.
Naught is from the brave withholden
Who is wise and swift to seize.

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 so-called 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 striving."

Reference: The Year & its Festivals, Eleanor C. Merry

The twelve-hour day was divided into four periods of three hours each. The town bell rang at four intervals during the day to signal the time to all who could hear. The first hour, called Prime, rang at 6:00 a.m.; hour three (Terce) rang at 9:00 a.m.; hour six (Sext) rang at 12:00 p.m.; and hour nine (None) rang at 3:00 p.m.

The early Catholic Church adopted these daily patterns in their rituals, and monks recited prayers at the canonical hours of terce, sext and none, every day.

What does this have to do with “noon”? Well, the word for the ninth hour, specifically the ninth hour of daylight, so 3:00, became “non” in Old English. As church traditions changed, the canonical hours of “non” began to happen earlier, closer to 12:00 p.m.

We still don’t know if the time of the midday meal shifted from 3:00 to 12:00 or whether the time of Church prayers shifted, or both, but by the early 1200s, “noon” came to mean midday. In the 1300s, the earliest mechanical clocks showed a 24-hour dial, but by the 1500s, the 12-hour dial, starting at midnight, became standard. (The word afternoon came into common usage around this time as well.)

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