The theme of the ‘Prisoner in the Tower’ has been on my mind a lot recently – well, ever since Stuart and Sue asked if I would create a three-part poem in the style of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol‘ for one of their forthcoming books.
I’m a big fan of Wilde’s comedic writing, but have to confess that I had never read this, his last book, which is considered to be his masterpiece. Having received a rather lovely edition of it as part of a set of Christmas gifts from my co-directors of the Silent Eye School, I read it, and winced at the depth of understated feeling in the writing, as Wilde himself (and not one of his characters) lives through the execution of a fellow prisoner, and the whole gaol is silenced in passing companionship. I realised that this assignment was deliberate on the part of the ‘terrible twins’ as my co-directors have styled themselves on numerous occasions; and that the task was therefore going to be an exacting one.
I would not have undertaken this unless I felt it would be interpreted as a serious work, albeit it with a bit of necessary and ironic humour – but only a bit . . . To write it I had to put myself into the position of being incarcerated in a gaol in a small town in Derbyshire, where I had ended up the fall guy for a shared and heinous local crime. Ben, as he is known in the books, for reasons I have recently decoded, is therefore left to rot, as the terrible twins scamper off around the ancient landscapes.
The justice meted out to the poor man (Ben not Wilde), guilty or not, is in keeping with the turn of the century setting of the Ballad of Reading Gaol, where so much depended on one’s behaviour and relationship with the gaoler . . .
For more, you’ll have to read Sue and Stuart’s Doomsday books. Which, I guarantee, will be worth it. Apparently I get, sorry – Ben gets arrested for his assault on the community in the book Doomsday, Scions of Albion, and doesn’t get freed for some time thereafter . . . so food parcels would be appreciated, and of course, being a prisoner, I won’t be able to sign any of the Silent Eye’s cheques . . . You will, of course, need to read the series to know what’s really going on . . .
Which brings me to my second and wider topic – The Prisoner in the Tower. In Stuart and Sue’s Book, Ben is incarcerated in an old and rotting gaol, but the idea of a prisoner in the tower is a more fundamental and esoteric image in the way the Silent Eye uses the enneagram to map the outer layers of a personality structure we all share.
The image of the man in the tower corresponds with point five on the enneagram, illustrated above. Technically, the man in the tower (unlike poor Ben, okay, I’ll stop milking it . . . ) is free to come and go, but chooses to lock him/herself away from the world, because it is less painful to ‘spy’ on that world and accumulate power through knowledge.
This, like all the enneagram types, is shared by us all, though it may or may not be our dominant one. This archetypal image is one of the School’s creations, and belongs to a set of nine we have constructed to help the Companions take the first steps to what will become deep, spiritual awareness of how their personalities/egos grew in the way they did – reacting to Life, becoming identified with it, and therefore losing sight of our spiritual origins.
These are not simply negative things. One of the triumphs of modern esoteric psychology is the way it has shown that such outer traits, which the Desert Fathers referred to as ‘vices’ (in this case avarice) are capable of being powerful start-points for our journey back – our spiritual journey home, unlocking along the way what Rumi referred to as ‘the barriers you have erected to love‘.
The third recent occurrence, and quite independent of the other two, is the rather more sinister tower built on the orders of Rameses II near to the island of what history will come to know as Philae at the start of his reign. Don’t go looking in the history books for this – the whole thing is a construct created for the Silent Eye’s April Workshop, The River of the Sun, whose Ritual Dramas centre around the clash between hazard, power and spiritual light in the year in which ‘Rameses the Great’ came to power.
He took over the kingdom from his father, Seti I, an enigmatic figure whose name shows he was “Beloved of Set (Seth)”. That latter attribution is unusual, too. Why would an Egyptian King choose to be linked to the archetype of the figure who constantly battled Horus (the traditional patron of Egyptian Kings) and slew his father, Osiris? This puzzle is one we will work though during the Explorations which accompany the Ritual Dramas in the weekend workshop.
In our story, Rameses’ tower is specially built for a dark purpose – one which emphasises the absolute control he felt he had to exercise in an era still scarred by the memory of the invasion and occupation by the Hyksos Kings followed shortly thereafter by the religious revolution of the ‘heretic’ Pharaoh Akhenaten, the self-styled ‘Son of the Sun’.
The image of the tower holds a fascination for the human mind. Like the Saxon crosses, so deeply observed by Stuart and Sue in their blogged journeys and books, the tower reaches to ‘heaven’. For the Egyptians, the idea of reaching upwards, first with pyramids and later with towers and pillars, was a means of the ‘builder’ gaining entry into the desired world of eternity, that recurring and cyclic state of time in which Ra, the Sun god, travelled on his ‘boat of a million years’ between the daytime world and the dark underworld.
Towers can be both enlightening and dangerous places, especially when our heroes or heroines are captive within them. They reveal the landscape below, but separate us from it. A bit like the perspective of the ego. To work, the tower needs to be built of stone . . . the hidden word for a certain type of truth in the Bible. Perhaps Ben is safer in Bakewell Gaol, after all . . .