The Unseen Sea – 12: A Passion for Perfection



Part Twelve of The Unseen Sea

Maria is calmer, now, after their confrontation. The rawness of such encounters is draining, her father knows. Like all deeply personal interactions, they uncover forces deep within the psyche, the self. The advantage is that they still the personality for long enough to allow some real healing to occur. Real healing, in his world, lies not in something originating within the mind–something we can engineer as though finding our way through a fog–but by the connection of our everyday existence with something vast that we have forgotten…

And that lies, hidden, below the personality; a personality that, in us all, is the strongest force we will ever encounter…

“You… we… can’t control every aspect of her young life.” he says, gently, hugging his daughter, who, initially, resists, then slides into the warmth of his embrace, remembering, in that warmth, her own childhood, before the critical voice entered her life, before everything had to be perfect.

“Didn’t we give you as much freedom as we could?”

“You did,” Maria says. “But I made such a mess of things…”

His voice is very soft in reply. “Your mum and I didn’t think so. We were rather proud of your determined assault on life!”

“But I… did… get” she punctuates every word with a loving thump on his shoulder. “So… much… wrong.”

“And you think we didn’t, in our turn?”

She gets up, taking her hot coffee from the small table with the hand-made mosaic top. “I miss Mum,” she says, looking down at the inlaid pieces of brightly coloured glass… and their ill-fitting corners.

Her father catches the line of her sight and nods. “So do I,” he says, sadly.

“And now my child has no father.” It is said as a fact, devoid of emotion.

“That’s not true,” his voice is uncritical, knowing the depth of emotion that led his daughter to express herself in this way. “We just don’t know where he is.”

“Or whether we’ll ever see him alive, again.” says Maria, holding back the tears long enough to put down the drained cup and make it to the guest bedroom door.

Through the wood, Grandad Lucca can hear her crying. This time there is nothing he can do. “It is what it is,” he whispers into the still air of the cottage. “There will be pleasure and there will be suffering.” He looks across at the log-burner and decides that it’s high time they had the flickering magic of a real fire.


The consciousness possessed by early LUCA was awareness of a very basic nature. Biology calls it ‘irritability’. It is a good word to use, since it describes something that exists at the ‘instinctive’ level of every life-form. We do not reason about recoiling from the scalding pan when everything in our body reacts to touching it by accident. Our reaction is automatic. But if the finger of a child were nearer to that hot pan than our own, we would not hesitate to sacrifice our flesh to save the younger being. Is that second example learned or is it something gained from ‘family’ living (ancient or modern) via an initial process of trial and error, which sinks down into the ‘beneath-conscious’ layers of mind, the so-called subconscious? Even the word suggests that all reactions have, at some time, been learned the hard way – through survival and inheritance, or through deliberate evolution of our personal reactive states.

As we have seen, life as we know it exists because it is separated from its environment in its state of self-preservation. However primitive it may be, there is a primary recognition of two states: in-here and out-there.

It seems that separation produced both life and consciousness…

To be conscious, we have to have something to be conscious of. Consciousness does not exist without an ‘object’ to fix our attention upon. That object can be part of ourselves, of course, if our vehicle of self is evolved enough to permit it. But there still needs to be something to ‘sense’. Beyond consciousness there is Being. But Being is for the later stages of our journey. Being can be examined in part but it cannot be subdivided; consciousness is twofold. We live in a world of duality as long as we live in our minds. A brain cannot be ‘out-there’, unless it’s someone else’s brain.

Mind, at the physical level, is the brain’s accumulation of intelligence, ‘What if? What works, and how to repeat it”, harvested from LUCA’s billions of years of evolution. Evolution, as defined by science, claims no ultimate destination. There is no perfect human towards which we are slowly morphing. Science’s view tells us that all is reactive; that we move forward, in time and process, in a manner that makes us adjust to our environment–reproduction being the ultimate test of survival, as with animals. Philosophers might agree on some of the details but often disagree on the underlying principles.

And yet the human mind is obsessed with perfection…

To want to be perfect, we must know–or think–that we are not. What is it that holds this image of How we should be ? And how does it know, since it can’t be there already or we’d have no journey to make towards it? Like many aspects of human consciousness, it is a paradox.

We are most certainly an animal, but are we something else as well – something the animal (and plant and ‘rock’) has carried along as the fruit of the long ascent of organic life?

LUCA-plant, the branch of life on Earth that eats sunlight and therefore feeds the rest of life as we know it, arose long after the seas were already teeming with life, some of it quite complex. There was something deeply significant about that transition from the relatively gentle ocean to the hardness of rock and desert. Some plants did something truly extraordinary that may point to why this change of home was so important: they turned their faces to follow the Sun.


The concept of Perfection has a special place on the enneagram, as shown above. The map of consciousness that the enneagram gives us shows how complex human perception has been moulded by the ways our own lives have mirrored the development of life on Earth. In the next post, we will use the example of point 1 on the enneagram (above) to illustrate this.

End Part Twelve.

The Silent Eye School of Consciousness offers a low cost, three-year home study programme which delivers a deep and experiential understanding of the Magical Enneagram.

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Read the previous parts of this series:

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven,

©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2016 images and text. All rights reserved.

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