As a child, I found gateways to be magical places. I couldn’t verbalise why, but I knew that something happened when you walked through them.
As adults, we can find richer meaning in them, recognising that, however simple, they take us into a different place. They stop us in our present tracks and make us do something slightly unusual to go through them. It invokes the mythical idea that there is, here, a payment to be made, which then grants access to the beyond.
My picture, above, taken on our evening dog-walk, shows one of my favourite gateways. It’s an old and long-disused canal bridge on what was the Preston-Kendal canal. The canal was finally drained in 1958, and much of its length has been converted back for farming use. But its signature ‘slot in the landscape’ can still be seen for many miles – in fact half our garden is landscaped to incorporate it as a spilt-level feature.
The disused bridge, above, is labelled ‘Bridge 178’. The ‘turnstile’ swinging gate is not what you would normally see, and is quite heavy – to prevent sheep pushing through. On a sunny evening, the action of entering the shaded space of the underside of the arch, together with pushing the heavy gate, is ‘notable’ in that your body knows you are doing something unusual.
Our lives have gateways. As a young person, we may pass an examination, which, though our hard work, grants us access to a more mature and powerful level of our world. Our driving test is another good example. Passing it, we are given access to a different level of being able to ‘do’. We are also trusted that this new world is filled with potential dangers, and that stying true to the (highway) code we learned to pass the exam is essential if we are to be a trusted member of that level of consciousness. In the latter case, our collective safety is dependent on everyone adopting such codes. Driving on the wrong side of the road is a short-term activity…
The old phrase ‘right of passage’ expresses this well. We are granted the ‘right’ to do something; which carries with it an assumed maturity of use.
The idea of initiation mirrors this. Initiation is simply the passing through a mental-emotional gateway into what will be a new world if we take the act seriously. If we trivialise it, and want to show off with our new ‘qualification’, then we have missed the point; and are well on the way to spoiling it for others.
For millennia, those involved in providing a richer understanding of what we call the ‘self’ – and its relationship to the perceived world, have utilised these core ideas of a gateway in the construction of places of initiation. They are nothing more – or less – than gateways designed to offer the personal psychology of an individual a path through a gateway. if all things are correctly in place, the initiation will see the person arrive with their whole being focussed on the passage through that short period of intensity. Unlike the iron turnstile, above, they will have little idea of what is to happen, and this is an important aspect.
They will be directed in what to do, and that will usually involve physical movements as well as a degree of examination as to their readiness to ‘pass through’. As part of this, they will be reminded that, on the other side of the gate, they will have responsibilities to the society in which they live, as much as to themselves. The responsibility to themselves is to the truth of what they have experienced. The responsibility to the society in which they live will be to use that truth wisely.
Mystical progression does not need initiation, but it can greatly accelerate progress in the right circumstances. In the Silent Eye, we enable the student/companion to follow a scripted gateway, at home, at the conclusion of each of the three years of the course. When we are able to meet for one of our workshops, we also offer a confirmatory initiation, witnessed by others, so that the power and memory of the experience becomes part of many lives.
Gateways are beautiful things. They can be large or small. The passing of dog and man through the canal gate, above, is a simple thing; yet it contains all the elements of a more significant rite of passage. I often smile as I carefully open the gate for Tess, our collie, mindful of the fact that the heavy iron could bruise her if handled carelessly. It reminds me of the responsibility that we initiators – who once passed through such gates for the first time – have carried for millennia.
Responsibility and love are the watchwords…
©Stephen Tanham 2021
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.