Women In The Mist (2)

(Continued from Part One on Sun in Gemini)

The rain has abated… for now.

After the morning of the second day, we return to East Aquorthies to have more revealed to us by our guide, Allan. The morning had contained a visit to another stone circle which had drained and saddened us all. The details will be written up in the next post in this series. The key thing was that, a few miles away and two thousand years later than the construction of this first stone circle, the women had gone…

This is not a linear telling. Sometimes, deeper things emerge and make sense when you reconstruct them out of sequence. The shamanistic spirit will often tell them out of sequence… you only realise why, later.

There is also the matter of cycles. We can only digest so much in one go. Understanding is greater than knowledge and moves at its own, rythmic rate. The trivial can easily be digested, for it contains no nutrition for the soul. The deep and truly connected experience has an intense emotional component as well as the facts of its skeleton. The two make up a body. If that body is conveying the real – the definition of the spiritually-connected – then a very different experience results.

The priestess women had gone…. But not here. Here in the East Aquorthies stone circle, we were in a space that was at least four thousand years old, and Allan, our guide, was about to reveal some little-known facts about its real nature.

I took my place from the day before–the place with the small marker stone where the spiritual history said the ley-line’s female component came into the circle from the giant woman’s breast now revealed as the mist finally cleared on the western hills. I am skeptical about such things, too many people accept without experiencing; but, the day before, my right side had burned with an energy I had not felt, previously.

Not long afterwards I had taken a simple photograph of several of us wet with the streaming rain. In one half of the photo, reproduced below, there is clear image of the circle’s Maiden Stone, and a maiden’s face on it, together with a wolf. She is smiling and looks about to kiss the wolf…

The disconnected parts are beginning to form a whole, a whole that our guide is guiding…

He hands out a hand-drawn diagram of eight points which have an exact mapping to the celestial geography of the circle. For the Sun, they show the summer and winter solstices – the rising and setting positions of the Sun on the longest and shortest days. For the Moon, the marked positions of the stones’ alignments show the extremes of the southern moonrise and moonset; and the corresponding points for the northern equivalents. It’s a map of where to find, using the stones, the boundaries of the seasons and the light that goes with them.

“Forget what they told you at school,” he says, ensuring we were awake. “They said the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Rubbish…”

It’s hard not to grin when he does this. You know he’s speaking from a position of great knowledge. You sense that this professional man, whose career is centred on exactness, is about to say something precise. His shaman staff is white and quite short–a contrast to his own considerable height. He points it at a position in the South-East, where the horizon is hidden behind a cluster of young trees. “On the winter solstice, that’s where the sun rises.”

He moves his stick a relatively short distance across the imagined range of hills in the distance. “And that’s where the winter solstice sun sets…” he nods his head, remembering the yearly dearth of sunlight on that day. “…it’s a very short day, here in northern Scotland”.

“And because of that,” he continues. “the cycles of the moon were very important, indeed.” He pauses to survey the temple of the goddess encircled by his guests. “This is a temple of the moon…”

You could hear a rain drop falling.

I remember the ancient word for the sun and the moon: they were both referred to as luminaries. A luminary shines. Only thousands of years later would science reveal that the light of the Moon was a reflection of the Sun’s. A moon whose incredible rotation meant that, though it was rotating, it kept exactly the same face presented to the Earth at all times. For mankind’s living memory and deeply beyond, the ‘man in the moon’ has looked at life on Earth, while spinning once every twenty-four hours. For these ancient women priestesses, whose spiritual home this was, there were two suns

With two suns, you could hunt at night, at least when the night wasn’t cloudy. This was a culture that knew two worlds… intimately.

Maiden, mother, crone, the name of the Silent Eye’s weekend workshop… in the Maiden stone directly opposite me across the circle, Kissing Wolf is smiling.

 

(Above, from part one: Four women…. yes, four–and one wolf. Look carefully. Allan had to show me what the camera had captured)

To be continued…

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost, supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham

Magical Man at the Dawn of Science

The Elizabethan age considered itself scientific, indeed the word ‘science’ was used to mean ‘knowledge’. The so called Age of Reason was a much later term applied by historians of science to broad-brush the slow ascent of experimental-based knowledge. What we now call science originated from the attempts to separate the observer from the method of experiment; a method that would employ only the intellectual functions to arrive at a repeatable conclusion, backed up by numbers – the mathematics of quantity.

In so doing, the kind of knowledge that became ‘science’ cut itself off from any intimacy, religious or otherwise, that mankind had felt towards the cosmos – his home – for thousands of years. It is said that the average Elizabethan farmworker would have known the heavens much more intimately than most of us do, today. For them, it was life and death, planting and reaping – and a warning of things to come, like the winter. Occasionally, it also contained dark portents…

A clear night sky was a boon, and immediately synchronised them with their year; a cycle that fed them, if they were lucky. We can imagine the relationship with such a sky. It would be a constant living book, in which was written their own life-story as well as that of all life on Earth.

Perhaps the loss of this intimate relationship was a necessary step. Man turned inwards and began to calculate, rather than see. Intimate vision gave way to accuracy – but only within the mind–self-referentially. Emotions, valued in the artist, were not considered useful in the men of science, who, by a nineteenth century built on the foundations of the Elizabethans, were beginning to create a psychological ‘truth’ for mankind that required only the authentication of numbers, having ‘achieved’ a separation from the essential ‘quality’ of something. Qualities could only be experienced; they were not susceptible to numbers, and therefore suspect and unreliable. The idea of ‘humanness’ was to be, quite literally, taken out of the equation. In their eyes, what watched an experiment was not the observer, it was the ‘truth’.

The result of this has been a loss of wholeness in our numerically-dominated lives. The Church began to lose its grip as absolute arbiter of truth. Many would say this was no bad thing; that much abuse of position masqueraded as divine authority.

The Elizabethan age, like the Medieval period before it, was founded on qualities, and the undisputed authority was the Church. Henry VIII’s  schism with Rome did not diminish the Church’s authority, it just replaced Rome with something centred in England, freeing up the wealth of the plundered monasteries for the royal purse in the process.

After a period of intense psychological trauma, including being incarcerated in the Tower of London, the young Elizabeth I inherited this world. She found herself at an unchosen crossroads in the story of England (and Ireland). Women, even potential queens, were not allowed to go to university, but, in a gift to her life to come, she had been tutored at home by the best the age could offer. She was said to be able to correct the Greek of the country’s best scholars…

Hers was one of the best minds of the age, and she sought after truth where it would further her constantly precarious existence. This search, though, had its boundaries. There was a world view that the age adhered to rigidly. This natural order was predicated on Biblical dogma, backed up by a tapestry of cosmology, mathematics and logic that had dominated thought for an astonishing fourteen hundred years.

The highest degree of study was Theology, which been passed down from its (known) origins in the work of Pythagoras, via Plato, then Aristotle; and widened into a God-centric cosmology by Ptolemy. The universities (all religious in nature) had this at their teaching core, and Aristotle was their unchallenged authority. It was the core of the advanced mind, and everything else derived from its foundations.

Strangely, magic was rife in Elizabethan times, and was not seen as threat as long as it did not challenge the consensus. A belief in the physical existence of angels came from the Bible, so the supernatural was implicit. Magicians were those who could navigate the frontiers of knowledge – ‘science’, and forge extensions to it for the common good. Alchemists were of this ilk and much respected as the chemists of their day, though they operated in a way that we would now view as magical. Their approach to such lore was an intimate one. They knew that their own ‘inner worth’ was as much to do with a successful outcome of a process as the rules of engagement with the secrets of nature.

Dr John Dee was such a man. His life was self-documented in his (often very personal) diaries. He was the Queen’s astrologer, in an age when the profound connection between the heavens and life on Earth was an self-evident fact. Each person was born with a certain configuration of the heavens above them. This imprinted their character for life, though personal evolution was part of the picture, too. A later Alchemical reference painted the process of birth as a journey in which ‘the heavenly wanderers kissed the soul on its descent into incarnation’. A very beautiful concept…

The heavenly wanderers were the seven planets visible to the naked eye: Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Within the Aristotlean world-view, they were organised into concentric crystal spheres which rotated around the Earth – exactly what the heavens appear to do. Saturn was the farthest. The Earth had been placed, immobile, by God, at the centre of these crystal spheres and was the recipient of all their influences in its ‘sub-lunar’ centrality.

Everyone had their place – it may have been a humble one, but it was inclusive…

The telescope didn’t arrive until the early 1600s, the time of Galileo, who did not invent it, but was the first to point it at the sky and make serious astronomical observations – including the discovery of the Milky Way, sunspots and Jupiter’s moons. For most of the Elizabethan age, the naked eye, back up by a calibrated cross, was the only way to study the heavens. Even with this limitation, Kepler had shown how disciplined observation could be revolutionary, as the disciplined observers began to question the Earth position at the centre of a religious universe.

Although the ancient Greeks had postulated the idea of a solar-centric universe, the idea had not gained ground in the face of the continual refinement of the Ptolemaic world view, which required complex ‘epicycles’ to explain such things as the planets’ periodic retrograde motion – a time when their path against the map of the heavens appeared to reverse.

All this was about to change…

Nicolaus Copernicus published two works, beginning in 1517, which challenged this worldview, establishing the Sun as the centre and (to pacify his critics) throne of the planets. With the later work, De Revolutionibus (1543), which was not published until after his death, the seeds were sown for a revolution in the astronomical, and eventually, theological order. It would take a further century for this to unravel, confirmed by Galileo’s telescopes, which rendered the new model self-evident, but the literal earthquake had begun. Such theories made little difference to day-to-day life, but the appearance in the sky of several major comets and eclipses did. People began to wonder if their world was well and truly changing. The puritans welcomed this, believing that the Apocalypse was approaching…

Queen Elizabeth I could choose, to an extent, how she reacted to these changes in the natural order. She was not only well-educated but surrounded by wise and learned advisors – including Dr John Dee, her astrologer, mapmaker, mathematician and, later, alchemist. William Shakespeare, born thirty-one years after his queen, came into a world where the new view of the natural order was already rocking the established worldview – the words ‘Breaking Glass were a popular sentiment – and its religions. Leading thinkers were also beginning to question the fundamentals of mankind’s character, and to wonder to what degree a person could take responsibility for their own evolution. This did not reduce God’s involvement in their lives, but it did increase their own responsibilities. Such thoughts could border on the revolutionary, and Shakespeare’s characters trod a fine line on his stage:

“Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

Shakespeare: Julius Caesar

Copernicus’ findings had done something else; something that changed the way the average man would come to consider their own lives – No longer fixed at the centre of the divine crystal spheres, he had set the Earth in motion…

 

Can we, in a weekend, ‘become’ Elizabethans? Can we live a microcosm of their world, with its intense politics, set against this backdrop of changes in the natural order. Our story is told in retrospect, through the eyes of the dying Shakespeare. Looking back, he can tell a very different tale of the threats to the existence of his now departed Queen….

This is our task for the Silent Eye’s spring workshop 2018: “The Jewel in the Claw’. The jewel is the emerging spirit of tolerance that Elizabeth, the self-styled virgin-queen, engendered; the claw is the nature of the forces of ignorance that still plague us in the twenty-first century every bit as much as they did in 1588, the year that the mighty Spanish Armada was defeated by a combination of English naval courage and our equally fabled weather; and Elizabeth I finally achieved a degree of security.

The Silent Eye has produced dramatic mystical workshops since its inception in 2013, but this is a break from tradition, and will stick closely to the formula of an actual Elizabethan production, letting the acts of the play tell the deeper story. There is no formal audience, of course. We, the players, play to each other, and in doing so invoke the desired depth of psychological and spiritual interaction.

If you’ve never been to such an event before, don’t be over-faced by this heady agenda. There are always new people joining us, and we take great care to ensure they are comfortable. We do not expect our ‘actors’ to learn their lines! We all read from scripts – as though doing a final rehearsal, but the atmosphere is truly electric and you will find yourself working to bring your character to the greatest life you can give them! You will also find they stay with you for years afterwards…

Above all else it is always fun; and every year, come the Sunday farewell lunch, those attending do not want to go home and end that living link with a body of experience and aspiration that they have helped create…

We can honestly say that the workshops become a living thing, formed and sustained in the minds and hearts of those attending. Come and join our ‘merry band’ and you’ll want to come back.

Places are still available for ‘The Jewel in the Claw’. 20-22 April, 2018. The average price is approximately £250, fully inclusive of all meals and accommodation. You will struggle to find a better value weekend, anywhere.

The weekend workshop will be held at the lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow, near Buxton, in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales at a wonderful time of year – the spring.

You can download the pricing and booking form here:

SE18 Booking form aloneAA.

Image: Composite of original artwork by the author plus a portrait of Dr John Dee courtesy of  Wikipedia, CC by 3.0, Public Domain.

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham

 

Never look Back?

Never look back! It’s an adage that makes a lot of sense. It also characterises a certain stage of mystical development – a point at which the aspirant comes to realise that the only place of reality in our lives is within the moment; and that our history is simply a container that has conditioned how we react to experience. A skill-maker, certainly, but also a straitjacket…

The kindly man with a right arm full of tattoos takes our six pounds for the car park fee, and suggests that, in view of the thick mist, and our early arrival (there are only three other cars in the Land’s End parking area) we might like to explore the southern loop of paths and the artisan workshops before returning to the main buildings, which by then will be open…

There is something wonderfully Cornish about all this – the great care with which the tattooed ticket man helps us; the gentle way in which he offsets the possible late arrival of some of the staff in the thick sea-mist that is the hangover of a night of torrential rain at the end of the first day of our holiday.

I had been to Land’s End before – and stayed near Sennen Cove; the location of our present rental cottage, high on the hill, a little further along Whitesands Bay. Land’s End was just around the corner, then as now, which was why we are early…

Back then- and I shuddered to accept it had been forty years ago – the holiday home had been a small touring caravan, borrowed from my father and towed behind my first car capable of towing anything; a beloved Renault 16.

On a morning with nothing better to do, my girlfriend and I had driven the couple of miles from Sennen to the car park overlooking the famous ‘New York 3147’ signpost, which, apart from the ‘First and Last Inn’ pub was pretty much all that was on the Land’s End headland, back then.

It’s still there, as I was to discover, later. But now set into a complex- a small theme park – which undoubtedly fits the bill of a ‘good wet day out with the kids’. I remember those, too; they were essential if you wanted to stay sane on holiday with small children.

Now, approaching the old mill next to the ‘petting farm’ with Bernie, my mother and our party’s two dogs, I smile at the thought that I was both parent and child in this company. Technically child to a mother with vascular dementia, yet also parent in that I am her short-term memory and her maker-of-sense.

Cornwall has always been her favourite place and this holiday is likely to be her last chance to revisit it.

The mist surrounding the farm, with its working water-wheel, is like the fog that creeps through her brain, paralysing the speed of anything new, anything logical. She is still there, but all the most complex – and challenging parts of her personality are exaggerated.

I look at her face, glowing with enjoyment at the experience of something new, and smile at the thin layer of moisture she, and the rest of us, bear, within this seemingly perpetual mist. It’s giving us all a ghostly glow.

To our right as we pass the artisan hamlet, the light gets brighter, and I can sense that the sea isn’t far. A moment’s concentration reveals that the roaring sound coming from the same place is not the strong wind that buffets us…

Memories are starting to tumble out from that distant past. It was a cold day and we stayed only a few minutes, looking at the famous sign before fleeing back into the car. As we were leaving, I distinctly remember looking south, and seeing a cluster of huge rocks out to sea. This outcrop looked out of place at that distant spot; as though the official Land’s End position should have been shoreward of it, thereby lining up the symmetry.

With that memory came another: that of a intense but lovely dream when my mother was overnight in the operating theatre at Bolton Hospital, twelve years ago, having most of her lower intestines removed, due to advanced colitis that would have certainly killed her, otherwise.

The consultant treating her, whom we had got to know well, gave her a fifty:fifty chance of survival.

I had slept, eventually, after the barrage of family phone calls asking about her status.

Somewhere around three in the morning, I drifted off, awakening at seven struggling to remember the most intense dream. In it she and I had travelled to some future place, and were sitting on the rocks of a promontory, far out from the land. The sense was that of a future time and place… but a place of hope and refuge; like a time-magnet that pulled at possibilities.

She had survived, with some miracles of artificial plumbing. Twelve years on, we are in Cornwall for what may well be her last such holiday.

Now, I stumble through the mist, wondering at the import of this collision of recall. At that moment, the land drops away to reveal that we are on the very edge of a landscape where huge rocks mark an impossible path to a turbulent sea below.

She is holding onto my arm, tightly. I ask if she wants to go back, but she shakes her head, enjoying the gale and the challenge. Arm in arm, we find a path to the very edge, which becomes a narrow corridor of stone, at the end of which is a massive dark figure.

Nervous minutes later, we stand in a place we should not be and raise our heads to stare across a misty distance we cannot measure.

There is a now-familiar sense of the sky dropping. Her arm clutches mine tightly as a gust of wind threatens to unseat us from the stone ledge. But I am not lost in caution; I’m lost in the knowing that the huge, dark mass across that foaming distance is a friend, and its also the landmark I saw all those years ago.

It is also the place in the dream, and, twelve years later, we are still here…

I grab the phone to try to capture something of the moment – a moment whose intensity I might not remember, otherwise. As I press the shutter, a large bird flies across the distance between us.

Birds and mist, I think, smiling…. Don’t forget that combination… and then the sky drops again and I realise the friend across the water has communicated something shamanic in the way of names…

On the way back to the car, Bernie observes that I am more than usually silent.

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham<<
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The Mind of The Virgin Queen

Is it possible to go back in time and see into the minds of monarchs who played a key role in a country’s development? Given it is so long ago, how difficult would it be to do this for the Elizabethan age?

This is our task for the Silent Eye’s spring workshop 2018: “The Jewel in the Claw’. The jewel is the emerging spirit of tolerance that Elizabeth, the self-styled virgin-queen, engendered; the claw is the nature of the forces of ignorance that still plague us in the twenty-first century every bit as much as they did in 1588, the year that the mighty Spanish Armada was defeated by a combination of English naval courage and our equally fabled weather; and Elizabeth I finally achieved a degree of security.

That security had been a long time coming: twenty-nine years, to be exact, the length of time between her coronation, in 1559, and the sanctuary created by the failure of the Spanish fleet.

Philip II of Spain, the ‘prudent king’, never recovered, politically or financially, and despite the continued plunder of South American gold, Spain’s dominance in Europe went into decline. It took with it the hopes of Pope Pius V that England could be brought back into the Catholic faith with force.

His was the decision to excommunicate Elizabeth using his papal bull, Regnans in Excelsis, in 1570 – accompanied by the formation of the Holy League, an alliance of Catholic states whose demise the failed Armada triggered.

Elizabeth’s life was truly lived on the edge, but fate conspired to protect her, in the form of a number of true and loyal advisers, whose council she knew could be depended on. Our play therefore includes such figures as John Dee: her personal astrologer and a man who would shape the mathematical future of navigation, enabling the emerging English navy to safely navigate the known world. But Dr Dee was also an alchemist with deeper secrets, which left him vulnerable to sinister interpretation… and potential exploitation, as a close confidant of the Queen.

William Cecil, first Baron of Burghley, was at her side for most of her reign, and she depended on his wise council, about which he wrote in his diaries, “Often, I best serve my Queen when I do nothing, rather than hasten to act…”

The years would teach her how complex it is to rule, and how few – even among supposedly close friends – can be trusted, fully. The era of the play includes the explorers Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh, both men embodying the expansive spirit of the age, which would see the mastery of the seas and an empire that spanned the world.

Always close at hand was her childhood sweetheart and alleged lover, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whose wife was found dead at the foot of their stairs during his and Elizabeth’s period of greatest personal intimacy. How lonely and vulnerable must the Queen have felt at that moment?

She was a resourceful woman of surprises, as evidenced by the hosting of a month-long visit by the Moroccan ambassador, Al-Anouri. Their joint and secret agenda was to build a mighty alliance between England and the much more powerful Islamic world. Then, as now, the world beyond Europe was hungry for our expertise in the making of weapons…

And then there was the formation of the original secret service, within which Dr Dee ironically held the code name 007, the original ‘James Bond’, though he cut an unlikely figure as a spy. Created by William Cecil, the secret service was taken over by Sir Francis Walsingham, whose methods were ruthless, but whose effectiveness was unquestionable – protecting the Queen from the Catholic plot to replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots, as one example. At the time of the play’s setting, Walsingham is dying; but his equally capable daughter Frances Walsingham, the ex-wife of the Queen’s Champion, Sir Philip Sidney, takes his place.

Throughout this, Elizabeth crafted a potent role for herself: that of Lover of the English people; a people who had openly cheered her through the streets of London at her coronation, despite the fact that she was a virtual unknown. They had become weary of her half-sister, Mary, and her policy of persecution, and wanted an age of peace in which ‘blood did not run through the streets of the capital’.

Our final ingredient is the emergence of what later became known as the ‘age of science’. Here, Sir Francis Bacon is cast as a figure able to bestride the emerging knowledge and balance it with the intimate and (to today’s eyes), mystical cosmology that had dominated the west’s world view for fourteen hundred years.

Elizabeth’s triumph in 1588 did not remove the threat of plots against her. But it did mean they had to be much more subtle. The nature of such intrigue forms the core of the workshop and is played out as a tapestry of events taking place over a weekend in which the Queen has invited her closest friends and courtiers to her favourite Palace of Nonsuch. Our intrigues will touch the human soul in ways that will be remembered, always, as the soul of the age is laid bare…

And what of the influential women in Elizabethan society? It was a very patriarchal age, and women were expected to better themselves, if at all, through marriage. They were forbidden formal education, though the most well-born or wealthy could be tutored. One of the best examples of a determined Elizabethan women is Bess of Hardwicke, who married four times – each time to a richer husband. She rose to become the second most wealthy and powerful woman in England, second only to the Queen.  There are many more examples, and some of them will feature as either independent characters or equal partners to important male figures in the workshop.

Our workshop is written as a Shakespearean play; indeed the Bard, himself, is one of the characters, rising from his chair in the last moments before death to share with the kindly spirit of the abyss the essence of his great unwritten work, wherein he undertakes to reconcile the deeper nature of playing, itself, with the best actress of the age – the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth Tudor.

The Silent Eye is a modern mystery school, and our real-life mysteries go far deeper than politics or murder…

How can we bring together this mixture of politics, science, magic and human nature into a story of five acts? We’ll have to ask the Bard…

The Silent Eye has produced dramatic mystical workshops since its inception in 2013, but this is a break from tradition, and will stick closely to the formula of an actual Elizabethan production, letting the acts of the play tell the deeper story. There is no formal audience, of course. We, the players, play to each other, and in doing so invoke the desired depth of psychological and spiritual interaction.

If you’ve never been to such an event before, don’t be over-faced by this heady agenda. There are always new people joining us, and we take great care to ensure they are comfortable. We do not expect our ‘actors’ to learn their lines! We all read from scripts – as though doing a final rehearsal, but the atmosphere is truly electric and you will find yourself working to bring your character to the greatest life you can give them! You will also find they stay with you for years afterwards…

Above all else it is always fun; and every year, come the Sunday farewell lunch, those attending do not want to go home and end that living link with a body of experience and aspiration that they have helped create…

We can honestly say that the workshops become a living thing, formed and sustained in the minds and hearts of those attending. Come and join our ‘merry band’ and you’ll want to come back.

Places are available for ‘The Jewel in the Claw’. 20-22 April, 2018. The average price is approximately £250, fully inclusive of all meals and accommodation. You will struggle to find a better value weekend anywhere.

The weekend workshop will be held at the lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow, near Buxton, in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales at a wonderful time of year – the spring.

You can download the pricing and booking form here:

SE18 Booking form aloneAA.

Image: Composite of original artwork by the author plus portrait of Elizabeth I, circa 1590, Wikipedia, Public Domain.

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham

 

The Three Limbs of Mann

Legs of ManV2 croppedAA

(A commercial example of the use of the IOM’s symbol, author’s photo)

We have just returned from a long weekend on the Isle of Man. It is one of our favourite destinations, although it shares much of the wet climate of north Lancashire and neighbouring Cumbria, being seventy miles from the connecting port of Heysham.

The ferry journey takes four hours and can be a delight or a horror, depending on the winds… You can fly, but where’s the fun in that, these days? An hour sitting in the wind on the deck of a ship, gazing out to sea, can be a wonderful meditation. Can’t think of anything that compares on a plane…

StatemFlag_of_the_Isle_of_Mann.svg (Isle of Man national flag: origin Wikipedia, Creative Commons licence)

I have often looked at the Manx national flag – the three legged figure above – and wondered at its origins. Flags, like sung anthems, say a lot about what we might call the ‘national psyches’ of their countries, particularly at the time that identity was forming,

Take a moment to look at the symbol, above. Try not to analyse it; simply let it affect you as it will…

My own initial reactions were: its a fascinating design, suggesting independence, with an almost ‘engineering’ feel to it; it’s not something I’d want on my wall as it’s a ‘hard’ image; the ‘threeness’ of it really stands out and hits you… there are many more, and it is useful to let the imaginative side of the mind just play like this.

The three legged symbol of Mann (as the Manx people traditionally write it) is undoubtedly inspired by the Celtic triskelion. There are many examples, which have a common form of a ‘leg’ in the shape of a spiral or knot – one of the favourite forms of the Celts.

654px-Triskel_type_Amfreville.svg (A Celtic triskelion)

Threeness is a very old concept, and fundamental to the world’s philosophical systems, as well as being an icon of stability. The equilateral triangle is often used to denote threeness, which can be point up or down. When it’s up, it usually indicates the ‘coming into being’ of a single point of power or will which seeks the diversification of manifestation to make the ‘garden below – creation’ a rich one.

The one gives rise to the two, which are polar aspects of the one, though very different, and therefore inseparable. The Great Pyramid of Gizeh is an example of a three-dimensional triangle with a very special set of properties.  As Pythagoras would have attested, all triangles are very potent forms.

Within the triangle, ‘polarity’ becomes the cornerstone of creation; and the different natures and relationships set up between the parts of ‘that which was and always will be One‘ weave the world or sub-world we see and in which we have our daily being – below’. A better way of thinking of all this is inner and outer; where the inner is the most powerful and causative, but less detailed; and the outer is the result–in all its multiplicity.

Above and below signify authority being above, whereas a more modern mystical view sees both as essential to the creative plan. What changes, with evolution, in all this, is the coming into existence of the act of Seeing from within

The great mystical secret behind this statement is at the heart of what the Mystery Schools, such as our own Silent Eye, teach.

When we amend things in the outer, we are dealing with traditional cause and effect. To amend things on the inner is the basis of so-called esoteric magic.

Because the one that becomes two introduces differentiation, intelligent diversity has been created, and the creation can move on.

All this is set within a circle – a traditionally solar symbol whose centre of activity is the centre of that circle. We can see that the three-legged Isle of Man symbol is based on a circle at whose centre is the intersection of the three centre lines of the figure’s legs. This is usually missed, but is a key aspect of the design.

So the One wills the continuation of the creation and the two that was one is therefore three, becoming four as the stability of this process is established and the Work proceeds in its unfolding.

But the symbol of Mann, above, is subtly different from the traditional Celtic treskilion. The traditional spiral of the triskelion is here replaced by actual legs; showing that this refers not to some ‘cosmic’ force, but to Mankind.

The triangle is there – look at where the tips of the feet are pointing and you’ll see it. This time, unlike the triskelion, the triangle is point-downwards, though the whole design is slightly offset from the vertical. The first image – the commercial logo that I’ve used as a simpler example, uses a different offset, which may be a legal requirement from the Manx government.

One reason for the offset may be that the design clearly implies movement. Something is ‘whirling’ – but running under is own ‘steam’. A perfectly vertical triangle would be a symbol of perfection, but the world isn’t perfect, it  is ‘coming into being’ constantly, ‘unfolding’ is the world we use in the Silent Eye School.

The symbol therefore incorporates the idea of the process of evolution, driven by the creative forces embedded in the three-legged world, whose human image indicates that there is a ‘man/woman’ doing this! Not just any man/woman, but the generic human, of which we are all an instantiation – a living soul made from a spiritual and organic blueprint.

In doing this we fulfil what Sue referred to in an earlier post concerning the text of Genesis.

In terms of elements, the three-legs of Mann are similar to a design I have found in a few old churches in Britain. Here, the illustrator has extracted the essential features to show the real nature of the threeness underlined by the emphasis that the individual three are not the same:

Trinity like Norfolk church

There is only so much you can show in one simple symbol!

Armed with the above knowledge, we can take things deeper and draw two triangles over the core Legs of Mann image like this. I’ve rotated the original to align the circular core to the vertical.

IOM LegsV2 plus hexagram

To my mind, this shows that the creators of the original figure, which was first recorded in the 12th century, understood very well that things proceeded from the inner. The two triangles – made from the toes and the thighs of the figure, superimpose to form a very special symbol called the hexagram.

The hexagram has attracted lots of media attention over the years, being associated – like the pentagram – with sensationalised ‘magic’ over the years, but here we can see that the triangles can also be interpreted as an intertwined downwards and an upwards progression. Creation is said to proceed downwards and evolution upwards; but this representation allows us to interpret involution and evolution as driven from the point in the centre, which happens, also, to correspond with the genitals, something that has close alignment with Hebrew Kabbalistic thought. Time does not allow further discussion of this point, but it is significant…

Only one other country has a similar national symbol: Sicily.  The three-legged flag is shown below:

800px-Sicilian_Flag.svg (Image Wikipedia, public domain)

Here, the central figured is a Gorgon – the snake headed creature from Greek mythology, who had the power to turn ‘men’ into stone… but that’s for another day!

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

Images: Taken by the author and copyright unless otherwise stated.

©️Stephen Tanham

Where are we going? (2) – The Vice

Where are we going?2 Sweetheart Abbey2 - 1
It may be that the present compressed and negative feelings that we humans are experiencing is a birthing chamber rather than a vice.

This outrageous idea ties in closely with what was written in last week’s blog. In it, I suggested that just as a body has trillions of cells, so the planet has a vast number of connected parts of its ‘mineral, animal and mammal’ consciousness; each made up from the physical atoms of the Earth, Sun and the ‘debris’ of ancient exploding suns; without which there would not have existed the chemical components of life.

Through our human body passes the dying bodies of life on earth, be they vegetable or animal. We cannot, yet, ‘eat the Sun’ though one wonders if this is where evolution will eventually take life on Earth.

We don’t really question this ‘eating’ of other things – and plants are alive, too, of course; yet our aliveness depends on the absorption of this sacrifice.

The biggest act of sacrifice we know of is the Sun, the ancient symbol of ‘life-giving’ in all cultures. The Sun – our Sun, because we owe it our very lives – literally gives up its energies to feed the lives of its children. Looked at from a mystical perspective, it is slowly dying so that we can live. Something has made a transition from the cosmic level of physics to the vastly organised awareness of the human (and other) organisms, whose eons-long development has resulted in consciousness not only of things, but of ‘self’. This is a pinnacle very different to being top of the food chain.

The star that made this possible – our Sun – is not outside the laws of physics, and the atomic fusion of hydrogen can only last so long before the whole solar system dies to organic life.

Is the Sun conscious? Mystics speculate it has a hyper-consciousness, a vibrational awareness of life in the whole solar system, but over a vast timescale which sees our own lives as a blink. Scientists, quite reasonably, from their training and experimental perspective, say this is emotional nonsense, and that the laws of gravity and nuclear physics take care of the rest. It is wise to be open to both perspectives, and to remember that even science, accurate and marvellous though it is, is conceived and evolved through the window of the human consciousness, though it seldom acknowledges this perspective. A growing number of scientists have observed, wryly, that the ‘mystics got there first’ when it comes to some of the consciousness-related revelations from the quantum world.

Whatever the truth, no-one steps out on that first spring morning of the year, when the power of the sun replaces the long and cold winter chill, and feels physics in their hearts…

As a species, we are rather taken with our ‘specialness’. Educated to be the top of the food chain, the ‘apex predator’, our civilisation has felt free to work its indulgent will on our world… and we wonder at the resulting lack of happiness, and that lack of inner belonging.

The idea of us being organically eaten – as we do, unthinkingly, with our own food, seldom occurs to us, yet it is plain that everything that lives is eaten in its turn – only the fleeting and creative state called consciousness seems to be from a different place than the purely organic… though it would be nothing without that organic basis as a vehicle.

This kind of thought can be both humbling and re-aligning, since it shakes the fluffiness from our life-expectations and also threatens us with some basic reality – a very important aspect of being alive in an age where we increasingly live in our heads and in front of screens that distance us from the vividness of life ‘out there’. When we are disconnected in this way, it is easy for intolerance and prejudice to fester. We meet, on social media, with those of like mind… and Like their actions and opinions. If we don’t like what someone ‘says’, repeatedly, we Unfriend them, leaving us in a potentially sterile pool of self-reinforcing opinion.

The human process of maturing requires that we brush up against often painful experiences that are definitely not what we like… but the digital world is taking us away from this school of maturity that has ensured that our lives are at least broadened rather than narrowed. It is to the credit of the emerging generation that many of them seem to be caring and involved, and, certainly in the UK, politics and social involvement are on the increase. Much of this is a reaction – a very positive one – to years of so called ‘austerity’. Sharing the pain of overspending is a necessary goal, but not if that sharing is a farce…

The most troubling parts of the world are where those in charge are exhibiting the strongest ‘egoic’ characteristics. It is as though we are being shown the inner nature of this negative and tyrannical aspect of the human soul; shown it in a way that bares its ugliness. There are, of course die-hards who thing such fundamentalism is a good thing, and will offer us control of our lives again, making our countries great in the process. But anyone with real maturity in their own lives knows the bitter taste of such egoic self-aggrandisment; and its ultimate cost.

To truly ‘come together’ we need to feel our shared humanity in a way we have not done, before. We need to see the unsurpassed beauty of being part of a life-wave that has been gifted this beautiful planet for our collective and personal evolution; and, within that, to see that we also have the power to destroy it. To ride that edge of the utmost danger can only be part of our collective maturity as we evolve from eating and eaten to something potentially magnificent that is ‘involving’ itself with the star-dust of the Earth.

Our survival as a species is by no means assured. But the large-scale awareness of the present horror shows that fill our screens might just bring us, kicking and certainly screaming, into a new age – one where the true ghoul is seen to be the dark side of human nature and not circumstance or those we can victimise.

Other parts in this series:

Part One

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

Image: Sweetheart Abbey, near Dumfries, Scotland. Taken by the author.

©️Stephen Tanham

Where are we going?

Where are we going?

When things are going well in ‘our’ world, there is an understandable tendency to assume that a generally benign evolution of civilisation is taking place, one in which we play our part, however small, being a kind of swimmer who lives and dies within that flow of slow progress.

But when we are faced with the kind of politics, violence and social upheaval we are surrounded with at present, we find ourselves questioning the assumptions of the good times. These are certainly not good times, not when measured against a yardstick of caring, kindness and any semblance of equality. They may be good times for the relative few who ‘own’ the planet, but they are not so for those who care about the general welfare of mankind. The general system we call capitalism has carried us far into the expansion of our world, and produced wonderful systems and things, but now seems to be falling from its own, autonomous ledge into an unknown abyss.

This is not a political website, though, as directors of the Silent Eye, we are free to express our own, often strong, opinions.

Normally, I would not begin a post with the above sentiments, but I have begun to see a strong spiritual thread in the events around us, and on a global scale.

The human has a psychology. The concept, given to us by the early pioneers like Freud and Jung, is based on the fact that we form a ‘self’ which governs our actions at a different level to our biological survival mechanisms, though it derives from them, in its primitive stages of individual development. This multi-faceted self is what psychology addresses in its treatments. For other schools of teaching, such as the Silent Eye, the elements of this self are the starting points in the individual search for a deeper identity – one without the limitations of the egoic nature we wear during the day.

The self forms by separation. We are born a part of the world. Though seen by our loving parents as separate, that is not our experience. Reaction is the key to our development. Reaction forms from pleasant and unpleasant organic responses and an increasing need to choose the pleasant. Eventually, this reaction become a ‘thing’, a centre for our experience; and the brain turns it into a self. The attributes of this self are ‘groomable’ to make us fit better into the world by conformance and intelligence, which grow together until they are challenged by the individual who comes to see their unhappy limitations.

Sadly, this thing at the centre, this ‘us’ is little more than a machine of reactions, a composite of our personal history, conscious of its vulnerability but intent on its own survival at the centre of things.

So here’s the link to our civilisation: nations have ‘selves’, too. They are made up of the collective selves of the individuals, just as our own bodies are made up of the trillions of cells that have evolved to work together to provide us with an aware and sensitive vehicle. The human self or ego has its parallel in the society where we have our lives. We are a part of it, dramatically linked to its essential health in a way we cannot yet see, but our spiritual qualities of essence, kindness and selflessness do not flow into us through the ego – they come from beyond it.  In the same way, the outer, conditioned responses of the individual within a society do not represent the potential inner state of that nation; or group of nations, that make up a country or continent.

The lowest levels of control centre on violence. Violence generates fear, which conditions group behaviour. Is it more violent to have a war or to find that the wealth of a society is concentrated in the hands of a few? There are many forms of violence, and we need to take a fresh look at them and empower ourselves to feel true, moral outrage, again or we will sink beneath the sea of despair that threatens to overwhelm us now.

I am not an advocate of revolution. It solves nothing. I do, however, believe in the power of the deep, collective mind to link with others of like intent in the throwing off of old ideas which have become morally and spiritually bankrupt. What is seen in truth is seen differently. That action of truly seeing is its own light and its own motive force. Quietly and without violence, it reveals what can no longer be hidden; and in so doing shows a pathway to a different future.

In this lies hope, and hope is so very needed in these dark times. We were never society; that is an invention to help us manage the collective. We were never a body, that is a collective to allow us to experience the trials and joys of matter. We are, singly and collectively, an un-cageable creative individuality whose existence is part of the unfolding of the universe – our aliveness ranges from atom to cell to human to planet, and is something that will not be denied… We were born to share it because we are it…

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

Image: Sweetheart Abbey, near Dumfries, Scotland. Taken by the author.

©️Stephen Tanham

Endeavour and the Lighthouse (4-End)

SE Lighthouse from sea gates4AA

There are two schools of thought on what to wear on a cycling summer day in which there is the possibility of a downpour, far from home…

The first (Plan A)  says you should put up with the weight and pack a good set of waterproofs. Then, as soon as the heavens open, stop cycling and put them on. The second (Plan B) says that, as long as the underlying temperature is warm-ish, there’s only so wet you can get, and you’ll soon dry, so why bother…?

Which was why, at about three in the afternoon of our cycling day on Tiree, and as a proponent of Plan B, I was standing alongside my bike, skin and metal drenched, looking back down the climbing valley road at the other man in our party (a follower of Plan A)  who was doing some sort of dance with what appeared to be a bright red ghost…

But, I digress…

The lone cow on the rocky outcrop as we were pedalling away from Hynish should have warned us. Still feeling euphoric from the previous two hours, I had dismissed the ‘You’ll be sorrrry’ cartoon that sprang to mind, Warner Brothers style, from my subconscious. Failing that, the vertical orientation of the seagull’s body in the photo above should have shouted a hint, but no… what looks obvious in hindsight, in the photos, was less so on the day.

So we pedalled on, and now, looking at the shots, I can see the blue sky ahead that we embraced and the darkening silver behind, that we ignored. The deluge wasn’t instant; those dark clouds took a while to arrive, while we cycled into the seeming blue. At least wary of the weather, we had a further destination in mind: Soroby. This hamlet is the site of a graveyard of considerable interest because it links the pilgrim island of Iona with Tiree.

Much of the graveyard is relatively modern, and many of the (well-tended) graves mark the tragic loss of life of a merchant ship in World War II. Many of the bodies were washed up on the beaches of Tiree and their identities never discovered. The beautiful epithet ‘Known to God’ marks their anonymous sacrifice.

But, a smaller and older part of the graveyard is believed to be the site of a monastery established by St Columba as an extension of the work of his first church on Iona, following his self-imposed exile from Ireland, where it is said he led a rebellion and started a war which resulted in ten thousand deaths. This was prior to his conversion to Christianity, which he then vowed to spread across the seas to Scotland. This man, loved and feared in equal measure it is said, also established a monastery on Tiree for ‘wayward monks’. If you’ll forgive the humour, it appears to have been a kind of early ‘Craggy Island’ as in the Father Ted series… This was known as Baithene’s Monastery, and was founded in 565 AD.

The ruins of that original monastery have never been found, though it is known that a church stood here from the 13th to the 19th centuries. However, one very important artefact remains: a double-faced stone cross from that early period of religious life on Tiree. It is known, now, as McLean’s cross, after the clan which ruled Tiree from 1390 to 1680, it is linked to the life of Anna McLean, who was the prioress of Iona from 1509 – 1543.

The cross has two sides: the first, with its raised boss at the centre of a ‘cross and spiral’ design, is Celtic. The reverse is in the form of a Latin Cross. It suggest an ancient piece, created when Christianity was well established, yet still in touch with its Celtic roots in these parts. One of the locals suggested it was 8th century, but we had no way of verifying this, and I can find no other reference to it.

Another artefact once shared this site: the cross of Anna McLean, herself, stood here (Illustration above). On it , she is shown ‘disembowelling death’; an action that merits scholarly and philosophical attention. Only the shaft of the cross is recorded, and the original was removed from the island long ago. The inscription reads ‘This is the cross of Michael, Archangel of God. Anna, Prioress of Iona‘. I would imagine no-one knows the full story of how she came to be interred on Tiree, possibly her original family home. She must have been quite a woman…

Quietly, and deep in thought, we left Soroby, intending to double-back on ourselves a short distance and take the direct road over the spine of the island and to Tiree’s north coast.

We had cycled away from the wonderful village of Hynish knowing that the best part of the day was likely over. The sheer mental adventure of discovering the story of the Shore Station and the Skerryvore Lighthouse had provided a kind of peace; a sense of a day well spent; and yet we were only a quarter of the way around the island of Tiree.

 

And then the dark clouds behind us caught up with the broken blue sky in front and the deluge hit. With a hissing of dark, low clouds, the threatened storm began. The rain was so intense that we abandoned any thought of climbing the hill towards the north coast. Instead, we fled back to the only point of refuge we knew – our morning cafe at Balemartine – and ran from the front car park into its inviting interior.

Henrietta had more sense than to be waiting for us, this time, and the staff of the Balemartine Cafe laughed in warm mirth as four wet cyclists abandoned their machines near the door and fled into the cafe’s warm interior.

“It can be verra unpredictable, the weather here,” said the lady owner of the cafe, studying our dripping state and clearly happy that the formal restaurant section was now full of decently-dressed weekend diners. She coughed gently and pointed to the coffee lounge where we had taken our late breakfast. “Will your usual table suffice?”

It did… and the humour helped; assisted by tea and cake, twice, as the building seemed to shake under the wrath of the storm god. You can feel very vulnerable in situations like this, when you’re thinly dressed, far from home, and more than slightly concerned whether the small plane from Glasgow could even get through the teeth of a highland storm like this…

And the figure jumping up and down in the red rain-suit. it was Paul, of course – the other husband in the party. After another hour in the cafe we felt duty bound to try again, despite the rain. Halfway up the road to the north coast, we abandoned any attempt at further travel. We were strung out in a line on the saturated hill. The ladies were a few hundred metres ahead of me. As group leader, and the most experienced cyclist, I was keeping a watchful eye on Paul, fighting a red ghost in the driving rain and not having the heart to tell him that the ladies had written the day off and decided we all needed to get back to the airport where we would at least be warm and, eventually, dry again.

It took us about thirty minutes to get back to Tiree Airport. We did, eventually dry off and get warm again. The plane, did get through. We did get back to Glasgow. None of the bad weather mattered, we had a wonderful day full of adventure.

It’s our turn to assemble one of these trips, next year. I’ll keep you posted… Thank you, Tiree.

©Stephen Tanham

Previous posts in this series:

Part One, Part Two

Part Three

Steve Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye school of Consciousness. His personal blog is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©Copyright Stephen Tanham, text and pictures. Re-use with permission.

Bright in the dark: endeavour and the lighthouse (3)

SE Lighthouse from sea gates4AA

Something had happened when we decided to approach the strange village by walking along the beach and coming to it via the old but grand harbour, with its mighty blocks and sea-gates. It was only later that we realised that what we had, inadvertently, photographed in the far distance was the focus of the whole story.

Tiree Blog2 - 1 (16)

You could relate it to one of my favourite Gurdjieffian pastimes: stopping the world. This technique requires a degree of stealth and an ability not to be embarrassed by the unusual – and your part in it! Stuart and I once caused such a moment of presence by each turning around from our table (shared with a very amused Sue) in a cafe and facing the opposite way (outwards). We were not trying to be irritating, just to do something unusual. The people we were sharing the cafe with took it in good part and assumed we were doing something humorous, possibly for a bet.

On that day we had stopped after a few seconds; we had no desire to prolong it, simply to create the experience, good-naturedly, as an extension of the serious conversation we were having.

There is something about the silence generated that tells you you've got it right. It doesn't have to be in public, but there's something about that arena that generates a feeling that something else is watching…

As we walked – the wrong way – through the harbour gates and into the strange village of Hynish, I had that same feeling…

The name 'Stevenson' was on a plaque by the harbour wall. It rang a bell. I remembered a Robert Louis Stevenson as the author of Treasure Island and Kidnapped; and had the idea that he might also have written The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde; but I didn't think he built harbours…

What I didn't know was that the name Stevenson was that of a family of gifted and determined eighteenth century Scottish engineers, and that the uncle of Robert Louis Stevenson the author was a man named Alan Stevenson, and that what he and his father – Robert Stevenson – accomplished was the reason for the strange village of other-worldly buildings on this remote corner of the Scottish island of Tiree.

 

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The view from the harbour was of a set of what looked like cottages, with a tower to their left.

The tower was related to that view out to sea; the cottages were the modern home of the Skerryvore Lighthouse Museum, which had been established by the Hebridean Trust and lovingly restored and re-established over the past ten years to protect a vital piece of Scotland's history.

Scotland's past

To understand the importance of Hynish and Tiree to Scotland's past you need to understand the way Glasgow developed in the 18th century. From a purely personal perspective, Glasgow has always been my favourite city, north of the border, because I have family there and it was the scene of many happy holidays in my teens – one of them involving my first long motorbike ride (in the pouring rain!). To find, all those years later, that Glasgow's early success as an international city had justified what happened at Hynish was a thrilling discovery.

Following the Act of Union in 1707, Scotland was free to trade, on equal terms with England, with the New World. Lucrative cargos of rice, tobacco, cotton, sugar and rum could now be imported to the Union via the deep estuary of the River Clyde. James Watt's 1760s invention of the steam engine also made Glasgow the most important exporter of manufactured good to the colonies. However, Between 1790 and 1844 more than thirty ships were known to have been wrecked in the area off the western edge of the inner Hebrides, as they fought the seas to enter and leave the Clyde.

Tiree Blog3 - 1 (2)

In 1814 an Act of Parliament was established to survey and fund the construction of an offshore lighthouse on the obstructing and deadly skerry.

The Skerryvore rocks, located just off the bottom left edge of the map, above, were ten miles west of Hynish and the father and son team appointed to survey, design and build this enormous undertaking was Robert and Alan Stevenson. Work began on the construction of the lighthouse in 1738.

Our cycle ride had stumbled on the Shore Station that was built to support the construction of the Skerryvore Lighthouse – ten miles offshore. Later, a more makeshift station on the Skerryvore rocks, themselves, was constructed. As an indication of the severity of the weather, the latter, comprising a three storey structure for supplies, managers and thirty workers, was completely destroyed by a storm in November 1838. It was redesigned and built again in time for the following spring – the workers having agreed to stay and work on the rock through the winter!

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The most complex part of the lighthouse was its clockwork revolving light, which, incredibly, amplified the wicks of only four oil 'lamps' and projected them across the deadly darkness. The key to this optical power was the use of the latest Fresnel multi-part lenses, which Alan Stevenson commissioned from the French Fresnel brothers in 1840. The eight lenses were (and are) only the size of dinner plates, but could project a bright beam over thirty miles!

Tiree Blog3 - 1 (4)

The lighthouse went operational in 1844 and the Shore Station was converted for use as living quarters for the shift of lighthouse keepers and their families.

Today the lighthouse is automatic, and it is controlled remotely from Edinburgh. The entire structure of Stevenson's design has remained in near-continuous operation since its commissioning.

Without the museum you would never know that the line of waves breaking far offshore, marks one of the world's engineering marvels, nor the reason for the existence of this strange and haunting place where so much happened, but which is no so quiet…

Despite the weather, our  day had brightened. We wondered if we dared hope for a continuation of our good fortune?

An aside…

I was really moved by this visit and wrote a poem shortly after, which was published on my personal blog  Sun in Gemini blog. It is reproduced, here:

The Skerryvore Light

In tiny Hynish's western shore

Where gentle waves now kiss the sand

The resting seas recall the names

Of they who built the Skerryvore

Forgotten in the passing nights

Unknown to most, of even few

Who chance on Hebridean soil

And stumble on the wreck of lights

For ears a story here in stone

Which value engineers of night

Of iron and glass and fearsome seas

That rivals any ancient tome

Not shifting sands or limestone frieze

No Pharaoh wise, nor Mayan king

Have ever dared to light the night

With giant tower upon the seas

In deep of howling winter's night

I'll sit upon my writer's keys

And 'Stevenson' will be the word

The image: glass infused with light

So come from history, taking bow

From we who sail on greatness past

We bow to you, who built our age

Forgotten on the quiet sands of now

©Stephen Tanham

To be continued…

Previous posts in this series:

Part One, Part Two

Steve Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye school of Consciousness. His personal blog is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©Copyright Stephen Tanham, text and pictures. Re-use with permission.