The Ghost Ship

Ghost Ship for blogAAsmaller

The Ghost Ship
They come from land and some by wave
To travel brave and not unnerved
Across a globe described by one
Who sees in numbers straight and curved
That one, disgraced, must face a queen
Must eat her wrath and test its moment
And through eyes of tender wife
Must glimpse his soul and seek atonement
Far more than anger rides the squares
Of chamber wrought to pry
To lift the skin of ancient wreck
And tear apart the sun and sky
Four faces power has cast within
Four faces knit with passion
For rich and poor must play their parts
Beneath this cod and piece of fashion
No blade dare chance the chequered chart
Lest bearer seeks parade
Of limbless foe ‘neath guardian’s blow
A groaning exhibition made
The mind and heart shall be the game
And high with low be paid
As rules reveal themselves in part
While each response is made
Within all this a Queen will sail
Upon a ship self-fashioned
Her quest: to tease the coming age
To birth with virgin’s passion

Dedicated to all those making, packing and preparing themselves for the Silent Eye’s 2018 workshop ‘Jewel in the Claw’, which begins tomorrow…

©Stephen Tanham

The Opened Palm

“I only know how to ask…”

Probably the last thing she said to me, so many years ago. Age took her, then. But the memory of the touch of her mind and heart is a wonderful one. So gentle, so nurturing, and yet so very full of purpose…

“It’s a precious thing, to be allowed to nurture another.” Another memory. “It demands everything you have been, all the past – conditioned and unconditioned, that makes you what you are. Though none of that has value in the present save positioning”

It took me over twenty years to get to the point where I was ready; where I had the courage to say to myself – and to another – I don’t know.

“But now you know how to ask,” the warm words come back, almost as though they were said by a hidden group of people, all of them watching that moment. The intense silence that followed it… the gift of the vividness; as real now as when the words were said.

And yes, I know, now, how to ask, and I understand her gesture on that day, half-seen, but, thankfully, recorded so that when watched, again, with the key, which turned its image into a picture on a door; the door opened, becoming something alive and beyond time, beyond the inevitable decay of ‘things’.

We work to provide that moment for others. We have constructed a journey into the self, and, later, into the Self, in which the whole of ‘me’ is revealed, laid bare if we’re brave enough.

We do not expect those on this journey to walk alone. We give up our time so that a hand may reach out to them as they both struggle and triumph – often revealing the lack of opponent who seemed to lie in waiting behind that stone wall; and thereby the real nature of triumph and defeat. The path to the Self is demanding, but the final few yards of that journey are a miracle.

They are a miracle because they align everything in our lives into a new shape, a new perspective, a new relationship with what we thought was ‘around’ us, ‘out there…’

How do you teach this? The written journey is only a map. It’s how you travel that makes the difference. The student (Companion) has to learn trust in the process, which, at the close is exchanged for trust in the Self, the lesser self having been revealed for what it truly is.

Throughout all this, the palm needs to be opened and raised, metaphorically, to the sky. The Companion may think this applies to them, only. But the half-seen smile of the Supervisor may cause them to wonder. That sense of wonder needs to grow from its seed to flower into the knowledge that those holding up their hand are doing exactly the same with what guides them, in turn.

The opened palm held downwards is mirrored in the other, initially unseen, held upwards, in a chain of Being whose flower is Consciousness. We might say there was only ever one hand, but millions of realisations of its intense and loving presence.

She only ‘knew how to ask’; and in that humble power lay and lies the key to a universe of self within Self.

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 home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at

You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics.

©Stephen Tanham

Esoteric Shipbuilding

It was a ‘stream of consciousness moment’; one of those that acts like a time machine. The flash of memories cut right back to my childhood – seven or eight years old. It included the sight and texture of the old bricks of our primary school playground, the beginnings of art at school, and learning about that most romantic of things – ships, or, to be precise, that arcane institution: the Royal Navy, and its beginnings.

All this was prompted by the cardboard drawing of an Elizabethan ship… We needed a core image for the Jewel in the Claw workshop, something that would sit as a centrepiece on the threefold panel at the back of the room, the place of the mystical East.

I don’t often build ships – not even models, though my childhood bedroom ceiling had a wonderful assortment of Airfix and Frog model planes hanging from pieces of nylon fishing line so that they were arranged in a global dogfight that spanned space and time. Ships were slow and cumbersome… But then I met Elizabeth, the Tudor Queen, and saw them from within her eyes, and another world opened.

Queen Elizabeth I understood ships – as did her deadly enemies, the Spanish, owners of the Armada fleet.

The drawing on the cardboard is a picture of an Elizabethan ship under full sail. It took me the better part of an afternoon to measure the original (bottom right in the opening picture) and scale it onto the cardboard.  Such ships were a symbol of the emerging naval power of Elizabethan England, a beginning that would see the British Empire rise, literally, from the waves. That empire would go on to reach such a powerful peak that ‘the sun would never set’ upon it. And then, as all empires do, it will fade…

Back in Elizabethan time, the navy will become the cornerstone of its eventual global presence.

Royal Navy: playground… why?

A child born in 1954 will grow up to learn that ‘trading’ (at school) in cigarette packets skimmed in competition against the school walls was very cost effective if your parents smoked Senior Service. One packet of those was worth five, or even ten of the less expensive Woodbines. I apologise to those younger folk for whom these terms are meaningless. They were the basis for our playtimes when I was eight and nine years old. Agree terms, then skim one closest to the playground wall (thereby winning) and you collected a multiple of their worth. Potentially lucrative returns, if you are willing to gamble high stakes used cigarette packets like Senior Service… The first taste of the potential of risk and reward, perhaps?

Senior Service: the name for the British navy – to reinforce its longevity and status over the Army and Air Force. Different today, of course. But, in my parents’ youth, very fundamental to ‘Britishness’. One of my uncles was in the Navy. It didn’t mean much, back then.

On the 20th April, 2018, it will mean a lot, as Queen Elizabeth I watches the rest of the ‘actors’ rise and move across the giant chessboard to take their place in the drama that begins with the onset of Shakespeare’s death; then a clever but pushing-his-luck Christopher Marlowe calling out the cast of players from the shadows of the ‘tavern’ and making mischief… Until the Queen raises her head and begins to rise.

All of this started with Elizabeth I; our iconic sovereign who triumphed over expectation to find herself Queen at the age of twenty-five, inheriting a bankrupt kingdom laid waste by a a psychopath – her father, Henry VIII, whose only focus was a son and heir. And to hell with consequence.

So, back to the cardboard ship… the image that sparked the mental and emotional journey. Good theatre props are usually held together with smoke, mirrors and industrial tape. This one will be no exception. The simplified outline will be spray-painted white with white enamel paint – as many coats as it takes to give it a shell-like finish. This will be mounted onto a black cloth and the whole thing hung, like a picture, on the Eastern partition.

Hopefully, it will look good; and the black and white theme will complement the giant chessboard of the Queen’s Court Floor.  But the final touch, if it works, will give it a very special quality, indeed. We’ve sourced two lights that are designed to project a soothing reflection of ‘sunlight on sea’. We’ll be pointing one of these at the white ship… and hoping for the best. If it works it will be lovely… It’s a moving effect, and therefore quite difficult to photograph, but here’s an idea of how it will look – minus the animation. I’m only on the third coat of paint, so the ship has a way to go, yet.

Ship Bess smaller2

This is the kind of deeply-focused thing the three of us do in the Silent Eye’s run-up to our main event – the annual Spring workshop in the tiny hamlet of Great Hucklow, located in the heart of the Derbyshire hills. You only get one shot at that first impression of a Temple of the Mysteries…

The empty but flying Senior Service cigarette packet, the bricks of the primary school yard wall, the ocean waves of Britannia’s coming and the power of an English Queen to shape the history of a small but pivotal country combine and resolve themselves in a flash, as the last piece of cardboard falls away to reveal what will become the ship; seen entire in the mind, even though it is just brown card, yet, in the room.

On that Friday evening a mere two weeks away, the Queen will command silence with her will; overriding the mischief of Marlowe. As she rises to take control of the mysterious chequered chamber of transformation, she will pause for a second, looking across the Court Floor at the blue East.

Then, she will begin a slow walk to her throne, becoming bathed in the soft blue light of reflected waves as she approaches the place from which she will direct the next two and half days of purposeful and very human interaction…

And then it will have begun…

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 home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at

You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics.

©Stephen Tanham

The Magical Roundabout

Magical Roundabout

I remember the moment, a few years ago, when Stuart – one of my co-directors of the Silent Eye – said to me: “And that’s it, vanished in an instant: all that work about to be packed up, filed away and forgotten…”

He was referring to the hour at the end of our annual workshop during which we tear down the props, pack the period (or futuristic) costumes and collect up any spare workbooks, each one the better part of two hundred pages of lovingly crafted mystical theatre…

Around us is a scattering of people who don’t want to go home… Old friends, returned for their yearly round of camaraderie, fun and some deeply moving psychodrama, are standing in the residual warmth of a living thing which, like a vessel, has held and nurtured us all for the weekend. New friends, wondering what just happened…

I hate the word ‘psychodrama’ but that’s what it is. Hitchcock has a lot to answer for… ‘psych’ because the weekend is a process that works on ‘the self’, involving everyone in a play – a scripted five-act drama that starts off slow and ends with a rush that is all too real. It’s not drugs or alcohol that fuels this, it’s the largely forgotten state of ‘egregore’ of a group of people ‘playing’ at something with spiritual intentions whose success they are committed to.

We play via scripts and, often, costumes based on the characters enacted. No-one is expected to remember their lines over the five acts of the play. But watch any one of our players reading theirs and you’ll see that person giving total dedication to being the best they can be.

They may be a medieval knight, a soothsayer, a priestess. They may be a jester, a demigod or even a Queen. They might even be a cyborg from the future, struggling to become human, and challenging all our preconceptions in the process.

Sounds serious stuff? Yes, but beneath this is a strong and incredibly supportive layer of fun. A very good pub is next door to our conference venue: the lovely Nightingale Centre in this idyllic part of the Derbyshire hills. We are not averse to a glass of wine or beer to help wind down in the evenings, and the included meals in the venue are very good, indeed – and all this for less than three hundred pounds, per person, inclusive…

We don’t do it to make money, as the annual tax return would demonstrate. We do it because it reflects the best of the various ‘Schools of the Soul’ in which we were brought to a more inclusive state of consciousness. Over the five short years of our existence we have made it our own, and created our own teaching styles, along the way developing some leading-edge approaches to distance learning.

We are not gurus – we don’t believe in them. We are just ordinary folk who enjoy teaching a deeper approach to life… and ‘playing’ in this magical and creative fashion.

This year, 20-22 April, on that final Sunday afternoon, we will be standing among the torn down bits of electronics, cables, fabric, giant chessboard and well-thumbed scripts. Stuart may well be standing there as the last box gets packed into the car and ask, in his customary fashion, ‘Well, was it all worth it?’

He’ll be smiling his ‘it’s not really a question’ smile, and we’ll both chuckle. Oh yes, it will indeed have been worth it!


For more information on this and future Silent Eye workshops click here or contact us at

©Stephen Tanham.

Carry on talking



From twisted flesh and sinew

You dared to dream

To think, to see, to do

And in that doing felt

The Universe create anew


But doing dares beyond

To tell the species how

Uniquely made it is

Not for that which follows life

But simply what is now:

That mind could put an end to strife


And all, you said, of peace

Came down, at last, to this:

That talking raised us up

That talking kept us sane

That talking keeps the open door

And throws away the blame.


In memory of Professor Stephen Hawking


©The Silent Eye.

A Candle in the Mind

Candle of the MindAA

If we wish to make a voyage into the self, we need a set of tools, with which to:

a) Investigate, as objectively as possible, what this ‘me’ is doing.

b) Create a space; a different part of us, that our growing and real consciousness can ‘live in’.

These may initially sound somewhat forced, but that is only because western language, with its notional structure of “(I) do something to (that)” embeds the principle that there is an ‘I’ in the form we think of it; therefore we never question the root of the problem.

The ‘toolkit’, strange-sounding though it may be, is only there to correct the language-based falsehood within which we all live. But truly understanding that comes later, when we live on the upper floor of ‘ourselves’ rather than the ground.

When we begin to watch ourselves, we run, immediately, into conditioning. Conditioning is the result of society, family, job, school, mates – best and otherwise, job pressures, the club for football/books/golf/cricket/(insert here). In short, everyone who has ever laid an expectation on us that we accepted, has contributed to this conditioning.

Most of this conditioning is there to mould our personality into an acceptable form so that we can live, harmoniously, within the society into which we were born; or into which we have relocated, due to a bad fit of the first one…

Part of the valid conditioning is a set of moral values: the good and bad of it. These often affect us the most, especially if we believe that good and bad are powerful things.

When we accept a framework of a philosophy or religion, we subscribe to a subset of values associated with that ‘method’ of instruction. This applies, equally, to any School of spirituality which imposes on us similar constraints.

Are we to be anarchical in our search for personal truth? Are we to cast off everything we hold dear to find a pure layer of self within, as though we were beginning our lives again?

It’s not a trivial question, since, at the right time in our development, there are truths in some of the above scenarios. But such a transition, done brutally, negates the value of the developed personality and its potential for doing ‘good’. In the West, we need to work within the framework of our society – we’re not particularly suited to the life of a monk, regardless of the religious basis. Few of us believe that discarding everything we own will do anything but destabilise us.

The mistake is thinking that the personality can solve this, all by itself. Since our goal is to rise ‘above’ the everyday life imposed on us by the habitual nature of that personality – with all its habits and hungers – we can hardly expect cooperation from the creature, itself!


A clever, stealthy and subtle way to go about it is to become a ‘self-watcher’. Self-watchers do everything they’ve always done, but they resist the societal urge to judge what they are watching in themselves. Self-judging is also habitual; and was exposed by Freud, the pioneering psychologist of the last century, as belonging to a part of the personality called the superego. We can never satisfy the critical demands of this monster. It’s like your worst authority-figure. Whatever we do, that critical voice is always there, telling us we may have tried our best but it’s just not good enough…

When we become a self-watcher, the superego comes at us like a charging tiger. It applauds what we’re finding about our ‘weak’ self! It loves our unveiling of the pathetic nature of our resolve to give up that nasty habit… or six.

The dedicated self-watcher has to learn a new skill: to ignore the judgment of that inner voice. It does this initially by trust. Later, with experience and a deepening sense of something good and calm growing inside us, it does this because it knows the approach opens up a new world. An inner realm, seen from a judgment-free perspective, brings a new energy to the study of how we really live our lives. This new energy is far more potent at personal transformation that any scowling superego could ever be.

One of its most wonderful attributes is that it loves us…

Watching has a power of its own, no matter what scale it operates on. This is one of secrets of the ancient methods of spiritual development, and one that is vital to learn if we are to find any peace and retain our sanity in the perceived nasty and crazy world we find ourselves in, today.

It doesn’t operate on its own; of course not. Other things have to happen, too. But the establishment of a watching-place inside us, inviolate from criticism–an inner room in which we can say: “In here I will learn about me in peace and free from persecution”, is the single most powerful tool we can adopt if we want personal transformation in our lives.

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 home-based study and practice courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at

You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics.

©Stephen Tanham


Dwellers in Towers

Minds in Towers2 - 2

A recent trip to the beautiful Northumbrian coast threw up a chance visit to Preston Tower, one of a type known as a ‘Pele Tower’ – a fortified place of refuge for well-to-do families, built during the times of the ‘Border Reivers’ – armed family gangs who took the law into their own hands in these often un-policed borderlands between England and Scotland.

In the famous Pevsner’s Guides to the architecture of the UK, the Northumberland guide describes this type of building:

“In the 14th Century Northumberland was almost permanently in a state of warfare, and in the 15th and 16th centuries the county was still so sorely harassed by armies, gangs and thieves that a tower house was the only possible insurance a man of sufficient property could take out.”
Minds in Towers2 - 19
In the entrance room is a model of how Preston Tower would have looked in the 14th century. Only half of it remains, but that is in very good condition and considered one of the finest examples in Britain.

Towers and their dwellers have always interested me, as they illustrate a particular set of human attributes: the needs for security and the power of fear – something whose controlling power we make reference to as a block to individual spiritual development in the Silent Eye’s three year self-exploration course, where one of the archetypes encountered is just that Dweller in the Tower.

Towers have featured often in spiritual literature. The famous Tarot Card of the “Blasted Tower” is a reference to the destruction by natural forces (lightning, in this case) of the upper levels of the Tower’s construction. To find the whole origin of the essence of the card we need to go back to the Bible, where, in Genesis, it tells that, in a land after the great flood, all ‘men’ spoke the same language. They decided to build a Tower to Heaven from the ‘slime’ of the earth. God confounded their plans by causing them all to speak a different language.

Blasted Tower
The ‘Blasted Tower’ from the Ryder-Waite Tarot Deck painted by Pamela Coleman-Smith. Wikkipedia Public Domain (source)

We might assume that a kindly God would be pleased at our attempts to build a tower to reach ‘him’, but the essence of the story is that the materials used were not those that would withstand a dialogue with so powerful a being; and hence that very force – or attempted dialogue – was the source of the destruction. A mystical interpretation is that a successful tower would have to be built from below and from above at the same time… But that is a topic for another post.

Minds in Towers2 - 43
Despite its apparent size, the interior space is minimal. The arrangement of the space is entirely geared to defence rather than comfortable living.

The Dweller in the Tower is secure but cut off from the world they fear. The fear is real, as is the perceived threat, but it may not be present.

The effect of separation from the surrounding landscape is a terrible price to pay. We might say that such an approach takes us away from the ‘flow’ of life – a flow that, if embraced openly, is the key to our personal evolution. This is not an easy step, and is counter intuitive. It is the kind of step we take only when we become convinced that our life (within the Tower) is no longer capable of providing any real sustenance.

Pele towers like Preston Tower were build by rich men. They subjected their families to terrible and cramped living conditions in the name of safety. Psychologically, we might say that our obsession with safety does much of the same, today…

Minds in Towers2 - 76

What would be attractive about life in a tower? One good thing might be the view. From a good height, we can see more… but not touch or feel or smell it. This suggests an isolation of the intellectual sense, that lives its life against a ‘picture’ of the world rather than the world, itself.

Minds in Towers2 - 52
The view from the roof of Preston Tower, near Bamburgh

From that height, using that view, I could see all around me. I could compile detailed maps of the world below, bringing all that knowledge back into my tower, like a spy might – but it would always be historical knowledge. My interaction with the world below could be minimal, or as slight as I wanted it. Whenever I felt the least bit threatened, I could close the thick doors and bolt them. Then, climbing the winding staircase, I could take myself farther and farther from what might hurt me… take myself farther and farther from life, itself, replaying only the bits I wanted.

Minds in Towers2 - 23

The Tower Dweller is not a complete human in the Silent Eye’s approach. He or she is an aspect of the personality, one formed from that part of the spectrum of ourselves which is associated with fear. The Pele towers were a very good model for one aspect of the modern personality, which feels itself under threat from things real – and many more, imaginary.

It takes targeted effort and a lot of self-honesty to see these deeply- rooted patterns in ourselves. The positive side of that coin is that they are fundamentals within our self. Any changes to these ‘magnetic poles’ in ourselves will alter the whole. If we simply concentrate on the Tower Dweller within us, then our self-work will be unbalanced. Far better to circumscribe ourselves so that we can see what other aspects hold the patterns of our vital energies prisoner.

Minds in Towers2 - 47
One day, we might climb to the roof for a different reason…

One day, we might climb to that roof and look at the view, all around, for a different reason. We might have come to a vision of the potential fullness of our real selves and want to take one last look at the landscape from above, before opening the door and venturing out into that world with a very different purpose. The map will still be useful, but limited, compared with being there.

As the first breaths of our new life enter the lungs, enriching neglected inner pathways with new life, we might look back at the soaring stonework and thank the Tower; thank it for keeping us safe until we grew confident enough in ourselves to make our destination the world and not its isolated heights.

Minds in Towers2 - 91

As the sun sets on the cold stone, we might find ourselves laughing and running into that forest, creeping up to shout ‘Boo!’ to the bogeyman who we once thought lived there…

Preston Tower details:

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 home-based, low-cost and supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at

©Stephen Tanham, Silent Eye School of Consciousness.

Of One Mind?


Of One Mind fishesAA

To be of ‘one mind’: it’s an expression we don’t hear a lot of, nowadays, though it remains available to us in the language. Historically, it was used to describe an intensity of opinion, or – even stronger – belief, that something was so important that several key figures united in a single ‘front’ of solidarity behind whatever was being endorsed.

Perhaps our vision of truth has become dulled, and it is considered that there are few such ‘black and white’ moments… In line with the complexity of our world, it may be that nothing truly ‘is’ anymore, there are just shades of ‘isness’.

Over the ages, philosophers have ventured into the waters of the human psyche and grappled with the idea of single-mindedness. To be of ‘sound mind’ has always been important; and that implies being single in our interior nature. That unity expressed by a group of people being of one mind now applies, at least within the world of psychology, to a healthy state for the individual.

But are we ‘single’ within ourselves?

For example, we can resolve, going to bed, that we will rise early and finish off that important piece of writing for which we need a snappy ending. We may reinforce that intent by assuring ourselves that famous writers often speak of the inspiration and clarity of mind to be found when the night’s rest has cleansed the mind.

And then, tired, we fall asleep…

But do we get up that extra hour early to avail ourselves of what we know to be advantageous? Usually not, if my experience of human nature is correct, including my own. So, how can one ‘part’ of us have such a clear resolution of what we want and need to do, and another part (the tired bit) decide to ignore it. I am reminded of the ‘Wheel of Fortune’ tarot card in which various mythic beings are seen rotating to a point of ‘uprightness’, in what fits well with the idea that only one of them can have precedence at any one time, though they all belong to the notional ‘self’.

The Rider-Waite Wheel of Fortune card (source)

The key to examining this – as much as the mind can examine itself – is in the word ‘self’. We all consider that we have a self. It is our identity, a stable entity with a name and memories… and, a body, which, though constantly changing, gives us the sense of continuity of being. We can come to terms with biological ageing as long as we have an inviolate ‘self’ within this collection of cells.

And that’s where it gets a bit tricky…

We need to look at what we can count on: we have the memory of being a straight line of biological life through our ‘timeline’. We have a body that changes, and a name, but apart from that it could be argued that we are simply a point of perception that sustains an illusion that we have a single, undivided self, or mind or brain, call it what you will. Whatever name we use, we are very attached to it. Any lively debate between people beginning a study of the esoteric will throw up strong opinions, as the inviolate ‘self’ is encroached upon!

And yet…

And yet, that notion of the importance of being ‘single minded’ is deeply important to us; and that, like so much else that drives us, is based on a fear of it no longer existing… the reality of our existence suddenly ending. To counter this, we may postulate that there is a ‘heaven’ somewhere separate to life, perhaps where our kindnesses will be remembered and will outweigh our bad bits. The human psyche needs such edges or the fear might just become overwhelming. I do not mean to disparage religion, here. Religion helps many people to live deeper and more self-less lives. I’m just examining the psychology of it all. If the idea of an eternal self is real, why is that which is considered ‘holy’ associated with the self-less, rather than the super-self?

Can we get closer to something ‘real’ by investigating how we might deepen this sense of a united self? Certainly, this has been the approach of many leading thinkers over the past two hundred years. They point out that the weakness of our personalities in holding to a true and single self is something we can examine, on a daily basis. The dispute comes, not in being able to study ourselves, but rather in terms of how we respond to what we can so easily find.

To make a study of ourselves we need to have a vantage point from which we can make these (initially hypothetical) observations. To create this interior space, we have to allocate it certain properties. The first of these is how we react. When we study our reactions we find that none are more powerful than the shock of seeing ourselves as we really are. When we find our constant contradictions to that ‘image of me’ that we carry around, we begin to wonder how we have lived a life that was so shallow in this respect. We can be objective about others, but when we turn that spotlight on ourselves… em.

This interior space, this ‘tower’, if you like, has to be a place in which only the truth is allowed. We can keep it secret, of course, so we don’t need to feel shame as we watch ourselves lying, for example. But, sooner or later, this internally honest viewing platform will begin to develop, for the want of a better word, its own interior feelings. One of them will be a quiet revelation that the truth has a profound power all of its own; and that it lights the way into a deeper state of real self that we had never even suspected was there…

It’s a gateway that we can only approach when we are truly ready… like the resolve that will get us up on a dark winter morning to finish that story…

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

©Stephen Tanham, Silent Eye School of Consciousness.




Identified Flying Object

Indentiy ConsoleAA

One of the key understandings in mystical thought is the idea of identity. Words morph their meaning over time, and identity is a classic case.

We might think of the police knowing the ‘identity’ of a person they want to speak to. We would find it in fashion magazines for both genders in the context of a garment to reinforce our identity in line with a progressive trend.

Both these show how the word identity means either a unique description or a close bond through some sort of ‘mapping’ of properties by adoption. The central theme is that of a chosen closeness. If I buy a new car and feel very good when I drive it, I’m identifying with an object that adds to my identity and makes me feel good.

The car analogy is a good one – and a very good way of studying one of the 21st century’s fault lines – in the sense that, if ten miles down the road, someone deliberately races past our new sports car, we may well feel aggrieved that we have been deliberately ‘slighted’ and that our inflated identity, centred on the car, has been wounded.

At such times, if we could step back and imagine we were flying above our shiny new car and watching the whole drama unfold, we might be a little ashamed by how we chased after the errant teenager and nearly caused a crash by proving that our new vehicle was superior.

It’s easy to insert the word ‘ego’, here. We all know the difference between driving our shiny new car and the theoretical view from above it. In the latter we are detached because we can see a bigger picture. In the former we are somehow compressed into a smaller space where the red mist of anger is a frequent consequence.

Most drivers have had that ‘red mist’ moment; particularly men, with their overdoses of testosterone. Young male drivers have an horrific accident rate precisely because, after yearning to drive for years, they suddenly get wheels and have to prove to the world that they have always been a better driver than anyone else… or, at least, their mates.

When recalling full story of accidents of this nature, the accused often say they did not know what came over them; the red mist descended and they went to war. Going to war is a good link to what’s underneath of all this, and we go to war for our country – because it’s a primary part of our identity.

The path to self-knowledge begins with such constructs. When I see that my stupid reaction to the teenager overtaking me was a reduction in consciousness, despite the elation beforehand, I might begin to investigate how such identification is at the root of many of the negative things I do, and the cause of much of the energy loss that I might suffer on a daily basis.

This type of identification is inherited from lower levels of our evolution – but not too far back. In anything but an age of true plenty, the possession of objects of visible status was a sign of rank and personal worth. You were important if you had them. Modern advertising works very hard to keep this alive in our societies, and the cult of celebrity is an even worse example of how someone here today and gone tomorrow can be all but worshipped; as can everything they are seen to drive and wear…

When we have to add objects to our selves for that good feeling, we are showing that the self does not have enough worth. We want the object because it will signal to the world that ‘I’ have grown along some axis of importance. In this way we see that much of what we are taught, by education, by family and by employment, is based upon an inherited sense of worth that is not related to the unique and precious self with which we came into the world and this life. That self is taught that it can feel ‘bigger’ if it acquires ‘classy’ things. But such objects do not actually make us feel a lot better – In fact the gain is often way out of proportion to their true cost.

There is a paradox at work here, and the shock generated when this is seen can be, and should be, life-changing…

Here’s the first part of the shock: the things we use to define ourselves need not be physical objects at all. We can be attached to our likes and dislikes, our hatred, our politics, our favourite food… or even our suffering. Identification, seen from the most powerful height above that speeding car, is a label saying ‘this is me’. The flow of life’s events, over which we have little or no control constantly brings us up a filmstrip of images, smells, tastes and other sensations. This filmstrip was originally seen by us the infant as a passing show. We did not attach ourselves to its display until we became more conscious of the link between ‘me’ and that filmstrip. But, and here’s the key, we had to be taught that – by others whose lives were already bound up with the film. Once tied in this way, any change to what is being ‘viewed’ is capable of taking us into sadness, anger, hatred or a dozen other negative states.

The two perspectives are radically different: one is that life is happening; the other that life is happening to us.

To break free of this, whilst still retaining the hard-won discrimination of adulthood, is the work of mystical development, under whatever banner. To break the link with the filmstrip’s negative power we need to open up a space within ourselves and move into it, in the sense that, from then on, we watch both the filmstrip and our own reaction to it – without allowing identification to take place. We watch the flashy car, we register it as a quality thing, but we do not allow that habitual effect of ‘yes, that’s me’ or ‘I would be a better me if I had it’. We do this because we know the real value of an awakened Self.

To do this is to be at odds with the world, to a certain extent, though that can be viewed with humour, too.  But in a time when the world appears to be on the edge of insanity, might not being at a slight angle to it be the saner option?

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

©Stephen Tanham, Silent Eye School of Consciousness.