Bright in the dark: endeavour and the lighthouse (2)

SE Lighthouse from sea gates4AA

‘Surreal’ is an often used word and does its best to convey a moment, usually quite fleeting, in which there is both a heightened sense of ‘being there’ and another feeling of strangeness. The two come together and we feel vaguely uncomfortable that something for which we have no real words envelopes us.

This state of consciousness is described in more detail in the Silent Eye’s consciousness course as being a temporary cessation of the ‘filters’ that cloud our experience of the seemingly ordinary world. A better word for the experience is ‘present’, as in present to what’s real.

In truth, nothing is ordinary, and reality is seeing that

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Our first ‘present’ moment of the day happened when we carefully bypassed Henrietta and entered the sanctuary of the Farmhouse Cafe in Balemartin. My first post in this series, last week, resulted in several offers to adopt Henrietta, the bike guardian, so I reproduce, above, the photograph of her doing her day-job. I don’t think she’s available for adoption…

The impending storm had quickened our minds, in the way that survival does, and, with the first of the rain driving at the windows, we found we had entered an establishment that had just opened. The staff – four quite young people – looked at us as though we had camped outside overnight, falling through the door, in desperation, the minute they unlocked it. I suppose we looked a bit alien in our bright cycling gear.

For a short while, we had the place to ourselves. The interior was plain but functional, as though it were half a farmhouse, which I suspect it was. The staff had the air of close family and riends, with at least three daughters on duty. Life on Tiree revolves around tourism and farming, with everyone helping out for both. Everyone we met on the island was very friendly, though you could detect a certain island manner.

The cafe owners had a proud display of rosettes for their competition cattle. We were about to ask when a group of eight or so people arrived for an early lunch, closely followed by another, even larger group! It was Saturday and restaurants are scarce on Tiree. We could see why all the family were employed, as the place went from empty to full in about five minutes.

The day had started a long time ago. We had planned to have a coffee and, perhaps a piece of cake to keep our strength up. But, with the rain lashing at the windows, we consoled ourselves with a longer-lasting choice of some delicious soup and local bread, and wondered if our day’s adventure had ended before it had really begun…

The downpour continued and we were forced to add some cake and a second pot of coffee to the mix before we stepped out into a dripping Balemartine. The saddles were sodden but a few minutes of emergency finger-wiping restored them to a usable condition. Ominously, the sky had not brightened, and we wondered if we were wise to leave the relative safety of the cafe.

That sense of leaving ‘for an uncertain destination’ has always seemed to be at the heart of mysticism, too. The familiar is safe, but the dark skies of the unknown landscape can just as easily brighten to the beauty of the beyond, when the possible storm is observed to be a shallow and passing thing. The ‘inner quietness’ of such a spiritual moment was mirrored in our journey as we crested the next hill.

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Before us was a line of beautiful beaches, but that wasn’t what took our eye. Beyond the beaches was what looked like an old military base. We had only a basic map and no idea what the landscape offered, though we knew the island was relatively flat. The little map of the road showed we were travelling into a dead-end, so all we had to do was keep pedalling and we’d get there.

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The traditional Highland longhorn, grazing by the beach. The coat was shorter than I’d seen before. Perhaps they are trimmed for the summer, or maybe there is natural shedding? Assistance gratefully received…

Wild flowers, some of them quite exotic, were abundant by the sea. On the little meadow in front of this beach we even found a few wild orchids.

And then the road came to a fork, with the dark cluster of buildings ahead. We decided to approach by the seaward track, leaving the bikes parked by a wall. We had been told there was no crime on Tiree, so we could leave them as we liked – even without Henrietta to guard.

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The wild beauty of Tiree – with a prophetic glimpse of a dark rock on the horizon

Wonderful things happen when you choose an unusual path to an envisioned goal. In this case the approach we made for ourselves, along the edge of the sea, brought us to a most dramatic vista.

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It was obviously a harbour, with the ability to seal off the flow of the tide so that some kind of vessel could be maintained. The sea was calm on our day, but we could envisage how violent it might be in the depths of winter. But what had been its purpose?

The ‘dark village’, apparently constructed of the same stone, and at the same time, as the dock, seemed quite deserted, yet was, or had been, very important in Tiree’s past. What was this ‘ghost town’ on our tiny island?

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We climbed up onto its walls to get a glimpse of the whole complex of buildings from this perspective.

The answer would teach us as much about the city from which our flight had begun, only three hours prior, as the island of Tiree, itself… Despite the ever-threatening weather, it was becoming a very magical day.

Because we had entered from the sea, we still had no idea what the dark village was, nor why it had ever justified such a grand and robust harbour.

The answer was a glimpse into Scotland’s proud history and a revelation of something quite astonishing in its scale and importance. It was also a lesson in how we take for granted the ‘giants on whose shoulders we stand’ as Newton said.



To be continued…

Previous posts in this series:

Part One,

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

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

Bright in the dark: endeavour and the lighthouse

SE Lighthouse from sea gates4AA

The tiny airport was a refreshing change to the madness of modern flying, with its scarring signature of  ‘security’. You could imagine a kindly local lady rushing out and saying, “Hamish the Russian terrorist is on holiday today, so I’m just going to wave you through, dearies…”

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The Royal Mail man fixes the engine prior to takeoff… probably.

There was, though, little distance to wave us through. Tiree is one of a pair of Scottish islands in this westernmost part of the Inner Hebrides – the other being Coll. Tiree is just twelve miles long and three across, and is relatively flat. It is renowned for its simple life, friendly people and beautiful beaches.

The main building of the airport comprises just three rooms: an arrivals/departures main space which doubles as the baggage arrival hall; an office for the staff and a departures lounge. Outside, a man in a transit van waited for our small party with four hybrid mountain bikes – part of the package trip and a great way (we hoped) to see the island in a day.

Our plane – an HS Twin Otter, sat on the tarmac outside the terminal, ready to take the six or so passengers who were now walking across the apron to climb its pull-down steps. An hour later, in the mirror of our inbound flight, they would be in Glasgow, having covered a distance that, on previous Scottish holidays, had taken us about ten hours by road and ferry.

The whole day-trip was a combined Christmas/birthday present from two long-standing friends who have drawn up their ‘bucket-list’, and asked us to share this part of it with them. We were delighted to be there. The four of us are happy with the idea of such an adventure, though the other couple have explored far-flung parts of the world with a fearlessness what we do not possess.

When you write blogs regularly you need inspiration. One of the most productive and creative methods I know to be inspired is to take a current theme to a new landscape and see what comes from the place. The trip to Tiree seemed ideal for this.

On the flight, as the green highlands, lakes and seaways drifted by far below, I emptied my mind to allow the ingress of the most ‘topical’ comments made, recently, by our Companions – those who take the three-year journey of spiritual self-discovery with us via our mentored correspondence course.

The answer that arose in my consciousness was an unlikely one: the topics of intrinsic perfection in the ‘world’ we experience and the idea within this of right action. It was unlikely because the simple landscape of Tiree was likely to be just that – simple and lacking in sophistication, though that was not expected to detract from its appeal.

The idea of perfection, in this context, is that the world is not as we initially see it, but ‘clouded over’ by lenses of the personality. Only by self-knowledge of how our daily ‘self’ has ‘hardened’ around a set of foundational reactions to life can we approach the cleaning of these lenses. When we do, we begin to see powerful changes in our lives – in fact, the world seems to change, whereas what is really happening is that we are seeing the truth for (possibly) the first time since early childhood – but with the gift of adult discrimination.

The idea of intrinsic perfection is that the above journey to great personal truth illustrates that the ordinary world does not ‘see’ what is before it. As we develop our ‘seeing’, we come to know it differently. Taken to the limit we perceive that what we experience when we don’t react in a habitual way is increasingly perfect, since it is driving the personal evolution of so many incarnated souls…

The idea can produce a lively debate, as you can imagine, so it is generally reserved for the third year of our three-year guided journey, where it forms one of nine ways of considering ‘objective reality’ – that which simply is – beyond personal opinion.

Leaving Tiree’s tiny but wonderful airport, we collected the bikes, turned left towards the island’s circular coastal road and, within five minutes, found ourselves at the main junction and beside a lovely beach.

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As the photo of Bernie (above) shows, the weather was worsening, with a stiff breeze coming off the sea. With some trepidation, we began to pedal away from the relative familiarity of the airport’s grounds and into the darkening unknown.

The small plane that had brought us to Tiree did not have provision for refreshments – the co-pilot came out of the cabin and read out the safety notice before we took off, then returned to help the captain fly the plane! By the time we encountered the beach road, we had all decided that an early cup of coffee with a comprehensive look at the map would be very welcome – as well as giving us a potential place of shelter in the event of a downpour.

Our opening few miles were quite difficult. The wind off the sea was brisk, to say the least. This was in stark contrast to the weather we had left in Cumbria, which, for once, had been warm and sunny!

One of our group hadn’t ridden a bike for many years and needed a settling-in period, which was duly provided. They quickly recovered cycling skills that few really forget and, despite the constant stream of cars from the ferry port – indicating the arrival of the other form of transport to the island – we made our way, with increasing smiles, to the tiny village of Balemartine, where the map said, there was one of the island’s cafes.

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Belmartine under a lowering sky

We had initially missed the cafe. Only the signpost alerted us to our error and we doubled back to find it just opening, which was just as well as the heavens opened and we fell into its welcoming and well-staffed embrace. I was last in, as I wanted to check the bikes were not intruding on the parking space. And then Henrietta, was we came to know her, joined us to guard the cycles. She stayed nearby for the whole time we were in there.

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Henrietta offers a free bike-guarding service… it’s best to accept

To be continued…

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

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

An Eye full of Reflections (7 of 7)

Amidst the seemingly pristine field of stones, the old oak tree usually went unnoticed…

Like this group of happy but somewhat weary pilgrims, newly entered via the gate at the top of the narrow, fern-lined path, most visitors stood in amazed silence at the large oval of twin-chambered stonework in front of them, conscious of the oak within the oval of stones but seeing it as out of place and not part of the sacred grove where the revered ones had met… and some had died.

The act of dying-in-place had pervaded the ground so deeply that the oak as seed, some thousands of rounds later, had felt the guiding presence in its infancy; urging it to grow strong and be the most it could be, reaching for the sky and creating a four-dimensional picture of time-meeting-life.

The Oak watched, speeding up its vertically-flowing heart to synchronise with theirs, seeing something unusual, something lacking in triviality in the tired but intent expressions. The act would have cost it dearly, but the nearing of the Fullness filled the sky with energy, and it, like them, fed from the gold-flecked deep blue, above.

Those with the knowing in their eyes sometimes came at the Fullness. Not understanding, perhaps–but seeking to, at least. Few looked at the Oak. Most were captured by the pureness of the field of stones with the twin nipples.

So many stones? said their thoughts. Why were they not taken away for the making of dwellings? Another: What a perfect oval... then the Oak would place into their minds the picture of the great oval of the above, with all the great children, laughing with the evening breeze in its hissing leaves and showing them the wonderful ‘accident’ that time had wrought in a place that should no longer look like this… as though it had been protected, thus.

Which it had, of course. On a hillside which contained the fresh and lovely minds of the schoolchildren and the church a minister who was strangely sympathetic; and whose neighbouring roads included one named Bro Arthur.

As though it had been protected…

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The Oak pulled its climbing life back from the outer edges of the canopy and reached back into the pilgrims’ afternoon. They were spread around its base, but not seeing it, taking their photographs. The Oak read their own history of the afternoon. The salty moisture still on their sandy ankles, their heads alive with snippets of wisdom, their eyes full of sun… solstice sun, Sun of the Fullness.

The Oak liked them, it decided. They knew it not, but revered the place. That was enough. The Oak, the alive one, would always help those that loved the place, its home. They that loved the stones always helped it to protect them, like the children and the minister and the great names etched into the landscape.

The Watcher Oak whispered its name to the one who had first seen the aberrations of the light, now avidly trying to capture their images in his machine… and smiling, as she, his companion had done, moments before.

There were two others, two who stood back and studied the joy of the group. Two with a sense of almost mischief in their eyes, delighting in the wonderful feeling of discovery that always greeted those who came here near the Fullness. The Oak, the Watcher Oak whispered to them, the hissing of summer leaves, the story of the great oval in the sky and the small oval of the pristine stones with the twin chambers, below.

One of the two began pacing the oval, while the other watched. With delight, the Watcher Oak read their intent, sending the inner breeze to clear their minds of doubt. Yes, the leaves hissed, that will do wonderfully…

And so it was that the two asked the rest to align themselves in the North, at a place where the radial from the centre of the oval projected. They were greeted, in turn, by the woman of the North, who spoke softly of their journey around the oval to the south, the reflection of her radial, then bade them make pace it in silence and in reverence.

Around the small oval, below – and around the great oval, above – they walked, individually, slowly and with reverence. He – the other, the man of the South, the place of the sun’s Fullness – stepped from the Watcher Oak’s shadows to intersect each one, bidding them hold the beauty and the energy of the Fullness and take it into the darkness of the West – and the greater darkness of the North. Oval meeting great tilting oval, life in its roundness recognised and honoured.

They had come with a phrase in their heads: Authority. The Watcher Oak took it and replaced it with another: Inclusion in Life; then the rustling leaves kissed them farewell, for now.

But it did not loose its eye on the thread of their immediate lives. Drawing from the golden energy above it, followed their moves as they returned, sated, to their temporary dwellings, and later, replete and happy, as the sun set on the mellow waters.

The rose. At the limits of its perception into space-time, the Watcher Oak smiled as the morning’s plans were changed and one – the memory man – took them on a journey to the landscape of his childhood, within the glory of a green, tree-lined valley named Pennant.

There, they sat and carried out the last of their readings, by a river that was crystal clear and full of the blue sky.

The Watcher Oak strained to follow them into the valley, losing contact at the bend in the road where the sheep were herded for shearing; the woman of the great heart weeping for their fear.

And then the long curve to the next part of the valley took them from its golden sight. The Watcher Oak could follow no more. Just before the seeing was lost it passed their keeping to a child oak growing on the side of the valley.

With distant leaves hissing, it held them, briefly, one last time. Then, they were gone…

Across the miles, it gathered its strength, returning to the guardian task for which it had been born, rejoicing in its inclusion in the glory of outer life on this new and most beautiful day.

In the returning Fullness it was embraced and loved. Its roots reached deep into the ground… and it was good… In the ancient place the Watcher Oak watched.

——- End ——-

Other parts in this series:

Part One,   Part Two,   Part Three,

Part Four,

Part Five

Part Six

©Stephen Tanham

All right reserved, text and pictures.

An Eye full of Reflections (6 of 7)


Apart from its sheer presence in the landscape, the castle at Harlech has a location that is breathtaking – perched high in the elevated centre of the small town, looking back down the valley at a vista that embraces the area of Porthmadog, then slides your eye leftwards to take in the whole of the Lleyn Peninsula.

On our scouting trip in May, we had searched for a location that would meet the needs of the third of our main themes: authority. Our first sight of Harlech Castle decided it. Seen from below – a straight line of a road that runs close to the magnificent beach – it appears that the castle sits on top of the hill with little else around it. In fact, it is in the centre of the town; logical, as the modern town has developed around it from early times.

There are two roads (photo below). One follows the line of the sea, the other climbs a slow and  winding curve through the lush Welsh countryside and enters the town at its heart. Parking is a challenge, but the castle and associated tourist centre offers a small number of places directly adjacent to the castle grounds.

Keeping a party of several cars together on such a trip is always a challenge, though we have all got better at it over the years – to the extent of developing our own ‘protocol’ about who stops if the next car gets out of sight of the rest. It’s a simple thing but it can help to avoid disconnected delays that can easily add up to a cream tea…

How do we react to authority? It depends on many things, including age. As young children, the authority of the caring adult is paramount in the relationship by which that child is moulded to fit into its society. This is seen as necessary, yet robs us of much of our spiritual originality. Most would agree it is essential for the child’s survival and prosperity, even though, beyond the original love of the home, it forms the first great ‘container’ of reactions that eventually create the personality. From there on, that hard container is wrapped around the soul in an increasingly dense way.


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Later in life, and as our personal power grows, we may feel so aggrieved about the society in which we have matured that we literally go to war with in – as the Prisoner did in the McGoohan series. Seen as a superficial spy story, the man was on a hopeless quest, seen as someone reclaiming his spiritual originality, it takes on a quite different shape. McGoohan’s character was at war with himself…

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As a child, holidaying in Wales, and captivated by its beauty, I marvelled at how many castles this ancient race had built to defend themselves, little knowing that this was completely wrong. Most, if not all of the Welsh castles were built by English kings, such as Harlech Castle’s creator, the military and battle-hardened Edward I.

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Their purpose was to provide fortified and administrative outposts for the English ruling class, in a country transformed by 1066 and the Norman conquest. Edward I built Harlech Castle to secure the lands he had won from Llywellyn of Grufford, the Prince of Wales. For two-hundred years after the Norman invasion, there had been continuous wars between the conquering Marcher lords and the Welsh princes. In 1267, the Treaty of Montgomery recognised Llywelyn as Prince of Wales, in return for annual tributes and subservience. Llywelyn later lost most of his power an authority in further skirmishes which cost him all but his title.

When you realise that you are inside a foreign power’s redoubt, the secure and ruthless architecture takes on a different flavour, and there is a sadness that such a proud and folklore-rich race lived under the English yoke in such a bloody way; though it is probably true that the Welsh of that time were as warlike as the English.

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The model above shows how the castle was originally created. Much of it remains, as least as a visitable ruin. The model illustrates that, at the time of its construction, between 1283 and 1289, the castle was next to the sea, whereas today the long line of dunes constitute a barrier of nearly a mile between the lower part of the castle (and the foot of the town) and the coast.

It was the proximity of the sea that made Harlech such an effective fortress. In times of siege, supplies could be brought in by boat directly to the lower jetty, which was highly fortified. Harlech had its own English lifeline…

Our final act within the castle was to climb the spiral stairway of the west tower – something that proved quite a challenge. Breathless, we reached the top, to gaze in wonder at the commanding view it afforded. Very little could be hidden from the eye based here. One might say the same about the way our own governments seem hell-bent on overseeing all our lives, in the name of such ’causes’ as safety and terrorism. Same psychology, different mechanisms.

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Our group had split into two to explore the small town. We reunited at the famous ice-cream shop and were to be found, silent and entranced, sitting outside the shop/cafe in the Welsh sunshine.

Two parts of our Saturday remained. One – the finale – was still unknown by all but two of us; the other followed the castle visit as we gathered on the quiet end of a beach, two miles south of Harlech, to admire the sun, now descending towards the western sea, and shared our final readings of the day.

The day could hardly have gone better… but it was not over, yet…

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——- to be concluded in the final part (7) ——-

Other parts in this series:

Part One,   Part Two,   Part Three,

Part Four,

Part Five

©Stephen Tanham

An Eye full of Reflections (Part Five)

Our visit to the actual village of Portmeirion ended quietly, but with an interesting mosaic of happenings. We rejoined our colleagues, silent in our own conclusions – for everyone must find their own in a place like this, and there can be no right or wrong, for the author, McGoohan, is long departed.

We took the beautiful coastal walk which would bring us to the place of the final set of Portmeirion readings, high up in the forest once more. There is only so far you can take a walking mediation like this. After a while, you need to step back and let the ‘now-ness’ of the actual place take over. This part of Wales, just south of Snowdon, is spectacularly beautiful, and days as fine as this was are rare in a British summer. It was important to move on and, in doing so, to bring our wonderful adventure in the ‘Village’ to a close.

The Truth can only be in the now. Each of us discovers this in their own way. Even the wisest of books can only point us to that eternal basis of the ‘real’. We live in an organic body; a body which is undergoing cycles around the sun that will eventually lead to its death. Death is programmed into the genes of the human being. It could have been otherwise but it is not. We, therefore, have to look within our lives – that sequence of the moments of now – for that which is eternal, for we will not find it in our bodies.

We might say that in an act of fully experiencing the now we bring together two worlds. What those worlds are and their significance in our lives is a matter of personal discovery. The past weighs on us in the form of our beliefs, fears, memories, likes and dislikes. This accumulation becomes something that we have no choice but to assume is ‘us’. But that is false. What is us lies ‘beneath’ that layer of detritus, and it is the job of mystical schools to tease it out and have it take its rightful place. The inner part of our being – the soul if you like -will use ‘the accumulation’ as cleverly as possible to fashion an effective instrument of consciousness and action in the world it must inhabit. But it is only by realising that we are really kin to the inner and not the outer that freedom can be truly viewed.

A fuller perspective would show how the nature of our experience is closely tied to what we need the most in order to, finally, see the real.

It was apparent that a certain amount of levity had entered the day, on the back of the noonday sun, no doubt. It certainly wasn’t alcohol; tea and coffee had been the only liquids consumed. We set off back along the shore path, for the final time, when, in the nature of these days, an event happened…

This one was prompted by Sue announcing that she could live in the small lighthouse, built by Clough Williams-Ellis, as one of his jocular landscape features and on the basis that the new Portmeirion village didn’t have one. It was obviously conceived as a piece of humour – it looks like it was rescued from a ‘Clangers’ set – the 1970s children’s TV show. True to form, Stuart climbed up, as well, and they set about deciding what renovations would be needed before it was habitable.

Much mirth below. Proceedings halted for while, until we could move on, again.

Sue’s new house… her architect gives it the once-over…

I have another photo of the two of them up a tree – the next item in our mosaic – but we have an agreement, usually honoured, that we will not publish photos without the subject’s approval. Instead, here’s a photo of the tree with John about to size up the possibility of sitting on its bent and horizontal trunk. For the second day in a row, our chess champion was about to contribute some mystically-themed reading, many of which he recited from memory.

The humour continued for a while, as the sea views dropped off along the climbing path. Then we were in the forest, again, and the mood changed, becoming more reflective. At the top of the steep gradient, we found a peaceful glade, and, with the delightful company of a very tame robin, carried out our readings. We had all forgotten the theme of this part of the day, which is just as well, as our next destination awaited and offered a much more fitting place. It’s important to be open to change on these occasions. The nature of any ‘mystical journey’ is defined by what happens between the building blocks you put in place; though it must be said that without the building blocks there would be no gaps with which the spirit can work…

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Stuart and Sue contributed a great deal to the weekend with their ‘bibliomancy readings’. At each place, someone from the group would be asked to open the selected book at a page of their choosing. Then, another person would pick one of the readings from that spread of pages. The reading would then be made. It is a matter of record how much such a method of selecting, using an appropriate book, can throw light on the topics of the day.

The reader is referred to Stuart’s blog where the whole sequence of his and Sue’s trip is narrated, in order of how the bibliomancy reading were selected and given.

Soon, though, it was time to leave this beautiful cove, and to take advantage of the perfect weather to visit another – though one in a very different landscape and from a very distant period in time. The spirit of levity still dominated the day. We said our goodbyes to Portmeirion, knowing we had established a strong enough connection to draw us back for further visits.

Just around the estuary, a very much older landscape beckoned, one that was to fit very well as our theme moved from ‘acceptance or resistance‘ to ‘authority‘.

Thirty minutes by car away and seven centuries in time, the Men of Harlech were waiting… The prisoner might have established his attitude to Portmeirion, but the iron first of the establishment was about to respond in stone.

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——- to be continued ——-

Other parts in this series:

Part One,   Part Two,   Part Three, Part Four, 

©Stephen Tanham

An Eye full of Reflections (4)


As the land-train pulls out of the main square in Portmeirion, we head up into the forest. There are three distinct internal regions within the Portmeirion site. The first is the village, itself; the second is the coastal walk; and the third is the forest walk. The little train follows the forest road, but stops to give a view of the coast in several places. Sometimes, it’s difficult to separate the often wicked humour of the creator of Portmeirion – Clough Williams-Ellis, from the mental overlay that hunters of the ‘Prisoner experience’ project onto this unique place.

Station names like: Salutation, Old Castle, Playground, and Shelter Valley all take on a secondary, if not intended meaning within the context of following the McGoohan mind as you attempt to tease out the secrets of this landscape embedded in the Prisoner series.

We had invited our companions to spend their own time in the forest before meeting up for a group walk along the coastal path. The forest is a very special place and, to my recollection, featured in the Prisoner series only when No 6 was running away or having secret meetings with other ‘prisoners’ – many of whom were planted, and simply pretending to suffer to get No 6’s sympathy so that he would tell them why he resigned. The thought brings back the central question of the series: why was it so important that the various No 2 characters found out the motives of No 6? They were presumed to be all-powerful, so why did it matter what reasons had engendered the resignation in the first place?

“His power – the very reason for him being here and retaining a glimmer of that power – was that he had a secret,” hisses the intense green all around us… The sun is getting hotter and the deep, summer blue fills the gaps in the canopy of the forest. The shifting has begun, again….

And then, high up in the trees, a pagoda comes into view and we’re suddenly back in that different sense of presence where the voice of McGoohan is guiding us from ‘above’. There is no pretence that the being of the actor is actually here, simply that we have woven an internal, creative state – a kind of walking meditation that enables insights, using the ‘voiced presence’ of the creator of No 6 to help bring it to life. It’s a directed mediation, just like we use in the Silent Eye, and, in this rich and wonderful hillside, it’s working beautifully…

There is a real question here, beyond the mental and emotional game we are playing: what did it mean? What was the inner meaning that McGoohan went to such pains to conceal, giving only hints, even long after he had left the Prisoner behind. “It’s important, then,” says his voice in my head. “to work it out for yourself.”

We move deeper into the forest. The green intensifies…

“Who were they, then?” asks the dark voice of No 6, “The others – the supposed fellow victims of abduction to this demented heaven and hell?”

It’s a sobering question. If McGoohan was the ‘awakened’ self, projected, post-resignation, into a new reality in which his ordinary life became exposed as a prison and left him resolutely determined to escape to the ‘real’, then who were the characters who met him in the forest, pretending also to have been abducted? Agents of someone, singular or plural, but who? The mysterious No 1, presumably…

We are climbing now, and, up ahead a Japanese Cedar curls out its exotic curves, projecting an image of something that goes somewhere via a very roundabout route. Its shape suggests that straight lines don’t necessarily get you there as you expected, and sometimes curved paths are more fruitful.

How do you follow a curve? I ask myself. Then the old answer comes back, one borne of recent experience: with trust… in other words by staying on it. When the envisaged future is invisible you can either refuse to get off the bus in the forest or get off at Unknown Crossing and trust that you are where you should be…

The forest begins to speak for itself; there is the sense that we have discovered enough, that if we take what we have and see it from the green wholeness that this place provides, the important patterns will emerge.

We say little, simply walking and letting our thoughts wander.


There’s a signpost up ahead. Ironically, it speaks of a lighthouse. What more potent a symbol could there be? And then, as the path moves downhill and turns sharply left, the forest gives way to the coast. The splendour of the sea is revealed, pointing us back to the place where our adventure began, the previous evening – in the tiny cove of Borth-y-Gest. It’s a wonderful omen…

“I’m going to take a stab at it,” I say to Barbara.

“What, the whole thing?” she laughs.

“What’s to lose?” I ask, sounding more sure than I am.

“Ok,” she says, challengingly; waiting and watching as I draw breath and look out to sea.

“No 6’s life as a spy is just that – he spies on life from a distance and under the cover of special powers.”

I look across at her. Initially, she says nothing, then, “It’s a good start…”

Another breath, deeper this time, because I’m assembling this, charged with the forest’s green energy, as I go.

“He realises the shallowness of his life and resigns – the brochure of a holiday paradise in his case – intending to be free of the whole thing and completely underestimating the power of the establishment to curtail his little adventure.”

“The establishment… I like that,” Barbara says, laughing, and continues. “Who promptly drag him, drugged, back to where he came from and psychologically torture him.”

“Exactly,” I say, warming to this unfolding. “He forgot the power of the establishment – the ego – to take away his new, enthusiastic consciousness and drug him back to an imprisoned state where ‘it’ could find out what he was up to…”

“So, in a sense, he stays drugged, and wakes up powerless but determined to get back to that moment of truth from which he could see his new life, his paradise?”

I look at her, so glad this has been a shared thing. “Yes… Exactly that.”

“And No 1?”

“No One, Oneself… Take your pick. The other ‘controllers’ are the regents of the ego, trying different ways to undo him – as they have done all his life. They don’t answer his question of Who is No 1?, because they can’t.” I pause, slightly giddy with the ride, and grinning like the proverbial cat.

She is smiling, too. “But when he truly wakes, again, by defeating the No 2s, he will remember that he is really No 1?”

“Exactly… and paradise will be reclaimed.”

“Bloody hell!” she says.

It’s a very precise statement…

——- to be continued ——-

Other parts in this series:

Part One,   Part Two,   Part Three,

©Stephen Tanham

An Eye full of Reflections (2)

There is so much going on that you can miss him on the downward leg of the guided introduction to Portmeirion. In a world of the strangely beautiful, one in which the normal laws of constructing a ‘village’ have been changed, there is simply too much to see to notice the quiet, deeply bronze head of Patrick McGoohan.

We stop to consider this dramatic bust – strangely overlooked when we made our rekkie trip a month prior. Then, our attention is drawn to a bee, exhausted from its work, standing in the middle of the tarmac of the roadway along which the group is walking.  I stop to pick it up, using a leaf as stretcher, and relocate it beneath a laurel hedge. Later, I wonder at the world of that bee; at the intervention of a ‘higher power’ to create an alternate reality in which the little creature can have no notion of what just happened – even the fact that its life was probably saved. It is a metaphor that will return to my mind may times as this Silent Eye weekend unfolds.

And then, somewhat behind the rest of the group, we turn, again to study the bust of Patrick McGoohan, previously unseen. Amidst the splendour of Portmeirion – especially on a blazingly blue and golden summer day like this – you could be forgiven for thinking that it was just another wonderful art treasure, like so many others to be found in the village.

But it’s not…

Its a very good rendering of a man who had nothing to do with the creation of this gem of a village, just east of Porthmadog and sixteen miles south of Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. It’s the head of a man–a British actor– who had a passion so strong that he turned down two separate offers to play James Bond in the early films, a role that would have brought him worldwide fame and fortune, rather than the lesser pickings from his (till then), most famous role as Danger Man in the hit British TV series.

Most of the tourists passing through the gate miss the bronze completely. And rightly so… They are here to see the architectural masterpiece created over a forty year period by Clough Williams-Ellis, whose own lifelong passion was the real village of Portmeirion. Even the official guide, leading our group, does not pause at the McGoohan statue, yet someone in power, here, viewed him important enough to justify the creation of it by Tiziano, and its donation to the village. Like the man and the bee, it occupies another, parallel realm, with a modern mythology so strong that a good proportion of Portmeirion’s visitors every year still arrive in search of its ‘McGoohan secrets’…

The two worlds co-exist very nicely. There is harmony in Portmeirion’s coffers, and who can blame them? The estate did give its permission for the filming of the famous TV series of The Prisoner in 1967 – a decision that greatly enhanced their own fortunes. Even today, fifty years after The Prisoner’s creation, people come in droves to see if they can further decode the enigmatic story of No 6, the British spy who resigned and then woke to find himself in the surreal landscape of a sugar-coated but deadly ‘Village’ – Portmeirion as it was and is, but viewed from a different consciousness.

Patrick McGoohan was close to Lew Grade, the head of ITV in that heady era of the late 1960s. McGoohan was a deeply religious man – and deplored any glorification of violence – which was why he had twice refused the Bond role. Later, he spoke in interviews of the ‘greatest enemy’ that mankind  faced – himself. He had been determined to create a ground-breaking series in which this deadly relationship between worldly success and inner insanity was broken open. The result was The Prisoner, which ran for seventeen episodes before Lew Grade, fearing that McGoohan was so involved he would be unable to bring it to an end, pulled the plug and forced McGoohan to curtail it, prematurely, with a single anarchic episode.

McGoohan’s adoring public, unable to understand it, jammed ITV’s switchboard for hours. McGoohan and his family fled to a rented cottage in Wales where they locked themselves in and rode out the storm. McGoohan emigrated to the USA shortly after.

One of the mysterious landscapes in the Village – the giant chess board. The chess pieces appeared only at the end of the Prisoner series, though the board was a feature from the start…

Our Friday night had begun gently at the Moorings Restaurant in Borth-y-Gest. During that evening, we had begun our consideration of the modern mythology of the Prisoner by discussion the idea of Resignation – what got No 6 in trouble, in the first place. We discussed whether it was ever valid to ‘resign’ from something or whether we were simply ducking what was before us, thereby judging ourselves ‘above it’.  It’s a very complex issue – as McGoohan knew it would be for generations of people attempting to understand his creation.

The No 6 cafe. We were inside, watching the opening episode of The Prisoner

Our Saturday morning had seen us taking coffee and, for some, breakfast, at the famous No 6 cafe, where, with the permission of the staff we got out a laptop and watched the opening minutes of the Prisoner series. This was a treat for the few who had never seen the original. Soon, though, the Guide was calling for those on the first tour to gather outside.

Now, only a few minutes later, but in another world, we turned, reluctantly, away from the bronze. The Guide was getting ahead of us, and I could feel that strange sensation that signals the entry of something deeper into the moment. At the base of the hill, where Portmeirion meets the estuary, we were due to consider the next ‘seed-thought’: when your world changes, completely, do you accept it or take up resistance against it?

——- to be continued ——-

Other parts in this series:

Part One, 

©Stephen Tanham

An Encounter with Death

Encounter with Death - 1

It is 1616. King James VI of Scotland has been on the throne of England and Ireland for thirteen years, having inherited the kingdom as the closest surviving relative of the beloved and sadly deceased Queen Elizabeth I. England continues to go through a time of both upheaval and opportunity, though the crowning glory of Elizabeth’s reign, the destruction of the Spanish Armada, has restored hope and stability to this once-isolated isle.

William Shakespeare is at the end of his life. More than any other figure, he knows and has documented the nature of mankind: its ambitions, its loves, its greed, jealously, spiritual aspirations and passing triumphs. In our five-act ritual drama we will revisit this knowledge within the mind of the Bard; a learning that would, one day, become known as psychology–and see it as a microcosm of the Elizabethan age with striking parallels to today…

Our play begins with the elderly Shakespeare on his deathbed. Three lit candles stand above the chair beside which lie the unused quill and paper on which the poet can no longer write. A friendly figure of Death approaches and asks, “Master Shakespeare, are you content?” The playwright raises a weary head and gestures, without words, to the archetypal being that has come for him.

Death begins to snuff out the candles.

The Reaper praises the life Shakespeare has led and summons images of some of this most famous characters. In a failing voice, Shakespeare speaks of his belief that mankind has a common interior nature, clouded over by the characteristics that the events of life produce.

Death reaches for the final candle and says, “They were good stories, Master Shakespeare, and will live on in the hearts of those who will come to love you… long after your body is but dust…”

Death begins to snuff out the last light, but Shakespeare raises a frail hand to halt his progress.

“Yes?” asks Death, gently.

“There was one story untold,” says the Bard. “One story that could not be told or it would have hurt her soul and her life… a story of the beloved Queen’s darkest hour.”

Death leans in and listens. “Tell it now,” he whispers.

The Silent Eye’s Spring 2018 Workshop will tell this story, a tale which, in the mind of the dying Shakespeare, consolidates his experiences with his beloved Queen – and recounts the fine line that all such playwrights had to tread in those uncertain times–times which, nevertheless, forged the Britain we know today…

The Silent Eye’s 2018 Spring workshop: Jewel in the Claw, weekend of 20-22 April is open for bookings.

Acting parts are available for everyone; from the most experienced to the enthusiastic newcomer. Come and join us! Each year, people new to the whole idea of group learning within mystical drama come to be part of it, and, every time, no-one wants to leave come the Sunday afternoon.

The booking form is shown below. You can download a copy here SE18 Booking form aloneAA

For updates, visit our website.

You can contact us to discuss the workshop at

SE18 Booking form aloneAA

©Stephen Tanham

The ‘Village’ and its occupants

Portmeirion recci from hotel up hill copy

It is hauntingly  beautiful. It sits in its own part of a lovely estuary, just east of Porthmadog, in the south of Snowdonia, Wales. Its name is Portmeirion and it was the life-work of an architect named Clough Williams-Ellis, who held a passionate belief that a ‘tightly-grouped coastal village’ could be developed in that majestic mountain setting, and that its development would illustrate how such a design could grow into the landscape without spoiling it.

Chess thru arch colour

In the late 1960s it became the setting for the ITV series “The Prisoner”, created by and starring Patrick McGoohan, famous for the Danger Man series. The then head of ITV, Lew Grade, eventually got fed up with funding the rather eccentric series, causing McGoohan to bring it to a premature conclusion after only seventeen episodes. The final episode caused the television company’s switchboard to be jammed for hours, as tens of thousands of people rang in, demanding to know what it all meant!

Prisoner Logo Wiki
Image: Wikki, reasonable use

The Prisoner became a cult classic, overnight, and is still written about and quoted today. Something in it captured the imagination of the 1960s audience and was in-tune with the darker side of post-war civilisation and the cold war era, with its emphasis on the psychological aspects of dissent.

Today, a high proportion of those visiting Portmerion do so to follow in the footsteps of McGoohan’s character, the kidnapped British spy ‘No 6’, who had mysteriously resigned from the secret service to find himself drugged and transported to the surreal ‘Village’ so that his motives could be probed- psychologically and in increasingly deadly ways…

So what was it all about? McGoohan would never say. It may be significant that, as a devout Catholic, McGoohan had refused many other roles on moral grounds, including that of James Bond (twice). We can assume that the inner meaning of The Prisoner was close to his heart and portrayed something morally essential about mankind’s nature.

The Silent Eye holds four workshops a year. The main event, in April, begins our spiritual year, but the other three mark the nearest usable points to the dates of the summer and winter solstice and the autumn equinox. The midsummer period is very special, as it allows us full use of a long day with a chance of good weather. This year, we are using the landscape of Portmeirion and the story of McGoohan’s resigned and kidnapped spy, No 6, to create a ‘walk and talk’ basis for a weekend (Friday 16 – Sunday 18 June) of shared insights, fun and exploration in this beautiful landscape.

For each of the ‘themes’ referenced below, we invite you to bring (or, if you wish, create) your favourite readings of any nature, to share with the group at a time you find appropriate.

Portmeirion Chess Pieces+View

In “The Village”, No. 6 experienced different stages of separation and rebellion as he fought to find who was ‘No. 1″. His catch phrase, often shouted at cameras that were monitoring his every move was “I am not a number, I am a free man.” Nowadays, we all have numbers, and if those who seek to control society succeed, we may soon be expected to be ‘chipped’ so that the whole of a population may be tracked – purely to prevent terrorism, of course; and ‘those who have done nothing wrong have nothing to fear’, though my history books tell me that may have been used, before…

Portmadog area bigger
Map: Google Maps

No. 6 experienced disbelief, as he woke from his drugged transportation to find the pastel-coloured and surreal ‘Village’ as his new home.  This act of non-acceptance becomes one of our core themes for the weekend.

What do we do when we wake one morning to find that our world has changed, forever? That we don’t even live in the same land we thought we inhabited?

There are so many parallels in our domestic and political lives at present. On the Friday (16th June) of the weekend, we will explore what kind of things we can, psychologically, ‘Resign From’. The venue for this will be a via short walk along the coastal path from our base at Porthmadog to the beautiful cove of Borth-y-Gest, where drinks and dinner await us at the Moorings Bistro.

Saturday morning, 17th June, will be spent at the village of Portmeirion. We will meet at the famous No. 6 Cafe, just inside the Portmeirion village boundary. There, over a coffee or two, we will watch the beginning of the first episode of the Prisoner TV series… to set the scene for the day.

No 6 cafe sign

Our arrival will be timed to join one of the guided tours of the Village.

Portmeirion grand terrace

Portmeirion taxi road and dome

Portmeirion Ship on ball

Following our guided tour, we will visit some of the key places from the Prisoner series, before taking a short coastal walk around the boundaries of the gardens and the forest, beyond. Here, our theme will be the consideration of the word ‘Resistance’. Does it have value? What forms does modern resistance take? And what we – who have lived in an age of relative peace and prosperity – have to learn from history?

Forest back to main square

Portmeirion column and house

We will then have an hour’s free time to wander and take in the beauty of our last moments in Portmeirion, meeting at the No. 6 cafe for our departure to the next destination.

Portmeirion cove

Harlech, with its famous castle, lies about 30 minutes drive south of Portmeirion. Weather permitting, we will take a late lunch on the wooden deck on the Castle Museum’s cafe, looking down on the castle and the steeply-sloped valley that sweeps down to the sea; and points back at Portmeirion.

Here, we will consider the nature of ‘Authority’. How much effect does it have on our individual lives? Do we adapt our lives to ignore it or is it a constant pressure on our freedom and creativity? What are the sources of oppression in our lives? Are they all real or do some of them originate in ourselves?

Harlech Castle and estuary ace
Harlech’s famous castle

Harlech is a tiny town with a big castle and its ancient streets hold many pleasant surprises… some of which may be hard to resist…

Harlech ice cream

Our final destination for the Saturday afternoon is a secret; but there we will conduct a simple group ritual to mark the coming summer solstice, before returning to Porthmadog for a period of rest before drinks and dinner at one of the restaurants in the town.

It will have been a day well spent…


Sunday 18th June will be spent considering the theme of ‘Escape’. Is there really such a thing as a noble escape? Are we greater or lesser if we take such a choice? Perhaps there are certain situations too intolerable which requires us to say, ‘enough’, and use all our energies to leave?

Our ‘escape’ will be from Porthmadog, rather than the Prisoner’s Portmeirion.

The Porthmadog Quayside also hosts the station from which the famous restored steam trains depart for the mountains of Snowdonia. After exploring our destination, we will have a light lunch and return via the train to say our goodbyes and make our departures.

These events are open to all. They are useful, informal occasions if you are interested in meeting the people behind the Silent Eye’s enneagram-based consciousness programme, delivered, with personal supervision, as a correspondence course.

For all but the main April workshop, those attending make their own arrangements for accommodation and share in the cost of the meals. We charge an administration fee of £50.00 per person for each weekend.

For details of any of our events, see the website at:

Or send us an email at

All text and images ©️Stephen Tanham.