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 stevetanham.wordpress.com

©Stephen Tanham, Silent Eye School of Consciousness.

Broken Village

Etal et al - Castle reduced

The beautiful Northumberland village of Etal, one of a local twin, has a fine ruined castle; but this blog is not entirely about castles…

The picture above is the castle at Etal. It was constructed in the middle of the fourteenth century by Robert Manners, a Norman descendant. It consists of a residential tower in the ‘Pele’ style; a gatehouse and a corner tower of small proportions. The whole is protected by a curtain wall. The castle has a ‘bloody’ past, being close to Branxton, the nearest settlement to the site of the Battle of Flodden (September 1513), at which the English King Henry VIII’s forces under the Earl of Surrey prevailed, after a long and bloody battle, over those of James IV of Scotland.

A few days prior to the battle of Flodden, King James had stormed Etal castle and added it to the many others captured in the most audacious invasion of England ever undertaken by a Scottish army.

History judges the English King to be the primary aggressor, since the whole war was prompted by Henry tearing up the Treaty of Perpetual Peace which had previously been in place between the two countries, and with which the Scots were perfectly happy, since it recognised them as a nation.

James IV was killed at Flodden, which saw almost one-third of the 34,000 Scottish soldiers killed. Etal was a short-lived prize…

We have forgotten the emotional taste of ‘wholesale slaughter’. Like many words that are supposed to trigger a moral response, wholesale slaughter can now be rendered ‘over there’ by television. If the news is terrible we can change channel… the choice is ours. We think it’s an escape, but, really, it eats away at our collective soul… we feel we can do nothing, so we don’t try. We accept horror – real horror, as way of life. The cost is that we become farther from reality – and reality is true life…

Ten thousand Scottish men (and thousands of English soldiers, too). What does that number mean? If we asked them to come back from their dark, Northumbrian graves to help us understand this horror, and line up in rows of ten, how long would it take a firing squad to kill them again? Let’s assume that the modern firing squad uses machine guns that can kill ten men in a minute. It might take four more minutes to have them march to their positions and another five to clear the bodies away. That’s a rounded ten minutes per squad of dead men. To do this to ten thousand would take 10,000/10, which is a nice and easy one thousand minutes. There are sixty minutes in an hour, so the firing squad, with its modern automatic weapons, would be continuously active for nearly seventeen hours – most of a day, if you include the English soldiers too. Imagine being there, and watching all of it? We might get a new appreciation for ‘wholesale slaughter’, and this is a minor example…

Northumberland is full of castles. Castles and ‘Pele’ Towers: tall, fortified dwellings, less than luxurious, but safe – in which a besieged family could live for many months until help arrived. Wars, family and tribal conflicts helped create a very chequered past for this beautiful county, which holds the North East border with Scotland. When there weren’t wars between England and Scotland there were the reivers – bloodthirsty family gangs, ready to attack, plunder and kill in these historically un-policed borderlands.

512px-Reivers_raid_on_Gilnockie_Tower
Border reivers at Gilnockie Tower, from an original drawing by G. Cattermole (Wikipedia Public Domain)

The Roman emperor Hadrian had found it difficult, too. So difficult that he had ordered the construction of a wall that ran coast to coast, from the Solway Firth, near Carlisle to Wallsend, near Newcastle. It has been described as the greatest engineering feat of the Roman world, but, as is the case with walls, it didn’t really work.

A different approach and smaller than a wall is the idea of keeping people in… Being inclusive, looking after them. It’s an idea seemingly at odds with our go-getting, every man and woman for themselves, pursuit of excellence, kill the bastard, commercial world.

The reivers just killed their enemies; and were killed in return. Vendettas, feuds, usual cycles of endless violence. It makes good television and rotten societies.

Caring requires that we believe in Good. Not just as an idea but as a force, an ideal, a state to be drawn on when we are pressed or outnumbered or in despair. The people who established modern Etal believed in good. They twinned it and the neighbouring village of Ford together, establishing a ‘Model Village’. This is not to be confused with a miniature village. An model village was a term coined by entrepreneurs like Robert Owen (who wrote ‘A New View of Society‘) and William Hesketh Lever (founder of what became Lever Brothers – Today’s Unilever). It was place where, alongside work, decent housing and education were provided on the basis that, if you looked after people, you could expect them to look after that which employed them.

The village of Etal is beautiful and has a presence not entirely due to the castle.

Etal main street reduced

The main street of Etal is clean and pretty, with a lovely Post Office cum tea room. Many of the buildings are thatched. This includes the Black Bull – centre in the picture above – the only thatched pub in Northumberland. The pub is being restored and is an example of what’s still very good about Etal and its nearby twin village of Ford. Nowadays, the twin villages are part of a managed country estate owned by the Joicey family. One striking thing about Etal and Ford is that no-one but the controlling family is allowed to own property. The houses, the shop and the Black Bull are only available to rent. Tenants are expected to look after their properties and everyone feels included. it’s a happy place and proud – you can feel it as you walk through on your way to the bloody castle.

About a half-hour’s drive away from Etal is the Bambrugh coast, a very beautiful place. We were staying a few miles away in a newly resurgent village with a great beach, and eating our evening meals in a local pub about a mile away, to which we walked, in the January darkness, enjoying the sound of the sea hitting the stone harbour in the inky darkness. Photography was well-nigh impossible but this shot illustrates the point I want to make:

Etal blog dark shore

It was only on our second journey back to our holiday cottage that I realised how dark the cove was – totally dark, in fact, apart from that one street lamp. The reason was simple: there was no-one living there. The most expensive properties in the village – facing the sea – were all empty on that week in January. They had been bought as holiday homes, busy during the summer, no doubt, but a dark and ominous shoreline in winter.

Etal is not the bustling village that the the poster below records it as being in 1820, but it’s not broken, either; not like that winter shoreline a few miles away.

Etal old poster history reduced

Of that list, there remains a church, a post office/excellent tea room, some well-kept and lovely houses, a caring landlord that ensures that everything fits; and, oh yes….a ruined castle.

Inclusion is everything…

The thought brought to mind something I read on a plaque within the gardens of San Jose University, many years ago. I didn’t write it down at the time and had to struggle to remember the gist of it, but it went something like this:

He drew a circle to keep me out

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout

But love and I had a plan to win

We drew a circle to keep him in

It’s a lot better than a dark shoreline and empty houses, or a line of doomed people seventeen hours long condemned to die by the actions of a psychopath…

We think of our world as much bigger than villages. But the villages of our communities need not, ever, be broken. We just have to be inclusive…


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

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

©Stephen Tanham, Silent Eye School of Consciousness.

 

 

 

Castles of the Mind

Bamburgh Castle smaller

Do we have ‘castles of the mind’?

Traditionally, ancient castles were built where there was trouble… Do we have the equivalent in our minds and emotions? Have we, over the course of our lives, built up strong fortifications with which to repel those intrusions which, as children, we considered frightening?

The foundations for such things can begin very early, and be formed of some very primitive fears and, even, strong dislikes. That dark green colour of the man in the long raincoat who collected money and caused mother great distress. The child would see the pain of a caring parent whose finances were stretched to the limit; the deeper truth that it was a door-to-door insurance man, making his Friday call in time to tap into the new pay packet would not be seen until later in life… but the coloured raincoat would be remembered…

We smile at such memories, now, but their effects can linger, unseen, becoming the bedrock of fear and prejudice.

Fear is a topical subject. We live in a world where some of the artificial ‘bogeymen’ have taken flesh, become leaders of what we assumed were states governed by some sort of ‘reasonableness’. When that is blown away, we are left staring at the ragged ruin of the personal safety blanket behind which we have lived most of our lives.

We’d be living a life at the edge if what we did, individually, could repel the kind of boarders that strut their aggression and lack of compassion on the world stage, today. But confronting those fears in our own lives, and holding them up to the light of adult reason and mature feelings is an essential practice for anyone treading a ‘non-fluffy’ mystical path.

Bamburgh beach

To do this alone is very difficult. To do it in a group of trusted friends, new and old, is an empowering thing. In the Silent Eye, we offer this when we can construct an environment that is conducive to trust and empathy, and in which we can share examples of these powerful structures in our personal histories. We are modern mystics, not psychotherapists. Our method is for each of us to work with their own individuality to increase stability and confidence – enough to invite the deeper parts of ourselves to extend their loving reach into our everyday ‘selves’.

The ‘borderlands’ between our carefully-controlled ‘normality’ and the effects of those early experiences are the places where we can widen the paths of light which drive mature and reflective energy into the murky places of unresolved immaturity.

So, we thought, why not run one of our ‘walk and talk’ weekends in a part of the UK associated with borderland of its own?

Northumberland is one of Britain’s most wild and beautiful counties. It shares the Scottish border with Cumbria in the West and extends, on the map, far into what appears to be Scotland. Until Anglo-Saxon times it was an independent kingdom, and later, was the seat of important families whose role was to ‘police’ the borderlands from such castles as Alnwick (home of the Percy family) and Bambrugh.

Northumbria coast smaller

Northumberland’s landscapes vary from rolling hills and river valleys, to wild coastlines and castles – castles which have been used to enforce a borderland between the Scots and the English for hundreds of years. Thankfully, things are more peaceful, now, but the history remains written in the land…

Not everything in this ancient landscape was devoted to warfare. The island of Lindisfarne, which will form an important part of the weekend, is famous as one of the original homes of British Celtic Christianity.

Our ‘walk and talk’ events are friendly and informal. We ask those attending to bring one or two readings from their favourite books, poems, or other sources of inspiration. We listen and talk… and share. If someone is ready to enter their personal borderlands, we hold their hand and walk with them.

The cost per attendee is £50.00. This is an administrative cost, only. All personal costs and bookings, such as hotels and meals, are the responsibility of those attending. Meals are generally shared in a local pub, and the cost divided between those partaking.

Come and join us for our September event. Weekend of 14-16 September, 2018, based in the beautiful town of Seahouses on the Northumbrian Coast.

Bamburgh Castle+Text smallerAA

To register your interest, send us an email at rivingtide@gmail.com.


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

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

©Stephen Tanham, Silent Eye School of Consciousness.

Reflections on Free Will

Reflections Free Will

What does it mean to have ‘free will’?

It’s a phrase that is used very casually, as though it carries an identical meaning to us all. It’s particularly important if you want to pursue a path of mystical self-development, since the whole idea of ‘will’ is a central concept of work on the self.

What is will? We take its very existence for granted, but we should be clear in our own minds as to what we mean by it. We could say that will prevails. It is a kind of force that determines what happens next – as  much as that is under our control. We will return to the subtlety of this point at the end of this short post.

It would be useless, as King Canute is reputed to have done, to exercise our will to hold back the incoming tide. Actually, Canute was a wise ruler and was trying to show that the divine right of Kings had limits… History can have a cruel ‘will’ of its own. This does imply a certain amount of wisdom about how we use our will: we have to know what is possible, or potentially so, whether or not we have the force to succeed. This, in itself is curious, as it implies we have some foreknowledge of our likely success in the exercise of our willed force. Do we, then chose to fail when exercising ordinary will power? Or is there some form of higher ‘seeing’ that knows what can be done, uniquely, in the personal now?

We can say we are successful in using will – for example in not having that heavy pudding that will add more weight to our already- January rich waistlines; or we can say we failed to exercise our willpower in refusing it. This is curious, since it implies that we are, somehow, split beings: one part doing the ‘right’ thing, the other the wrong or weaker one.

From a cultural point of view, this is serious stuff, since the very idea of will seems to be bound up with doing the ‘right’ thing, rather than the prevailing of a chosen and pleasant course of action (having the pudding). The cultural derivation is obvious: we live in societies that consider themselves to have a code of proper conduct. There are rules and expectations governing everything from personal hygiene to political and humanitarian conduct. It is not easy to go against any of these ‘norms’ and stay an accepted and respected member of that society.

In the human definition, to have a will implies that the entity wishing to use will is alive. Aliveness is a whole topic, in itself; but its origin as a concept begins with organic persistence. An entity is alive because it persists; and in a self-renewing form that gives it an identity. This is true from the single cell, right up to the most complex organisms, such as mankind. Something with an identity can belong to a family, and then its will is expected to conform to the expectations (and receive the praise) for actions supporting that group.

There are two things to carry forward here: the first is the mystery of the dual approach to our will: the having or not having that pudding. The second is the simple truth that any real form of mystical development requires the individual to step outside their ‘tribe’ and attempt to see things from a different (and hopefully truer) perspective. No harm is intended with the latter, but it can be painful to arrive at a set of values that are, from the new perspective, more ‘grown up’ that those inherited from the family or, more likely, the tribe.

The idea that we have conflicting wills is not simply that of organic hunger versus waistline and looking good. When we begin our mystical path, we begin to sense a more subtle world; one which has a very different set of (very gentle) expectations. These carry no prohibitions save that of belonging to something we have selected as an individual, rather than that received from a group.

Here, we can see a trap: a mystical training organisation that expects you to absorb its dogma without question is not behaving in a truly mystical way. Self-discipline is always a part of good things, but there is a fine line between dogma and a rigorous basic training. The western mind, with its industrialised psychology, is not very good at following group-disciplined paths.

A few years into our training, we may encounter the final consideration of will: that the universe is vividly alive, and that this vast life-force has a will of its own. If we have been successful in making our training our own and not just someone else’s dogma, there will have developed the first stages of a new level of consciousness in which the highest level of our will finds itself attuned to the needs of this vast intelligence. Then, the perception of will at all levels becomes a very different vision. We begin to see that the greatest freedom of will is to belong to something that works on a vast landscape of all-mind and that belonging to this is no loss of individuality at all.


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

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

©️Stephen Tanham.

 

The Time Vampires

 

VampireAA - 1

It’s a tough one, this. I love technology and I have a lasting belief that it has brought us a lot of good… but a nasty feeling that we are touching some of its ‘dark edges’; brought on, not because of the technology, itself, but because of the motive for profit and dominance inherent in the power that a few mega-companies wield.

Such companies are ‘enablers’. The real threat is the big money that has seen the potential for manipulation – global manipulation.

It was a 19th century historian and Cambridge professor, John Dalberg-Acton, 8th Baronet, who said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

It’s a quote many of us know, but what he went on to say in the same speech is less well known; “Great men are almost always bad men…”

We all like to believe in ‘great men’ (and women). Many of the The tech giants have risen, like David against Goliath, to overturn traditional market leaders and introduce vast innovation that benefits us all. When I compare what I can do, what I can reach, what I can understand, courtesy of the Internet and its access to largely-free resources, I stand in awe of what the past few decades have brought. My writing, and my supplemental efforts as an illustrator, have all been the result of what would now be termed Tech tools.

So why the opening sentiments?

They were prompted by a quote from one of the product directors of a major Tech company. He was quoted as saying that a new breakthrough in that company’s products would help ‘use up the mind cycles’ of the young people who formed the largest proportion of its customer base. Young people are increasingly targeted by Tech companies, such as social media sites. The young see it as a natural extension to their ‘talkative’ world – a sign of belonging, a ‘cool’ skill.

It’s a very powerful ‘pull’. It also makes Tech billions…

The young and the naive fill in mock ‘surveys’: What type of doggie walker are you? With the results, Tech can sell deeply effective profiles of each person, so accurate that exact product targeting can be placed in front of them, in their favourite colours, linked to their favourite games or cartoons or literature heroes…. or other products, of course – ‘your best friends are showing how grown-up they are by eating frizzzle-joys in luscious purple….’

And then there are drugs… Drugs are what you can’t live without; habits of ‘feel good’ that, especially in the impulsive and immature young, take hold very quickly. Like gambling, or children’s computer games that require them to pay for the key to a ‘level’ that ‘all their mates’ have already achieved… “Daddy!”

Drugs don’t need to be chemicals. The body and mind can make its own.

Online gambling has grown totally out of control. Some very big names are buying up the stragglers because the profits are so vast. As are the wrecked families and the huge debts that lead to crime to ‘repay’. Social networks I can understand; gambling has always been designed to exploit those who can’t comprehend the inevitability of their suffering. And children are being targeted: ‘just click here to say you’re over 18.’

The word ‘evil’ isn’t used much any more. It should be…

From a spiritual point of view, Tech can be seen as angel or devil. It has turned the ‘globe’ into a village. But the downside is that every atom of that village is now a target for money – big money. But that’s judging it from my perspective – someone who can see the massive abuse that is taking place.

Why aren’t we doing something about the downside? Because the problem is global and we’re not. Big money in Tech doesn’t want its opposition to be global, because that would enable effective control of its excesses. Britain votes Brexit and is leaving the only institution that is really trying to clean up this mess. America lurches to the right and its president wants massively less regulation and a weaker UN. In both cases the Tech social media machines were a dominant part of the Tech used to manipulate the elections – in fact, the same Tech companies were involved on both sides of the Atlantic.

On a very simple level, I don’t want my children (grandchildren, really – my children are in their thirties) to have their ‘cycles’ stolen. I want them to have some time to think, to dream, to read and enjoy fantasy. I want them to walk through the woods and climb the hills… and create in their growing minds. I want all that to lead to an eventual awareness of the living magic in the now, to a series of questions about themselves that will begin their real search for meaning in their lives.

So, next time I read of a rich, Tech product director who wants to interfere with the core of my grandchildren’s life, I’m going to get angry…

… Oh, yes, I just did.


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

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

©️Stephen Tanham.

 

Being Here…

Sphinx and pyramid Overlay Blog masterAA

We were lined up against a stone wall – a very old stone wall. Forty ‘mystical pilgrims’ stood in the intense humidity of the entrance chamber to the Great Pyramid, dressed in simple robes; robes that had been used earlier in the day for a ritual baptism in the ancient inland waters of Lake Moeris.

Lake Moeris is linked to the water-based initiations of the ancient priests of Egypt – as were many of the temples along the Nile. Water washes – the outer symbolism is obvious; the inner one not so much. Mystically, to ‘come alive’ in the present – which is the goal of true mysticism, we have to ‘die’ to our present state. The cares, the fixations, the emotional reactions, all of the baggage that we cling to because it defines our ‘self’ has to be let go of in a some special way.

A taste of Being is the result – if those carrying out the initiation are good at their job. Water is also an ancient symbol for truth, and contrasts with Stone, which is lower, fixed or literal truth; and wine, which is the highest form of truth.

Initiation has always provided a portal to that deeper understanding. It is method particularly suited to the western mind – a mind so proud of the intellect (and rightly so) but so ignorant of the ‘easy depths’ of the spiritual touch. We like stories; most civilisations do. Myths and legends form the backbone of what is passed down to future generations. ‘Giants’ may be real giants or they may be heroes ‘giant in being’. It depends on the context – and so much gets borrowed and re-written by those whose eyes have not been opened to another way of seeing things.

Back to the wall filled with robed mystical pilgrims. It was 2005, a frightening twelve years ago. We were at the end of a two-week trip aimed at the spiritual discovery of Egypt. I was a field officer in another organisation, one of two I greatly admire to this day. My website bio is here, for anyone who wants to look deeper.

Our journey had begun far in the south of Egypt, near Aswan. We followed the mighty Nile on a lovely boat that took us as far as Luxor, stopping at the major temples on the way. We were delighted to relax by the Red Sea for two nights, then flew to Cairo. Two days later, having seen the sights, we were granted the rare privilege of being permitted night-time access to the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid. We were to have our own symbolic initiation, carried out by the head of the organisation – who had flown to Egypt, specially, to do this…

I should have known, then… should have read the importance of that action.

The constraint was that we had only one hour to carry this out, so every minute counted. Pressed up against that wall, I was given a lighted torch to carry and placed at the head of a group of fellow pilgrims. Our sandals slapped on the old stone as we marched down the main access tunnel to locate the narrow ascending passageway, then the steep ascent of the Grand Gallery – a huge space in its own right that links the upper chambers of the pyramid to the main access tunnel and the passage down to the so-called Queen’s Chamber.

At the end of the Grand Gallery lies a short passage that leads to the doorway into the Kings Chamber. We stopped in front of it for a short mediation; and to catch our breath. The Guardian of the threshold stepped aside, and the party entered this most special of places…

It is at this point that you get a feeling of where you are: on the edge of Cairo, in the Nile’s northern delta, located at an interior point about half way up the enormous mass of the Great Pyramid.

The King’s Chamber is a huge room, but plain. Very little is known of how it might once have looked. The air is hot and humid. I would imagine those with any breathing issues are advised not to enter. Two shafts run tangentially to the exterior walls of the pyramid, so there is fresh air of sorts; but it’s not plentiful. There is no stepping outside. This is it: the highest and most purposeful place in the ancient stone structure.

Apart from the forty pilgrims the only other decoration is the large granite sarcophagus at the far end of the chamber. This is damaged in one corner, but still functional. The head of our organisation was standing next to it. I will never forget his words – indeed, they are the reason for this short piece – because they were the most important thing I learned that day, and they could have been said anywhere…

“Do not question your readiness or worthiness to be here. The act of being here is the verification that your soul is ready for what this moment contains…”

The simplest of sentiments, yet one that conveys an entirely different way of looking at the world. It took me a decade to understand the depths of what he had said; but whenever I encounter another kiss of the wonderful now, I go back to that moment and thank him… and the ‘fates’ that led me to have that revelation in that very special place.

Author’s note: we were not allowed cameras inside the Great Pyramid, so the montage above comprises one of my exterior photographs of it plus another of the interior of the temple at Abu Simbel.


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

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

©️Stephen Tanham.

 

 

 

Deep and Personal

Deep and Personal - 1

“At what point should we expect the contact with the universe to become deep and personal?

The red-haired man in the corner had asked the question. He always sat in the corner of the room at the talks and always asked a stupid question.  I could feel my lips curl… As a field officer in this particular mystical organisation, I had the notional responsibility for making sure such events went smoothly; and that such dumb questions were kept to a minimum.

I half turned from my reserved seat at the front and shot him a look – the kind of look that  said, listen, fella, you should know better…

He always sat in the rear left corner, always asked the kind of question to which you could not supply a clear-cut answer. Deep and personal! Who did he think he was, a guru or something?

Of such occasions is wisdom made; but often, not until much later. The character of the red-haired questioner did not fit the usual profile of those following the course of study that the venerable organisation provided. He was not exactly a trouble-maker, but had the potential to be so. I didn’t want anyone of that ilk upsetting my carefully constructed agenda.

Of course, that was exactly what he was doing: upsetting my carefully constructed agenda. He was trying – and succeeding – in injecting a real question of the spirit into the mechanical, though precise, vision that I had of how the teachings should be discussed.

It’s a classic question: at what point should we expect the contact with the universe to become deep and personal. A scientist would very likely hate it. It would imply the kind of soggy thinking that, in such a mind, typifies mysticism. We might follow his train of thought thus:

‘The universe is an ongoing sequence of events, triggered by the Big Bang. Life on Earth began through a random creation of a self-sustaining proto-cell, probably in the deep oceans, near a thermal vent; and the long cycle of increasingly intelligent life began with primitive awareness of inside and outside, which eventually gave rise to consciousness as we know it. None of this requires a belief in there being intelligence behind such an event. The notion of a personal relationship of the distant relatives of such a single cell with the mechanical universe that gave it birth is nonsense.’

Deep breath… because there’s nothing wrong with that view, except the findings of consciousness, itself; and thankfully, science can’t get hold of that or measure it.

A good course of mystical study will not actually be study. It will be involvement. If it’s really good you may not know that’s happening, as you investigate how the part of you that considers itself to be a ‘self’ is put together. You will find that, as you journey into or alongside your self, the world begins to look different. This strange occurrence produces the beginnings of a question: where, exactly, is the world… and where am I?

Everything we know, or think we know, derives from signals received in the brain. These signals are the fruit of our senses: sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. Each takes a section of the ‘out-there’ and feeds it to the magnificent super-computer that is the brain. Our lives are programmed to enable the question ‘who am I’ to be answered. Our own arising is the biggest mystery of all. What was I before I was born, cries our self; what will I be after my supercomputer dies?

Fear is at the root of much of our ordinary learning. A better equipped machine can defend itself more capably. The human race mirrors this at the national level. Fear is the key to most madness.

A truly mystical journey must concern itself with the dismantling of fear, and that requires an understand of where the notion of ‘authority’ comes from in our developing consciousness.

In our search for the true Self we encounter the false self – false only in that fear made it the centre of the only universe that counts – ours. Finding the edge of that cellular bubble called organic life brings us face to face with the division that never was…and then things can really begin to unfold.

The irritating man with the red hair knew this. He knew that we do not become real mystics by knocking on the edge of the cellular universe; we do so when that universe gets deep and personal and knocks on our door…


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

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

©️Stephen Tanham.

 

The Seeds of Intent

Seeds of Intent rainbow +

An old friend, now sadly departed, but formative in my younger days, used to say that there were two ways to deal with ‘seeds’: one was to bury them so that they could be forgotten; the other was to plant them so that they would catch the ‘tide of happenings’.

He often spoke of the ‘seeds of intent’ and how powerful a small beginning could be, if sown in the right way. Two questions spring to mind: the first is to decide on the precise nature of the seed, itself; the other is to decide where to plant it, and in what season.

Seasons are important. Nature’s outer cycle of seed, apparent dormancy, emergence, and fruition has much to teach us about how this circle of four provides an envelope within which all types of seeds become, in turn: planted, born into a world they hope to inhabit, become children who learn through play, and, finally, become adults with an understanding of the whole and their place in it – including their part in the procreation of further seeds.

We may be gardeners. If so, we will have a keen sense of these cycles, and how they merge into one another, yet retain a definite identity; a character of process within the whole cycle.

Beyond the organic processes of our biology, we may not think of ourselves as being related to the same cycles. We may not be too impressed with our collective stewardship of the Earth, but few would doubt the capability of the human intelligence to solve problems – and to seed the future.

Greed currently prevents this, keeping billions in poverty and despair because we cannot act together to combat the lower level of our shared nature. It may be that mankind’s journey to this point is part of a vast cosmic cycle in which more civilisations fail than succeed; burning themselves to an aggressive oblivion at the point when they could have done the most good…

Perhaps only a few every make it past this point – but they must be very special places, places that nurture head and heart in equal measure.

Few of us are in a position to affect the world in a way that extends beyond our immediate working and home environments. But, we can change ourselves – or, rather, look for understanding to the problems of a world reflected on our own little stage. And stage it is…we perform each day to a script which has grown habitual, and seldom think of challenging it so that we might fix in ourselves what we despise in the world.

Each moment derives from the last, plus a little bit of magic that infuses both chaos and possible good fortune into the mix. Without these ‘non-predetermined’ extras, evolution would be powerless, and spiral downwards, as we failed to wrestle with the complexity of ‘thinking’ out our own future. The mind, alone, can never solve such problems.

Let us assume that there is goodwill ‘out there’ in our world. We have a certain amount of goodness in us, too–the result of our efforts to date plus an ability to tap into something beyond ‘me’. We may desire to help the Earth as it struggles to escape the downward spiral of greed, violence and political stagnation. The desire to do this is powerful enough to become our seed. To assist this we may visualise the ‘feeling’ of what it would be like to have contributed successfully, to a true betterment of the world, however small. Each such action moves out like a wave, overlapping and reinforcing others…

Now comes the intent…the fertile soil into which we will place this well-formed, but not yet visible seed. The intent is not the seed, itself; it is the special ‘space’ in which the idea of the seed can have a life of its own. Powerful seeds die in the everyday script of ‘me’. To break out of this we might want to frustrate the imprisoning script of our lives by setting aside a special time each day, at some specific hour, at which we will reaffirm our non-selfish desire. There could be many other ways of doing this. As long as it breaks the normal script it will work, be it meditative or, for example, every time we walk past that clock-tower on our way to work.

An oak tree doesn’t grow if we constantly pull up the organism to see whether the winter roots are developing. With our seed, we have to  trust that by providing the space and the ‘water and warmth’ of our new soil we will harness the magic and the super-human cycles that transform that well-founded and selfless desire into a force in the world.

We were not given great powers of creative visualisation to waste them on the trivial… If only we knew this as a race.

The time between Christmas and New Year is an excellent period in which to do something of this nature. Personally, I believe the idea of the New Year’s resolution to be derived from an ancient method of harnessing these magical energies – energies which truly have the power to dispel the inner darkness infecting the state of the Earth at the present.

With a passion, I wish you success with your Seeds of Intent.

The Directors of the Silent Eye School extend best wishes for a very special transition into the potential of the year 2018.

——–

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

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

©️Stephen Tanham.

 

 

Into the Dark Earth

IMG_7594

I have always thought that, from a mystical perspective, we are lucky to have winters. This may seem a strange sentiment, but I have my reasons. If we believe that we are a part of what is all around us, then the seasons assume great importance.

In reality each season merges slowly into the next, but our ancient forebears gave us four divisions of the year, each corresponding to a major ‘event’ in the way light – our primary enabler of outer consciousness – changes.

In the middle of the ancient Summer, the day would be longest. The time of fullness an warmth would have returned, albeit briefly, to the earth. The Christian church borrowed the ancient rites and named the Summer Solstice the Feast of St John; it marked a time when the joyful ascent of light (an upwards gradient, if you like), gave way, in a moment of profound stillness, to the descending gradient that led from the longest day to the shortest. There was no actual moment of pause in that glorious fullness – planets and suns do not stand still – but the human consciousness recorded and knew that a primary quality of existence had changed; and not for the better…

Halfway during that descent of the daily light, the times of day and night became equal at the Equinox: a word derived from Latin meaning ‘equal night’. The harvest was gathered in – probably the most important time of the ancient year, as it determined whether the long, wet and cold months ahead could be survived. There was little of more importance than that…

At the end of the darkening half-year begun with the Summer Solstice came the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night – Christianised as the Feast of St Stephen. The Christmas tradition has changed the Pagan calendar, somewhat, but the underlying principles of the Light-bringer’s birth in the darkest of days hold true.

The physical and agricultural marking of these times is obvious. Modern scholarly interpretations of such events focus simply on these, dismissing any other considerations as fanciful and superstitious – as though our forebears, often starving, had time for such diversions. They simply cannot conceive of the world-view of those of our ancient past, because they have been taught that anything outside of ‘science’ is invalid.

There are two deeper layers to these key points in the year – one is psychological, the other spiritual. We need to define our terms carefully: psychological refers to the workings of the mind – really ego; spiritual refers to contact with a layer of being which is greater than the small self; an experience or series of experiences within which the individual self realises oneness with a super-physical that is beyond question. In doing this, we have encountered that which simply ‘is’ – the Objective World.

Emotions are not the whole story, nor necessarily the highway to spirituality, but they can provide the energy to throw off the mundane perspectives that keep us locked into the world view of the small ‘me’ – now protected by science. At the time of the Winter Solstice, our emotions undergo a kind of ‘death’ – if we are sensitive to this unmeasurable ‘pause’ in the flow of life’s energies. For a brief moment, which may have more to do with the observer than the observed, we sense the awe of cessation… Of a death of the small self in the face of the fullness of objective existence around us.

What is around us has not died, but it challenges us to see the internal ‘death’ with which we need to come to terms if we are to sense the greater life that surrounds us, and from which the small self keeps us separate.

In this sleep of nature the one Life prepares the raw materials of the next phase of its expression. This is done in the dark places of the soil and the unconscious places of the self. When that rest is complete the Life comes forth from darkness, marked, symbolically, by the light-bringers’ victory over the darker days, and the advancement of the light-filled days – an outer sign of the manifest potential of what lived and lives through the dark night of Winter. In spiritual terms the physical return of the light is mirrored by the growth of human understanding, and its connection to all life around it.

The mythological archetypes of the light-bringers are there to enable us to attune with the subtle energies pervading the Earth at this very special time. They are our deepest friends…

Wishing you a very special Winter Solstice.

————————

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

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

©️Stephen Tanham.