Looking in the Looking Glass

As I schedule a post or two in advance to cover my absence for the Silent Eye’s workshop weekend, there are few things I can predict with any certainty. You never know what is going to happen or how things are going to work out. One thing I do know, though, is that barring unforeseeable disaster, I will get to spend some time with the friends and people I love. And we will talk… a lot… and when we start talking, we can cover a lot of ground, from the ridiculous to the sublime, the mundane to the mystical.

Walrus_and_Carpenter by Tenniel“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings.”

I often think of Lewis Carroll’s poem, “The Walrus and the Carpenter” when these conversations get going. Though to be fair, the subjects of our discussions are generally weirder and further reaching than that of the oyster-eating conversationalists thus described. And “Through the Looking Glass” would be an equally good title for the friendship we share.

But, like them, we speak of many things; along with talk of snowballs and poetry, statistics and magic, parenting and the nature of a bishop’s smile, we will speak of love. It is, in fact, the common, if invisible, thread that binds most of our exchanges together and can be felt, weaving its way through the apparent disparities as we talk our way from the gutter to the very gates of heaven.

Friendship itself is one manifestation of love. Some begin with one of those instant moments of recognition, when something, somewhere clicks into place and into purpose. Others grow slowly, unfolding their petals and taking time to reveal their inner hearts. We all share parallels within our lives’ journeys, and we slide down the latter half of life, some with great elegance, others with a less graceful, yet gleeful, abandon, towards a not dissimilar conclusion and in a shared inner joy.

Most of the people I will meet again over the weekend have spent very little time together eye to eye, yet heart to heart we have shared so much and we hold up a mirror to each other in which we are reflected as One. It is the kind of fraternity of the soul that we are seldom blessed with and is to be treasured as a rare and precious thing.

Yet were you to take a peek into our conversations, you would be as likely to find us talking of steam railways and the seedier side of humanity, laughing over risqué puns and gently poking fun at the cussed stubbornness of northerners, as you would be to find us speaking of the deeper questions of Life, the Universe and Everything. For they too are all one and a common thread of meaning is woven through them.

Amongst the cabbages and kings, we have spoken of love and how our relationship with it changes as we grow. We have spoken of the differences and misunderstandings between detachment and non-attachment. Most religious and spiritual traditions, as well as the Mystery schools, teach the need for non-attachment in some form or another, particularly with regard to the ego, and it can be a frightening thing to even contemplate letting go of the self to that extent. There is an underlying fear of ‘who will I be, if I am not I? If I cannot feel, think, love as myself then who will I become?’

No matter how painful loving can be, no matter how joyful or tender, how heart-aching or blissful, it is love in some form or another that fuels all our relationships from our parents to our friends, from our children to our partners. It is behind all the richest experiences of our lives… why would we want to become ‘detached’ from that?

It became clear to me at some point, that it is the ego that, through its own fear of dissolution, misunderstands. We do not need to detach ourselves from love, but from its dependencies. When we can lay those dependencies, those needs, on the altar with a clear heart, Love opens up to us in a way that we have not understood before.

When we can see a person clearly, ‘warts and all’ as the saying goes, and love them because of who they are, when we can love without needing them to love us back, without agonising over how they feel about us, and shedding useless tears when they do not give what we would like… When we can allow them to be themselves wholly and freely and simply love them anyway, without expectation or trying to mould them to our desire… Or when we can look into the mirror of the soul and see our own Self reflected in that greater Love, then perhaps we begin to know what non-attachment means. It does not take love away from us, it gives us the freedom to Love with a whole soul.

And, this weekend, I will be with people I love.

The Ghost Ship

Ghost Ship for blogAAsmaller

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

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

©Stephen Tanham

Silent Eye: Sixth Weekend Draws Nigh! – by Alienora

Reblogged from Alienora’s Anthology:

download

Silent Eye: A Modern Mystery School has been an important part of my life since its birth way back in 2013; though, actually, the story starts even before then…

I first met Stephen Tanham and Sue Vincent (who, along with Stuart France, comprise the Silent Eye Directors) at Savio House, during either an SOL Gathering of the Light weekend or a Ritual with Purpose one. We clicked. I enjoyed the company of both.

I was, therefore, intrigued and tempted when they set up the Silent Eye School of Consciousness – and was keen to be at the Opening.

Five very different ritual experiences later, I can safely say that this initial enthusiasm has never waned, and I am now getting very excited about the forthcoming, Jewel in the Claw, weekend.

The setting is beautiful: The Nightingale Centre in the little village of Great Hucklow, deep in the heart of the Peak District. The drive up is always a journey of magnificence -especially when we leave the motorway and meander through Bakewell (for the tarts, you understand!) and the stark peaks and mountainous roads of this atmospheric part of Britain’s landscape.

Continue reading at Alienora’s Anthology

A common misconception?

 

“….so, this year it is Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Court, and next year we’ll be in Sumeria.” Running around getting things organised for the workshops always involves the attempted acquisition of some strange items. I frequently get asked what I’m hoping to use them for and that inevitably leads to questions about what we do, how and why.

“Sumeria?” The face was blank.

“An ancient civilisation, goes back five thousand years and more…” The face brightened with understanding.

“Oh.” There was a weird sort of relief too. “Cave men,” she said, thereby dismissing the great city of Uruk with two words.

“Not exactly…” But where do you start? The great walled city of Uruk, home to around eighty thousand people, was founded six thousand years ago, predating the rise of ancient Egyptian civilisation by a thousand years. The Sumerian culture had been growing for a long time before that too.

Say ‘Egypt’ and everyone thinks of the fabulous art, the gold and the temples that remain. We have no problem accepting that ancient Egypt was civilised, but unless there is a particular interest, most of us don’t have much of an idea about dates. Say, ‘five thousand years ago’ and ‘cave man’ is still the image in many minds. Say ‘prehistoric’ and that conjures dinosaurs, say ‘stone age’ and you are probably thinking Fred Flintstone.

Prehistoric means simply that period before written history… and written language first began, we believe, in Sumeria… over five thousand years ago. Archaeology has revealed the beauty and artistry of the culture, from musical instruments to fabulously worked gold and miniature carved seals. Prior to the beginnings of written history, the prehistoric culture was already exceptionally rich.

The various ‘Ages’, like Stone, Bronze and Iron, refer in brief to a leap in technology. Thus, the basic advance in the Bronze Age was the ability to work with metal. Before that, stone was the prime technology and, while it may have begun with the use of a simple rock or a worked flint arrowhead, it ended with the complexity of the enigmatic monuments that still draw us today.

stonehenge 012

Stonehenge is perhaps the best known in this country. No mere pile of rocks, but a fantastic feat of engineering by any standards, where mortice and tenon joints allow the stones, weighing tons apiece, to ‘float’ above the circle. The construction of Stonehenge too was begun five thousand years ago. What remains suggests a complex mathematical and geometrical understanding, even though it may not have taken the form we now use. It also implies a knowledge of astronomy as well as an established culture strong enough to build the monument. And Stonehenge is just one of over a thousand known circles in these islands…

But why does it matter? That is another question frequently asked regarding the workshops. What possible benefit can there be to delving into the past for our workshops, be it the few hundred years back to the Elizabethan Court, or a few thousand?

We could answer that there is no particular benefit at all… that the stories we weave through our workshops are no more than frames for the spiritual concepts we explore. That would be true, but not the whole truth. Although we spend months crafting detailed and researched scripts, it is not the stories that matter, any more than it is the frame of a picture that holds the true value. On the other hand, those stories allow us to capture the imagination, engage the heart, mind and body, and bring our whole being to the concepts we explore. Instead of dry lectures, we learn through experience, laughter and through play… and that is always the best way to learn.

Nature has designed her children to learn that way; from lambs in a field to humans in the playground, we learn and experience hard lessons within a relatively safe world of play. The Inner Child can learn and explore the inner realms in the same way…and that is one reason why we craft such stories, taking our cue from the ancient Mystery Plays that brought the stories of the gods to life… and the gods, be it remembered, represent the cosmic principles behind the natural forces of the universe.

So, and that leads on to the next common question, are we saying that the ancients knew more than we do?  That they had a lost knowledge that we lack? Well, the obvious answer there is that if there were a ‘lost’ knowledge, then by definition, we do not have it and cannot know what it was. We can, however, look at the fragments they have left and infer that they had a different and more personal relationship with their environment, seeing divinity made manifest in the hills, rocks and streams. Would it be a bad thing to renew that relationship with the earth as a sacred and living being? Given the parlous state of the environment in this industrialised era, it could only be a good thing.

Did our ancestors have an inner knowledge that we lack? Again, in the absence of written records, we can only infer and intuit. Given that, in the days before antiseptic, disinfectant and antibiotics, life and death were separated by the most tenuous of threads, it is entirely probable that their only fear of death was of the pain of dying and loss, and the practical problems posed by decomposition. Today, as a society, we fear death and the dissolution of the personal ego; we seek ever to deny and defer the ageing process and in doing so, we create for ourselves an unsettled, dissatisfied world.

Whatever our ancestors saw, whatever forged their beliefs, is still there, in the natural world, waiting to teach us. By taking the time to look and to explore our relationship with Nature, we may glimpse the world through older eyes…for our ancestors are not separate or different from us, they are part of who we are, both in the concrete terms of genetic coding and in the accumulated knowledge and wisdom handed down to us over the centuries.

Whether, like the emerging scientists of the Elizabethan Age, we choose to take a logical and evidence-based view, or whether, like our ancient ancestors, it is the beauty and tides of Nature that speak to us, there is a path that may call us to a turning point in our own lives, echoing those pivotal points of history that have heralded a new age and a new beginning.

The stories we have woven over the years have been set in both past and future, rooted in the land as well as in myth. Each one has told a different tale, each from a different era. They are held together by a single common thread… Strip away the characters, props, and costumes designed to transport the imagination, and they are all fragments of the same story… that of the journey of the human heart and soul.

The Opened Palm

“I only know how to ask…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

©Stephen Tanham

Odd socks and the mummification of rats…

bald tailed squirrel 037

I couldn’t put it off any longer, bad back or not…  the sheets needed changing and the mattress was overdue to be turned. My son, for reasons best known to himself, chose to furnish himself with one of those huge beds of the mega-super-king variety that are the size of a small playing field. The kind that is so heavy, it is impossible to move without a crane and which has a solid-seeming base that extends between mattress and floor.  He is also furnished with one very small mother. Changing the bed is a job I dread as, given my vertically challenged status, I could use the duvet cover for a bivouac and still have room in there to party.

The very idea of turning the mattress makes me break out in a cold sweat. It is not a job I can easily do alone at the best of times. This time, however, the bad back was going to come in handy. There is always a silver lining somewhere, if you look hard enough. My son would have to help.

This is not as simple as it might seem, considering that standing and balancing are things he cannot do well, especially while trying to do something else. But I saw no reason why that should get in the way.

Stripping the bed was easy. It was when we came to turn the mattress that things took a turn for the worse. Halfway round, the edge of the mattress caught the slats on the bed base and pulled them out of place, unclipping them from the centre of the bed. The only thing for it was to balance the mattress as best we could, while I tiptoed between the remaining slats to put things right. All well and good… until I lifted one offending slat from the floor.

There, before my poised toe, and right beneath where my son lays his head, was a rat. Not just any rat either. Both it and its population of insect casings were mummified. I may have squealed. When I gingerly picked it up by its tail, it was a stiff as a board and the mummification process left a rat-shaped stain on the carpet.

bald tailed squirrel 024

Many things made sense. My son has a well-stocked bird table that attracts a lot of wildlife… including the creature he had watched, fascinated by its agility, before calling me to ask if there were any such thing as ‘a bald-tailed squirrel’. Boots, the first cat my son had taken pity on a couple of winters ago, is a huntress and, for the first few months of her residency, had regularly brought ‘gifts’ to his bedroom door. Usually birds, occasionally a mouse and once a full-grown rat. Or, as we now knew, twice.

After one particularly bloody episode, Boots had finally understood that her gifts were not appreciated and had given up, much to the relief of the cleaning lady… I hated seeing those poor creatures torn to shreds, though the rats she had killed and left intact.

cat2

That spring, while my son was away, I had taken the opportunity to deep clean his home and garden… everywhere except under that mountain of a mattress, which had been declared out of bounds. I did the bedroom first, shut the door to keep the cat out and started on the rest. A week or so later, I had arrived to feed his fish and found his bedroom window swarming with huge black flies. I had looked everywhere for the source of the problem… except under the bed. I let the flies out, but the same thing happened for several mornings thereafter… then nothing. Not one. I cleaned the windows again and thought no more about it. Flies nest in window frames sometimes. I’d had that happen at my own home one year.

Tim

Oddly enough, Tim, the tomcat who has also adopted my son, and who is also known as Frank and Nigel to the neighbours where he deigns to dine, has been trying to get under the bed for a while. This morning, we had found out why.

I disposed of the mummy, cleaned under the bed, fixed the slats and together we remade the bed, finding, in the process, a lost favourite sock that had lodged itself in the corner of the duvet. Bonus!

It was odd that the poor rat had lain hidden for so long, slowly decomposing while my son was away and thus not plagued by the smell. The timing of the burial beneath the bed had allowed it to pass unnoticed… until I began to see the flies. Even then, the source of the problem lay hidden until we finally found the corpse and disposed of it once and for all, cleaning the mess left behind.

I wondered how often the same thing applies to the hurt, guilt and fears we bury in the shadows of the mind and heart? We may not even know they are there… or, if we suspect their presence, choose not to look too closely, knowing that it will be unpleasant. Although we may be unaware, there is something about such things that may draw others to us, for all the wrong reasons.  Such things fester and rot, eating away at the soul, leaving behind immovable stains and providing a breeding ground for darkness and pain that can cast a cloud across our own lives and those of the people we love.

No matter how unpleasant the task, it is better to delve into the dark places, tackle the mess, and decently dispose of the copses. We never know what we might uncover, or how much we will ache as we essay the task. There may well be uncomfortable surprises, but as we allow light into forgotten corners, there may also be a gift just waiting to be uncovered… even if it is something as simple as a favourite sock.

bald tailed squirrel 001

All in the feeling?

It was a beautiful morning. I had watched a barn owl glide across the field as dawn limned the horizon with gold and palest pink. The sky was beginning to turn blue and the drive to work on almost-empty roads was accompanied by birdsong. It was one of those mornings where it felt good to be alive…. even though, I realised with a start, I wasn’t sure I really knew what that meant.

How does it feel to be alive? It is not as if most of us have anything to compare it with. It is an either/or situation and anything in between is actually neither, for consciousness seems to be elsewhere. What we think of as ‘feeling alive’ is really feeling emotion and sensation. It is hard to even separate thoughts, emotions and perceptions from who we are and how it feels to be us, here, now.

How did I feel? When I looked at it from this new perspective, I could not answer. Take away the sensation of sitting in a car… the pressure of seat and wheel, the thrum of the engine, the warmth of the morning rays through the glass, the faint tang of petrol and the sound of birds. Take away the emotions that react to movement, to the start of a day’s work, to spring mornings and the first cherry blossom… and what is left?

Were my body unable to feel, see, hear or otherwise engage the senses, I would still be alive. If heart and mind were so numbed that I was dead to emotion, or if consciousness were lost, I would still be alive. It would be no kind of life from our normal perspective, but it would still be life. How would that feel?

It is odd that we use that word, ‘feeling’, for so many different purposes, from emotion, to touch, from opinion to health…as if we cannot dissociate our idea of being alive from feeling in some form or another.

I slowed to watch a hunting hawk, feeling the discomfort caused by the pressure of foot on pedal, wishing, for a moment, that my body still behaved as it had when I was young. Could I remember what it felt like to be young? Not the thoughts, physical sensations or even the uncertain, unconfident emotions of youth, but what it actually felt like to be young? No, I realised, I could not. Nor could I even say, in those same terms, what it felt like to be older. Yesterday and today are too vague. There is only what I feel like now.

I could catalogue sensation, emotion and reaction, but that is all just a processing of sensory and social input. If the body is the interface between the world and the brain and the brain the interface between body and mind, mind must be the interface between the brain and… what? Consciousness? Being? Spirit? Soul? What was the next link in the chain… Where is the ‘I’ in all of that…and is there even an ‘I’ at all?

Caught in the limbo between home and destination, yesterday and tomorrow, there was only the road and the moment and both were part of a journey, a process in a constant state of change, but not without purpose.

For a moment, there was a glimpse beyond normality to Mystery. For a moment, I almost understood. But such things cannot be grasped, only, for want of a better word, felt. All that remained to put into thought was the consciousness of a road that leads to a somewhere that is everywhere. A somewhere that makes no distinction, no separation, between the road, the traveller and the destination. Only the journey is.

There is an odd sort of serenity in that. The vehicle may break down, the traveller may not know the way and the road may fail, but the journey is always itself, carrying us forward with purpose.

Esoteric Shipbuilding

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

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

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

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

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

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

Royal Navy: playground… why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ship Bess smaller2

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

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

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

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

And then it will have begun…


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

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

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

©Stephen Tanham

A drop in the ocean

With the April workshop looming close, Stuart and I needed a break from work and headed off for the afternoon. We wanted to pay our respects to one of the influences behind the weekend, so we took advantage of a rare break in the weather. It has rained a lot lately; many of the fields we passed were flooded and the river at our destination had overflowed, drowning the riverside pathways and marooning benches that would normally be filled with people.

We’re pretty lucky my local area… there are no rivers, just the springs and streams that arise in the chalk and meander through the Vale and we are far from the sea. Most of the time that seems a pity, as I love moving water and miss the waterfalls and waves, but with the recent persistent rain I can only be grateful.

Our little river is usually no more than a foot or two deep and seldom wider than a stream. It gave up trying to contain the influx of water a while ago and has expanded until it looks more like a lake. Riverside playgrounds and sports fields are all under water, roadside streams have escaped their confines and flooded the fields and driving is hazardous in places.

flooding 035

I lived beside a river in Vichy long ago and saw the power of water in flood. It is hard to imagine it, even from news footage, until you have seen and heard it for yourself. As with many things, real understanding comes only from direct experience.  The water of the Sichon flowed into the more famous Allier half a mile from our home on the Rue Charlot. The Sichon was confined in a concrete channel about twenty feet wide and a set of vertical steps, rather like a ladder, led down about twelve feet from the little gate by the front door. The concrete extended to make wide banks creating a channel perhaps eighty feet wide.

While it was pleasant to watch the sparkling, fast flowing stream from the kitchen window, seeing the birds and wildlife that visited even its man-made banks. The concrete was ugly and I couldn’t understand the municipal mentality that had built this monstrosity to confine the river.

Until the first winter. Then I understood.

All one night there was noise… but in the blackness no way of telling what was causing it. Come morning, one look from the kitchen window solved the mystery. Huge branches battered the walls of the house as churning, mud-brown waves raced through the confines of the concrete channel. It was incredible to watch. It got worse, hour by hour, as I saw the waters rise to within an inch of the kitchen windowsill.

What could be moved was taken upstairs, along with supplies… there was such elemental force in the floodwaters and they rose with such speed and volume. There was no question of what would have happened to anyone or anything caught in their path or in the debris they carried. Somewhere in one of the boxes of photographs I still have a picture taken through that window, but it is not as vivid as the one in my mind that hears the noise, smells the water or remembers the rising fear.

I have been lucky, seeing this so close yet merely as an observer and not as a victim of the extremes of the elements. It was a place where evidence of the uncompromising power of nature was always close. Vichy, for all its elegance as a once fashionable spa town, lies in a region of volcanoes. Indeed they are the source of its famous thermal springs and the volcanoes of the region are only dormant, not extinct. The heat in summer can be intense and the thunder storms regular and spectacular. I have swum in a lake in an old crater, smelt the sulphur from the vents in the caves of the Puy-de-Dôme, and seen the remnants of the effects of previous eruptions. You know the earth in charge, not man, even in this seemingly gentle and beautiful landscape.

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Taking pictures of the local flooding that here, at least, is little more than an inconvenience, so minor in comparison to that experienced by many, I was reminded how close we live to the awesome power of Nature, even within our regulated cities. We try our best to tame her, and our industries cause such destruction and yet, even if we make our planet uninhabitable for our species and many others, we are only destroying ourselves.

We tend to forget that we ourselves are just a very small part of Nature… a mere drop in a vast and moving flow of life that wears an infinite variety of forms. The elements of earth make up our bodies and her tides and seasons are echoed within us as they flow through our veins and hearts.

In a million years… a mere heartbeat for the life of the world… what will remain of us? Very little, perhaps, but life will continue whether we would recognise its forms or not. Even the shallow flooding in the fields serves to remind me how small we are in comparison to Nature. She is older than we by far. We, with our little lives may come and go, but she remains.