“…Change and change in the perspective of self-realization; the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life.” My son looked up the symbolism of the dragonfly on his phone. We had been watching its staccato flight over the pond. “That’s just too perfect…”
We sat, my son and I, in the morning sun drinking coffee and talking about the way he is shaping his life. “They say that we create our own reality,” he continued and I believe that to be true. Not entirely as the fashionable buzz in some circles would have it… there is a little more to it than just thinking positive thoughts and imagining that dreams have already arrived in order to manifest them. Dreams need such vision before they can become real, it is true, but they also need work. Our decisions, choices and attitude all go into the mix, along with determination and an unshakeable faith that we can arrive at our goal.
“I reckon,” he said, as we watched the flight of the huge dragonfly, “that creating your own life is like making art…” I had to agree; creating reality is akin to creating a work of art. It takes time and dedication to learn the skills and acquire the experience that can transform fluid vision to concrete presence. We see our dreams take shape through our daily perception of the world, each from our own unique perspective, much like an artist pursuing inspiration. “… and creating a beautiful future is the greatest work of art you can make.”
He has a habit of doing that, dropping a phrase into a conversation that makes you stop in your tracks. It is not a new concept, but, like all such realisations, it is always brand new to those who find it for themselves.
I am not entirely certain that I agree with him. Creating a beautiful future is indeed a wonderful thing, but I think there is a work of art even greater that we can attempt… and that is the creation of ourselves. The tools required are almost identical and the act of creation we undertake needs just as much dedication to the impossible dream, yet we do not have to create ‘something from nothing’, but only unfold the furled petals of the soul.
“Every Warrior of the Light has felt afraid of going into battle.
Every Warrior of the Light has, at some time in the past, lied or betrayed someone.
Every Warrior of the Light has trodden a path that was not his.
Every Warrior of the Light has suffered for the most trivial of reasons.
Every Warrior of the Light has, at least once, believed he was not a Warrior of the Light.
Every Warrior of the Light has failed in his spiritual duties.
Every Warrior of the Light has said ‘yes’ when he wanted to say ‘no.’
Every Warrior of the Light has hurt someone he loved.
That is why he is a Warrior of the Light, because he has been through all this
and yet has never lost hope of being better than he is.” Paulo Coelho
There are people who come and go in our lives, some who may seem all-important for a while, yet fade away to nothingness, some who creep in almost unnoticed and take up residence in the heart and soul, kicking off their shoes and sharing the comfort of their soul’s fireside, some who resemble the flames of the fire itself, bringing an incandescent spark of Light into your life.
With these, the distance that may lie in between does not matter. Heart to heart, mind to mind, soul to soul the communication is whole, sincere and true. And with a rare few that sharing reaches a very deep level and wanders down some very strange pathways indeed from time to time as words become the deepest discussions.
Conversations like this tend to be punctuated by much laughter and silliness, and may be peppered with a fair amount of naughtiness too. It is an odd thing, but a true one, that those I have met whom I count as the most truly evolved in the spiritual sense all share a decidedly earthy sense of humour. When our discussions have addressed this, the answer has always been a take on the same theme…that those who have reached a certain level of being no longer hide behind a mask of quasi sainthood, but embrace their whole being with gusto, warts, as they say, and all.
They have often lived colourful lives, experiencing a rich tapestry of emotions and events beyond the humdrum normality of the ordinary; these few recognise and accept the full extent of their humanity, seeing in it only the action of the Divine Life. They cheerfully accept their own frailties and foibles and those, it seems, of everyone else around them as simply part of the beauty of life in motion, a perfection continuously unfolding rather than a flawed and static actuality. When they hit a stumbling block, as we all do from time to time, they simply roll their sleeves up and get on with life.
There are, for all of us at some point, mornings when we must drag ourselves from bed to face a world we do not want to see or be seen by. Where that hour around 3am seems to last an eternity of ‘what ifs’ and all choices seem to lead to heartache. Mornings where the night has broken trust and we face the dawn with only the bitter kiss of ‘why?’ upon our lips.
We can face the day hidden in brittle laughter or withdraw into silence, closing the windows of the soul and drawing the blinds to incubate our misery. Or shout the hurt from the rooftops in anger to gather sympathy or attention.
Or we can look ourselves squarely in the eyes in the bathroom mirror and say, ‘Today you are lucky. Today you have reached another crossroads. Today you have an opportunity for change. Today you can take responsibility for the next phase of your journey.’
Quite often we expect both too much and not enough of ourselves, once we have set our feet firmly upon a path of faith and growth, regardless of how we see that Light. We expect perfection now and are disappointed with ourselves when we fail, forgetting perhaps that we are works in progress, experiencing rather than experienced. Then our inner failure can plunge us into despair… which we may also see as another failure… and we wade through the treacle of dark emotions, instead of remembering that we ourselves are in charge of the sticky stuff and can choose to see opportunity for change instead of the molasses of negativity in which we have caught ourselves like flies.
Sometimes, we are too hard on ourselves. We are works in progress, but the perfection we strive for is already part of us. Maybe we need to be a little gentler with ourselves.
As the years pass, I continue to wonder at the marvel of human communication, and the sadness of how little we use its potential…
The world appears to be full of conflict and strife. But much of it is happening at the psychological level. The Trump era in America and the Brexit ‘civil war’ in the UK were both fuelled by similar (if not the same) media barons, but they continue to feed on two common elements of human nature – hatred and anxiety; in most cases related to things that were not present.
The power of fear plus the well-placed myth of taking back control are a potent brew… and a complete lie.
This lowest state, in which our desire for real interaction with those of other opinions drops to zero, is easily kindled in people who have limited awareness of the complexity and interaction of modern societies. The populist dictator always sows ‘his’ seeds among the weak-thinking, the people who believe in black and white solutions. But that state of mind is driven only by despair at their own situation.
A wise and enduring society ensures that, though there may be layers of prosperity, no-one is in that lowest position of helplessness.
For good or ill, our societies have evolved into enormous machines of interrelated complexity. All attempts to disengage with internationalism are doomed to the same sad death – costing the inhabitants of the country decades of repair in wealth and reputation. In many cases our societies may never enjoy the prestige they had, before.
But to blame the car which has just driven into a line of innocent people, where the bodies lie, broken across the pavements, is equally wrong. Complex machines require sophisticated pilots. There is no equivocation about a pilot’s science: the plane lands, successfully, or it crashes. There are no ‘alternative facts’ about whether it landed; just like there are no alternative facts about how a virus rips through an innocent and unguided population.
Populism dies in the face of such disasters… and for those who still persist with alternative facts there is, simply, no hope. They are to be shunned by the ‘healthy cells’ of the society to which they represent such a threat. The society – the ‘body’ – remembers health, and yearns to return to it. Only the routes back are seen differently.
In this deadly tango, which now embraces us all, are the seeds of despair and hope. The despair will take us all down – like the car without a driver, or a driver who chooses the fundamentalism of alternative facts over the power of the real and chooses to die in an orgy of ego.
Hope requires that, as individuals, we all take responsibility for listening to others’ point of view – no matter how antithetical they seem to our own minds. All counselling is based, first, upon listening.
There may be a ‘special place in Hell’ for those who engineered the chaos in which we find ourselves. But the greater power lies in the word ‘sorry’ – said from the heart opened with empathy.
It is the beginning of that special state that repairs a world.
For the past few days there has been a young heron beside the road on the five mile drive to my son’s home. It stands, arrow thin, shadow blue and perfectly still, almost invisible, watching the drainage ditch that runs along the edge of the fields.
No-one appears to notice it as they drive by, focussed as they are, quite rightly, on the fast-moving traffic. I notice a lot of things as I drive. The road is familiar, yet changes daily. For the past few days also there has been a fox, now paper-thin with the passing of lorries, yet its coat is still that burnished copper and its tail, apparently undamaged, waves in a semblance of life as the traffic passes. Yesterday a tiny Muntjac deer hopped under the hedge as I drove out of the lane, right in the centre of the village. Today the kites were flying low, diving over the fields in the wake of the farmer, harried by crows.
The trees are heavy with fruit, dark clusters of elder and blackberry, red haws and pale- bloomed sloes. Apples bend the branches over the skeletal seed heads of grasses and the pale stems of hogweed. Yet summer is far from over and the wildflowers are in bloom. A weasel skitters between the cars at the traffic lights.
I’ve watched the fields change from the bright yellows and emerald of spring to the soft green of summer and now the prelude to the gold and russet of autumn is beginning to creep in. Straw is baled, the stubble lies sharp and square in neat rows. The trees have that tinge of colour that precedes the turning, an almost subliminal feel of autumn is in the air, with the unseasonable chill of a rainy summer dawn.
You can feel it in the early morning dew, in the slight dampness of the steering wheel; see it in the light… something about the quality of it… and feel it under the stars. First frost is still far in the future, distant, but you can feel the hint of its approach. The mists have begun.
The year turns, days slide by and time moves forward, almost unnoticed, until you look back and realise how far you have come since the last time you took note. And all those days have slipped away with that quiet inexorability that we fail to see from moment to moment.
Yet there is a beauty to the rhythm of the year as it slides from high summer towards the dark time, holding within each fruit and flower the seed of a spring and summer to come. There is a richness to the dying time that lies hidden, quiet in summer’s heart. Even the changing seasons can be a beacon of more than hope; a confidence in the rightness of the dance of life.
We can look to the dark times and see only the chill, cold land, barren of life, of we can look deeper and see that inner life that waits for the first touch of warmth, ready to unfold and begin the cycle again. Yet where does it begin and end? Is the year born of light or of darkness? Or do both hold the seeds of growth within them?
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” That has to be one of the most popular quotes from the work of the thirteenth-century Persian poet, Rumi. You see it all over the internet these days and yet, I wonder how often we stop to think about what it might mean. Much may be lost in translation of words that seem both familiar and easily understandable, knowing so little of the mindset, beliefs and culture of the writer, but even taken at face value, such words conjure an image to which we can all relate.
Every life holds its own heartache. We cannot avoid them, no matter how we try. We cannot hide from them, though we can, and often do, try. Yet still they find us. And every heartache, great or small, leaves a wound that remains tender, often prone to infection from further hurts, just as any wound of the flesh. Untended they can fester and even the smallest can bring terrible pain and cause greater damage than the wound itself warranted.
Yet, if we cut ourselves, we do not run from the pain… we deal with the cut first, cleaning it, maybe having it stitched by someone more qualified than we, if it is bad, then we keep it clean and let that cleanliness and the fresh air do their work. There may be a scar, there may not. If there is, most of the time it fades into insignificance and is forgotten.
We do not treat the heart as kindly, though, do we? We often worry at the hurt like dogs with a sore foot, we scratch it and press it to feel how much it pains us, or bite it as we illogically do with a tooth that needs attention. It is almost as if we are afraid that the pain will stop.
I have wondered about that. It is not as if we enjoy the hurting. But maybe we feel a need to cling to it, to keep it alive somehow. Perhaps we have lost someone or something and in allowing the pain to heal we feel as if we are betraying that loss? Maybe the pain is due to fear and in letting go of the fear we fear the unknown territory of being unafraid? The familiar is always more comfortable than the unknown… at least in our own minds.
The danger is that we allow the hurts to define who we become. We sink beneath the murky waters of pain and cease to see clearly, allowing events and our reactions to them to shape who we are and how we see the world. We learn to see ourselves through a veil of hurt and in turn this is the image we expect others to see.
Yet we are not our hurts. The pain can teach, or it can, like a flame, burn away the impurities and leave behind something cleaner and able to move freely. I have a feeling that is its purpose, to allow us to burn for a little while, cleansing the grief and fear, before emerging like a phoenix renewed.
The scars remain as reminders. Nothing is lost or forgotten, but it can be allowed to take its place in the past and be a solid foundation for the future. Perhaps if we are able to allow ourselves to heal, seeing the wounds, as Rumi says, as the places where the Light enters, the pain would find its proper place in our lives as a teacher, not loved, perhaps, but respected and acknowledged for the value of its experience and the healing it can bring.
Three questions are asked about the mysterious Picts of the Easter Ross coast of north-east Scotland: Where did they come from? What was the meaning of their wonderful art – miraculously preserved in stone for us to explore, today; and where did they go?
For more than six hundred years, between the 3rd and 9th centuries C.E., the Picts – literally ‘The Painted Ones’, sustained a kingdom running from a southern line between what is now Glasgow and Edinburgh – then known as the Antonine Wall, and the coastline of Easter Ross, north of Inverness in the Highlands.
For centuries, popular history viewed them as ‘half-crazed savages’. But these ‘wild painted men’ fought back the might of Rome’s legions before vanishing from history. They left no written records, but their culture and beliefs are etched into Scotland’s history.
The Picts created intricate and sophisticated designs, which surpassed any other native art in Britain at the time. The subjects of their art varied from animals and mythical beasts to Pagan and Christian symbols; they appear to have easily synthesised the old and the new religions, and made it their own.
Although there are no written texts, the Picts left behind a wealth of spectacular standing stones, elaborate carvings and intricate sculptures for future generations to discover. We plan to explore several of these – and their stunning landscapes, during our weekend. We will also look at the nature of their art, and, possibly recreate something of our own using the Pictish symbol system.
The Easter Ross Pictish trail is has been established by Historic Scotland and offers a spectacular journey through a landscape which has been inhabited since the dawn of civilisation.
“Mysterious and often beautiful, Pictish sculpture presents one of the great puzzles of Dark Age archaeology” (Joanna Close-Brooks 1989)
The coming September Workshop: ‘The Pictish Trail’ presents us with an opportunity to resume our celebrated weekends of wandering and learning from the landscape…and each other.
As of the date of writing this, (22 July 2020) The Scottish government rules on travel and groups have been relaxed to a degree that will permit the Pictish Trail workshop to go ahead. Outdoor sites were never a problem. However, as of this week, Historic Scotland are relaxing their restrictions, and an increasing number of indoor locations are being re-opened.
Administration of the weekend
Inverness will be our base location, due to its facilities, though much of the weekend will be spent on the coast to the north of here. We will convene on the Friday afternoon (or evening) for a visit to the first of the Pictish Stones and a shared meal. If time permits, we can enjoy a walk around the town.
Saturday and Sunday morning will be spent further north, following the official Pictish Trail along the beautiful coast of Easter Ross, and the nearby hills. We will return to Inverness for Saturday evening.
The dates are: Friday 11 September 2020 to Sunday (lunch) 13 September.
Transportation, accommodation and meals are not included in the £75.00 per person fee. Please make your own arrangements for the above, though meals are usually taken as a group, in local pubs, and the costs divided.
Should the event be cancelled due to Covid-19 issues, a full refund of the monies paid to the Silent Eye will be made.
A mainline train service runs to Inverness from Edinburgh. A small number of car places will be available from Inverness from those driving to the event. If you are travelling on foot, please ensure you have checked this availability before your departure.
To confirm your interest, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, attention Steve Tanham
Optional Extension to Orkney
A small group of us are intending to continue on the Sunday northwards to Orkney, via car and passenger ferry from Scrabster – Thurso’s port. We will sail to Stromness, returning to the mainland on the morning of the 17th September. As of the time of writing, some of the previously closed centres of interest are being re-opened to limited number of visitors. Orkney sites such as the wonderful Ring of Brodgar, have continued to be available during the Covid restrictions. Further updates will be given to anyone interested in joining this. Orkney is beautiful, spiritual and unique. This is rare chance to combine two events and visit it.
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.
The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.
Domingos Sequeira – Tobias heals the blindness of his father
… If Tobias walks a recognised Pilgrimage route when carrying out his Father’s instructions it would certainly go some way to explaining the presence of the two other Archangels in some of the paintings even though there is no mention of them in the story.
Tobias’ destination is just given as a ‘far distant land’ in the version we have but it,
maybe, cannot be too far distant if Tobit is related to the family Tobias stays with, which he is.
Curiously, all the angels look decidely feminine.
Michael could at a push be described as Androgenous,
Raphael and Gabriel are definitely Gyandros.
Gabriel’s ‘lily’ is orthodox…
Raphael’s ‘vial’ presumably holds eye ‘salve’ for Tobit…
The fish by this stage is purely symbolic…
But what of Michael’s golden apple?
An allusion to the Garden of the Hesperides, guarded by the many-headed dragon.
Ninevah and ‘large fish’ appear to be related and that is what originally excited us.
We were following the Johannine link, Jonah swallowed by the ‘Whale of God’ et al.
‘Make straight the way of the Lord!’
And the dog?
The dog in some of the depictions seems almost transparent.
Like a Phantom Dog!
Whatever, we shall call him Toby for he has to do with threes,
and is the right provenance and time,
and tradition for the link with the theatrical puppet-play to be sustained.
We were quite right about the word play on that one, all those years ago.
‘To be or not to be…’
It may even be that our Guardian Angel is three-fold.
Threes, in this tale certainly play their part.
Not least in the age of Tobit when he dies,
but I am not altogether sure whether a fish actually posseses
the attributed organs, which in itself maybe suggestive,
but if Sara ‘gets’ the ‘heart’ and Tobit gets the ‘gall’, who gets the ‘liver’?
Whether or not ‘Toby’ gets the liver, he always gets the sausages…