She of the Voice

The Shining One Fatima“Ra-bi-ya, Ra-bi-ya…’

As she surveys the black and white squares of the court before her, the song echoes in her head, a beloved memory of time spent, long ago, with her mother, playing their hiding game among the orange groves in the gardens of the royal home.

She of the voice, the inner voice,’ had been the way they referred to her, later in childhood, when she would suddenly go quiet and listen to that wonderful, silent dialogue that taught her so much about what was really happening in front of her; watching others react while she smiled and laughed so much they thought she was just being girly.

But he knew better, too…

He, her mysterious spiritual guide, teacher of English and word games. Nur al-Din; whose name whispered its meaning – Light of the Faith. At first she hadn’t understood what he was teaching her; ‘the author of the words’ he had called it, a voice within the ‘voice of the world – the story being told is not the storyteller… come to know the storyteller.’

But it had been the other; the dark and purposeful figure of Muhammad al-Annuri, who strode into her life and spirited her away, un-graduated, from the mystical enchantment of learning the truth within the truth. The dark Muhammad had loved games, too. Games of the mind  had fascinated him… Games of the body they had shared with a mutual passion.

“Forget all you think you know,” her sad-eyed teacher had said as she was taken from him. “Let it teach you what it is…” No-one listening would have known what he meant.

But she did… and never forgot it. That was all back then, in distant Morocco. Back then…

The Saracen woman’ they call her, now, in the streets of London. They have little understanding of the place from which she came. They see a beautiful and dutiful wife to the Moroccan Ambassador. Her husband, with his royal connections, has done well, and now sits astride two civilisations. With one face, he is an ambassador; with the other, a spy and co-conspirator…

He has told her little, but his voice has told her much. She trembles at what she knows.

Guns… Ships and guns. Just the beginning.

And now, summoned, mysteriously, to be at the Queen’s gathering: this strange chamber. “Another leading woman,” was all they told her. “Great honour.”

The others are ranged around the edge of a floor patterned like a great game board in the middle of the room.

‘Revealing,’ the voice whispers. ‘A place of great revelation…’ Rab’ia breathes in the way he taught her, letting the other shadows emerge, the hidden ones, the ones with secrets… She opens hazel eyes that have made warriors wither and seeks the other awakened eyes in the room, surprised and smiling at the result.

Perhaps it has all led to this, she thinks, smiling in the way he used to do.

How does all this relate to our mystical workshop in April 2018, The Jewel in the Claw?

Rab’ia al-Anuuri is the wife of the Moroccan ambassador in London, during the time when Elizabeth I is seeking a closer relationship with the Saracen world – what we would now call the world of Islam. The Saracen world is a potent force and has more than enough might to challenge the other super-power in Europe – Spain.

In our five-act mystical drama, when the company arrives at NonSuch palace, they are shown into a newly-prepared room, one in which a deadly search for the truths of the age will be played out on many levels: intellectual, emotional, religious and magical. Outside of the Queen’s own mind, no-one else in the room is aware of what is to follow. Rab’ia, wife of the Moroccan Ambassador is brought into this chamber as a personal guest of the Queen, whose goal is to begin with as much of a male-female balance as she can achieve, in an age when powerful women were not abundant – not in the political sense, that is…

What confronts the participants in the centre of the space is a huge game board consisting of black and white squares…

SE18 Core temple heart alone

Each  side of the board has its own symbolism and its own champion. In our five-act magical drama, Rab’ia will come to have a unique relationship with the Queen, as she is a powerful foreign dignitary in her own right and truly beyond the monarch’s power – or is she? The Queen of England is a potent force when it comes to defending the interests of her own country…

The Silent Eye’s spring workshop, April 2018 is: “The Jewel in the Claw’. The jewel is the emerging spirit of tolerance that Elizabeth, the self-styled virgin-queen, engendered; the claw is the nature of the forces of ignorance that still plague us in the twenty-first century every bit as much as they did in 1588, the year that the mighty Spanish Armada was defeated by a combination of English naval courage and our equally fabled weather; and Elizabeth I finally achieved a degree of security.

Jewel in Claw October MasterAA

The Silent Eye has produced dramatic mystical workshops since its inception in 2013, but this is a break from tradition, and will stick closely to the formula of an actual Elizabethan production, letting the acts of the play tell the deeper story. There is no formal audience, of course. We, the players, play to each other, and in doing so invoke the desired depth of psychological and spiritual interaction.

If you’ve never been to such an event before, don’t be over-faced by this heady agenda. There are always new people joining us, and we take great care to ensure they are comfortable. We do not expect our ‘actors’ to learn their lines! We all read from scripts – as though doing a final rehearsal, but the atmosphere is truly electric and you will find yourself working to bring your character to the greatest life you can give them! You will also find they stay with you for years afterwards…

Above all else it is always fun; and every year, come the Sunday farewell lunch, those attending do not want to go home and end that living link with a body of experience and aspiration that they have helped create…

We can honestly say that the workshops become a living thing, formed and sustained in the minds and hearts of those attending. Come and join our ‘merry band’ and you’ll want to come back.

Places are still available for ‘The Jewel in the Claw’. 20-22 April, 2018. The average price is approximately £250, fully inclusive of all meals and accommodation. You will struggle to find a better value weekend, anywhere.

The weekend workshop will be held at the lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow, near Buxton, in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales at a wonderful time of year – the spring.

You can download the pricing and booking form here:

SE18 Booking form aloneAA.

Other posts in this series cover:

John DeeSir Walter RaleighSir Philip Sidney

Queen Elizabeth I,

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester

Bess of Hardwick

For more information email us on rivingtide@gmail.com

Image: Composite of original artwork by the author.

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.

Congratulations…

We would like to offer our warmest congratulations to our Companion, Jan Malique, on her ordination as an inter-faith Minister with the Sacred Rites Foundation.

Jan writes at Strange Goings On in the Shed and Dispatches from the Hinterland. She is the author of Pathworking with the Egyptian Gods, with artist Judith Page, published by Llewellyn.

 

Clueless…

The past few days have seen us up to our eyeballs in research, planning and speculation. With the December Living Land workshop less than two weeks away, this was our last chance to get out in the field and check the details… so out into the fields and hills we went.

We were lucky with the weather, in spite of the frost that whitened the world. The chill of mid-November was mitigated by clear skies and a hint of sun on the coppery carpets of beech leaves. The emerald leaves of bluebells, reminding us that spring is just on the other side of winter, cluster thickly around stone and tree.  Wherever we went, a robin seemed to be watching and busy squirrels worked frantically at secreting their winter hoard. And, wherever we ventured, odd and intriguing clues seemed to laugh at our blindness.

Places we have visited many times before suddenly seemed to be revealing secrets. Not that they had ever been hidden. Most of them had been seen, even photographed, before… but we had not seen them to any purpose. The familiar was made new in our eyes and, as we finally considered what we thought we already knew, intriguing lines of exploration wandered across time and history, opening our eyes and minds to possibilities we had never noticed.

There is a curious ‘blindness’, as if some things may not be known until the time is right…or until you are equipped with sufficient knowledge or experience to begin to appreciate the insights they are offering. Their presence is registered, you can call them up on memory, yet their significance is veiled and does not impinge upon conscious thought. What goes on in the subconscious mind, though, is another matter.

All that which has apparently passed unnoticed is filed in a dark corner that might as well be labelled ‘classified’ for all the good it appears to serve. Yet, beneath the surface, everything we see, hear, read or experience is busy ferreting out the connections needed to give it enough relevance to be useful. It may eventually resurface with the flourish of a pantomime fairy, throwing off its dark cloak to reveal the magic it has kept hidden…and leaving you wondering at your own lack of vision.

Whether it is a clue in the landscape that elucidates a mystery, or something that was within you all along that illuminates your vision of yourself, we are all blinkered from time to time. The conscious mind and its hidden counterpart seem to work at different speeds and have a differing view of the world. Then sometimes they work in tandem, needing only a single clue cast into the cup to create an elixir that clears the mist to leave you speechless at what was right there in front of your eyes all along. Knowledge becomes understanding and your world takes on a new depth and dimension. How could you possibly have missed that for so long..? But you did, and you undoubtedly will again… until the moment is right.

To dare, to dream, to be…

‘To know, to dare, to will… and to keep silent’… this is a phrase heard within many branches of the Mysteries and one which echoes facets of the labyrinthine journey undertaken by those of us who work within them. It is an old saying, but none the worse for that, as much of the magical and mystical tradition is rooted in history. It contains much wisdom… a veritable treasure trove that responds to exploration by the meditative mind.

When we were setting up the Silent Eye, talking about how we could encapsulate something of the essence of the School’s ethos in a few words,  that phrase was the starting point for a discussion. The school is a place where we ensure that ‘the heart and the head drink from the same stream’. It is just as easy to get lost in soggy sentimentality as it is to bury oneself in hardcore intellectualism and on the spiritual journey both ends of the spectrum need to arrive at the consensus where we find the road to Being.

It takes courage to set out on that road, for it is ultimately one that must be walked seemingly alone, facing the image of the constructed Self; the Ego that is our vehicle through this life in the mirror of the soul. It is not always a pleasant stroll; the flawed monsters that lurk within each of us are the demons the magician faces in his rites of evocation. It takes courage too to set out on a path that departs from the traditions and teachings you have worked with all your life and seek something new. To dare that road can seem like stepping off a precipice into the unknown… or it can be the most exciting voyage of a lifetime.

It is something many of us dream of doing. Yet where to start? How to translate that dream into a reality? And what is a dream anyway? It is a multivalent concept. We may think of a dream as something of no substance, the ephemera of the night; no more than a fleeting shadow of the impossible that haunts the edges of the mind. Many systems of thought, including our own, use the idea of the dream-state to reflect the limited reality of our daily lives, focussed upon the mechanical movement through the tasks and responsibilities imposed upon us, both by the world and by ourselves; seeing in our restricted and sleeping consciousness merely projected images upon the screen of the mundane world.

We can look at the Aboriginal and Shamanic dreaming that has woven its magic behind humanity’s vision, shadowing forth those aspects of being and divinity we have sought to understand for millennia. On the other hand, we may see a dream as an aspiration… something worthy of the questing soul that seeks the depth and meaning of the inner Light.

It has been asked which is the dream… does the soul dream this life… do we awake from life into a dream of the soul … are we ourselves the dream, the dreamer… or the dreamed?

Perhaps we are all of these and in that realisation… in daring to seek to bring the dream of the soul into reality, in the clear light of consciousness, we can live the dream and touch the realms of pure Being.

A Woman of Power and Substance

Bess of Hardwick montage fullAA

It is the winter of 1584. The well-dressed woman watches as her fourth husband storms out of the dining hall at their present home, Tutbury Castle, in Staffordshire.

In the corner of the room sits a younger woman, now smiling at the angry departure of the man of the house–the sixth Earl of Shrewsbury. The seated woman with the secretive smile has good reason to be pleased at the turn of events. She has been a captive in this house for nearly fifteen years and used that time to create mayhem with sexual politics. Her name is Mary, better known as Mary, Queen of Scots. Her fortunes are diminishing by the month.. But that hasn’t stopped her using human emotions, particularly jealously, to drive a deadly wedge between the Count and Countess, her gaolers.

The lady of the house is already one of England’s richest women, in fact she will shortly be second only in wealth to the Sovereign – Queen Elizabeth I. She already owns the Chatsworth House estate; fabled, even then, for its beauty and gardens. She hates the partial ruin that is Tutbury Castle, but, for that fifteen year period, has done her duty by her husband and her Queen in keeping watch over the exiled Scottish monarch, who is a prisoner in their castle. In this way, and, astutely, at the expense of the Shrewsburys, Queen Elizabeth has kept her biggest problem at arm’s length.

The tall woman staring at the slammed door through which, metaphorically, her beloved husband has passed for the last time, is the Countess of Shrewsbury. She has inherited the goodwill and wealth of three of her previous spouses. She has over ten children from those marriages; some of whom will end up with a future, though distant, ‘claim’ to the throne.

She has led an interesting life, to say the least. On this angry morning, engineered by the jealousy deliberately created by the royal prisoner, Bess of Hardwick, as she is better known, vows that, within the year, she will return to her beloved Chatsworth and pick up the threads of her old life, again…

Earl and Countess Shrewsbury have had to keep moving around the many houses owned by the Earl, as Mary’s life is constantly being manipulated by those who would use her as a figurehead to overturn the fledgling Protestant religion, instigated by Queen Elizabeth’s father, Henry VIII.

Born in 1527, Bess was the fourth daughter in a family of four girls and one boy. Their father died when she was young, but he managed to leave a Will which included a small dowry for the four girls.

Young Bess, aged twelve years, entered service for a great Derbyshire family, Sir John and Lady Zouche, (after whom the town of Ashby de la Zouche is named) whose home was Codnor Castle, in Derbyshire. Codnor was first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 and was at that time the property of William Peveril of Castleton, in the High Peak.

It must have been a wrench when the employing family moved her from her beloved Derbyshire to London, where she married her first husband (also in service), Robert Barlow, nursing him back to health after being ill with chronic distemper. Robert was weakened and died soon after their they were married. Despite being only seventeen, Bess was eventually granted a widow’s pension, which was one third of his income; but she had to fight though the courts to secure this – an example of her determination to better herself and her standing in society.
Above – Arms of the Cavendish Family (Source: Wikipedia: CC Public Domain)
Sir William Cavendish had been married twice before and was the father of two daughters. He courted Bess, who was at this time a beautiful and talented young woman, and married her in 1547. Despite his being more than twice her age, they were very happy and had a further eight children.
Sir William had made his fortune as an official of the Court of Augmentations – responsible for the dissolution of the monasteries and the appropriation of the properties. He was able to select from these some very attractive residences for himself. It is recorded that, even at this early stage, Bess had a talent for managing and trading property, and Sir William was persuaded by her to sell his lands in the south of England and buy the Chatsworth estates in her native Derbyshire…
Bess of Hardwick had come home.
Bess’s husband was less talented in business, He died in 1557, having squandered much of the Cavendish estate. Bess managed to claim the sum of the estate and retained Chatsworth, but was heavily in debt and faced a bleak future. Bess was a shrewd business woman, and set to, increasing her assets with business interests including mines and glass making workshops in her home county.
Above – Arms of the St Loe Family (Source: Wikipedia: CC Public Domain)
In 1559, Bess married Sir William St Loe, who was Captain of the  Guard to Queen Elizabeth I. He was a very wealthy man, with large estates in the West Country.
He died, under suspicious circumstances, in 1564. Bess was not implicated, but there had been bad blood between Sir William and his brother, on whom suspicion fell. Bess was just thirty-seven when she inherited the full estate, paid off her former husband’s debts, and became one of the wealthiest women in England.
Sir William had been close to the Queen, and this had enabled Bess to be presented at Court. Following Sir William’s death, Bess became a Lady of the Bedchamber, with daily access to the Queen, who looked upon her kindly, respecting what she, another ‘feeble’ woman, had made of herself…
Bess had retained her good looks and health and was pursued by a number of important men.

 

Despite being courted by several prominent suitors, Bess did not remarry until 1568, when she was betrothed to George Talbot, Sixth Earl of Shrewbury, and one of the senior figures in Elizabeth’s hierarchy. Bess became Countess of Shrewsbury. It was into this marriage–a happy one in the beginning–that the disruptive presence of Mary Queen of Scots was to intrude, though Bess and Mary were friends for a long time before the marriage eventually crumbled.

 

George Talbot was in poor health and died in 1590. Queen Elizabeth was fond of the couple and had made several attempts to reconcile them, but the ‘Mary’ years had taken their toll. Perhaps Elizabeth felt some guilt over this; but, if she did, it did not prevent her from imprisoning Bess in the Tower on two occasions when the Queen felt this other powerful woman was advancing her own cause at the expense of the Crown’s.

At sixty-three, Bess was now Dowager Countess of Shrewsbury and would not marry again. She devoted the remainder of her life to the welfare of her many children, getting into trouble several times because of their distant claims to the throne.

Bess of Hardwick died on 13 February 1608, aged 81. She outlived Queen Elizabeth by five years. She is buried in Derby Cathedral, where there is an elaborate monument to her life and achievements.

(References and heraldic shields)

How does all this relate to our mystical workshop in April 2018, The Jewel in the Claw?

Bess was an unusual figure, being so successful in a man’s world which had intensely patriarchal values.

In our story, when the company arrives at NonSuch palace, they are shown into a newly-prepared room, one in which a deadly search for the truths of the age will be played out on many levels: intellectual, emotional, religious and magical. Outside of the Queen’s own mind, no-one else in the room is aware of what is to follow, not even Bess…

What confronts the participants in the centre of the space is a huge game board consisting of black and white squares…

SE18 Core temple heart alone

Each  side of the board has its own symbolism and its own champion. In our five-act magical drama, Bess has a very special relationship with the Queen, one in which her grasp of the ‘common touch’ can be used to royal advantage…

The Silent Eye’s spring workshop, April 2018 is: “The Jewel in the Claw’. The jewel is the emerging spirit of tolerance that Elizabeth, the self-styled virgin-queen, engendered; the claw is the nature of the forces of ignorance that still plague us in the twenty-first century every bit as much as they did in 1588, the year that the mighty Spanish Armada was defeated by a combination of English naval courage and our equally fabled weather; and Elizabeth I finally achieved a degree of security.

Jewel in Claw October MasterAA

The Silent Eye has produced dramatic mystical workshops since its inception in 2013, but this is a break from tradition, and will stick closely to the formula of an actual Elizabethan production, letting the acts of the play tell the deeper story. There is no formal audience, of course. We, the players, play to each other, and in doing so invoke the desired depth of psychological and spiritual interaction.

If you’ve never been to such an event before, don’t be over-faced by this heady agenda. There are always new people joining us, and we take great care to ensure they are comfortable. We do not expect our ‘actors’ to learn their lines! We all read from scripts – as though doing a final rehearsal, but the atmosphere is truly electric and you will find yourself working to bring your character to the greatest life you can give them! You will also find they stay with you for years afterwards…

Above all else it is always fun; and every year, come the Sunday farewell lunch, those attending do not want to go home and end that living link with a body of experience and aspiration that they have helped create…

We can honestly say that the workshops become a living thing, formed and sustained in the minds and hearts of those attending. Come and join our ‘merry band’ and you’ll want to come back.

Places are still available for ‘The Jewel in the Claw’. 20-22 April, 2018. The average price is approximately £250, fully inclusive of all meals and accommodation. You will struggle to find a better value weekend, anywhere.

The weekend workshop will be held at the lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow, near Buxton, in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales at a wonderful time of year – the spring.

You can download the pricing and booking form here:

SE18 Booking form aloneAA.

Other posts in this series cover:

John DeeSir Walter RaleighSir Philip Sidney

Queen Elizabeth I,

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester

For more information email us on rivingtide@gmail.com

Image: Composite of original artwork by the author plus a portrait of Bess of Hardwick, courtesy of  Wikipedia, CC by 3.0, Public Domain.

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.

/div>

Twisted history…

I enjoy research. For a writer, this is obviously a good thing. I love following an obscure reference to its source or delving into the past in search of what, for want of a better word, could be called ‘the truth’, even though, historically at least, there is no such thing.

It can seem a bit obsessive. Halfway through a film or documentary, I will stop to look up a historical reference. Films are the worst. Documentaries portray at least one person’s vision of the truth… evidence-based or speculative, they are interpretations and opinions of an accepted fact. Films, though, take huge liberties with the facts and that worries me. As long as the viewer remembers that these are stories, made to entertain as much, if not more, than they are made to inform, then the inaccuracies do not matter. When, however, the ‘Hollywoodised’  version of the facts becomes the only one to which people pay attention, then our vision of history becomes seriously skewed.

Take Braveheart, for example. Mel Gibson’s 1995 film brought the story of William Wallace to the attention of the world. It was hugely successful and remains a firm favourite with many people. We watch the film, engage with its characters and story and are left with a feeling that we have gained some knowledge and insight into the period and its people.

Not so, say the lists of ‘most historically inaccurate films’. Nowhere near so, say those who have studied Wallace, his life, and the history of Scotland. Mel Gibson himself admitted that to be true, but defended his directorial choices because they made for more compelling cinema, regardless of their lack of accuracy. Ironically, the film rasied the profile of Wallace and Scottish history in general as well as increasing tourism, so peraps its very inaccuracy served a purpose.

We all know that the movie industry takes as many liberties with history as it does with scripts based upon classic works of fiction. It does not devalue the cinematic art form, but it really ought to make us question what we absorb and unconsciously accept as historical fact, or an accurate rendition of literature.

Yet how often are we interested enough to go off and study the sources with any depth just because we have enjoyed a film? I get curious. Where did they get that idea from, is it based on fact or a piece of pure cinema? How come one portrayal of a historical character can be so very different from another?

I will probably start with Wiki, just as a jumping off point, then wander off in goodness knows how many directions.  I always look for several different sources so that I have something on which to form an opinion.  And I often get sidetracked, chasing down associated people or ideas, knowing all the while that there is no way I will ever know the truth… at best, all I can hope for is an accepted version of the truth, a consensus based on the interpretation of collated evidence.

Obviously, history itself is true… what happened, happened… but the records that have been left to us are not objective. They are all, of necessity, subjective interpretations of that truth and are therefore inevitably subject to error, manipulation, or simply fall victim to the writer’s perspective and emotions.

Personal perspective colours everything we see, do, and record in memory. It takes very little to grasp how even the simplest of things can be so coloured.

“I stayed in my pyjamas and wrote until lunchtime…” That could be seen as a statement of fact. Except, I don’t own pyjamas, but it sounded better than ‘dressing gown’. And I was dressed way before I had lunch…which, admittedly, was nearer tea-time… And I didn’t just write… I read, made and drank coffee, fed and played with the dog, fed the fish…and all the other little things that creep in when we are ‘supposed’ to be writing. But how would it look to others?

“She didn’t even get dressed till lunchtime!”
“I wish I could sit around doing nothing…”
She can’t have much of a life/must be really depressed if she doesn’t even bother getting dressed…”
“Wow, I wish I was a writer…”
“It’s alright for some. Bet she doesn’t have to work…”
“She must be lazy/ill/weird…” (Okay, they can have that last one…)

Emotional response always and immediately overlays what we experience, crafting its own version of the truth of a situation. Even our own. I think I stayed in the dressing gown till lunchtime because, for once, I could. I normally work a seven-day week and start early. I have done so for years, barring the occasional weekend and holidays… and there were a good many years when I didn’t even get those. Today, I didn’t have to go out early. I had a choice. The housework was done and the dressing gown is warm and cosy on a cold morning.

But is that the truth, or just an excuse? Not even I can be sure of that… we are all adept at finding justification for our own actions, if we ever bother to question them. Most of the time we go through our days without stopping to question such basic actions or the true reasons behind our decisions.

Many spiritual schools and religious bodies advocate a daily ‘examination of conscience’ where the events of the day, your own actions and reactions, are played out in imagination before sleep. This can be a really useful exercise, yet time alone will only allow us to replay a fraction of the day…those moments that stand out from the rest and have roused an emotional response for some reason.

Much of what we do throughout the course of a day is habitual. We are programmed to adopt patterns of behaviour. It frees us processing space in the brain and conserves energy… and probably makes us more efficient as we are not constantly starting from scratch with every action.

That is all well and good when you are getting in a car to drive to work or loading the washing machine…that kind of patterned efficiency is a good thing and could be called expertise. If we accept the habitual patterns that become imprinted upon the way we think and feel with as little examination, we perpetuate them too. We are all aware that habits are easily formed and will shape our way of seeing the world. This can be a good thing… though more seems to be written about its negative effects than its possibilities. Consciously seeking the good in life, rather than the bad, being open to compassion, empathy and generosity of spirit… they would not be bad habits to acquire.

Remember…

Paper poppies bloom, as fragile as the lives they represent. Every year it is the same, I try to find some way of saying what is in my heart and the words will not come.  I was not there, I have no right to speak of war and its atrocities. I have not seen it with my own eyes. I have never aimed a gun at another human being and been faced with the choice whether to kill or be killed. I have not tried to sleep in cold mud made from the earth of a foreign land mingled with the blood of my comrades. I have not lost my child to war.

I have no right to speak, but nor have I the right to remain silent when the price of my freedom to speak was so high. I have a duty to my own conscience and to all whose lives were given in service to their country or lost to the horror of some political expediency written in blood.

There are many tales of heroism and valour in the field, tales that highlight the beauty and nobility the human spirit can attain. But war is never beautiful, nor is it the glorious myth we have historically created when we need recruits.  War is born from the desire for power. Whether a formal declaration of war is made by the aggressor or the defenders, whether the war is fought for necessary or political resources, to uphold an ideal, for the betterment or protection of a way of life or for its imposition, the cause of every war is an idea…and ideas are born first in a single mind. For this single idea, or because we feel we must defend ourselves against it, we are prepared to sacrifice an entire generation, yet we will read about  tribes who sacrificed a single human life for the good of the community and call them barbaric.

Today, with our so-called smart weapons, we can obliterate a whole city remotely, not just one person, not even one generation, with the touch of a button.  Gruesome death is a constant on our TV and cinema screens, we even play games with it. The gift of life is cheapened and our reverence for human life seems a thing of the past. Yet that life is our own… and ironically, our fear of death seems to be greater now than ever before.

This year sees the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele. There is no accepted figure for the number of lives lost in that one, appalling battle, though it is certain that over half a million men were killed, maimed or wounded. That we do not even know how many is perhaps commentary enough.

Harry Patch, who was the last surviving, fighting soldier from WWI, fought in that battle. He died in 2009 at the age of 111, and was given a military funeral at which he requested not even ceremonial guns be present. He had spent eighty years trying to forget the horrors of war, but when he reached a hundred years old and was brought to the eyes of the media, he was once again asked to remember…and for the last years of his life, he spoke of little else.

Harry believed that war was wrong and that a war that would eventually be settled around a table should be fought there and not cost millions of lives in something he saw as “nothing better than legalised mass murder”.

Harry was wounded at Passchendaele by a shell that killed three of his friends. A short while before his death he was asked what it felt like to be the last man alive to have fought in the trenches.

“I don’t like it,” he said. “I sit there and think. And some nights I dream – of that first battle. I can’t forget it.

“I fell in a trench. There was a fella there. He must have been about our age. He was ripped shoulder to waist with shrapnel. I held his hand for the last 60 seconds of his life. He only said one word: ‘Mother’. I didn’t see her, but she was there. No doubt about it. He passed from this life into the next, and it felt as if I was in God’s presence.

“I’ve never got over it. You never forget it. Never.”

He spoke of how, from arriving on the battlefield to leaving it, wounded, months later, he never had a bath or a change of clothes. He spoke the fear and of the choice between shooting to kill or to wound and the pact he had made with some of his comrades never to kill… a pact that could have had them shot by their own commanding officers.

He spoke of a horror many of us will never know or understand. He hoped we never would.

Across the world we turn to remember with respect those who served their countries or their ideals in the Great War ‘to end all wars’ a hundred years ago and in all the arenas of war ever since. Regardless of the reasons for going to war, the valour, the sacrifice and the suffering of those who serve cannot be denied. Every year, there are those who call for an end to our remembrance, saying that it is now old history and as relevant to our lives as the wars of Rome or ancient Greece. I will wear my poppy with millions of others in the hope that in remembering, we can learn from our bloody history… for we continue to write it.

The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was over 37 million. Over 16 million died and over 20 million were wounded.

The total number of casualties in WW2 is thought to be between 60,000,000 to 85,000,000. Such was the scale of that conflict there is a gap where we simply do not know… a gap of some 25 million. As if the entire population of New York simply disappeared.

And that doesn’t include the casualties who suffered horrendously but survived their wounds.

It doesn’t include those who suffered the emotional damage, the mental scarring, the recurrent nightmares, the fear. It doesn’t include the orphans.

It doesn’t include the long term suffering of poverty, dispossession, or the racial and religious hatred that engenders or is engendered by war.

It doesn’t tell of the personal loss that touches all victims on all sides of a conflict… for they are all human beings, like you and me. It does not count the heartbreak of those who waited in vain for their children, siblings, parents and lovers to come home.

It doesn’t show the damage to the land, the mines that take lives long after the conflict has moved on, or the animals and birds decimated by bombing or being drafted into service.

The figures are cold and clinical. They do not dream. They do not wake up screaming.

The counts vary, depending upon who is doing the telling and why, but one thing they seem to agree on is that in total over 240 million men, women and children were killed in war in the 20th century.

And still it continues. Every day.

Since the beginning of recorded history major wars have killed an estimated four billion people… That figure is too vast for the mind to encompass. It is the equivalent of over half the human race alive today. Erase half of your family, half of the people you know or have ever known, half your friends… half your children. Then look at the cenotaphs or the names in the books of Remembrance. War does that to people.

We like to think of ourselves as an advanced civilised society… there has to be a better way and I hope and pray that, one day, we may find it.

Consider the lily…

Riddles of the Night.

1st-3rd December 2017, Bakewell, Derbyshire.

 

 

 

Sometimes it can be hard to see
The difference twixt wood and tree
Seek out the Lily and the Oak
Without a flame there is no smoke…

 

 

What links sacred sites, ancient and modern?

Are the clues all around us?

Do the keys to heaven lie hidden in the earth or are there keys to earth hidden in the heavens?

 

Riddles of the Night…

Hidden in plain sight.

1st-3rd December 2017, Bakewell, Derbyshire.

Discover for yourselves the hidden jewels of the night as the darkness of the winter solstice enfolds the land.

Will you find the jewel at the heart of the mystery?

Join us in Bakewell in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales to explore some of the ancient and sacred sites of our ancestors. The weekend will take the Companions on a true quest, seeking out the hidden magic in the landscape that echoes the magic of heart and soul.

The weekend is informal, no previous knowledge or experience is required. We ask only that you bring your own presence and thoughts to the moment.

Workshop costs £50 per person. Accomodation and meals are not included and bed and breakfast/hotel in Bakewell should be booked separately by all attendees. Lunch and dinner are usually shared meals.

Click below to

Download our Events Booking Form – pdf

For further details or to reserve your place: rivingtide@gmail.com

The Deadly Edge of Love (part 2)

Robert Dudley Earl LeicesterFullAA(Continued from Part One of The Deadly Edge of Love)

It’s the morning of 18th November, 1558. Robert Dudley is witnessing a miracle.

In her dying months, Queen Mary, Elizabeth’s half-sister, and daughter of Henry and Catherine of Aragon, has restored Elizabeth to the line of succession, following the failure of her marriage alliance with Charles II of Spain. Now, Mary is dead, and Dudley is watching his beloved Elizabeth, a former fellow prisoner in the Tower of London, become Queen of England.

Elizabeth's Great Seal

(Above: the The Great Seal of Elizabeth I. Source )

Time seems to stand still as the Great Seal is passed to the new queen and another chapter in the story of the Tudor dynasty begins. Dudley knows that Elizabeth is weary of religious strife and will not follow her half-sister in setting family against family in her new reign–though she will protect her father’s Protestant legacy. The people know it too, as the public joy of the Royal Coronation will show.

Within the day, Dudley will be made the royal Master of Horse, a role to which he is well suited as an outstanding horseman – something he shares with Philip Sidney. The role, which controls the provision of all transport for Elizabeth, will keep him by her side as much as possible. A new life has begun for them both…

But the official position has made it difficult for them to be seen together as often as before her accession to the throne. She once said, “A thousand eyes see everything I do…” It is difficult to imagine what that does to someone’s life, let alone their love-life. Elizabeth must have faced a personal crisis at that point, for in a unique show of determination and psychological strength, she threw caution away and flaunted her relationship with her favourite by having his bedchamber moved next to hers. But Elizabeth refused to be swayed on marriage, even though Dudley, now Earl of Leicester, was a suitable match. To have married would have subjected her to the will of her husband; and her estate would have passed to him.

William Cecil, her chief minister and spymaster, wrote her a long letter in which he detailed the detrimental effect on her kingdom of such a marriage. History does not record her immediate reaction. Dudley, recognising that he might never win her hand, married Amy Robsart in 1549, keeping her away from court to protect her from the Queen.

Privately, though, Dudley and Elizabeth remained bound to each other by their early experiences, and his marriage did not diminish the time they spent together; though Elizabeth, above anyone, knew the political dangers of wrong relationships. There is no proof they were ever lovers. Perhaps it is better to grant them this: that they had a pact to love each other, but not to let their bodies share this. Were this to be true, we can imagine the agonies that both endured, and, perhaps the resolve with which she cultivated her personal myth – that she was married to England, and would thus remain a Virgin Queen.

The possibility of a deeper relationship between Elizabeth and Dudley was quashed in 1560, when Dudley’s wife, having dismissed her servants to attend a local fair, was found dead at the foot of a staircase, her neck broken. It could have been an accident, or possibly suicide, but it is unlikely to have been intervention by Dudley or Elizabeth, who both suffered damage and ridicule at home and abroad because of it. In a cruel act of fate, Amy’s death ensured that they could never marry and that they were now forced to spend less time together, though ‘less’ was relative. They devised a secret code for themselves, using the notation ‘ôô’ to indicate the nickname that Elizabeth had given him – ‘Eyes’. Even at this stage of their relationship, the Queen kept Dudley’s letters – and his portrait, in miniature – in a locked desk within her bedroom. By any measure, this was a love story to compete with the best…

As the public memories of his wife’s death faded, he made one last attempt to gain Elizabeth’s hand in marriage; staging a magnificent festival of pageantry at one of his finest homes – Kenilworth Castle. But Elizabeth refused to be swayed. Dudley was a passionate man, and, seeing that he was going nowhere with his official advances, began a relationship the one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting, Lettice Knollys, reputedly one of the best-looking women at court. Dangerously, she was also the great-niece of Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth’s mother, and therefore of royal blood… and the Queen’s cousin!

Dudley continued the relationship for three years before finding that Lettice was pregnant–and insisting that she be made an honest woman for her troubles. They married, in secret, in 1578. When the Queen learned of the ‘betrayal’ of her favourite she physically assaulted his new wife and banished her from court. Dudley was eventually forgiven but the essence of their relationship had changed.

Distance prevailed for a while after that, but, in the final years of Dudley’s life, their lives interlocked, again. The execution of Mary Queen of Scots devastated Elizabeth, even though the imprisoned Scottish Queen had been plotting to overthrow her rival. For a queen to execute another queen must have triggered the deepest responses in Elizabeth, not to mention setting a deadly precedent.

In a supposed fury, she raged at William Cecil, her life-long first minister and spymaster. He and Sir Francis Walsingham had, indeed, engineered Mary’s death, but Elizabeth had been far from a victim of circumstance in this execution. Cecil was removed as first minister and banished from courtly life, although there is a possibility that she presented him with the ‘deal’ that his son, Robert Cecil, would inherit his position. William Cecil. First Baron Burghley, was advanced in years and probably recognised that the arrangement was the best that could happen.

Bereft of Cecil’s presence, Elizabeth turned, again, to Dudley. He was by her side through the horror of the Spanish Armada and corresponding planned invasion from France, despite being ill. As she delivered her famous speed at Tilbury, he walked beside her horse as the troops were rallied, while she spoke those most famous words, “I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England, too.”

Dudley died, shortly after, on 4th September, 1588 at his home in Rycote in Oxfordshire. He wrote to his queen one last time before dying. She kept the letter in a locked box by her bed. The fabled Queen of England, victorious against the might of the Spanish empire was, finally, alone…

 How does all this relate to our mystical workshop in April 2018, The Jewel in the Claw?

 

In our story, when the company arrives at NonSuch palace, they are shown into a newly-prepared room, one in which a deadly search for the truths of the age will be played out on many levels: intellectual, emotional, religious and magical. Outside of the Queen’s own mind, no-one else in the room is aware of what is to follow.

What confronts the participants in the centre of the space is a huge game board consisting of black and white squares…

SE18 Core temple heart alone

Each  side of the board has its own symbolism and its own champion. In our five-act magical drama, Dudley is selected by the Queen to be one of her key players. He finds that he knows many of the others present – and has been an artistic sponsor of others, such as the poet Edmund Spenser, the writer of the Faerie Queen – based on Elizabeth, herself, and newly published. What does his Queen want him to do in this complex maze of relationships and potential confrontations? The answer may tax him more than anything she has ever asked…

The Silent Eye’s spring workshop, April 2018 is: “The Jewel in the Claw’. The jewel is the emerging spirit of tolerance that Elizabeth, the self-styled virgin-queen, engendered; the claw is the nature of the forces of ignorance that still plague us in the twenty-first century every bit as much as they did in 1588, the year that the mighty Spanish Armada was defeated by a combination of English naval courage and our equally fabled weather; and Elizabeth I finally achieved a degree of security.

Jewel in Claw October MasterAA

The Silent Eye has produced dramatic mystical workshops since its inception in 2013, but this is a break from tradition, and will stick closely to the formula of an actual Elizabethan production, letting the acts of the play tell the deeper story. There is no formal audience, of course. We, the players, play to each other, and in doing so invoke the desired depth of psychological and spiritual interaction.

If you’ve never been to such an event before, don’t be over-faced by this heady agenda. There are always new people joining us, and we take great care to ensure they are comfortable. We do not expect our ‘actors’ to learn their lines! We all read from scripts – as though doing a final rehearsal, but the atmosphere is truly electric and you will find yourself working to bring your character to the greatest life you can give them! You will also find they stay with you for years afterwards…

Above all else it is always fun; and every year, come the Sunday farewell lunch, those attending do not want to go home and end that living link with a body of experience and aspiration that they have helped create…

We can honestly say that the workshops become a living thing, formed and sustained in the minds and hearts of those attending. Come and join our ‘merry band’ and you’ll want to come back.

Places are still available for ‘The Jewel in the Claw’. 20-22 April, 2018. The average price is approximately £250, fully inclusive of all meals and accommodation. You will struggle to find a better value weekend, anywhere.

The weekend workshop will be held at the lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow, near Buxton, in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales at a wonderful time of year – the spring.

You can download the pricing and booking form here:

SE18 Booking form aloneAA.

Other posts in this series cover:

John DeeSir Walter RaleighSir Philip Sidney

Queen Elizabeth I,

For more information email us on rivingtide@gmail.com

Image: Composite of original artwork by the author plus a portrait of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, courtesy of  Wikipedia, CC by 3.0, Public Domain.

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.