Seeding thoughts

dawn 019

I woke early and, instead of crawling grudgingly out of the warm bed as usual, I lay in thought for a few minutes. I had not moved anything except my eyelids; Ani couldn’t possibly know I was awake yet… could she? Well, on past showing yes, but honestly, it wasn’t even daylight. I have long since lost the habit of lounging in bed on a morning. Children and dogs require attention and years of getting up bleary eyed to deal with them build a habit it would be nice to break.

On the other hand, I get the dawns, so I can’t complain.

I was musing over something I had read before sleep from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “Matter is spirit moving slowly enough to be seen.” Scientifically, go ahead and shoot me down in flames, but the idea caught my attention as it accords with how I have always seen the world.

I like de Chardin. He was a French Jesuit priest with a passion for palaeontology and geology. A scientist with faith. On the one hand his feet firmly planted in earth, on the other a soul that soared. I may not share his particular facet of faith, nor all his views, but it is through difference that we explore and learn. I can see, though, a man who believed with his heart, used his mind to seek understanding and lived his personal faith as best he could and that, regardless of the detail, always holds something special.

I agree with him on this, though. Regardless of scientific arguments for or against, when we take that simple image of ‘slow-moving spirit’ and use it as a lens through which we look at the world, the natural order takes on a new depth. If we see all as spirit moving at different speeds… long and slow for the rocks and mountains, faster for our little human lives, faster still, perhaps, for air … then we begin to see a universal fraternity, a kinship with all the manifestations of life and, for me, that leads to a single stream of Being that runs through everything that we know.

We could even look at ourselves in that light, seeing the dense, physical matter of the body as the slowest-moving manifestation of spirit, our emotions, perhaps, as rather faster, picking up speed to mind and thought. And that is without exploring the subtler realms of the soul which, in terms of that image, must be faster still and thus closer to the source.

It makes me think of the centrifuge that separates a homogenous fluid into its component weights except that the fluidity in this case is that of the spirit.

It is just this kind of seed that grows in the imagination; a small phrase, an image, a word… that if allowed to put down roots and work its way through the fertile ground of the mind can engender the flowers of realisation. It doesn’t take much. It doesn’t even have to be provably or objectively true if it leads to a deeper understanding on a personal level.

Thinking about it led me straight back to what is, perhaps, the most widely known quote from de Chardin, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” That small shift in emphasis makes life seem a completely different thing. And from there to another, “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” You don’t have to share de Chardin’s faith to get the idea; there is a joy that comes when the universal unity of Being is recognised and we see ourselves as part of an expanding perfection. The presence of the divine, however we conceive It, cannot help but illuminate the moment with joy. It is in those moments we feel One with the unfolding of a beauty in which we are enfolded; where words cease to be enough and only the moment holds meaning, yet it is a moment that spans eternity.

The Rotating Blade of Meaning (2)

 

steve laptop green bag

In Part One, we looked at how Arthur M. Young, a brilliant engineer and inventor, was fascinated by the ‘act of knowing’, and determined that there were four stages to this central part of our consciousness. This can be illustrated by the following search for what might be termed a ‘geometry of meaning’ in the act of seeing something:

  1. There is a rectangular-shaped object across the room on the wooden floor. That means it belongs to the family (set) of things that share rectangular shapes, even if they turn out to be three-dimensional. This is an objective observation – it can be scientifically proven. Young termed it ‘objective general’ – many things are rectangular…
  2.  The surface of it is not a plain texture. It appears to be a heavy canvas material. Again this can be proved, but this facet of the object is specific. Only one of these actually exists – in this form. Other examples will be slightly different. My powers of knowing allow for this. They scan, rapidly, from the general to the specific. So far, I have a rectangular object made of heavy canvas. It’s an objective, specific thing; or, in Young’s accurate terminology, an objective, particular thing.
  3. Now, our perception of knowing takes a leap across the observer-observed divide. In reality, our act of partial knowing (so far) has really been observer-based, but the qualities of the observed object are sufficiently studied to allow us to attribute these objective qualities to it. But now we move into a different state of perception: one in which the observer projects qualities of their own onto the object. The object is a faded shade of green. The experience of ‘green’ is entirely subjective, that is, it is projected onto the object by me. Whatever objective qualities it has, they do not include my experience of faded green. This aspect of my object is therefore subjective and particular. Young called this type of subjective ‘projective’.
  4. Finally, humans like their objects to have a purpose. I can combine the knowledge I now have of this object and know it to be my laptop shoulder bag. In doing this, I have completed the fourfold cycle of knowing this object, whether seeing it for the first time or when I have been trying to locate it.

The table from the last post is included for clarity. These concepts need to be understood before we can move onto the revelations of what Arthur M. Young discovered next.

screenshot 2019-01-23 at 17.42.46

The above fourfold process is completely inclusive for any act of human knowing. As was said last time, science is only concerned with the first aspect: the objective general, the other three aspects it leaves to the philosophers… But the whole is what happens.

Arthur M. Young was fond of diagrams. In his work, he tried to explain using diagrams, and even actual examples of objects, such as pendulums, whenever he could. He wondered whether the above fourfold ‘map of knowing’ could be more usefully represented as a diagram… and the idea of a simple cross sprang to mind.

basic cross map for arthur young

The value of such a diagram would be to show more information than was available from the table. For example, it might show what relationship each of the four aspects had to each other – opposite on the cross-diagram could mean that they were opposite in nature…

We have assigned the attributes of general vs specific and projective (subjective) vs objective. Each aspect of our analysis has a unique combination of two of these – and they are all different permutations. We can see, for example, that the formal description of the object (objective, general) is the opposite of the function of the object (projective, particular). In like fashion, the Sense Data are the opposite of the Projected Values. Putting these into the cross diagram begins to show us the hidden relationships in our perception and knowing.

basic cross map for arthur young2

Because the diagram is logically true, we can deduce certain results from it. The first is that the above opposites are true; the second is that those values that are not opposite have a different relationship with each other. Since we are searching, ultimately, for a geometry of meaning, the angles are important to what follows: 180 degrees conveys opposition, whereas 90 degrees means that the aspects do not affect each other.

The deeper implications of this will be discussed in the next post.

Other posts in this series:

Part One, 

To be continued…

©️Stephen Tanham


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation 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.

Steve’s 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.

Getting there…

January…and the clock is ticking down to spring. Work that has been going on all year  now changes gear. It began in earnest last year, with a research trip to the British Museum to see the art and artefacts of an ancient civilisation that was at least the equal of Egypt, but which is less well known today… Sumer.

Over seven thousand years ago, long before the pyramids were dreamed of, the people who would become the Sumerians settled in Mesopotamia. Their culture was rich and colourful. We know that music and the arts were of great importance to them…and their city of Uruk, home to up to eighty thousand people at its height, was the centre of their world.

Gilgamesh ruled in Uruk almost five thousand years ago and his story passed into legend and thence into myth. It comes down to us, echoing through the ages, as the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is regarded as the earliest great work of literature known to Man. The earliest version we now have was found in Nineveh. It was already ancient when a scribe named Sîn-lēqi-unninni collected the tales and wrote them down, over a thousand years before the birth of Jesus.

The story, though, is not ‘old’ in anything other than age. It tells of the adventures of the king, a story in which he is both villain and hero by turns. It is a very human story, though the gods of old walk through its pages, and although it can be read as ‘no more’ than a myth and an ancient curiosity, it can also be read as a representation of a human journey through life to the dawning of a greater awareness.

It is a magical story, wholly relevant to any seeker who has set their feet on a path towards self-development and a wider consciousness. It is also a story that resonates with our own time, where we encroach upon the natural world with little respect for its life and purpose.

The art and craftwork that we saw at the museum was beautiful and delicate. Tiny cylinder seals, intaglio carved and small enough to be worn in a ring, roll out scenes of gods, animals and starscapes.Jewellry of pure gold rests, fragile, on tiny springs so that leaves and flowers tremble with every movement. Ancient texts in cunieform, possibly the earliest form of writing and one of the greatest achievements of Sumer, tell forgotten tales…  It was a good place to begin and we left the museum aware that the text we would use for our April workshop sprang from a great civilisation with a deep understanding of the workings of the human mind and heart.

But, no matter how early you begin, the last few months are always against the clock as so much must be put into place when we begin to have an idea of numbers. This year, we know that once again, people will be converging from as far afield as Europe and the US to meet in a village in the Derbyshire Dales. Thousands of miles will be travelled between us as our various wheels turn and we head, from many different directions, to that central point of meeting.

It is easy to compare those diverse journeys to the greater one we have all taken as we come together at this point. Only a few who will be attending are Companions of the School, and we have each taken very different spiritual paths towards this moment in time. There are those who have followed a Shamanic path; there are Qabalists and one who refers to herself laughingly as a witch… yet who lives the life of a priestess of the old ways with all her being. There are ritualists and those who simply follow where their heart leads; Rosicrucians and mystics, Druids, housewives, magicians and scholars. We have all walked our individual paths alone, some have also studied with other groups and schools, some tend the hearthfire and many still forge their own way towards the goal we all share.

So what brings such a diverse crowd together, to share the adventure of a weekend workshop? That there will be fun goes without saying; these events are always a time of laughter. There is friendship of course… some old, some still to begin. Some are ‘old hands’, for others this will be a first time and a first meeting face to face with those only known through the ether.

Yet beyond the smiles and greetings there is something else at work. Each of us, from our own unique place in the great tapestry of life, is seeking a common understanding of something we feel to be greater than our normal human consciousness can fully grasp. We each have our own vision, our own guiding light… we may call it by many names, or know it only as a vague yet insistent pull at the heartstrings. Yet the further you walk along your chosen path, the less the details matter, you see only the light that floods both the paths and the space between them… and that light is the same.

This year the workshop takes us back five thousand years to the great civilisation of Sumeria. In exploring a world long dead, walking with the shadows of an ancient land, we are not harping back to the ‘olden days’ or hankering after times gone by… we are taking our own minds and placing them in an unfamiliar frame, where our perspective can shift. From fabric and gilding an illusion is born and, as within a dream, the illusion holds its own reality while it lasts. A ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ allows us to walk within that illusion and, as with a dream, what remains when we wake may cast the glow of understanding on our path.

We are holding up the jewel of being and letting it refract a thousand rainbows from many facets… and in those moments we may catch a glimpse of their colours. Such a moment does not bring the kind of knowledge that can be learned from books, nor the understanding of conscious thought, though these too have their place alongside what is learned through experience. What is reaped from such gatherings is no more than a seed… yet a seed may contain a tree, and a tree a forest. At the end of the weekend, each will take from this time out of time something unique to them alone which we hope will serve to shed a mirrored rainbow on their own journey.

As the wheel of the year turns towards Beltane, the time of renewal and Union, our gathering too will seek in the dark flame of a shadowy past a light for the future and perhaps move a small step closer to that greater Union between our human selves and that spark of Divine Fire that glows within every heart.

‘Gilgamesh is among the greatest things that can ever happen to a person.’
– Rainer Maria Rilke.

The Silent Eye’s Spring workshop for 2019

Full details, cost and booking form are available by clicking HERE

Halflight…

Six a.m. on a Sunday… I groaned and turned off the alarm clock. I hadn’t been sleeping well, or enough, and did not want to obey the imperative summons… especially not on a day when, historically, most folks get to sleep later. As I clawed my way through the fleeing remnants of a dream in which I had been dreaming about dreaming, I wondered about the whole sleep thing. We are supposed to spend about a third of our lives in slumber. Is that a design flaw, a superb bit of physical engineering or a gift? Maybe it is all three, or perhaps that depends on where you are standing.

There has been a huge amount of research done on the need for and benefits of sleep, from both the physical and psychological perspectives. We have identified the stages of sleep, the way the mind solves problems and the body heals and recharges. But that side of things wasn’t what was bugging me.

Other than the ‘low-battery’ warning that tells us our bodies need sleep, what is it about the process that makes us crave it? We look forward to sleep and yet, during the night hours, normal consciousness takes a hike; we have no control over our bodies or, apparently, our minds. We are defenceless… and we surrender ourselves to sleep willingly? You have to admit, that seems an odd state of affairs.

And we are not on our own. We don’t understand sleep in all other creatures, can’t even fully define it,  but it seems that all of them sleep in one way or another. Fish sleep with their eyes open, as most of them don’t have eyelids to close. Dolphins only let one hemisphere of the brain sleep at any time, so they can keep moving. Others only cat-nap for minutes… though cats sleep around sixteen hours a day.

There was a sci-fi programme on the TV at my son’s home the other day, in which a machine had been invented to condense the required hours of sleep into minutes, so that we need not waste our time unconscious. In real world terms, I could see where that would be a money-spinner for its inventor… there is never enough time to do everything we need, want and would like to do. The first part of our lives we are pretty much helpless and do as we are told. The latter years of life are often limited by failing health, depleted finances and energy. The middle years are generally pretty full between work, relationships and families. Time to follow our dreams is at a premium… and perhaps that is the beauty and attraction of sleep.

Dreams are weird things. Some people remember them in detail, others not at all. Some dream in black and white, others in colour. Dreams can seem totally random or make perfect sense…and sometimes both at once.

You can experience a whole lifetime in a night, ride dragons, explore outer space, change careers, do and be anything your waking mind can imagine… and then break all the barriers of possibility and do the impossible too. We are superlative storytellers in our dreams, creating whole and believable worlds, down to the last small detail, peopled with  perfectly ‘real’ characters. For a moment, I had an odd thought. What if dreaming were the real purpose of living? Rather like a reversal of that sci-fi machine, where our bodies themselves are just the machines that allow us to sleep, and where our waking life just gathered impressions to fuel imagination so that we could cram all the experience of multiple lifetimes into a short few years… It would make sense of why we tend to remember our dreams so imperfectly; why would we want to live ‘ordinary’ lives awake after the adventures of the dream word?

I know science and the conscious mind have explanations for dreams, as well as the stages and uses of sleep, but I have a feeling there is more to the dream state than we yet know.  And yet, we speak of people being asleep who walk like automata through the world, unaware of its magic and beauty.. We use the term ‘dreamer’ as a disparagement, when everything useful that has every been invented was first dreamed up in someone’s imagination.

Maybe we should be paying more attention to our dreams and what they might be capable of showing us? I know that one of the pivotal moments of my own life to date was experienced in dream… an experience so profound that, forty years later, it is as fresh as ever in memory and as relevant to the way I live my life.

Science would probably say that the dream was just my subconscious mind collating and presenting what I already knew deep down… or seeking justification for my choices… or something equally sensible. I honestly don’t care where things come from if they can change my life for the better. And if dreams give me access to a level of mind that knows better than the surface ‘I’, I’m quite happy to dream.

All I need now is a boss who will let me…

 

The Rotating Blade of Meaning

helicopter-meaning blog - 1

You have probably never heard of him. He was an engineer by training. He was the primary inventor and developer of the Bell helicopter, which made the promise of point to point flight a reality – though it had been discussed for centuries beforehand. This inventor, engineer and scientist was from an age when a few scientists could still challenge the overall approach of modern science – with its focus on the smaller and smaller, and lack of vision of the ‘whole’. They are almost gone as a species, so, in this series of posts, I’d like to pay tribute to Arthur M. Young and explain in non-technical language how important his work was… and is.

He was also, and unusually for a scientist, a master astrologer…

Despite being skilled in engineering and mathematics, Arthur Young returned to university as an adult to study Quantum Physics, recognising that here was something that completely altered the way we should visualise the world. He was fascinated by the consciousness potential of the relationship between the ‘observer’ and the ‘observed’, something that science had tried to ignore for centuries. This dismissal was brought up, sharply, by Quantum Theory, which proved that only the presence of the observer allowed the presence of the object to be ‘measured’. In other words, proved it was there… but not alone.

Helicopters make people nervous. They are  heavy objects, oddly shaped and dangerous looking. When flying, they would plunge to the ground if the massive rotor, above, stopped working or broke. We can think of a plane as being safer because it has fixed wings that give it the theoretical capability of gliding back to Earth. Most of them don’t. For both planes and helicopters, the focus is on making sure that they are reliable and controllable in a failsafe way, and, for helicopters, that controllability is a very complex thing…

Given Arthur Young’s involvement in the development of the small, commercial helicopter, it’s not surprising that he was focussed on this central aspect of control. We will see, later, how this led to startling revelations that bridged physics and philosophy.

Consider the opening photograph. It shows an Art Deco style wall lamp, caught in a beautiful moment of rainbow colour coming into the living room from a clear winter’s day, outside. It has its own beauty, and that is what draws us to it. It has a complex shape that can be considered at differing levels of detail. Some of these details (properties) are objective – they can be measured by science and classified into such properties as material and shape.

Some of the properties are subjective – they only mean something to us – the observer. If I wanted to break down the ‘stages’ of knowing the wall-light lit by the rainbow, I might deliberately ignore the feeling of beauty and its minutely shifting colour, and examine only the overall form of the object. Its fundamental shape is an inverted triangle. I know enough about the delicate glass from which the ‘saucer-shaped’ leaves are made to be concerned that they are easily broken. With that small set of information, I feel I know the material content of the object; I could describe it to someone else and they would get a good picture in their minds.

The world of science is concerned only with this latter description: the inverted triangle – the form of the object, and the chemical material from which it is made. Arthur Young called this the formal description. Science is focussed on this level of knowing because is the only one that is objective: that is, not dependent on how we see something (bad mood, poor eyesight, colour-blindness, etc.) Using this formal description, science can categorise the object, and make it part of a common set of things – a very important process.

But the human, awakened to the form and beauty (or not) of the world around them, has a much richer experience. I understand the objective nature of the inverted triangle and the delicate chemical composition of the fragile leaves, but I’m staring in wonder at the texture of the glass and how it is reflecting the rainbow. I lean closer and find that the glass has a faint but definite smell to it. It’s clinical but not unpleasant.

These are subjective impressions. Science could never reproduce them because they belong to me, to you, to anyone with sense organs. We all experience these things differently, but we can try, with language, with photography,  writing, art or poetry to convey that this is not simply an inverted triangle made of fine glass; it is a rich experience and unique in the entire history of the universe… You could experience something similar, but the fine details would belong only to each of us, differently–and they would change the event. We seldom consider this power we have – be a unique observer of the universal beauty all around us. We, whose bodies are made from the atoms created by ancient exploding stars, must come close to our zenith when we find such beauty and stop our everyday consciousness to ‘be’ with it.

Science is not deficient in its lack of concern for this; it’s simply that the full experience of the observer cannot be reduced to numbers… The collective mind that created numbers can never be subservient to them.

So far we have encountered the formal description of the object: the inverted triangle and the chemical properties of fine glass. We have also used our sense organs to experience the way the rainbow light shimmers on the petals of the lamp, and we have even smelled the glass. These sense impressions come from the object. They may be slightly different to each of us, but the properties from which they issue belong, also, to the object. Our object therefore possesses a formal description and specific sense impressions. The formal description could be shared, using shared language or mathematics, with anyone. The sense impressions could not, but could be likened to something else in our experience.

Step back and the experience of being an observer has two main aspects. There is a ‘me’ and an ‘it’. The experience of the wall lamp is deemed to be ‘out-there’, but the knowing resides ‘in-here’. I am helped, by the formal description, to recognise or locate the object, even if I’ve never been in that room.

Young said that, to realise the process and the power of knowing it is vital to (initially) separate our aspects of experience in this way. When we consider the received information and the sense data from the object, two more things happen in our perceptive mind. The first is that we place a value judgement on the experience – perhaps I am in awe of the beauty of the rainbow on the lamp. Without rationally considering it, I feel moved by an emotion, a kind of joy that this rare impression of living perfection is present.

The second ‘in-here’ aspect is the purpose of the object. In this case it’s not to show off rainbows, but to give light when evening comes. In other circumstances, my knowing of the lamp would have been part of the inventory of the capabilities of the room. Arthur Young named this the function. These two ‘in-here’ aspects belong to the observer, not to the object. We project them onto the experience based on our learning. Young called this kind of aspect projective, and the aspects belonging to the object, alone, he called objective. Where something in an aspect was specific, he used the term particular; where it had a shared nature, he named it general.

If we unravel the above example, there emerges a process of incremental perception which, conceptually, looks a lot like the opening of the famous Russian dolls:

  • Aspect one, which is an inverted triangle shape, made of a chemical structure of fragile glass.
  • Aspect two is the contents of the above plus the sense impressions belonging only to the objective nature of the inverted triangular shape (its colours, shades and smells)
  • Aspect three is the subjective experience of all the above plus the feeling of beauty and awe I have when my attention and perception is captured by the occasion.
  • Aspect four would be all the above plus the function of the wall-lamp, which, in this case, has been subverted by the unexpected rainbow… exactly what happens when we open ourselves to the possible in real life!

These four aspects therefore comprise: formal description, sense data, value and function. The first two are objective (‘out-there’), the second two (‘in-here’) are projective (subjective).

We can put these into a table for easier reference:

screenshot 2019-01-16 at 10.53.44

The creation of this was not a casual work. Arthur Young tested it against all the situations he knew of, in both a scientific and philosophical sense. He determined that it was a universal description, an ‘anatomy’ of how we perceive and how we ‘know’. These four stages – aspects – of knowing were at the heart of being human, they were not only the containers of what we learned, they were how we learned.

Four was an interesting number and features predominantly in the ancient mysteries. ‘Fourness’ is a key part of how mankind has conceived of the universal divisions of experience. Fourness is one of the keys to Astrology, in the form of the ‘Elements’ of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. For Arthur M. Young, an astrologer as well as a scientist, the notion of fourness at the centre of human experience was about to take him on a mind-expanding journey…

To be continued…

©️Stephen Tanham


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation 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.

Steve’s 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.

Shaping the world

fox 001

Back in the earliest days when mankind had his beginnings, it was the land and our response to it that had shaped us. It has been suggested that it was the long grass that caused us first to stand on two legs… a need to spot potential predators at a distance. As animals our physical defences are minimal. It is our intellect, adaptability and ability to use what comes to hand to serve our needs that allowed us to thrive. It was the land, the environment and climate that offered the raw materials to the responsive hunter, moving with the game and the seasons and which later planted the first seeds of agriculture from which our modern societies have sprung.

We are not very old as a species. It is thought that the earliest homo sapiens dates back a mere 200,000 years. On a planet that is 4.6 billion years old and where cellular life has existed for most of that time, that is a drop in the ocean. Yet from the beginning we have shaped the world to suit our needs, carving our presence on the landscape, altering the ecology with our predation and finally building upon it on a massive scale. No other species has impacted upon the life of the planet as drastically and visibly as we.

Yet on the whole we are still children, building sandcastles on the shore of time; things we see as permanent and solid that will, inevitably, be washed away when the tides change. Civilisations have sprung up, flourished and faded, leaving arcane structures, mysterious traces we can only strive to interpret and never fully understand for we have, inevitably, lost the context of their creation. Even within our own short history we have seen this happen time and again and no doubt it will continue. Yet these mysterious histories have influenced our own; the foundations of an ancient realm may be all we think remains, yet much of what they knew will have been carried outward, casting ripples on the pool of human understanding and knowledge. Our present is built upon their past.

There is a similar process in our own lives where the fragile castles we build around ourselves as a personality, reacting to the landscape of family, society and events is shaped by and shapes the way we see ourselves and the way we project our image into the world. Events experienced through the eyes and mind of the child may leave an arcane trace, a mysterious ruin in the tangled undergrowth of being that we stumble across in wonder, trepidation or confusion. It is upon these very places that we have built the person we see in the mirror and their influence contributes to the shaping of who we become.

Yet beneath the ruined castle or lost pyramid there is a constant. The foundations of all are rooted firmly in the earth. They are shaped from the land and to the land they will eventually return, gently gathered by the creeping tendrils of plants and washed away by rain, becoming once more a part of the landscape rather than apart from it.

There is an analogy there too for those who believe in the soul, that essence of self that is beyond the realm of the of the outer world and it is from this we spring, our foundations rooted within its light and it is to this we return when the edifice of the incarnate personality is washed away.

Does it shape us as the land shaped our forefathers, or do we shape it? Both I think… within it we touch the source of being, and draw its essence into our lives; yet our living teaches and enriches and the sum of experience shapes the next ripple we cast upon the waters of existence.

Looking out across the winter fields of my home today, watching the cloud shadows race across a gilded landscape I wondered how many of our ancestors had sat thus, watching the land and pondering the nature of the soul, seeing in the earth they held sacred an echo of their own inner light.

Small steps…

“I need to do something.” Clinging to a lifestyle in which they felt themselves to be stuck, the person concerned said that a change was needed… a break in the pattern of their days, for to break just one link in a chain is to break free of it. But where to start? What if it wasn’t enough? The fear of failure was holding them back from taking even the smallest step forward that could potentially change everything.

I know that feeling. I imagine that most of us have felt it at some time in our lives. Change and failure can be two of the scariest monsters we have to face and maintaining even a painful status quo can feel like a far better option than scaling a mountain of fear. Still, you never know what you can do until you try…and you cannot take a second step until you have taken the first, no matter how small a step it may be.

I remembered climbing a mountain a couple of years ago. At fifteen hundred feet, it just about graduates from a hill to a mountain and to my eyes, it looked like one… especially as our route would take us up very a steep incline. I really wanted to visit a stone circle I had heard a lot about, but, recovering from a serious chest infection, I wasn’t sure I would make it.  I was at that stage where I could walk easily on the flat, but any kind of climb, be it hill or stair, left me fighting for breath with heart pounding. Standing at the bottom of a slope that appeared to be almost vertical, I was quietly convinced I would fail… and afraid that in doing so I would let my companion down and spoil the day.

It was hard going, especially as it was a hot and sunny day. Every few yards I had to stop and gasp for breath under the pretext of taking pictures.  It wasn’t just me, though, my companion was struggling too… and in an odd way, that made me feel better. The slope seemed endless, and even when we reached level ground, the hill still climbed steadily in front of us. We managed to lose the footpath and had to clamber over rough ground, climb a rickety gate wrapped in barbed wire and, at one point, found ourselves wading through a field strewn with bones.

And yet… we were in a landscape that was incredibly lovely, with bright blue sky above the hills and deep blue sea below. The heather was in flower, the sheep were purest white and there were wild horses watching as we climbed. After the initial climb, the going was easier, even though it was all uphill, and, when we arrived at the plateau below our destination, it was sheer beauty that took my breath away.

It had been worth it. The last climb brought us to a superb stone circle, with panoramic views… and not only that, there were other circles and stones all around us. Not only did we see what we had come to see, we were showered with so many other wonders, from the stones to the hunting hawk that we watched… gifts we could not have expected rewarded us for our efforts. And the way back would be all downhill…

I remembered too taking my younger son up Ben Nevis when he was a boy. We knew before we started that we would fail to reach the summit that day; there was no way we would make it to the top in the few hours we had at our disposal, but we would at least get a feel for the mountain and see beauty we would never have seen had we not made the attempt.

I thought back too, to the first time I had attended an event with an esoteric school similar to those run by the Silent Eye. I was scared stiff of what I might find or whether I would fail to fit in… and was met with open arms and hearts, laughter and friendship. Or the time I had arrived at the Gare du Nord in Paris, terrified, owning nothing more than the clothes in my suitcase. I had left everything behind… home, friends, family, language… and was about to embark upon an unknown future. It could have been a disaster… and yet my years in France became the happiest I have known until recent years.

Whenever I feel fear of change or failure weighing me down, I look back at all those times I have taken that first, small step. It can be as simple as a phone call, a break in a routine, or the determination not to let someone down. It need not be a big thing at all. Yet, as soon as you have taken it, one foot in front of the other, your world and your view of it has already changed. Even if you fail, you will have seen and experienced something new along the way… and going back to the starting point for another attempt or a different route is always easier ‘downhill’.

There are so many possibilities for wonder out there and we never know what the next step may show us. The only guarantee that we have is that we will not see them at all unless we take that first step beyond fear…

Lord of the Deep: Death of the self?…

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‘…When Anu heard this, he called for the Bull of Heaven,

And handed its nose rope to the Princess Ishtar.

Ishtar led the Bull of Heaven down to earth.

 

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When the Bull of Heaven snorts on the earth,

a crack will open in the land and swallow all the men-folk…

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When the Bull of Heaven snorts a second time on the earth,

the land will crack open further and swallow all the women-folk…

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When the Bull of Heaven snorts a third time on the earth,

the land will crack open still further and swallow all the child-folk…

 

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I will cast your corpse down the narrow streets,

that the city orphans may gorge on it.

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I will toss your innards to the city dogs,

that they might fight over them.

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I will present your two horns to Shamash

to serve as a flask for his sweet oils.’

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A DRAMATIC RETELLING OF

THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH

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The Oldest written story known to man…
What spiritual treasures lie hidden in this, five thousand-year old, Epic?
What can this ancient civilisation teach us about the questions of existence?
Join us on the quest of a life-time, this coming April, to find out…

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‘Gilgamesh is among the greatest things that can ever happen to a person.’
– Rainer Maria Rilke.

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Fully catered weekend package, including room, meals and workshop: £235 – £260

Click here to download the Booking Form

Updated Gilgamesh booking form

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

Lord of the Deep: The quest for Immortality

26-28 April, 2019 – Great Hucklow, Derbyshire

Becoming Nothing

‘Become Nothing’

He didn’t use those exact words but that was the meaning of what he wrote. The words were suddenly there in the moment in my consciousness… and I knew they were right.

I had been reading a piece by Krishamurti – that fearless enemy of dogma, and proponent of the individual’s right to find their own spiritual path.

It does involve a certain amount of bravery – to contend with that feeling of ‘going against’ those of wisdom, those from whom we can learn, perhaps those of a tradition in which we were raised or trained. But that wasn’t Krishnamurti’s point; he didn’t deny anyone their well-found wisdom, rather, he urged each one of us to find our own… not second-hand knowledge. And to do that, the only way is to go out there and play with the universe; but play with a spirit of intent. And this is where it gets a little complex… until you see the whole of what he was saying…whereupon it gets very simple.

When you play with the universe, you do so in a way that stares in wonder at what you see. There’s a grown thing, covered in rust and tar and road rage; and it’s stuck onto our eyes, forming a film. This gritty, dirty, bitten lens imbues everything we try to see with its sticky waste. Staring in wonder at what you see is the cleaner that wipes the dirty grown thing from our eyes. For most, it happens in little stages, but there are some who ‘take the kingdom of heaven by storm’. They have a moment – a surging, brilliant moment that melts and washes what is keeping them from looking at the world, a universe that is alive and waiting to respond, personally, to their presence, their conversation, their love…

And when you find that relationship with what used to be ‘out there’ you will find that the primary desire of that sticky, dirty, bitten thing was always to change what was out there, because it wasn’t good enough – and having achieved that, to change it, again… and again….

The mind which knows only thought knows no rest.

‘Becoming nothing’ – what does it really mean? It is a mantra of power. It is a moment of revelation that alters our relationship to the whole of our lives. To reveal it via words would reduce the power of each of us being able to step through that mirror of self. It would rob the reader of the self-same experience. But this much can be said: that the word ‘nothing’ should not be the main focus until the rest is understood. What follows, then, is a journey of realisation that shifts who we are, and takes away its central power in our lives, leaving…

And you will have to fill in that space.

©️Stephen Tanham


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation 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.

Steve’s 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.