Only a Horse and a Sword

We become habitual in our thinking. It’s a good idea (and fun) to play little games with our mind to help us look at things differently.

One of these is to look at things in a ‘zero-sum’ way: that is, to consider life as a vast journey of ‘bought and sold’: acquisition, usage and disposal…

Saladin, (Salah ad-Din) the legendary first Sultan of the combined lands of Egypt and Syria, and scourge of the western Crusaders, is recorded as having given away most of his belongings before his death.

At the end, his only possessions were his horse and a sword.

But that’s ‘just’ end-of-life, stuff. How about if we lived our lives such that everything we ‘took in’ to our lives had to be used, valued and then disposed of in a positive way as we went along?

What might this include? Well, our possessions of every kind would have to be acquired alongside the sentiment: ‘I want this, but I will ensure that others benefit from it, too…’. Then, when the thing ceased to be of use to us, we would look for others to whom it would be useful.

Not too much to ask, or too onerous?

Our home would be open to others, as long as they honoured its ‘foundations’. Those would include a certain attitude to looking after it and respecting its conventions. Our family – something not acquired in the same way, but given to us – would need to be considered, too. At the end of our days, how would our balance sheet look? Did we leave others ‘richer’ than we found them? Did our presence bring some joy, along the way. There are always struggles with family, which is often the most difficult ‘school’ of our lives, but, overall, did we try?

Our careers would be an important part of this, too. We work in increasingly ‘compressive’ environments, where we are expected to conform to behaviours that are not native to our higher natures. How do we manage this? There may be few choices – externally. But we can always project an inner air of integrity, even if what is around us is ruthless, uncaring or downright cruel.

Examining our lives across these broader timescales will bring us back to much shorter ones. One consideration will be that we will look for things that we did not earn in any way, short of being present. Our food and other means of sustenance is a vital part of our lives. The ‘Maslow’ approach to this was that we cannot hope to lead a higher personal life until our basic needs have been fulfilled; and we should be examining others’ lives on this basis, too, before we judge them.

On an even smaller scale, how about breathing? We take in air whose creation and preparation has nothing to do with our own effort. At this smallest scale, we are literally given life every few seconds. There is no bill at the end of this most basic of meals.

In such situations, perhaps we can think of it as a debt. We owe…

And, maybe that sense of owing would begin to renew both our ‘selves’ and the planet, replacing the viciousness of entitlement so prevalent among those who ‘rule’ us. It seems that, as the world’s wealth comes to belong to fewer and fewer people, civilisation goes back in time to a more feudal basis. It’s a frightening thought that our ‘democracies’ have become so feeble that even the most educated feel powerless to stop the erosion of what were – not so long ago- shared values.

But we are not the first to live in troubled times. It may be that they are there to teach us to act responsibly and collectively. Unless we can do so, we are powerless to change things.

We may conclude that, as an individual, we can do nothing to change the politics of our ‘world’; in which case we live in an age where only our personal behaviour can make a difference: good examples of light in darkness can catch the spirit of the times and become visible flames.

Saladin was a great warrior and is said to have been a fair and just ruler. He had a vast kingdom and ended the power of the Crusading forces.

Our true kingdom is our lives, not how much we possess. Will we be able to look back on our lives from our single horse, and kiss the keen blade of thoughts and feeling that brought us through? And then will we have the grace to leave both behind, in a final act of giving, before surrendering our physical existence to the drifting sands beneath our feet…

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

Death and the Salesman

We need to understand death and not fear it…

In a few short weeks it will be September. We (the Silent Eye) have been invited to speak at the Unitarian Society of Psychical Studies annual conference at the Nightingale Centre in Derbyshire.

We use this lovely place for our main annual event in April each year. We had our official ‘birth’ there in 2013. It is a very special place to us, and so we were delighted to be asked to be one of this year’s speakers. The Unitarians are an open-minded church and for their annual Psychical Research event they wanted to have someone give them an ‘esoteric view’ on their key topic… which is Life after Death.

The lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow

It’s useful to spend some time establishing our own thoughts on this – and hence this blog. The Silent Eye does not have specific ‘death teachings’, but that’s only because each person needs to approach what should be life’s most spiritual event for themselves. Throughout our folk-history, tales have been told that it is only possible to accompany a dying person ‘so far down that valley’. After that, we must journey alone…

To have a clear mind on death, we need to hold a number of perspectives, and then try to synthesise them. They include the question of what life is, and how its is organised – biologically and psychologically. Then there is the very real idea of the self and the notion of the Self – the higher ‘self’, built during life by what the Buddhism calls ‘right action’, and driven by impulses that are not purely biological. This latter consideration brings with it the idea of the falling away of the boundaries of the body, but the potential of the retention of the essence of a person, albeit without the ability to ‘do’ any longer – at least in the world of the physical.

One thing is certain: to begin to understand death, we must have a deep understanding of life. They are often referred to as opposite sides of the same coin, but, as with many sayings, the over-familiarity of the metaphor takes away what should a trigger to a depth of thought. If death is the twin of life but different, then what’s the difference?

The most precious attributes I possess are my living vitality and my sense of self. The body is a precious gift from all the life that has gone before me on the living Earth. My body is made up of cells, each of which carries in its DNA the organic wisdom – or success story – of what has worked before. I am therefore the inheritor of literally billions of years of ‘what works’, passed through to me by the ones who loved me the most, by a planet which, in my beliefs, also has a composite intelligence and whose life is part of the Sun’s life, as a member of the solar system – the balancing ‘negative’ to the solar positive.

My immediate experience of life is that of my body, but layered over by my self. I’m likely to be far more concerned with the fact that I’ve just cut my face shaving, than with the inheritance of billions of years of biological continuation. I shouldn’t be, but that’s the truth. The self has inherited a complex response network, centred in the brain, that behaves as though the organic mechanisms are there for its entitled continuance and shouldn’t bother it – while it gets on with drinking that favourite red wine with a well cooked steak for dinner…

The self has likes and dislikes. Some of them are linked to survival and are very strong – like the reaction to being burned as a child, which drives my future relationship to flame or heat. This goes beyond preference (French mustard or not with my steak) and into the ‘keep me alive and healthy’ mechanisms. Only when the flow of my normal day is interrupted by, say, the arrival of the knowledge that I have a serious disease, do I begin to expand my sense of self to include all the worlds that are ‘me’. That’s not strictly true, of course. I can seek that expansion any time I want… but I’ll have to work; to put effort into something that is not normally part of my reward system.

In doing that, I might be considered to be ‘growing my soul’, my highest nature. There is a sense of permanence about what is produced when we invest in a higher purpose like this. That feeling of inner growth stays with us, like a the learning of a new language. Our organic nature has not changed, but our sense of self – of Self, possibly – has grown.

Religions are someone else’s idea of spirituality. The only one that should really matter to ‘me’ is my own, because my own will become my truth of dying, whether I like it or not… and most of us try to avoid that for as long as possible, because dying appears to be the end of everything we love, struggles and all.

Religions can create caring communities and have great value if seen like this; but they can also be prisons of someone else’s values. At the same time, the moral values of the west have seldom been under as much threat as they are at present, and we can clearly see how the ‘good’ is being tested in the face of a chaos driven by out of control egoic behaviour.

Wisdom is a hard thing to define, but essential for civilisation; and civilisation is our only hope of working in truth with our beautiful planet.

What am ‘I’, then?

‘I’ am a unique collection of cells made up, literally of the stuff of exploded suns from billions of years ago. In many important ways, my life as a ‘bubble’ seems to mirror that of the smallest cells of which I am composed, and which learned to work together to form what is now my body, hundreds of thousands of years ago.

There is a mirror of learning between the objective (the physics, chemistry, biology and what demonstrably is) and the evolving self – singularly and in society – civilisation. This process of learning is based upon a separation. I live within an ‘in-here’, believing that I am separate from the ‘out-there’. This experienced and very real division is necessary for me to strengthen a self that can describe and hold the essence of its relationship with what is my world. This living description is of great value – and not just to myself.

Many years ago as a Rosicrucian student, I read this sentiment: “Some would say that, in the reverse of what is normally believed, a person is an island of death in a sea of life.” I didn’t understand it at the time, but now, finally, I do… And what it means is the secret to the the end of all fear.

Some of the most powerful truths of what we are have come to us from the civilisation that gave us Yoga – as both inner and outer disciplines. ‘Discipline’ is important, for we must work to find and then strengthen what we ‘are’ – truly and not with self-illusion. The word ‘yoga’ means union.

The Silent Eye’s enneagram is used as map of the journey from personality to soul, or expressed more accurately, from self to Self

In our own system of self-discovery the Silent Eye uses certain archetypes, found within a map of our lives called the Enneagram (above). Each person has a unique map. Once these are discovered within us, they become friends on an inner journey; gradually revealing their deeper natures and showing us the keys to our own being. Over time, one of these will become a dominant figure, revealing our own driving characteristics, positive and negative.

In my own case, I am (to give it a self-deprecating title) the ‘salesman‘ of this inner pattern of the egoic self. I’m lots of other things, too, but that remains the pattern of my egoic nature, my personality… and this, with some of the dross burned away, has formed the toolset with which I now work to teach the directed evolution of the life-balance of outer and inner living. Each of us has this dominant (but different in each case) set of characteristics. Its refinement is empowering and involves a deep contact with the individual soul whose outer layers it is…

The system known as Yoga has also given the western world many gifts. A good example is the secret of looking at breathing differently. Put simply, each breath is a mirror of the whole of life. We take into our ‘selves’ what is not us. Breath belongs to a collective life that excludes none. When we breathe in, it lends itself and its life-sustaining force to this bubble of individualised life that is us. For that to be so, there must be a great importance – to Nature – about what happens inside that bubble, that ‘in-here’. The harvest of the higher, non-organic things inside that bubble is the justification of the great cost to Nature of sustaining that individual life…

At death, the individual life inside the bubble drops away, opening to the magnificence of the All-Being. There may still be important divisions in that realm, but they will not work as the brain works. The brain is gone, as is our personal memory. Reasoning from cause to effect is gone. Time will be a different thing. The Universe is Life and does what it wills, creating the new now, eternally, in a realm where everything is interlinked. Fear will be a distant and fading memory… but joy won’t.

I have resisted personal ‘pictures’ of what happens at death. But, in writing this, a great sense of both belonging and humour arose in me… and with it a picture. I must speak symbolically, and in the language of one of my favourite life-affirming cultures: ancient Egypt.

At my death, an Isis-like figure will undress me, discarding the layers of my physicality, like used bandages. Possibly with a bit of help , she will open my eyes and turn me to face the great father of the deep who will smile and ask me if I have a heavy or a light heart. If my heart is light with the joy of the life lived, he will ask me to tell him about my life, so that he may add my story to his vast collection of how the Creation looks from within. After that, there will only be his voice, with the dancing and eternal presence of my song as an added part of what he is… But the salesman’s story will have made a small but important difference… As will yours.

©Copyright Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

A question of joy…

“You know, the ancient Egyptians had a beautiful belief about death. When their souls got to the entrance to heaven, the guards asked two questions.
Their answers determined whether they were able to enter or not.
‘Have you found joy in your life?’ ‘Has your life brought joy to others?’”

The Bucket List (2007)

Not bad questions are they? Together they might sum up the whole of the deeper truth of human aspiration. There is no mention of what car you managed to acquire, nor the level of material success you achieved in your life. Not pleasure, not even happiness… Just joy.

Like any word pertaining to our perception of emotion, the definition of joy is a difficult one. The dictionary attempts to define it by using superlatives of other emotions, yet those feelings are personal and their experience both subjective and subject to causative events in our lives.

Joy is something different somehow, transcending reactive emotion and welling up from a deep place, flooding the being from without and within like a clear, sparkling stream of bubbling, laughing Light. Yet though we seek the words, there are none that encompass it. Those who feel it will know it, those who have yet to feel its touch have joy to come.

It is a strange emotion, if emotion it truly is. Its touch comes in a single, blazing moment, yet the light it sheds seems to linger a lifetime, untarnished by sorrow or pain, undiluted by the cares of everyday. Once there it takes up home in the heart and whilst the surface of the mind and emotions may feel the storms and be battered by our very human lives, the kernel of joy seems to become an eternal flame, a sanctuary light at the very core of being. It is always there, underlying the ripples and tumult of emotion, no matter how terrible life and events may appear. Its presence is not dimmed by them. For this reason perhaps we might hesitate to call joy an emotion… and see it instead as a grace.

Joy comes when we are open to the full experience of life. It may touch you when you stand in a summer meadow and see the sky arcing over the hills, when you hold a newborn child, when you stand drenched and laugh at the rain clouds or when your heart feels the touch of the divine… for each of us it is different, unique in its beauty. Once felt, it never leaves, though we may choose to shut it out, turn our backs and walk away.

The second question is curious, ‘Has your life brought joy to others?’ It is not something we can give to others through choice, no matter how hard we try. It cannot be bought, gift wrapped or engendered no matter how desperately we might like to think it possible. We can, perhaps, consciously create the circumstances in which joy might be found through our actions, through our empathy, kindness and love for each other, yet we cannot be the sole cause of joy. It is akin to alchemy where the presence of certain elements can cause profound change, bringing something into being through our own being, through who we are, that may enable a response in joy from another. Perhaps it can be likened to music… where a simply melody can be picked out on a single instrument, but the full glory of the symphony can only be heard when the orchestra plays in harmony. Then the music lifts you and carries you beyond yourself to beauty.

What would you answer to those two guardians of the otherworld should they ask those questions? ‘Have you found joy in your life?’ ‘Has your life brought joy to others?’

Why not?

Above Great Hucklow, Derbyshire

One of the joys of working with the Silent Eye is the people you get to meet. Not all of them are part of the School; most follow their own Paths, which, though they may run in the same general direction, can take vastly different routes on the journey. None is inherently ‘better’ than another; it is always the Path that speaks to the heart that is right for any seeker. Being able to share and learn from our individual experiences on that Path makes the journey richer and fosters a spirit of understanding and cooperation.

Every year, the Silent Eye runs four workshop weekends. While the correspondence course and the personal journeys of our students are at the heart of the way the Silent Eye works, the workshops allow us to take a different approach and explore new ideas in new ways. They also allow us meet face to face with people… not just students and Companions of the School, but with those who share our interests, from widely different angles, but who may have no intention at all of joining the School.

Derbyshire

Three of our workshops are run in the landscape, exploring ancient, sacred and interesting sites. These can be anything from stone circles to castles, beaches to churches, modern landscapes to ancient henges. These are informal weekends and generally fun. We currently charge a minimal fee for the whole weekend workshop.

But why should anyone come along, just to do ‘tourist stuff’?

We do the groundwork before the event. We travel to the sites to investigate access, parking, places to eat and, most importantly, routes to obscure places you might not even know exist… and that allows us to cover a lot of local ground during a single weekend.

There is always a unifying theme; while we explore the sites, we explore too the ideas, psychological and spiritual concepts they suggest and illustrate, inviting discussion.

Nine Stones Close, Derbyshire

We not only have a love of the ancient sites, but we have amassed a store of knowledge about them too, having explored around five hundred prehistoric sites and medieval churches in the past five years alone.

We do the research… so you will not only visit an ancient site, and get a little of its history, but will learn the folklore and legends attached to it too.

We do not simply visit the sites, we work with them too. You may experience a guided meditation on a beach, a divination in a wood, a spiritual exercise in a churchyard or a simple ritual in a stone circle. None of these are tied to any particular spiritual Path or discipline… just to the human journey.

And, perhaps most importantly, these weekends also, as one of our attendees put it, provide “a safe space in which to talk” about things that, for many people, cannot be discussed anywhere else. Those who come along may have different views, but all share an open mind and heart.

The annual April workshop is a little different.

Image by Matt Baldwin-Ives

The residential weekend takes place in the Derbyshire Peak District, at the Nightingale Centre, which provides full board and accommodation. The gardens, local countryside and the old inn next door provide a place to relax too.

Each year we choose a theme that encapsulates a spiritual idea… then spend months writing the workbook for the workshop. The workbook sets out a story, presented as ritual drama in the tradition of the ancient Mystery Schools, and written as a script. Each attendee takes a part… no-one needs to be able to act or learn lines, as it is not designed as a play and there is no audience; only the other attendees.

These scripts are either based upon an ancient text, or are written especially for the workshop. The Leaf and Flame workshop, for example, took us back to Arthur’s Court and the tale of the Green Knight, while The Feathered Seer brought in the stories of local stone circles. River of the Sun took us to ancient Egypt to see a priest made and a Pharaoh take power.

Image by Matt Baldwin-Ives

There are presentations from experienced speakers, guided meditations, an optional dawn ritual on the hillside and a chance to see the inner workings of a modern Mystery School…as well as having fun and meeting like-minded people from across the UK and as far away as the US. We do not insist upon costumes, but most people seem to enjoy bringing the period to life, and we have had some colourful workshops, in everything from Egyptian robes to Elizabethan dress.

To give people a good idea of what we do, we have not only published some of the workbooks, but we invite attendees to add their own comments and publish their personal experiences on the Silent Eye’s website. You can find you exactly what happens when you attend your first workshop by clicking here or read an account by Running Elk of the first time he came to a Silent Eye event.  You can also visit the gallery to see pictures of a few of our events.

Sumerian art

This year we will ‘go back’ five thousand years to Sumeria and the time of Gilgamesh, King of Uruk, basing the story upon the oldest epic poem in the world. The tale explores spiritual and psychological principles that we meet in our everyday lives and , like all our workshops, leaves us with a greater understanding of who we are and how we can live our lives to the fullest.

There are still places available for April… and always places for the landscape workshops. Why not come along and join us for the weekend?

Lord of the Deep
26-28 April, 2019

Great Hucklow, Derbyshire

The Silent Eye’s Spring workshop for 2019

Click HERE for full details, prices and booking form

For all upcoming events, please visit our EVENTS page.

 

Being Here…

Sphinx and pyramid Overlay Blog masterAA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

©️Stephen Tanham.

 

 

 

The Feathered Seer – Part 1 (or “whatever happened to The River of the Sun?”) by Running Elk

Sunlight on the River
(copyright 123rf.com)

…we may have to go back a little before we can begin. Say two years? All the way back to the River of the Sun in 2015, and the long-awaited “next post”, often promised but always failing to materialise. I suppose the key to its desire for immediate attention, under the (apparently) unrelated title of The Feathered Seer, might (just) be gleaned from events arising one Freaky Friday.

But of course, you don’t know how yet: there are pieces of that particular puzzle missing, and some of them won’t necessarily become apparent till The Feathered Seer – Part 3, at which point we might get round to the titular weekend. (I know! The suspense is killing me, too…)

The “River of the Sun” was to be our third Silent Eye (A Modern Mystery School) weekend in as many years. You don’t need to be a member to attend; indeed, the event usually includes such an eclectic mix of different paths and traditions that it becomes much more than the sum of its parts as the weekend unfolds.

It was, with some trepidation, that I read through the assigned part of Amkhren. Yet, no matter how many times you read through a part, it’s not until the Temple is entered and the energy of the other players becomes entwined in the space that the full import of the phrasing, the movement, and intention of the ritual can be appreciated.

Even knowing this, what would transpire in Ritual 5 that weekend was so unexpected, so off-the-scale bat-shit crazy, that there was no way I could have been prepared for it when it came. Possibly, even why the “next post“, this post, has remained aloof and unwilling to see the light of day till now… the order of things appears to be of some significance…

I knew, from the opening of the first ritual, that the weekend was going to be powerful. The opening had Amkhren sitting by the Nile, and, from the first words uttered, I was there: the other players faded into their own space, and only Amkhren and his doting grandmother remained… the waters lapped gently, bejewelled by a million dancing suns… So it continued; the mysterious stranger, the Priestess, the unexpected interruption of a solemn rite of initiation by Rameses and his cohort.

The entire first ritual passed in an instant, and, as in every ritual thereafter, I remained hardly aware of the “real space” in which the Temple resided, or of the people at the periphery of the direct action. The “Vessels of the Gods” were the Gods themselves…

The weekends culminate in Ritual 5, by which time the loose ends of the drama are brought together, the players are wrung out, and the Temple is running on “full“. All just in time for a good re-grounding in the form of Sunday lunch. Despite the intensity of the previous four, I suspected nothing and, lamb-like, entered the Temple for the last time.

Amkhren, aided by the Gods, relates to Rameses “…the story of that great mystery…” as expressed through the symbol of the Enneagram, which lies at the core of the school’s teachings. At the culmination of the story Rameses, moved to spare the boy’s life and to leave the Temple unmolested, calls upon all to bear witness to a Royal ordination of Amkhren as new priest to the Temple.

It is difficult to believe now, as it was then, that this was Rameses’ first time in ritual. With great care and deliberation, he removed his crown in order to retrieve a symbolic gift of initiation from around his own neck. At this point, he might have continued with the ritual. Instead, he took the time to replace his crown, and adjust himself such that Royal order should be maintained. Amkhren, kneeling before him, and the gathered crowd, wait…

Rameses places his hand on the boy’s head; “Let it be known across Egypt…”, a strange vibration was beginning to build; “…that the King-in-Rising has ordained…”, a lightening bolt of rather uncomfortable intensity; “…that there is created today, a new priest in this temple; …”, fire billows, in great waves, around the King; “…that the one known as Amkhren, nurtured to this honour by the Lady Scarab,…”, unbearable building of heat, engulfed and consumed in the flames emanating from, and directed by, the hand of Rameses; “…has been tested beyond the trials of normal process;…”, sweat begins to bead on Amkhren’s forehead; “…and has emerged a higher order of sacred servant.”

Continue reading here

The Light and the Eye of the Cobra – River of the Sun 2015…

Eyes of Cobra Mtge smaller

The water was soft on his skin. He was used to bathing in the river at sunset, but there was something special about today. He looked across at the glittering image of the sun as its reflection folded on the water, bouncing the golden light across the gentle waves at him. A boat had just sailed by and he felt the lapping waves caressing his thighs. It tickled and he giggled to the river.

His reverie was disturbed by the sound of his Grandmother’s voice.”Wash, Amkhren, stop your daydreaming!”

He smiled his cheeky smile back at Snefer, sole guardian to him since the death of his parents many years ago, in the fire that had destroyed their home while they slept. The name, which he had given her, made her smile, though he was too young, yet, to know the kindness behind such tolerance. The name derived from a present from his father, which he still kept. His father had travelled in his own youth – selling his beautifully hand-woven carpets, which he would pile onto his faithful donkey, before leaving for days or even weeks. He always came back with tales of his adventures, and Amkhren’s delight had been to sit, balanced precariously on his knee; and listen . . .

One day, his father had returned with a carved wooden object – a present to his son. He took it from his bedroll and presented it, smiling as he did so. He had carved it out of a block of wood. It was like one of the drawings his father had shown him of the fabulous white pillars that legend said graced the upper parts of the river, just before it spread and flowed into the sea. The wooden carving had a square base, whose four corners rose in two stages, to meet at a single vertical point. The angle of the climbing sides became shallower half way up and this gave the whole things a comic element. His father had said that the place it was located was called Sneferu, and it was known as the bent pillar. The day after that, Amkhren had pointed at his grandmother and said, “Grandma is bent, too! Can we call her Sneferu, like the carving?”. His father had looked at his own mother and smiled in that mischievous way that his young son had inherited. Then he had said, “Well, we don’t want to anger the Gods, so let’s shorten it to Snefer!”

She had sighed, inside, on that day. But now the memory of that time brought back such happiness that old Snefer didn’t mind at all. She looked at the boy, who had finally taken off his loin-cloth and was washing himself. Her heart burned with feeling for him – the sole survivor of a family that had known how to love and to laugh, together. The sight of him always drove away the aches and pains that had begun to afflict her ageing frame . . . and the sad memories.

The sound of footsteps behind her made her whirl in alarm. After that, she could only drop to her knees in the sand.

“High Priestess, forgive me!” She bowed her head to the mud. Before her was one of the most beautiful and stately women she had ever encountered – Neferaset, the woman who led the worship at the Temple of Isis on the island of Philae, across the river a mile or so away. Alongside her brother, Anzety, they were the most powerful of the bright people.

“Do not be frightened, old woman,” said the glowing one, bending down to take the hands in the dust and pull Snefer up to her normal, if bent, standing position. “We are not in the temple, and, if I choose to leave the sanctuary of the island and walk along the river, I am going to meet strangers . . .”

Snefer kept her head bowed. But spoke, “My grandson is bathing in the river. Forgive his rude nakedness.”

Neferaset looked beyond the bowed woman and saw her relative. He was talking to another boy who stood ahead of him in the deeper water.

“And who is that with him?” she asked.

“There is no-one with him, High Priestess . . .”

Neferaset frowned, then moved the sight into place to gain more distance; and blinked her eyes, focusing on the two boys in the shallows. One was plainly visible, his naked form dancing in the water. But he was definitely speaking to another boy – one who stood motionless before him and had a bright but much less distinct outline . . .

Amkhren was delighted with his new friend. As golden as the ripples on the river, he had appeared before him in the beautiful sunset, smiling. He had asked Amkhren’s name, but refused to give his own. Now, the other watched, while Amkhren bathed, as though the act of seeing someone so vividly alive fascinated him. Amkhren was about to press for his name, again, when he heard his grandma calling from the bank.

“Amkhren, put on your garment and come here at once!”

Amkhren, saddened, but obedient, spun back to say goodbye to his friend; but the other boy was gone. He peered deep into the waves in case his friend had swum off, but there was no trace of the other. A second, and sterner call from Snefer dragged him from his searching. Panting, he retrieved his rags and tied them across his wet waistline. Only then did he look up to locate the old woman. She was standing, with her head bowed, next to another woman. This was a day of surprises! He looked harder, narrowing his eyes to carry his vision deeper into the tableau. Then, he stopped walking and his mouth fell open. There on the raised bank, his grandma was talking, though her head was bowed, with the High Priestess of Isis – a woman he had once stolen a look at from the sanctuary of a hastily built log raft, which had floundered shortly thereafter.

The day had been baking hot and Amkhren had walked along the river bank, far from where Snefer had said it was safe for him to travel. He had gradually been extending his exploring, because he knew that the Island of Philae lay somewhere beyond the next twist of the river’s course. On that day, he had caught sight of a temple procession on the sacred isle and had thrown caution to the wind, and trusted his life to a few logs hastily lashed together with the stalks of reeds in the way that his father had shown him, so long ago.

Before the raft had fallen apart, he had caught sight of the winged one, as he thought of her. She had shone in the sun in her finery and splendour. All around her there was total silence, total reverence. Beside her, another of equal stature walked, but this one was a man, tall and purposeful, yet with a hint of gentleness to his bearing.

The reed bindings had given way, the logs parted and, plunging into the river with a cry, he was forced to cling to the largest as it rolled. Gone were the wild thoughts that someday he would find a way to return to Philae to serve them. Choking on the inhaled river water, he clung desperately to the remains of his capsized raft and forced his legs to kick, pushing the log slowly towards the far bank.

Now the Goddess stood before him. Disguised, yes, but it was her . . .

Amkhren took a few more steps and fell to his knees, prostrating himself in the dust.

“I feel I know you, boy?” said the shining one.

“Oh, you couldn’t know us, High Priestess – we are just beggars in your world,” blurted out his grandma, her head still bowed.

Amkhren’s mind raced. Should he tell her of his moment on the raft? Surely it would be to invite death . . . and yet, he didn’t want to miss the only chance that his life might contain to reach for that impossible goal.

“The river has many secrets, High Priestess,” he managed, somewhat proud of his utterance.

“And dreams, perhaps?” the tone of her voice was soft. There was deadliness there, too, but her knives were sheathed.

She knelt down in the dust of the bank and, with gentle hands that yet contained more power than he had ever felt, pulled his head up to stare back at her almond eyes.

“And what does this young man dream of?” she asked, running a painted finger up the side of his jaw…

Land of the Exiles 2014 – a vision of the hillside ritual

A fictionalised account of the hillside rite from the Land of the Exiles workshop 2014, extract taken from Doomsday: Dark Sage.

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The seeing stone is chill against my spine as I wait for the dawn.
Their shades are close this night.
They are Wakeful.
I hear their whispers on the wind as the shift comes and I find them across the ages.

…She paints his eyes, smearing shimmering colour across the lids with gilded fingers. They work in silence in the yellow false-light. Garbed in black, they are not themselves. I feel them, yet something else overlays them, shadowing forth into the world; latent, coming, but not yet…not yet.

He leaves the place where she did not sleep; she looks into the cold surface that hangs like ice upon the wall, seeing other souls not her own. She is many, she is Three. I look through her eyes, as she looks through mine… seer and priestess… and the ‘Other’.

We are the Three that are ‘One’.

Painted eyes stare back, black rimmed. About her neck a heavy collar, she is crowned and winged with gold and power, girdled with stars. She steps back into the shadow of herself, opens her heart and I feel the shift once more, this
time through her. It is time.

***

…Their world seems strange to me… all sharp angles and smooth walls reflecting light, yet I read it through her, know its ways somehow. It is stranger still on this dawning when they have brought the ancient into the new… She knocks on the wood that hangs in a portal, three times. It is opened by the Green Man, robed in white and veiled, hooded perhaps, I do not know. His eyes show fear and his breath is sharp, ragged as she summons him to his death. Down they walk, he behind she. He is strange to me, this other one. Yet I know him, he too is of the three and power flows between. They enter a closed space, dimly lit with flames in the circle. The other one is there, yet he too is ‘Other’, robed in midnight, tall as the trees and masked… a black beast with golden eyes. They stand silent in the circle… three, six and nine I see, all the levels of their being that wait in abeyance while others come in. Black remains to call them to the rite, one by one. Gold and Green face the morning, walking silent through stone to the hillside starred with swallow-flowers and wet with dew. Higher they climb to the mound that looks out across the valley. Shaped like a tomb, a place of death in life and life in death. Beside them is a tree… and on it a crown of thorns.

She binds him; the black cords of death that tie him to life, the cords of life that tie him to the Mother. In his hands a crystal like the moon and at his feet the crown and the waiting earth. Power flows, around and between, cloaking them in its mists from the eyes of the profane. Eyes lock and she raises her wings, golden in the morning, taking him into her silence.

The Black Jackal, cloaked in night leads them to the rite, a dark snake of figures huddled against the chill of a spring dawn. Their garb is strange, the colours of summer flowers, stark against the green. They walk in silence as the Black One opens the way for them to pass. Higher still until they reach the mound and there they wait, looking up.

***

He circles, prowling the bounds of the sacred space, marking the circle with his footsteps in the dew, once around, bowing as she turns, revealing the Green Man to the Companions. The Jackal climbs the mound and Black and Gold salute each other, sparking lines of power crackle silently between them, bright white and gold, seen only through a seer’s eyes. They bow to the immobile, verdant form, locked in the lightless stasis of death until his heart is opened. The Black One speaks out “Let the star rise, let the flame leap!” His voice shatters the silence, opening the way on yet another level. The Golden One takes the crystal from the heart of the Green Man, raising it to the Sun, “Ours if the heart is wise, to take… and to keep!” As she speaks the sphere is returned, earth to earth accepted, while the Green Man stands empty.

On each side of him they stand as pillars of light and darkness. Deeper I look and see them night and day, the birthing of the golden sun held in the heart of darkness, the shadow of its death cased in gold. Three that are ‘One’, inextricable, interdependent for their being, and purpose, while overhead the Hawk flies free. One by one they come, called by the staff of the Jackal, close in his shadowed Light, held in his cloak. Softly he whispers to each of their destiny, of the Hawk that waits in their hearts, anointing them with fragrant oil that fills the morning with perfume. The Golden One takes them into her wings and as they pass before the Green Man they are held, poised between Light and Dark as they bow and gaze at the earth-held crystal, into the Heart of the Rose. The Golden Mother blesses them with the warmth of touch on each heart and the promise of life on her lips. From the heart of the Green One she takes a heart, entrusting it to their keeping, a symbol of awakening to Light and Life. Eyes meet eyes, heart meets heart, and life touches Life. Clasping the symbol they move beyond, standing on the other side of death… a true initiation for those who can encompass it. But one remains; the silent sacrifice, bound and immobile in the frozen morning. Black and Gold they turn to him. The Walker between the Worlds anoints his brow and, holding his eyes whispers his journey to the stars, the Mother warms his heart and with her touch come the words of life. He cries out, the Father who is the Son, like a babe’s first breath, wakened from death to the life of the heart.It is done. Golden wings enfold him, shrouding him in Light and one by one they leave the hillside silent, the rite accomplished.

Three remain, silent still, feet wet with dew. Three are quiescent, watching their Selves. The Three remain Other and holding the power for what is to come. Nine that are Three that are One.

… And I, shivering in the rain-damp morning against the Telling Stone, miles and ages apart, I am their witness.

Seeing the sacred

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A recent trip to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford brought us face to face with history, covering many centuries and many cultures. One of the things that struck me was the quantity of objects that were associated with the sacred. It is perfectly understandable that this should be so as those things that are considered to be sacred, or be representative of the sacred, would doubtless have had a special value, both artistically and emotionally, and would thus have been more likely to be preserved for posterity than a cooking pot or hair comb, for instance and even more so than a simple jewel of mere financial value.

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The details of religious belief have differed widely throughout human history and across the world, but the underlying idea of sacredness in itself is common to all. There is a veneration of something we see as being greater than our human selves, worthy of respect and reverence. For our early ancestors the Earth itself was sacred. Later, gods and goddesses personified aspects of Deity with stories not unlike our own; we could begin to understand the abstract principles behind the Forces that were given such forms and understanding them began to be an intellectual pursuit as much as a question of faith.

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Many of the symbols of these ancient beliefs seem strange to our eyes, yet they are no stranger than, say, a crucifix would look to someone who knew nothing of Christianity. The symbols of religious belief encapsulate stories… and the stories themselves are symbols for a greater reality beyond conscious thought, but which speak to us on a level deeper than emotion. It is as if we have a capacity to understand the message of a symbol, even if we do not know its story. We have an inherent, if basic,  understanding of common symbols. The Horus Hawk speaks to us of soaring flight… the crucifix of suffering… the solar disc of light… and the green gods of fertile life.

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We recognise the sacred from across time and space, even if its symbols are not familiar and not our own. We may couch our understanding of them in terms of our own beliefs and fail to see their depth of meaning… but we recognise them as having been symbols of the sacred once upon a time. Some will reject them utterly, others accord them respect because of the faith they once inspired, but even to reject them as ‘pagan’ is to own their erstwhile sacrality.

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What is perhaps the oldest faith needs no symbols. We have only to look. We live, breathe and have our being within it. The fruitful earth is beneath our feet, the starry canopy of the heavens above us, the great fiery eye wakes every morning and warms the soil and its tears fall as life-giving rain. Our world qualifies as ‘bigger than Man’ and worthy of revernce.

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The sacred nature of our home is all too often overlooked and our modern consumer society treats our planet as a soulless resource upon which it can prey or scavenge without consequence, even though we, as individuals, know that to be untrue. If we render our home unfit for human habitation, it is we who will perish, not our planet. It may take a few thousand years, but Man’s depredations will be erased by the fertile earth when we are no more than a crumbling forgotten memory.

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Our ancestors knew a thing or two worth the knowing. We have only to look at the inner meanings of ancient myths to realise their phenomenal understanding of the human psyche. We have only to study the stellar alignments and geometries of their monuments to see how advanced their practical knowledge may have been without the benefit of our telescopes and computerised instrumentation. Perhaps it would be worth according their belief in the sacredness of the earth a little respect too. We are surrounded by miracles every day. They are not forgotten symbols of ancient faith… they are cherry trees in flower… bluebell woods… a soaring hawk… a loving touch or a laughing child. They are all the small, familiar things that are not gods, not gilded or jewelled… but they are reminders, symbols, of a life greater than our own and worthy of reverence.

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