Principles of Fire (5) A Tribe of One

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They who set out to discover the twin meanings of the word ‘self’ must walk a certain path. The route to the deeper, real self lies only in the journey through the everyday self. Without this study – and its consequent effects – there can be no personal transformation.

We have to learn to look at ourselves with intensity if we are to begin to glimpse the false edges of what we take ourselves to be. There are many forces at work to guide and help us. This is not a journey that is taken alone. To paraphrase the ancient Kabbalists: The universe is awake to an awakening Adam. Our birthright is the state of full and inclusive consciousness, free from the accumulation of the personal past. What prevents this state of living is the power of that past…

The ordinary, everyday self is characterised by one word: reaction. To begin to examine ourselves, we begin by studying – with intensity – how we react. We react to pain, or the threat of pain, even though it is not present. We react to pleasure and the possibility of pleasure. Between these two poles our lives are strung out like a historical washing line. On this line are familiar garments, comfortable resting points in good or bad times; places we can reside and be at home with the history of reaction contained within. Many, such as those generated in our early months, are unconscious and very powerful. They can be positive (love) or negative (paralysing fear). With the latter, if seen in the light of adult discrimination they would lose their power; but to ‘sit with them’ is truly work and better accompanied.

Some reactions are more subtle. It is hard to think in an original way. Typically, each of us belongs to a kind of ‘tribe’, where the core values of that group of people are shared among thousands, if not millions, of other members. When we belong to a tribe we don’t need to think originally, indeed it is often dangerous to do so. We risk drawing attention to ourselves, and the ultimate sanction against such behaviour is to be ejected from the tribe. Finding ourselves alone is a dreadful thing. Some people fear that more than anything else in their world.

When we begin to watch ourselves on a daily basis, the very act of self-watching begins the generation of a different ‘space’ inside us. This new, differently-aware space is what brings the early results that can be so heartening to those beginning the Work. This new space is not part of the historic egoic structure of our lives, since its very existence is to watch and study how that structure operates and has formed. The techniques that begin the creation of this space are analogous to a person realising that, from the perspective of consciousness, the world is actually projected on to their eyeballs – like a movie – with no gap between the event and the reaction to that event. The egoic self is what reacts, instantly, to this projected world. The vast majority of such reactions are pre-programmed by the personal life history; in other words, they are not truly alive…

The five senses bring us the shape and behaviour of the world around us. Patterns in our personal history tell us, immediately, if there is danger in the encroaching environment, whether physical or psychological. At the most intimate level, these patterns reveal threats to our physical existence – that which threatens the body. We do not need to process the logic of a burn from a red-hot object; the automated mechanisms from our early childhood react for us. But there was a time when we had to learn it…

Beyond that, we have patterns of emotional recognition, which are largely automatic, too, but in a different way. I can bat away the approach of a wasp in Autumn, but I can’t do the same with a bad feeling; I have to think originally about its possible origins – including searching within ‘my self’. I might not want the effort of doing that. Instead, I could reach for an alcoholic drink or switch on a movie, allowing the bad feeling to pass. Sadly, avoidance teaches nothing, whereas a naked inquiry into the newly formed internal state can teach us a lot.

Beyond the emotions is the power of the intellect: that which learns by reason. This is the slowest of all; yet allows us to form patterns that deal with very deep and often complex concepts, such as how and why people lie to others and to themselves. Reason is clever, allowing us to out-think the life-forms that came before us; using the intellectual jewel of ‘what if’. And yet reason is wholly a thing of the brain, and so is conditioned by the entirety of our personal history.

These three ‘space helmets’ – each one inside the other, like the famous Russian Dolls – are the glass through which we see the world. But our conditioned consciousness does not look at the world, it looks, instead, at the movie being shown on the glass bubbles in which we live. Our egoic consciousness is nothing more than the sum total of our personal reactions to the movies… But, it’s worse: there is nothing inside those three helmets, except the history of themselves and the historic washing line of fear and pleasure.

The riddle of this is the story of our real existence – and our wonderful potential as fully conscious creatures, connected, in microcosm, with everything.

To be continued…

©️Stephen Tanham


Other parts of this series:

Part One,   Part Two,   Part Three,   Part Four,


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

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

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

Principles of Fire (4) Essence and Reunion

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Continued from Part One of this topic

In previous posts, we have seen that how we view and interact with the world is conditioned by how our egoic self has developed; from oneness with Mother in the womb, through birth as an independent entity, to the reactive adult whose life mirrors that of a suit of armour, grown, protectively, over the real and eternally-new Self.

We have referred to that inner being as Child of Light, and indicated that there is a method behind this image. But this is not the use of a psychological technique of regression to childhood. It is a fully conscious method that explores the level of self, but carries the hard-won adult discrimination with us.

This ‘adult’ capability allows us to examine the binding power of those early reactions to the world and see them in a way that acknowledges that they were ‘shocks’ to a young being which led to conditioning. This can seem contradictory: we began by praising the truth and rightness of the essence – our very real core – and showing the limitations of the personality – that suit of armour which has no real centre… save the real Self, which it sees as a threat to its control and so disavows. In truth we need them both. We should not underestimate either the power of the ego to resist, nor the determination of the inner child to live its life as an empowered centre of being. We can chose to avoid the struggle and live an egoic life, but, once glimpsed that would be to abandon something beautiful and uniquely ‘us’ in a way the ego can never be.

We need the wisdom and practicality of the personality, the egoic self, to function in the world. If we are to be mystical seekers, or even teachers, we need to be able to open the way to the essence, the true self, and empower it to use the channels of expression developed in that long journey to adulthood.

So, what is the method that combines these? All spiritual paths do this in one way or another. The value of the modern ‘mystery school’ is that it can hasten the person’s development because it is able to use, at least partially, the language of psychology – in particular esoteric psychology – and that reduces the need for much of the former trappings of spiritual teaching.

So, where does this leave us? If we are minded to follow a path that utilises modern knowledge we have only a few choices. This is not to say that traditional ‘ancient’ wisdom does not exist; it does; but finding a true and non-exploitative source is not easy. The findings of psychology have opened the doors to new passageways to the experience of the personal essence, yet psychology has other concerns than the spiritual.

The ancient schools of the soul knew how difficult it was to find paths to the soul from the outer armour of the egoic self. Often, the aspirant would have to renounce all worldly interests and live a humble life until the ego was depleted, and the real being could be glimpsed beneath the rust. This still exists. Many of the paths into Buddhism, for example, require such an approach.

In the West, we are steeped in busy and industrious lives. We are unlikely to be attracted by a process of renunciation of that nature. Is it possible, in such a society, to live ‘in the world’ and yet not be of it?

A controversial philosopher of the early 20th century thought so. His name was Gurdjieff. He developed a western-facing route to the personal essence that, if followed with discipline, enabled people to become aware of layers of their respective ‘selves’ in a short period of time. The route from there to real knowledge of the inner self – the essence – was a more detailed study, but that secondary journey was fortified by a glimpse of the real in the early stages of the Work. This method required no ‘guru’ to trigger the initial success, just some good companions along the way.

Gurdjieff rose to prominence before the emerging knowledge of psychology became widely known. His methods were adopted and adapted by those who believed that an esoteric form of psychology was of great value to the nature of the materialistic ‘West’. Of particular interest to these people was the potential for one of Gurdjieff’s teaching aids to be used within this wider context.

Enneagram Sunrise

The enneagram, illustrated above, is a mysterious figure consisting of nine points arranged around a circle. The Silent Eye’s own version (above) also has a central triangle and a core. Gurdjieff claimed to have inherited the original symbol from a mysterious school he encountered on one of his many early journeys. He said it was a fragment of an unknown teaching whose use could reveal certain keys about how things happened in the world – particularly for those systems – human or industrial – whose nature was cyclic. You can read more about the enneagram here.

The Silent Eye is deeply indebted to those who took the enneagram and mapped it onto the patterns that were emerging in the study of egoic behaviour (see below). These patterns formed a nine-sided figure that mapped perfectly onto the Gurdjieff enneagram. Gurdjieff died in 1949, and did not live to see this development of his work. In his later teachings, he did say that it would fall to others to extend the use of this fascinating glyph.

Within a few years, the new groups had consolidated their knowledge, providing the world with a map of the outer layers of the egoic self, but one with a vital difference…

The enneagram developed by the esoteric psychologists linked the outer faces of the figure with the inner qualities of the personal essence – the very qualities that were and are our hidden, original nature. For the first time there came into existence a map that could chart the individual soul’s psychological growth from conception to the adult egoic self.

A map of the outward journey to egoic self is one thing. The return journey – which needs to be guided – is another. The outer layer represents a linked set of qualities, such as fear, deceit and flattery, which have been reversed from their original state in the perfect but vulnerable new-born. By experiencing the outer qualities in a Gurdjieff- derived way, we come to see the thinness of their existence, and to glimpse the pristine attributes that still lie beneath.

There are several schools that use this knowledge. Each one uses it in their own way. Within our own method, the enneagram map is used to chart an internal journey across three linked landscapes. The first, as you might expect, is a desert, where the individual Companion finds themselves stumbling upon a remote arena, and witnessing the end of a mysterious confrontation between the crowd and a ruler whose loyalties seem distant…

Mystery is important…. It is no accident that ‘schools of the soul’ that teach these paths to the personal inner state have always been called ‘mystery schools’, for they taught the mysteries of human existence: physical, psychological and spiritual. Each age of mankind finds new ways of telling this story. The age of esoteric psychology builds on what came before, but offers new, personal and exciting ways to enrich our lives and relationships; and to discover the origin of what is truly real within ourselves.

The journey requires an open mind and heart. It also requires dedication, but that is learned and practiced in the gentle introduction of the first three months of study. Beyond that, it becomes a habit to seek the personal Essence each day, and their is no greater delight in life than that dedication. We think that our busy lives, our cars, buses, trains, families, jobs and children are a hindrance to what calls to us from within.

Nothing could be further from the truth…

The physical and psychological conditions of our age are mirrored in the depth of help that lies just below our surface. The power with which we react in normal life can become a slingshot to that layer of real Self that lies within us. Our egoic natures are not negative, they are simply pointed the wrong way. The suit of armour needs a living body inside it, and then it may find that its metal skin is too thick, after all. Within these new methods, our busy worlds provide the perfect ‘temple’ in which the real self can, gently, emerge to claim its life. All it takes is that first step.

References to key teachers in other schools who have helped develop the spiritual enneagram:

Claudio Naranjo,

Oscar Ichazo,

Almass

©️Stephen Tanham


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

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

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

 

A Second-Self…

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Gilgamesh

My vizier says you have tidings of some import to my realm?

Trapper

Great lord, I bring dire news! A threat to the kingdom… 

Gilgamesh

Speak, man! If what you say is true, let us have no ceremony. What is it that you have seen?

Trapper

Why, I have seen a giant, my king!

Gilgamesh

A giant? Pah! You have been listening to tavern stories.

Trapper

No, my lord, with my own eyes I saw him.

Gilgamesh

If your eyes have played you false, then your tongue sets you at risk, Trapper. Tell me of this giant…

Trapper

My eyes serve me well, my lord, and are, as always, at your service. 

Gilgamesh

Where and when did you see this apparition?

Trapper

I was hunting in the forest, lord. It is true that there was gossip in the tavern, but I thought as you…that it was no more than a drunken tale.

As the dusk fell near the watering hole, three days ago, I saw him… My lord… forgive me…but I have seen such a savage man at the watering-hole.

He has muscles like rock.

He outruns the wild animals he lives with.

Tall he was… and broad… as an ox.

Rough, unkempt, uncivilised.

His speech, if speech it was, is like to that of the animals with whom he runs.

He fills the pits I have dug and tears out the traps I have set so that the animals again run free.

I can catch nothing.

My livelihood has gone.

I fear no beast, my lord, but seeing this creature, I was afraid…

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The Silent Eye’s Spring workshop for 2019

THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH

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 this quest of a life-time, next 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

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Click here to download the Booking Form

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

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Lord of the Deep: The Quest for Immortality

26-28 April, 2019 – Great Hucklow, Derbyshire

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A practical course…

“…am I missing something?” The frantic voice on the phone made it quite clear that he really hoped he was…
“There’s a grey ring with symbols on it. Turn it to the one with parallel lines.”
“Okay, done that.”
“Then, above where the ‘U’ shaped bit of red plastic is, there is a red slider. Push it to the right.”
“Whew… That’s got it. Thank you!” He hung up to deal with the piscine emergency and, while I threw on some clothes to go and join him, it occurred to me that this was a really useful example of one of the exercises we use in the Silent Eye to build awareness.

The gadget in question is nothing interesting, nor is it one I own, but it isn’t something I have to think about either; operating a hosepipe is just one of those things you do on autopilot. I cannot recall ever having particularly examined the fancy nozzle-that-does-everything-except-feed-the-cat, but I was, thankfully, able to conjure its image in sufficient detail to be of use.

I am lucky in this respect; my imagination and memory work with visuals and, while I may be utterly useless at remembering anything to do with numbers these days, what I have seen I can usually picture with clarity. Part of that is just down to how my mind functions; where some people remember the spoken word accurately and others have a gift for recalling numbers, I tend to remember what I have seen. Except numbers. But part of it too is down to training.

I have been working with the Mysteries for nearly half a century. Early in my studies, it became evident that there were two basic choices open to anyone seriously following that path… study for knowledge or study for application, and it seemed to me that the two needed to work in tandem.

While you cannot put into practice what you do not know, and therefore knowledge is necessary, the acquisition of knowledge alone serves no purpose unless it is used, except to satisfy the hunger of the inquiring mind and foster understanding. But as real understanding comes only with experience… so the most practical course would be to learn all you can, extrapolate the practical uses and apply them. And, as the lessons learned studying the Mysteries must be applied to life, it is through your own life that you learn.

Right from the very beginning of my own studies,there were exercises in awareness, even though, ironically, I did not realise it at the time. From simply visualising your room as you drift into sleep, to noting new details in familiar places, or playing memory games with yourself… they were simple enough exercises. It is difficult to gauge the cumulative effect, especially if your mind works best in pictures, until something makes you take note.

The hosepipe was an insignificant example, but the clarity with which it was brought to mind was striking. Places I have visited once, maybe thirty years ago, are still very clear. I drive thousands of miles on obscure roads and seldom look at a map… and if that kind of thing is a practical result of my studies, then I am happy to have spent so much time on ‘awareness’ exercises.

When the Silent Eye was founded, we wanted to create a distance learning course that was, above all, of practical use to the seeker, so it is no surprise that amongst the earliest exercises, we included those designed to stretch the unused mental muscles of simply noticing. They seem such simple exercises that most students approach them lightly…and yet, without exception, those same students find them a revelation, either through how many physical details they have been overlooking or how what they discover connects with other areas of their own experience. Almost all the journals about these exercises contain one common phrase… “I never noticed that before.”

Deliberately taking notice of something is only one step on the journey to awareness though. It goes much deeper than that, or there might seem little point in chasing this elusive state. It extends beyond the obvious, through an awareness of oneself, to that awareness of others that we call empathy. It opens you to emotion, and you may laugh and weep more readily, especially at the touch of beauty. It opens you to the natural world, so that its details are not missed and its creatures are seen in all their amazing complexity. Beyond that, too, until all you know of creation joins in a single, magnificent, delicate web of life. It opens you to life.

Wish you were here?

We regularly share the stories of our workshop weekends on these pages. What is impossible to share on these pages is the sense of warmth, the laughter and the camaraderie that attends these weekends. Those who come along are not all members of the Silent Eye… in fact, the majority are not. It is not a requirement. They come for the sake of friendship, companionship and a shared curiosity about the mysteries of this land and the even deeper mysteries our human lives.

Three times a year we gather for informal workshops in the landscape, exploring historic sites and the spiritual history of those who built them. Sometimes we take a more modern landscape and seek a symbolic meaning, finding ways to apply what we learn to or own daily lives. Spirituality is not a noun, but a verb…

In April, we host a different kind of workshop, using a form of ritualistic drama such as was used in the Mystery Schools of old, where a single story is woven through the weekend, touching the imagination through the emotions, and allowing us to illustrate and understand deeper spiritual principles. This too is open to all, and every year people travel across the globe to attend.

Laughter, companionship and understanding are the threads that bind these weekends together. They are designed to explore, not dictate, spiritual principles. We do not teach so much as open a book that we can all learn from together, each as much as they wish.

If you would like to join us for one of our informal Living Land, or Annual April weekends, full details can be found on our Events page. You can also read about past events and what it is like to attend your first workshop with the Silent Eye.

We currently taking bookings for the next two events for 2018, with further informal weekends to be announced for September and December:

The Jewel in the Claw
A residential workshop in Great Hucklow, Derbyshire
20-22 April, 2018
Intrigue at the court of Queen Elizabeth I of England. William Shakespeare holds a conversation with Death. “There was one story untold,” says the Bard. “One story that could not be told or it would have hurt her soul and her life… a story of the beloved Queen’s darkest hour.” Death leans in and listens. “Tell it now,” he whispers…


The Giant and the Sun
An informal weekend, based in Cerne Abbas, Dorset
15-17 June 2018
Tradition tells of a mischievous Giant who after devouring several sheep lay down on the side of a hill to sleep off his breakfast. The people of Blackmoor Vale tied him down and killed him. The tiny village of Cerne Abbas is today still overlooked by the Giant’s effigy cut in chalk on the side of the hill. But what other secrets does the landscape within and around the village hold.


For further details, booking forms and prices, please visit our Events page.


Spirit Animals by Running Elk

The Feathered Seer – Patterns of enchantment

 

 

‘The hidden world has its clouds and rain, but of a different kind. Its sky and sunshine are of a different kind. This is made apparent to those not deceived by the seeming completeness of the ordinary world.’

Jalaluddin Rumi

For the final ritual, the setting we chose was Arbor Low, the great stone circle within a henge. Its is unusual as it contains a central cove beneath which ancient human remains were found and the stones lay flat as if gazing at the pattern of the heavens; there seems little evidence that they were ever standing. Our own experiences at the stones were to provide the basis for the ritual… but as the essence of the workshop evolved, so did its final form of re-enchanting the land.

It is odd how things work out sometimes. One aspect of the five rituals had been put in place before we had even considered the Feathered Seer as a workshop. We had planned to incorporate the idea the year before during Leaf and Flame and were all set to do so, right up until the moment came. Then, without really knowing why, we felt it had to be put to one side. It was part of one of the unscripted sequences, so only two of us realised that we had skipped a portion of what was planned.

We work with the symbolism of the enneagram, a nine pointed schematic that we use to represent the journey of the human personality, the soul and the universal process of Becoming. Part of this journey is represented by a pattern of movement around the stations. We had planned to ‘move’ each of the Companions to a station representing what could be called a higher aspect of themselves. It was only afterwards that we realised how wrong that would have been. What happens within these rital dramas is symbolic of a wider reality…and in this case, a very personal one. We could not move them… it is something each of us must do for ourselves, journeying through life until we reach where we need to be. Thus it was that, this year, each of the Companions symbolically walked the Paths of Being and Becoming for themselves in a dance that married process to progress.

The simple movement was a beautiful sight, with each Companion walking the pattern from their own unique place and perspective, carrying with them the light of consciousness. For those who watched, it was a glimpse of something very special.

There is a tendency to separate the sacred from the mundane, the physical from the spiritual… to see the two as somehow different, even though they are two sides of the same coin. Movement is an expression of life and life an expression of spirit. As the flame was passed around the circle of Companions, we saw spirit in motion; creating a pattern, warp and weft of the soul.

There were other patterns woven, less obvious but no less potent, triangles within and without… keepers of lore and wisdom and those who bring those qualities into the everyday world, joined at a place where the inner and outer worlds touch. It was from here that we built another pattern. In meditation, a web of light as woven that would be seeded with stones, symbols of inner peace, all around the world.

Quite how the idea had arisen would be impossible to say, but it too had grown, weaving itself through the work of the weekend. In yet another of those odd synchronicities, we learned during the course of the workshop that two of our Companions were already initiating an almost identical idea within their own groups. Yet again, there was the touch of something beyond ourselves at work.

“Warp and weft,” said the Lore Keepers. The warp is the vertical matrix through which the weft is woven. We are neither the warp nor the designer of the fabric of life. We are threads of the weft, but each of us has a place on the loom and without just one of us, the pattern would be incomplete.

“Man’s life is laid in the loom of time, to a pattern he does not see…” but sometimes, just sometimes, we are graced with a glimpse.

The Feathered Seer – The bitter drop

‘If you have not lived through something it is not true’

Kabir

The fourth ritual took us to a place of fear. Within the local landscape there is a high place that had, for a long time, remained hidden from notice, even though we had passed it many times over the years. It was never hidden from sight… there are no trees to give seasonal camouflage, no houses or obstructions…it was only, somehow, hidden from awareness. Even though we must have seen it, the mound had never impinged upon consciousness. And it is really too big, too imposing, to miss.

It was inevitable that, once noticed, we would visit the site. The story that was born of that first encounter has been told elsewhere. The encounter itself was unlike any other, beginning an unease that grew with each successive visit and leaving me an emotional wreck. The tale that the hills whispered would furnish the inspiration for the fourth ritual.

Prior to that, however, Morgana was to speak to the group of soul-lineage and the work of the psychopomp. It was one of the many striking synchronicities of the weekend. We had issued the invitation but had no idea what subject she would choose, what she would say or how she would present it. The subject could not have fitted more perfectly had it been pre-planned and scripted… and the symbols beside her as we walked in, black  and white, would exactly mirror what we had planned for another unscripted sequence in the very next ritual and about which only two of us knew. In such seemingly impossible ‘coincidences’ there is a reassurance that we are doing something right.

Fear was addressed on many levels throughout the weekend, from the fragilities of the ego that affect our day-to-day lives and the way we perceive the world, through to the deeper, often unspoken fears that hide in the shadows. Morgana spoke of death and dying and, for many those are the ultimate fears.

To those for whom death itself holds no fear, the manner of dying is one of some concern. We seldom have a choice in the manner of our passing and for most, if not all of us, there is the conscious hope of a gentle ending for ourselves and those we love. Death itself may be feared because we do not know what lies beyond… it is unknown territory and even our certainties cannot be proven before we pass beyond that veil. Death may also be feared because we cannot imagine a place or state of being when we are not. The ego is designed for life; it clings to its familiar state of being and, for existence to continue without its presence in some form or another, is an unencompassable idea to many.

The initiatory theme of the ritual took us to a place of fear… and moved beyond it. The word ‘initiate’ means ‘to begin’  or to ‘set in motion’ and, as there can be no beginning without the ending of a previous state, the symbolism of death and birth into a new state of being, of the fear and its facing, is an apt analogy. In the Tarot, the Death card symbolises not only physical death, but also endings and change… and a change is a new beginning.

Our society has, in many ways, become inured to death. It’s horrors are so often in our homes through the news and media, both in reality and as ‘entertainment’, that we no longer recoil from many of the images with which we are confronted. Yet both the fear and the mystery of death remain.

Before the workshop, I spoke with someone about the value of life and, in particular, about the role of its limits. Would we achieve anything much if we were immortal, beyond the ability to perfect the art of procrastination? With unlimited time, would we seek a cure for cancer or a path to peace? Our limitations may give our lives meaning. By being aware of and accepting our mortality, we create a virtual time machine for ourselves. We are all aware of how time itself seems to slow or speed up depending on our levels of boredom or engagement with the moment. By acknowledging the finite nature of our lives, time takes on a new level of meaning and we live each moment with greater intensity. Kahlil Gibran said, “It is life in quest of life in bodies that fear the grave.” The sadness is that our very fear of death is caused by our consciousness of life and, in turning away from its inevitability, perhaps we are also failing to embrace life as fully as we could.

The Feathered Seer – Divining meaning

‘In former times the soul was feathered all over’

Plato

The third ritual of the workshop weekend was named Deadshaw Sick after the strip of land that divides the lands of the living from the lands of the dead at Barbrook. On one side of the stream are the hut circles that mark the place of a settlement, on the other, the stone circles and cairns of their dead. It was there that the Seer had come into consciousness, and there too that we had spent a strange afternoon after the previous workshop. The land had seemed alive in an indescribable way, as if we had somehow ‘lost’ centuries and were vouchsafed a glimpse into a distant past and the stone circle ‘showed’ us how it could have been used. On that day, the land itself formed the ritual space of purification and offering and we could see quite clearly how it lent itself to the needs of the Seer…  but that is another story. Seated on the Companion Stone, we had, in a matter of minutes, mapped out the entire workshop in great detail… detail that was almost immediately lost. But the seeds had been planted and ideas sown that would, in the way of such things, germinate in their own time.

Like flowers, ideas respond to the conditions in which they grow and to what elements are brought to bear on their  evolution. Much of the workshop had to wait to be written until thoughts, strewn as unidentified seeds across the landscape of possibility, revealed their inner nature. Some things could not be written until they were understood… others could not be understood until they were written. Others still may not be understood until they are brought into being in our lives. It was a waiting game… elucidation came in its own time and under many guises, impossible to predict where, when or how the ideas might bloom.

One idea we wished to carry into the temple was that of divination. Bratha, whose name, as far as I can discover, comes from an ancient word for ‘knowledge’, was a seer to her people. They lived at a time when technology meant stone… from the tools of everyday living to the cairns and circles of their rites. We had, on that strange day after Leaf and Flame, gathered heather-wood amid the cairns, thinking to carve divination sticks from their twisted forms. Every time I tried to work on them, I seemed to get distracted…until we realised that wood had more to do with the story we had just told than the one we were yet to tell.

If Bratha’s people had used stone for all else…what else would they use for divination?

We gathered crystals instead.

Melding the traditional attributes of the crystals with the characteristics attributed to the higher spheres of operation of the nine stations of the enneagram, we devised a table of meaning and a mode of divination that we played out, within the circle of stones, during the Circles Beyond Time weekend. The questions that were brought to the seer were not voiced to her, as she would have been no more than a conduit. The answers given were taken from the stones… the seer would herself have listened, to stone or to ancestral echoes perhaps, and the querent would find the meaning within the answer…an answer that sought to elicit the truth they already held within them, rather than to impose an external interpretation that might have little relevance and less value.

Signs, dreams, symbols, portents and the many methods of divination, all share a common thread… they speak to us in ways that are uniquely personal if they are to have any value. It is of little use to  learn the ‘rules’ and stick to them; while there seems to be a universal understanding of symbolism at an intuitive level, the cultural, temporal and geographical differences within which we are raised will each add their own shades and colours to the emotive response such things awaken in the individual. Their value resides in what these things may  awaken within us or can open in our hearts and understanding. A stone is neither more, nor less, than a stone, until we give it meaning.

Yet there is something else at work too… an unseen presence that seems to evoke synchronicities that we can neither miss nor ignore, that guides the hand or allows us to notice the flight of a bird across our path. When the seeker seeks, on whatever path he may follow, a portal is opened between the ego and the Self and, for a brief moment, the two may commune in harmony, combining the essence of the human experience with the flight of the soul, each shedding their own light and clarity on the moment. The heightening of awareness allows us to see beyond form and interpretation to glimpse what is true, though how, whether or when we can accept or understand it depends upon where we are on our individual journey. As humans we can be very good at fooling ourselves, convincing ourselves of things that are not. We may even fool others for a time.. We take the fragments of truth that we garner and build for ourselves a version of reality in which we live out our days, calling it ‘ours’. But the feathered wings of the soul carry us towards Truth itself. We cannot fool the essence of our Being… and Truth belongs to no man… only to itself.