Religious Syncretism…

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“Then, Samson went down to the vineyards of Timnath and a young lion roared against him.

The Spirit of the Lord came upon him so that, with nothing in his hands, he rent mightily the lion as though it were a young goat.”

Judges 14

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“And then Samson found a jawbone of an ass and he took it and with it he slew heaps upon heaps of men to the number of a thousand.”

– Judges 16

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“You know, I’m not sure syncretism is quite the right word,” says Wen, eyeing the icon of Gilgamesh with some trepidation.

We are in the British Museum doing ‘research’ as Wen likes to call it.

‘Pick up your staff and pen,’ she said, ‘we have work to do.’

Which means in Wen-Speak, among other things, more churches…

“Your doubts are probably well founded. Mr Graves called it ‘iconotropy’ – turning religious iconography to new religious purpose.”

“Oh, him again. No one knows who Robert Graves is.”

“Well, they should! Anyway, in ‘King Jesus’ he has a Priestess of Astarte and Joshua-ben-Miriam go through a whole series of cave-bound images with each of them giving a different yet perfectly valid interpretation of the self same icon.”

“Cave-bound?”

“Inscribed in a cave.”

“It hardly seems possible.”

“Religious interpretation, I should have said.”

“It still hardly seems possible.”

“Why isn’t anything, anything else?”

“You’re being obscure again,” says Wen.

“It’s what we bring to the table!”

“I like that,” says Wen, looking slightly perturbed as I hone in with a Gob-Stopper to hand.

“ifzattthicklynekxazzery,” says Wen, her mouth full of Gob-Stopper.

“Our own journey is entirely imaginary,” I continue in my obscure way, “that is its strength. Longman says so and he is never wrong.”

“Oooh, the Long-Man of Wilmington,” says Wen having now unceremoniously discarded the Gob-Stopper, “now there’s a thought.”

“So, that’s that then…”

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LORD OF THE DEEP: THE QUEST FOR IMMORTALITY

A DRAMATIC RETELLING OF 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.

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

Click here to download Booking Form

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Why Myth? III…

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…We do not pretend to be expert in Australian Aboriginal myth.
We have probably in our whole life-time to date read only a handful of their stories.
We have though spent some time in Australia crossing the country bottom to top from Melbourne to Cairns in a, by today’s standards, somewhat dilapidated, ‘chippy-van’.
Had we known previously that height was an effective deterrent against mosquitoes we would surely have utilised such knowledge.
We have the utmost respect for anyone who heads out into that landscape alone and on foot and with only a digging stick for company.
I shudder to think what might have been the outcome of our trip had the ‘chippy-van’ broken down in the out-back.
Thankfully it did not although at the time that possibility barely permeated our consciousness.

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Why do such stories resonate so deeply with us?
They are so far removed from the world we have created for ourselves as to be utterly alien.
And yet they are recognisably human in every fundamental aspect.
In the un-adapted version of the story the reason for the young woman’s journey is given as the desire to reach the next linguistic area of the country.
This in itself may have been seen as a ‘no-no’ for the mores of her societal hierarchy.
But it is a journey into the unknown, an adventure, and our heroine doth ‘boldly go…’
Obstacles are encountered and adeptly overcome until the inevitable intrusion of the supernatural.
We say inevitable because myth the world over concerns itself with the other-worldly or supernatural.
One could even go so far as to say, ‘that is its brief…’
It turns out badly in the version of the story we have.
The Dust-Devil ‘wins’.
Beware the Bogey-Man!

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In Ancient Greek Mythology it is the Gorgons, those ferocious female demons of whose number Medusa is probably the most memorable who possess the ability to turn mankind into stone.
Such transformations can be read in a number of ways and one of the most interesting is the psychological which would have the young hero’s heart turned to stone by the encounter with the ‘unfettered’ feminine.
A condition which can last a whole life time through if not recognised and addressed.
But the Ancient Greek Myths for the most part are late and although by turns noble and dazzling and glamorous they also display unmistakeable signs of high artifice.
The rift with the land which is in that corpus of work treated as merely a backdrop for heroic human exploits is already apparent in a way that is not to be seen in the Aboriginal stories.
In those stories the land itself is regarded as a being and is treated as such.
But how, we may wonder, can one imagine a supine young woman to be in a rock or a stone?

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Why Myth? II…

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‘…So, what is the significant act?’
‘All the acts in the story are significant.’
‘What is the story about?’
‘It is about a Dust-Devil.’
‘For the human body there are really only five significant acts: the first is breathing. The second is eating. The third is defecating. The fourth is sleeping and the fifth is… copulating.
At least three of these are represented in the story.
Is there one act more significant than the others for this particular story?’
‘The sex act…’
‘Would it surprise you to know that this was a story told by a father to his pubescent daughter?’
‘It is a cautionary tale?’
‘It is a cautionary tale now but there are signs that this was not always the case.’
‘Those signs are?’
‘The fire-stick at the outset of the tale may not be an original component of the story.’
‘We are not told the nature of the creatures that were eaten at the camp sites.’
‘We are not even told that those creatures were actually eaten.’
‘Only vegetable stuff is eventually traded with the Dust-Devil and there appears to be a lacuna when the young woman looks around the cave house after slashing the neck of the Dust-Devil.’
‘Did she at one time in the telling of this story find the fire-stick there and then?’
‘The nature of the Dust-Devil appears to be equivocal.’
‘Is he killed or not?’

*

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‘And what is a Dust-Devil anyway?’
‘Ninety-percent of the dust in any house, even a cave house, is comprised of skin shed from the body.’
‘Ashes to Ashes…’
‘Throughout the story there is a lot of emphasis on the correspondences between eating and copulating.’
‘The two concepts seem almost interchangeable.’
‘By cooking one makes unpalatable things palatable.’
‘At one time this may have been an ‘origin of cooking’ myth.’
‘For these people, then, cooking may have been ‘invented’ or ‘discovered’ by a female culture hero, or if you prefer a heroine…’
‘…Along with sleeping platforms and paper-bark canoes?’
‘That is also a distinct possibility.’
‘Presumably she wouldn’t have been turned into a rock in that version…’
‘…Presumably not.’
‘Who were these people? Where is the story set?’
‘The tale is set somewhere with a warm climate because of the mosquitoes.’
‘All that walking about with nothing but a digging stick for survival…’
‘It has probably got to be Aboriginal Australia.’
‘And yet there are elements in the story that are echoed in the mythologies of all people.’
‘The ‘held captive in a rock’ motif for example is familiar from the Arthurian Mythos…’
‘Both via the sword in the stone and in Merlin’s ultimate demise and perhaps even in the cave which traditionally holds the Sleeping King and his Knights.’
‘The Dust-Devil is reminiscent of some of the demons which in the Apocryphal Bible stories Lilith, the first Eve, is said to comport with in the desert.’

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‘… And how many times in the world’s mythologies does a protagonist cross a body of water in order to secure a boon for their people?’
‘In the folk-tales of these isles people are forever being turned to stone.’
‘How else could we explain all those stone circles plonked bang-smack in the middle of… now-here?’
‘They would have had to have walked there as people and started to dance before they were turned to stone right?’
‘Yeah, right…’
‘But stones or rocks with holes in them do make sounds when the wind blows through them and they could well have provided inspiration for the first musical instruments.’
‘I’d like to include walking and dancing as significant acts of the human body…’
‘…Any more?’
‘Making and playing musical instruments.’
‘That makes nine.’
‘You didn’t answer the question.’
‘What question?’
‘Why Myth?’
‘Because Mythology is ‘My Theology’ and the ‘my’ here does not belong to me nor does it belong to the ego either…’
‘It is not really about the body is it?’
‘What is it about?’
‘It is about the body being a vehicle for spirit.’

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Why Myth?…

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‘…history became legend, legend became myth…’

What a pleasant conceit, to suppose that this process produces myth. Whilst undoubtedly true for many legends the process can also work the other way. Many legends for example have produced history. Pre-eminently in this respect, at least for Britain, is ‘King Arthur’ whose story the scholars do indeed now refer to as a mythos.

But what is really going on here?

It is probably more accurate to regard all these forms as stories. We are not supposed to regard History as a story but as ‘recorded fact’ and also ‘true’, but well, really, the clue is in the name. So why do we set such store by stories? The clue is in the question.
The truth of stories lies in a realm other than the literal. And what is ‘the literal’ anyway’?

‘The literal is something that actually happened.’

‘And what do we mean by something?’

‘We mean an ‘act’.’

‘Do we mean an act in a play?’

‘No, we mean a physical act; we mean the physical actions of a person.’

‘What, any act, and any person?’

‘Usually a significant act and a significant person’…

*

*

…A woman set off in the west, coming this way.
She was carrying her baskets for plant foods, her digging stick and a fire-stick.
She was coming, travelling along, camping and then setting off again.
As she went along she was looking about her and where she saw plenty of small creatures and plant food she would stop and eat and then camp.
At sunset she would settle down and sleep and early in the morning she would set off again.
Going on she saw that salt-water tide had come up at a place she hoped to go across.
So she camped there.
She made a sleeping platform in a tree because so many mosquitoes were biting her.
When at last early morning came she made a paper-bark canoe, paddling with her hands to cross to the other side.
Then she started off again and eventually came to a cave house…

*

*

…A Dust-Devil was living in the cave house.
Tall, thin and hairy he was with a crooked body and bat-like wings.
‘My woman has come,’ he said, ‘my body’s no good but today we two will sleep together.’
When they met the woman offered him vegetable food and the Dust-Devil reciprocated with fish.
They slept together but the woman did not like the look of him so she cast about the cave house, found a stone axe and began sharpening it whilst he slept.
The Dust-Devil woke up.
He stretched himself and was preparing to eat the woman. She slashed his neck.
Then she looked around made a fire and cooked his body.
Perhaps he just tossed away the flames that Dust-Devil?
He came out the fire, ‘you woman, why did you kill me? I will cover you with my wings.’
The woman tried to hide but he found her.
He sealed her up in the cave where she was lying.
That cave remained for her then a dark cave.
She kept on talking in there, abusing the Dust-Devil.
At last she became like a rock.
She stands there a rock, forever.

A Young Woman meets a Dust-Devil

(Adapted from ‘Speaking Land’ by R.M. Berndt and C.H. Berndt)

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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The Tyrant of Uruk…

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 “The Eternal City of Uruk…

See how its ramparts gleam like copper in the sun…

Climb the ancient staircases up stone more ancient than mind…

Approach the Temple of Eanna…

Sacred precinct of the Goddess Ishtar…

Her priestesses stand laughing and chatting flushed with joy…

Ready to serve mens’ pleasure for her honour…

Walk the Great Wall of Uruk…

The men-folk dressed in their splendour…

In fine linen and embroidered wool…

Their fringed shawls and wide belts brilliantly coloured…

Follow its leg-wearying course around the city…

Inspect the mighty foundations…

Examine the masonry…

How masterful is its construction…

Wallow in the land it encloses…

Its palm trees and gardens…

Its orchards and lakes…

The glorious palaces and temples…

The shops and market places…

The homesteads and public squares…

Every day is a festival in Uruk where people sing and dance in the streets…

The musicians of Uruk play incessantly on their drums and lyres…

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And in their bed chambers at night…

The young-folk cry themselves to sleep…”

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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…

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

*

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

*

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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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.


Seed Thoughts…

  1. The Outer is reflected Emotion…
  2. The Inner is reflected Form…
  3. The Outer reflects the Inner and the Inner reflects the Outer…
  4. The Principles: work not for themselves but for others.               The Companions: work not for others but for themselves.
  5. The Red, The White and The Green…
  6. ‘For the Druids physical death represented the mid-way point in the very long life of a Soul.’

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HM15 305

The Last Post?

Gawain's last post

We are now only two days away from the Silent Eye’s 2016 workshop, Leaf and Flame, organised by my two co-directors of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness Stuart France and Sue Vincent.

I have the dubious honour of having the largest vehicle. Tomorrow, I will spend five hours or so loading the major fixtures needed to create the Temple of the Mysteries that we use to stage our magical dramas. On Friday morning, very early, I will collect the single passenger needed to fill up the one seat not taken up by the fittings, and we will journey to the lovely village of Great Hucklow, and the wonderful Nightingale Centre, home of the last three of the Silent Eye’s annual workshops.

This year’s Leaf and Flame event tells the Arthurian story of Sir Gawain and his doomed quest to protect King Arthur from the consequences of accepting the Green Knight’s beheading challenge. Essentially, the Green Knight, riding into Camelot on New Year’s Day, challenges any of the Knights present to chop off his head; as long as he may do the same a year from then. Sensing extreme trickery, Gawain persuades King Arthur that he should not accept the challenge, but let it fall to himself (Gawain) instead.

We may assume that Gawain was suspicious of the actions of the green giant, but did not want to expose his beloved King to the dark forces involved. Sure enough, having chopped the head from the otherwise peaceful invader, Gawain awakens to a scenario of horror as the Green Knight picks up his severed head and rides out, stating that he’ll see his failed executioner in a year’s time, at a place called the Green Chapel, for the return blow – a blow that Gawain knows he does not have the magic to survive.

And so the scene is set for a mysterious series of adventures, culminating in a frozen and nearly dead Sir Gawain, in honourable search for the Green Chapel to surrender his life, arriving at an unknown castle and being taken in by the Lord and Lady who run it. They thus save his life and assure him that he has time, before paying his grisly debt, to recover amidst their generous hospitality, as the mysterious Green Chapel is nearby.

In return for this rescue, the Lord proposes a game: that, on each of three days’ hunting that follow, he will give to Gawain everything he wins. In return Gawain is to give to him everything that he receives, during his recovery in the warmth of the castle. So far so good, but when the Lord has left to hunt, the following morning, the Lady of the castle steals into Gawain’s bedchamber and attempts to seduce him… There follows a verbal fencing match where Gawain, decidedly under-dressed under his bed covers, is kept prisoner by the Lady while she works her seductive mischief. The original 14th century text is cleverly composed to show how the Lady changes strategies several times to try to outwit Gawain, who clings to his Knightly principles in what he senses is a losing game…

For three days, this twin metaphor of hunting and seduction is played out, with Gawain finally succumbing either to a magical token (the Lady’s garter) that may just help him survive his immanent beheading at the hands of the nearby Green Knight; or to sex with the lovely seductress. The interpretation relies very much on your point of view of the mores of the medieval times. Sex and Death were common themes, particularly in those tales that derive, as does the story of Gawain, from older Celtic traditions, where plain-speaking was the norm.

A similar historical eye is needed for the details of the Lord’s grisly hunting scenes, which otherwise might seem unnecessarily bloodthirsty…The original story was written about a time not long after the Norman invasion, where a strict code of hunting rewards were part of the hierarchy of the controlling elite.

I will not finish the formal story, as Leaf and Flame is not exactly sticking to the original plot, instead, as I wrote to a friend, earlier:

“In the hands of Stuart and Sue, The Leaf and Flame story of Sir Gawain becomes a sophisticated tale of the different ‘selves’ of the human; from the ‘lower’ and animalistic levels (and, below that, the foundation of survival, itself) to the assumed higher and intellectual levels. In the ‘middle’ we have the powerhouse that is the emotional ‘self’. The three ‘levels’ are not necessarily to be seen as stacked vertically…nor in the order given above..

The five act mystical drama follows the initial beheading of The Green Knight (who does not die, but rides off with his head under his arm) to the subsequent trials of Sir Gawain, who volunteered to enter this cursed action to save the honour of King Arthur. In the 14th century original, Gawain is ‘nicked’ on the neck rather than beheaded, following a partly successful seduction by the wife of a noble related to the Green Knight. Along the way, Leaf and Flame weaves in the story of Lady Ragnell, a woman cursed to be ugly to her suitors until one breaks the spell, thus freeing her to be what she is…

The greater story is that of the impossibility of divorcing the different elements of the ‘Whole Human’ whose nature has to be realised, in the words of Sue and Stuart, as “Fully human and fully divine”. The workshop is a cryptic journey through all these levels and how they operate within the life of, in this case, one victim, played by at least two people – Sir Gawain and his alter egos. Of his survival or not, I cannot speak, since my parters are keeping me in ignorance! I can only say that I sense some horror ahead; and that they are not necessarily keeping to the original story!”

I am, as you may have guessed, playing the part of Sir Gawain… it was not my idea, but my active acceptance of the doom ahead (whatever that turns out to be–and I really do not know the important details) needs to be a fitting tribute to their wonderful efforts. Whatever my ‘loathly end’ turns out to be, it will be followed by one of the most spectacular outside fire-dances, in the form of a performance by the mysterious Langsett Fox Dancers, whose dramatic performance will light up the night, though I probably won’t be there to see it, so to speak…

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I believe I have an appointment with a grisly end and this may well be my last post…

Can micro-surgery stick heads back on, yet?

Normal service will be resumed, hopefully, next week…