Looking back…

The Silent Eye is busy gearing up for the annual April workshop. Every year we host a residential workshop weekend in Derbyshire and every year people come from across the globe to join us for an adventure of mind, heart and spirit.

Past events have seen us travel through time from the far distant past to the unwritten future. The weekends are a frame for spiritual exploration, the costumes and colour bring the stories to life, while the scripted ritual drama engages the imagination and emotions, allowing us to learn from a shared experience.

Inevitably, these weekends have their ‘best bits’… the memorable moments that stand out from the rest. Such moments are largely subjective and doubtless everyone has their own, although the warm, friendship and laughter are a common thread.

Some of the highlights from the April workshops stand out not just as ‘workshop memories’, but as very special moments in my own life. I will not forget the opening of our very first ritual weekend, The Song of the Troubadour, when Steve and I sang the song written for that moment. Steve can sing…I cannot… yet together we harmonised. My unreliable voice soared, proving that limitations can be swept away, as we were carried on the wave of energy and emotion that lit up the temple.

I will not forget the shamanic drumming that opened each of the remaining rituals that weekend, nor the Child who sat at the centre of the sound, radiating peace. Nor the embrace given and received by the Mother, a moment of simplicity so beautiful I never thought it could be surpassed…until the Vigil.

At four in the morning, I took my place in the silent temple. An hour later, I was joined by Steve and then Stuart, the three of us forming an arrow of intent. We hoped a few would join us in stillness before dawn as we brought the Silent Eye into being. We never expected that every one of our Companions that weekend would be there, at that unearthly hour, to offer their gifts and support for the birth of the school. That was unforgettable.

Next came Land of the Exiles, where an interstellar craft touched down on a sentient planet and the crew sought to teach humanity and empathy to the mechanical mind that had taken charge of their ship. It is the hillside ritual that stands out for me most, and the parts of it I did not see, but heard of later. Gold winged, gold crowned and followed by a green Osiris, as Isis I waited on the dew-drenched hill for Anubis to bring the Companions to witness the dawn.

The wrappings of the mummified and near-hypothermic Osiris, were created with rope…and almost caused an accident when an early motorist caught sight of me tying up the green and white Osiris on the hillside… and steered his vehicle into the hedge.

Meanwhile, jackal-headed Anubis stalked the corridors, knocking on the doors of the Companions to collect them. I heard about that later… few were expecting that figure when they opened their doors and the reactions of some have become legendary.

I can attest to what a huge and surprising figure Anubis made that morning. I had left my room for a moment to prepare the temple… and returned to find the Jackal standing there, looking about eight feet tall and filling the space with his presence. Even though I had helped make the costume and done the ‘god’s’ make-up in the pre-dawn light, it was a startling sight…and I knew what to expect!

On a more serious note, what stands out in memory is a chant within a ritual and the cathartic journey of our Sekhmet, whose character grew from vulnerability to strength. What is played out in ritual changes nothing, though it may set the wheels of change in motion. When what is played out in ritual with intent is carried out into the world and acted upon in full consciousness, change and growth are inevitable…and beautiful.

In River of the Sun, we revisited ancient Egypt, this time following Rameses and his mentor, Menascare as the young pharaoh came into his power. Although the pharaoh’s nemyss appeared to have a life of its own, and Menascare, who was doubling as tech, had an iPad strapped to his staff to allow him to control the music, there were moments of great beauty, especially when once again, the written role of the young priest echoed the personal journey of its player. Such moments are not written with foreknowledge… though we knew there was only one person for that role once it was written. These moments are gifts. The Cave of the Seers was another gift, for many reasons, when a Presence other than our own filled the vessel we had crafted.

Leaf and Flame, based upon the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, was memorable for a number of reasons, not least of which were the props and ‘special effects’ we had to come up with. It is not easy to behead a giant… even less so when he then has to pick up his head and walk away, offering the severed head to the assembled company and asking them to ‘pick a card, any card…’ from it.

We managed… with shadow play, Halloween props and a masked head. Granted, the bouncing of the ‘head’ as it fell caused some mirth in the temple as I dropped the football just a little too late… but on the hole, it worked well. The totem animal cards that were picked out by each of the Companions were uncannily pertinent too…

Mordred and Morgause making wagers over a gameboard… the temptation of Gawain and the ad-libbing of the temptress’ husband… the hunt in the green forest… the wedding of Gawain and Lady Ragnell, it is hard to pick a ‘favourite’. The most powerful moment though was one of sheer panic… you invoke Pan at your peril, and although we had not consciously made the connection at that point between Pan and the Green Man, the panic set in, affecting the most seasoned ritualists at one point… then that energy exploded in another way as Gawain was preparing to meet the Green Knight for the return blow.

We also had the Foxes and their fire dance that year… and a very special moment indeed as we led their procession into the arena.

After the prop-heavy Leaf and Flame, the Feathered Seer weekend was kept deliberately simple, returning to a more traditional ritual style and delving into the teachings of the Silent Eye. The story followed a young seer as she sought to preserve the wisdom of her people from marauders and brought the ancient and sacred landscape into the temple. It was unusual in that Stuart and I spent most of the weekend dead… representing the ancestors and the unseen presence that guides.

One of the greatest gifts of that weekend was the attention that everyone brought to the moment. When our shaman opened the temple, the energy levels rose. When the Companions walked the pattern of the enneagram, they did so with a grace and flow that was beautiful to witness. When both patience and silence were required, both were given in full measure. When our Lore Keepers acted out the tale we asked them to share, they did so with a flair, flamboyance and energy unlike anything you can imagine. The other highlights are less easy to convey; the emotion as fear was symbolically faced and dissolved, the work of the temple that was sent out into the world… and the innumerable synchronicities that let us know we were not working alone.

This year, with The Jewel in the Claw, we step back in time to the moments before Shakespeare’s demise. He takes us to the court of Queen Elizabeth I of England where political intrigue is rife, and a queen holds a vision for the future of her realm. As April approaches, I wonder what new memories we will forge?

Shape-shifting (Part 1) – by Running Elk

This series of posts are based on the outline of an exploration session presented at The Silent Eye  (a modern mystery school) “The Feathered Seer” weekend in 2017. Whilst I have attempted to retain some of the flavour of the actual talk, the interactive elements of the exploration are absent, and since most of it was done “on  the hoof” it is not really a true reflection of the session. Many of the sections are expanded considerably from that presented on the day…

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“Boy Mood 2” (found at eskipaper.com)

Not sure what I was thinking, really. It’s a massive topic, and whilst I did mention this during a previous exploration session, in 2016 on Spirit Animals, I somehow found myself agreeing to attempt the subject the following year.

April 2017 came far too quickly, and finding myself, the night before the session, scratching down a few notes on the back of a Corn Flake packet, was rather concerned that I simply didn’t have enough to fill the hour assigned.

I shouldn’t have worried. The elements of this post were barely covered, as the interactive elements went much deeper than I could ever have anticipated, and I found myself shoe-horning in elements of later parts in a vain attempt to give full coverage of the planned discussion points.

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What is it about shape-shifting that is so hard? We are ALL masters of shape-shifting. We simply don’t recognise the shape-shifting that we do, every day of our lives. Indeed, it is such a powerful urge within us, that we simply cannot help ourselves.

Child’s Play
Copyright: Ni Qin / Getty Images

Of course, we are not nearly as good at it now, as adults, as we once were. As children, shape-shifting comes so naturally, that we never question the reality of it. That little guy on the right is NOT wearing goggles and a cape in order to “play” Superheroes. He is, for all intents and purposes, a fully fledged superhero; capable of feats of incredible strength, leaping buildings in a single bound, saving the planet at every turn.

Continue reading: Shape-shifting (Part 1) | Shamanic Paths

Space for error

For five years, it was Steve who was the principal writer of the annual workshops. I don’t think any of us had really considered that it would ever be otherwise. We contributed, both ideas and certain sections of the weekend, but he had established a format and set a standard. All who attended knew they could trust him to deliver.

The morning of the first meeting after the River of the Sun workshop, Stuart and I had been talking about an idea he’d had for a workshop long ago…something he had been thinking about, on and off, for years. The Green Man had been coming up a lot in our lives…perhaps that was what had brought the idea to mind once more. We tend to trust the synchronicities that lead us along these odd pathways…especially when they go all ‘bells and whistles’.  You never know where they might lead, and so far, they have not led us astray.

“I think you should write the next one,” said Steve, settling himself at the pub table where we had just met. At any other moment, the only answer would have been that we could not possibly do that…he writes the workshops! Except, we’d been talking about the Green Knight/Green Man idea all morning so…

“Well, actually…” Which is how Leaf and Flame came into being, taking us all by surprise. We followed a year after that with The Feathered Seer, which we had also begun to mull over. Neither Stuart nor I had undertaken the writing of a workshop on that scale before, and Companions come from across the world to attend… even so, Steve left us to it, trusting that we would rise to the occasion. We, on the other hand, trusted that we would be given what was needed by way of inspiration as we worked. And we were…even though some of it came in its own good time.

Trust was a major facet of the Leaf and Flame workshop. Not only did we ask two of the Companions to ad-lib a whole section, trusting that they would bring what was needed to the moment, but we also asked the Gawain character, played by Steve, to place his trust in unseen forces, represented by …us. As we were by this time, being referred to as the Terrible Twins, this was a leap into the unknown. These ritual dramas go far beyond mere playacting and can have a deep and abiding effect on those who take part… and the trust required was real.

In previous years, the ‘knowledge sessions’ in which we explore various concepts, had all been carefully themed and designed to fit neatly with the story we were using and, for the most part, we had presented them ourselves. With Leaf and Flame and the Feathered Seer, we invited our Companions to share aspects of their own paths instead. We gave no more than a few words to guide their choice of subject and left them to it because we have the utmost faith in them. And every time, that faith has been repaid… not just with the quality of what has been shared, but through the strangely synchronous way in which their presentations have dovetailed far too neatly with the workshop.

That trust extends to all the Companions at the workshop… we ask them to open themselves to the moment …and they do. Every time. They are there when there is a need, they pick up the errors that inevitably occur, step in where there is a space, and each of them adds their own essence to the ‘cauldron of inspiration’ we brew together.

Some are asked to fill demanding roles. Last year, we beheaded one of our American friends in the first ritual. Okay, he did get to pick up his head and challenge the Companions to choose oracle cards from the severed head…and I think he enjoyed that… but even so, the axe was heavy and the trust needed to be mutual. This year, we asked our Shaman to work almost entirely unscripted for a large part of the weekend… which he did… and our Lore Keepers to enact two interwoven tales that they had yet to see, in whatever way they saw fit. Not only did they agree, but they delivered an incredible piece of performance art that had us all laughing and crying by turns and brought the historical role of the storyteller to vivid life for all of us.

The trust is unspoken, but always there. I believe it is stronger for being implicit, rather than explicit. It is simply accepted… and in that simplicity there is space.

When we dictate, step by step, every move that should be made, attempting to retain control of the vision we hold of ‘how things should be’, we are implying a lack of trust in others, even though we may not feel that to be so. Leaving space for error is also leaving space for trust…and that space allows those around us to grow into their own possibilities, challenging themselves in ways they may not otherwise have attempted.

When trust is misplaced, either things will not go according to plan or we will feel the shadow of betrayal. Either way, that space that we prepared will allow us room to grow as we face the challenges of the moment.

Living in the moment also requires our trust; that moment is the space in which we are…it can have neither past nor future, nor is it the present as it is past before we are aware of it. We can only trust as time and space moves through and around us. That trust must be in our selves, in the design of existence and the forces that are the matrix of being.

I wonder if that Free Will with which mankind is endowed, is also a manifestation of Trust? And is life, perhaps, the ‘space for error’ that we are given? Does it then matter whether we get things right or wrong… or does it matter more that we grow, through both success and error, for both can teach in their own way if we are prepared to learn. Is life our ‘space for error’, because we are trusted, rather than condemned… a space that allows each of us to grow into our own possibilities, challenging ourselves in ways we may not otherwise have attempted. Maybe we just have to trust that the Cosmos knows what It is doing… and trust ourselves to know It.

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.

Mister Fox and the Green Man

In previous years, the Silent Eye has released a workbook after the annual April workshop. In Song of the Troubadour and Land of the Exiles, we published the script of the five-act psycho-drama that forms the basis of these events with contributions from some of our companions who shared their personal impressions and stories.

The aim was to show exactly what happens on a ritual workshop weekend for those with no experience of such events and to give some insight into the Silent Eye.

Rather than continue publishing scripts in their pure format, we have sought innovative ways of presenting the inner ideas behind the stories we have woven as the central theme of a spiritual teaching workshop. Last year, the script for River of the Sun was turned into a serialised, fictional adventure and shared on Steve’s personal blog. It will eventually be released as a standalone novel that contains, within a  mysterious story of Ancient Egypt, the essence of the workshop.

This year, with Leaf and Flame, we decided to try something different

green man montage small

“Foxes, Welch!” When Special Agent Tommy Welch is called into Tee’s office, he has little idea of the perils of his latest assignment. Accompanied by the sensuous Miss Hunnyfludd, Welch believes he is to investigate an outbreak of mysterious Foxes. Instead Tommy finds himself flung far back in time, to the court of King Arthur, where a Green Knight is about to extend a deadly challenge…

Within the humorous spoof that frames the story, the reader is transported to Camelot to witness the confrontation of Gawain and the Green Knight. Based upon the story that lies deep at the heart of Arthurian lore, the threefold nature of the ancient myth unfolds…

Available now on Amazon worldwide in Paperback and for Kindle.

 

Faith, Belief or Gnosis – Did Gawain have Faith? by The Patrician Lady

The Patrician Lady is a much-loved and respected member of the esoteric community who, for the last two years, has shared her own perspective on the subject matter of the April workshops. She has kindly permitted us to reproduce the text of the talk that she gave at Leaf and Flame, where the central theme was the story of Gawain… a talk which, as one Companion stated, is “worthy of a workshop in itself.”

sir-gawain-green-knight-ff94v-95

Faith, Belief or Gnosis – Did Gawain have Faith?
by The Patrician Lady for the Silent Eye workshop: Leaf and Flame: the Foliate Man, April 2016.

Today we’re going to look at the words Faith, Belief and Gnosis and to offer a perspective on Faith as used by Jesus in the gospels which has relevance to Christian Western Mysteries. After this we will look at the response of Gawain when tested by the Green Knight. Did Gawain have ‘Faith’?

I had never really thought about the difference between Faith and Belief until I read books by Maurice Nicoll[1], in particular The New man. This book has a chapter on Faith which gives Nicoll’s thoughts on what Jesus actually meant by Faith. I realised that, like many other people, I thought Faith and Belief were the same, or as near as makes no difference. But Nicoll told me I was wrong, they’re not the same. After reading his thoughts on the topic I had an ‘Aha!’ moment, a moment of clarity which I would like to share with you today. If you google ‘Faith, Belief and Gnosis’ you will find numerous articles and books written on the subjects, together with various dictionary definitions, many of which define one as the other; everyone seems to have their own interpretation of difference and accord. Having read many of these articles I have sifted and distilled my thoughts which I hope you will find useful.

I’ll start by saying that Psychology is not my field of expertise, so any statements I make in this area are based on what I’ve read and understood from various articles. The human mind can be divided into three types; the Sensual mind, the Mystical mind, and the Spiritual mind. I have no doubt there are other definitions and divisions but I’d like to work with these for our purposes. The Sensual mind receives information from the five senses and the three dimensions of the physical world; with the Mystical mind you can experience beyond the Sensual mind, that is beyond the experience of the five senses. The Mystical mind receives information through the five senses but the information is abstract and not physical. The Mystical mind also receives information through intuition, psychism, telepathy etc., what we might call astral input.  The Spiritual mind is our Inner mind. It functions on a higher plane beyond the Sensual and the Mystical. The Spiritual mind is where it is possible to meet with Divine Unity, Godhead.

These three minds connect with the Body, Soul and Spirit. The mind holds our thoughts. It is the link between the Body and the Soul. It operates/functions via a physical organ, the brain, but its output is abstract and of a higher dimension. Spirit is our particular spark of Divinity carried within the vehicle of our Body, animated by our Soul or animus/anima. We also have three levels of consciousness or awareness: Normal consciousness, Sub or Un-consciousness and Super or Higher consciousness. These things we know and take for granted but ponder on them and they become a mystery.  Having said all this, let us return to our three types of mind: Sensual, Mystical and Spiritual and consider how these relate to Belief, Faith and Gnosis.

People say ‘I believe’ and assume they have Faith but Faith is not Belief. Belief is related to the Mystical mind. There is an aspect of choice about Belief. You learn about something and then choose whether or not to believe it. You create your own Belief-system. Beliefs are mental constructs, conclusions about reality or spirituality. Beliefs continuously change over time, influenced by incoming information, thoughts, hopes, experiences. From these we create our Belief-system; we can choose to believe or not-believe. Most people who say they believe in God get no further than the Mystical mind. Before reading Nicoll’s New Man I had always thought one could have Faith even if you ‘weren’t quite sure’, that Faith was the positive side of not being quite sure – people would say ‘Have Faith’. But it isn’t. Faith is different. It requires a transformation in thought, metanoia,  a re-penser, to re-think [not to repent as we use the word today – this is a mis-translation of the original French word]. Faith is pure knowledge, direct experiential wisdom, direct experience of the inner real. Faith is not a matter of choice. It is experiential, personal to you. It produces an inner knowing – Gnosis, a knowing produced from beyond the senses, whereas ordinary knowing results from sensual experience and is an intellectual occurrence. Gnosis is a one-way system; once you ‘know’ something through Faith you can’t un-know it. It is no longer based on information or choice but on inner experience.  So, to believe is to intellectually accept what you hear. To believe in God is a matter of the Mystical mind. To have Faith belongs to the Spiritual mind.

Looking further at Gnosis, many languages have two words for knowing. German has wissen and kennen; French has savoir and connâitre distinguishing between outward, objective knowledge and inward, subjective knowledge. The easy way to remember this is to think of knowing a thing or a fact and knowing a person.  In English we only have one word to know both a thing and a person, even though one is objective and the other is abstract, subjective. To ‘know’ oneself at the deepest level is the secret of Gnosis – Know Thyself- Gnothi Sauton (Gr) was inscribed into the temple at Delphi and over the door to Plato’s academy; in Latin Nosce te ipsum was adopted by the Romans. This inner knowing belongs to the Spiritual mind.

Also, Belief has a touch of hope but is not necessarily certainty. Faith is certainty projected forward. Gnosis is deep, inner knowing, it is static. Remember this differentiation as I’ll use it later.

Faith and Gnosis are related to this other inner mind, the Spiritual mind which is neither Sensual nor Mystical. Unfortunately this mind does not exist empirically within each one of us, which means it isn’t part of our basic construction but it is only present in potential, it has to be created by us in our life-time. In order to create this mind we need transformation, alchemy. It requires work, effort. But the great thing is that we only have to do half of the work needed.

The Intention to find the inner mind is the first step. Then we have to develop positivity, to lose the negative mind-set. Meditation and contemplation are effective tools for developing the inner mind but on their own they are not enough. Having stated your mental intention and put in the hard work, somehow a change in ‘mind’ happens, a metanoia takes place. Having reached up your hand, Divinity reaches down to meet you half way and pulls you up into the inner Spiritual mind dimension. This process is not as fantastic as it may at first appear; it already exists in nature as quanta of energy at the quantum level in physics. There has to be enough energy present to form a quantum or package; below this level nothing is formed, nothing happens. At and above this level energy is manifested; for example – Light travels in packets called photons. Each photon carries a certain amount of energy. Below this ‘certain amount’, no photon is created, which is why it’s called Quantum physics. So, back to our review of Faith, Belief and Gnosis; having put in enough work (effort) there is a quantum leap from Belief to Faith. All of this can be found in Ouspenky’s book on Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way. The seed of Faith is created with God’s help and that’s all it takes, just the smallest seed. Read the parable of the mustard seed in the New Testament. A single spiritual experience the size of a mustard seed (which is very small) is enough to know God. Once you have experienced it, it sits within you as a seed of Faith; from this it can grow like the mustard tree (which is very large). You can read descriptions of Faith and possibly think you know what it would be like but until you experience it, until it happens to you, you cannot know what it feels like, what it is. It has to happen to you. It is an individual experience. Yet Faith is not an emotional response, it is a conviction. Remember our earlier definitions in which I said Belief has a touch of hope but is not necessarily certainty, whereas Faith is certainty. Let’s look at this a little further.

Looking again at words, the Greek word for Faith, pistis, comes from the verb peitho to persuade, make obey. Thus Faith (pistis) carries with it a certain power (dunamis) dynamism. So it’s not passive Belief but dynamic Faith; it transforms man to a higher level (I use the word ‘man’ meaning the species man-kind). The result is alchemy, transmutation, the creation of a new mind, a metanoia, which obeys the laws of a new level. Faith occurs on another level from Belief, an inner, higher level of being.

To gain Faith you must will to have it. You cannot move to a level above the ordinary level by any outer means, by anything seen or heard from the senses. In Aramaic the word for Faith is haimanuta. This word carries the implication of a person’s confidence, firmness, integrity of being in Sacred Unity (Divinity): haimanuta is the word for Faith that Jesus would have used.

Faith is always a gift from God, and never something that can be produced by people. Jesus spent a lot of time and effort trying to explain Faith to his followers. They thought because they gave up their families and followed him that they had Faith but he, on several occasions, accused them of having no Faith (as in Mark: ch 4,). Often the gospels translate this as having little Faith (as in Matt: ch 16) but experts are of the opinion that the original word was No Faith. You cannot have little Faith, just as a woman can’t be a bit pregnant, she either is or she isn’t. Haimanuta implies conviction. You either have Faith or you don’t. The disciples of Jesus gave up everything yet several times were told they had No Faith. One example comes after the transfiguration of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, where He can be seen as ‘going beyond himself’. He demonstrated that a higher form of man exists and Faith leads to transformation. Why else were Peter, James and John allowed to be present? But they were asleep, weighed down with sleep. They had to wake up. To be awake is to comprehend meaning beyond the ordinary, to be conscious of things which are more than ordinary life, extra-ordinary. They needed to have a change of consciousness, a raised consciousness – up to another level. All this happens within your mind. When your consciousness moves to this other level you enter the Kingdom of Heaven. It is inside you. Entering the Kingdom of Heaven refers to a quality of understanding that results in inner knowing (Gnosis).  You have metanoia, become born again at a higher level. This higher level of ‘being’ is the Kingdom of Heaven and it lies within you.

Once you ‘know’ this then you have ‘Faith’. You become aware of higher levels of being.  Faith denotes a certainty that a higher interpretation of life exists and as a consequence that the transformation of man is a possibility. The peculiar quality of Faith is that life can only be understood by a sense of something higher than man as he is and that man has the possibility to become transformed and understand new meanings in relation to life on earth. This peculiar quality makes Faith different from Belief. It is interesting that John the Baptist was a very sincere man, described as the best prophet up to then. John and his followers fasted and prayed but they still held beliefs that the messiah was come to save this world. They had not moved to the inner level, did not have metanoia, new thinking and so could not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus was telling us that we cannot graft new thoughts on top of old thought patterns. He used the analogy of not putting new wine into old bottles, or a new patch on an old garment. We need a new way of thinking. Also we need to accept that Faith gives us this dynamic capacity to change things. Remember peitho, the power of persuasion, to make things obey. The centurion who asked Jesus to cure his servant was aware of levels of authority. He understood the levels of power; he said ‘Just say the word and my servant will be healed’ and so was told he had great Faith. Faith (pistis) in the New Testament means more than mere Belief. It means understanding on a level other than literal. We need to understand life in a new way.

So, with Belief you may hope, desire and expect that a certain thing is true or will happen but when Faith happens you stand firmly, with conviction that a thing is true. Only this mindset will get you into the Kingdom of Heaven. The Gospel tells you Faith is the Key to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Now, what the intellect thinks may contradict what the heart believes; so there is a dichotomy between believing and ordinary knowing. Thinking by itself cannot change human nature. Something else is required. Tradition tells us there is within us a force that draws us towards truth and this force is neither thinking nor emotion. Faith is not simple emotional conviction. It puts the intellect in possession of truth which reason itself cannot grasp.

To reach the state of mind required for Faith to happen you must love with no thought of reward and approach life in a positive manner. All this takes effort. All the negatives have to go, jealousy, anger, ‘me’-ness. The woman who washed Christ’s feet with her tears had this kind of love and Faith. This kind of love is necessary for knowledge to grow into inner understanding via a seed of Faith. For this to happen most of us need ‘metanoia’ a new way of thinking. By this means we reach the Kingdom of Heaven within ourselves for it exists nowhere else. If everyone did this the world would take a step up in evolution but the step can only be taken by each individual. This is why man was created. Jesus came to teach us that this is the goal of life; an inner state of development that man can reach, yet remember this – John the Baptist was no ordinary man. He had teaching and knowledge, followers and fasting; yet Jesus said he had not attained the lowest level of the Kingdom of Heaven. One would have said that he believed, how else could he continue with his task, yet he was told he had no Faith. In Matt: ch 11 John is told that he belonged to the highest degree of earth but not to the lowest degree of the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus, to pass from one level to another is not automatic; it requires transformation, a change in habitual ways of thought, of habitual reactions. Christianity promotes Faith as an end in itself. If you have Faith you will attain the Kingdom of Heaven which is within. Other religions such as Gnostics place Gnosis as the objective, with Belief as the lowest rung and Faith as an intermediate stage. Faith undermines all our natural beliefs because it leads away from earthly thought in a direction that can no longer be confirmed by the five senses. Faith is defined as a seed in the mind, with potential for growth which cannot exist in us as long as we believe that life is the end of human endeavour and not the means for something else.

Jesus was also hard on his followers. He called them a faithless and perverse generation. Perverse in its etymological meaning is ‘turning in all directions’. He meant that we need to be pointing and moving in one direction.  Here Jesus gives the description of the mustard seed. A seed has inside itself organisation to grow into something more. Take an acorn for example. If I were to tell you that this acorn contains a great tree 50 feet tall you can choose to believe it or not. But once you have planted an acorn and watched it grow into an oak tree this becomes Gnosis. You can look at an acorn and know it contains a great tree, an inner knowing, a confidant conviction which doesn’t require further proof and your ‘Faith’ in this phenomenon cannot be shaken. An acorn can become an oak tree. Once you have the acorn, the seed, you have the possibility for it to become an oak tree. The oak tree is already there within the acorn, it just needs an input of energy and planting in fertile soil. To become an oak tree the acorn must cease being an acorn and no longer obey the laws of an acorn, it must obey the laws of an oak tree; but Faith is knowing that the oak tree is already there without having seen it grow. Not easy for one of a rational and logical disposition.

The problem is that we can’t ever see the Kingdom of Heaven without having Faith and this is where the effort comes in plus the will-power and the metanoia. Now we get to the nub of the process. Part way through writing this article I had what I call a download of information. It happened whilst I was relaxed and reading a novel but I’d relaxed even further into a day-dream. I’ve had similar episodes before, always with a significant realisation at the end. It brings to mind the way the 6-carbon benzene ring construction came through to Friedrich August Kekulé on waking from a day-dream. It’s as if information coming in from the inner planes can’t get through in normal consciousness but gets through between the thoughts if the mind is ready to receive it. I became aware that Faith is not Belief; it’s all to do with intention and will-power. Now, where have I heard that before? Intention and Willpower – Of course, its Magic! Jesus was trying to teach them Magic. Faith is Magic! And here’s the quote to prove it:
‘and verily I say unto you, If ye have Faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain: Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you.’ (Matt: ch 17).

I’ve heard it said before that Jesus was a magician, not a sleight of hand manipulator but one who works on changing things by means of changes in consciousness,  but I had never thought about the magic he was trying to teach. Dion Fortune and others of the Western Mystery Tradition describe magic in words like intention, focus and changing levels of consciousness but we can miss this in the teachings of Jesus because he used different words: tilling the ground; planting a seed; Faith; Kingdom of Heaven within. He never once used the word Magic but that’s what it was and his methods of achieving the Kingdom of Heaven were the same as those generally known to Adepts, those who are adept at changing levels of consciousness. We can learn about such changes in consciousness. We can learn about contacting higher planes. Those who wish can attempt to experience unity with the Divine like Teresa of Avila in her Interior Castle. In the gospels it’s all there in the words; pistis, peitho, to make things obey, move mountains, Magic! Suddenly I got it. Read the gospels with new eyes. And read not only the established Gospels but the Gnostic Gospels, Thomas, Philip etc. It’s all there for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.  At this point I realised why Jesus the man was also Christ the Saviour. It is this aspect of him that we work with in our Christian approach to the Mysteries. And I began to see that the Gospels aren’t just the story of a man’s life and teaching, they are also an allegory. The life of Jesus Christ was an allegory for the alchemical process of transformation, a process that we can all go through in this life. Jesus was trying to change the world by raising consciousness. So Jesus was an alchemist as well as a magician, not a practical alchemist changing physical metals into physical gold but a spiritual alchemist changing the lead of humanity into spiritual silver of the soul and gold of the spirit. The alchemist is part of the alchemy process and during the process is changed themselves. His teaching shows us the way to change ourselves. Once we have been given the gift of Faith, we too are empowered.

Christianity as we know it today has changed in many ways from the original simple teachings of Jesus. The same applies to most other religions, yet all have the same objectives and the same core of spirituality because by definition of the word religion (re-ligio meaning to re-unite) all lead to the Universal Creator by the path of faith. If many people had Faith it would change the world but it has to be individual achievement. Raised consciousness has a combined effect but is based on individual effort. Jesus, during his ministry, was teaching us how to do this.  Many of you may already have made this leap of awareness but for me this difference between Faith and Belief and the objectives of Jesus’ teachings were a revelation. When we understand something we say ‘I get it!’ but the getting has to be yours alone. I can only indicate the way but I cannot take you there. Only by thinking about it, contemplating whatever it is, will you ‘get it’. This is your effort (work) in reaching up your hand, and Higher Consciousness as God will reach down and pull you up to another level, so that Faith becomes an inner knowing (Gnosis) and you can say ‘I GET IT!’ Then you will have Faith as Jesus the Christ taught it and if you work hard enough you can find your Heaven on Earth, your magical inner world where all things are possible, even union with the Divine.

– I wrote that in May 2015 and today we are asked to look at the actions of Gawain in his encounter with the Green Knight. Part of our story this weekend is based on the medieval poem Gawain and the Green Knight. There are some slight differences between the Silent Eye version and the original poem but such dramatic license, as with poetic licence is allowed. Essentially, in both, Gawain is tested. The medieval poem has two main themes, the Beheading Challenge and the Test. I think for this talk I have to try to minimise any confusion between the two versions. In the poem Gawain was offered a green silk ‘girdle’ by the Lord Bertilak’s wife. (A girdle and a garter are essentially the same, they come from the same word for encircling – to girt or gird as in our word girth). She said this girdle held magic and would protect him in any circumstances, it would save his life. Now Gawain was a deeply Christian Knight, as were all the Knights of the Round Table and Arthur and Gweneviere. We are previously given clues that Gawain might have been hedging his bets, backing both sides, because although he had an image of the Virgin Mary on the inside of his shield, he had a pentangle as his outward emblem, the five sided cross or pentacle, also known as the endless knot. This emblem can be interpreted as portraying both Christianity as the five wounds of Christ or as a pagan sigil of protection. It only appears in this one poem, in other references to his shield he has other usual heraldic creatures but the objective of this medieval poem is to test his Faith. As a Christian Knight he was supposed to shun anything with pagan connections, this included magic. He was supposed to place all his Faith in Destiny and accept his death if that was his lot. But when offered a ‘magical’ talisman he took it. However he had also made a pact with Bertilak to exchange anything he received during the day with Bertilak’s spoils from the day’s hunt. He revealed the kisses he had exchanged with Lady Bertilak but he did not reveal that he had accepted her girdle (or garter). He placed his Faith in the magical talisman and not in his Christian beliefs. This girdle was richly made with golden edgings but that was not what swayed him, it was the promise of magical protection.

During the encounter in the Green Chapel the Green Knight made as if to chop off Gawain’s head. Twice he brought down the axe and stopped before it touched his neck. On the 3rd stroke the Axe drew blood as it grazed a slight cut into Gawain’s neck but it did not remove his head. Gawain’s debt was paid by accepting the blows.

Hear the words of the Green Knight after the event as translated by Brian Stone:

For that braided belt you wear belongs to me.
I am well aware that my own wife gave it to you.
Your conduct and your kissings are completely known to me,
And the wooing of my wife – my work set it on.
I sent her to essay
(try) you, and you certainly seem
To be the most perfect paladin ever to pace the earth.
As the pearl to the white pea in precious worth,
So in good faith is Gawain to other gay knights.
But here your faith* failed you, you flagged somewhat, sir.


[*In this line Tolkien translates faith as loyalty. But for me it was always a matter of faith and I was pleased as punch when I found the Brian Stone translation: And I have looked at the medieval English original and can find no word in that line that translates as loyalty].
And so we see that in the final testing, when push came to shove as we say on the borders of Lancashire and Cheshire, which is where this poem is thought to have originated, Gawain had No Faith in prayers and Christianity but he put his Faith into the old ways of Magic.
©
The Patrician Lady – April 2016

[1] The son of a celebrated Free Church minister in Scotland, Maurice Nicoll (1884-1953) studied at Cambridge, where he gained a ‘First’ in science. He qualified as a doctor at St Bartholomew’s hospital in London and then travelled to Paris, Vienna, Berlin and finally Zurich where he became a colleague of Carl Jung. The psychological insights of Jung left a lasting impression on the young Nicoll. (Amazon)

Leaf and Flame – Fox fire

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It would be fair to say that, although the Lady of the Hunt may have tried to maintain dignity during the Fox Dance, it had gone up in flames with the very first flare and she was as excited as a cub. Her Lord was no better, and was bouncing beside her to the music and doubtless both were wearing huge grins beneath their red and white masks.

Dignity wasn’t the only thing to have gone up in flames either. The mysterious Charles James Fox is exceedingly hot on fire safety and every item his dancers use is carefully fire-proofed. Not so the Lord’s white fur cloak… the stray spark had been efficiently dealt with by Lord Fox but it added to the primal, feral feeling of the night.

We adore the Foxes… you may have noticed… and we wanted to share the experience of the Fire Dance with our Companions and those we love. Charles James Fox had gracefully consented to attend our gathering with a number of his Vermin. What we had not realised at the time was that it would be St George’s Day and in England that means a plethora of folk festivals and dances across the land… and almost all of the Foxes were dancing or playing elsewhere. Some, unmasked and in other garb, would be doing two shows already that day… and would be many miles away.

Even so, said CJF, they would be there… And so they were.

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Stuart and I have the privilege of having seen behind the masks and recognised…with so much gratitude… those we knew had been halfway across the country earlier that day… and yet they were here. To borrow a phrase from my son…how awesome is that?

But that wasn’t all.

Charles James Fox had planned the story of their dance to tie in with the theme of the weekend… and, in an unexpected move, had drawn the Lord and Lady into the procession and led them into their dancing ground… to a gorgeously decorated throne made especially for the evening.

By which time the Lady, at least, was fair bursting.

If you watch the video put together by Morgana West (and for which I am exceedingly grateful!) you might just see the Lord and Lady in their white and red masks and cloaks….bouncing…

We did wonder what the locals would make of the whole affair… and everyone was invited to come along and enjoy the dance…the Lord and Lady’s costumes, taken out of context, could well have been eyed askance…the symbolism could have looked a tad dodgy without knowing the background story of the drama. The locals, though, are probably used to seeing us turn up in strange garb and the ritual had been over before they arrived… they probably just thought us part of the show.

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It is always a privilege to be present when the Foxes dance. There is something visceral, exciting and utterly primal about the crackling flames, the music and the dark shapes dancing an age-old tale. It is a fierce joy.

But to be inside the arena, a part of the dance in some small way… warmed by the flaming braziers, cloaked in the coloured fume of the flares… smelling the burning wood and brands.. and watching the dance through dancing flames… that is something else entirely and an honour and experience I will never forget.

By the morning, you would never had known they had been there… except that everyone was talking about them… and except for a memory that will not dissipate with the dawn…

To Charles James Fox, his right-paw Vixen and every one of the Vermin who travelled there to be with us…. Thank you.

That Saturday night, magic happened.

Photos and video of the Fox Dance by Morgana West

Leaf and Flame – Trust and honour

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The Saturday night ritual drama saw Gawain taken to meet his fate. The Green Knight waited in the Green Chapel to return the blow traded so long ago… and Gawain’s own actions left the outcome in doubt. How can he survive a beheading? Only by bringing all his being to a single point and acting through the higher heart…

It is in this melding of body, mind and heart in perfect balance that freedom is found. It is in the relinquishing of the unquiet ego that knots the mind, shuns the perfection of the body and sears the heart with sentimentality, that the true and higher Self can take its rightful place in beauty.

To Gawain, blind by torment and guilt, the true nature of his Hunters remained hidden. The calls and whispers of the animals were a threat… the perception of ego is often clouded by fear. He could not see that they came in love and in compassion, bringing their encouragement and the gift of their presence.

He could not see that the tortuous paths upon which we are led fulfil not desire but need. Nor could he know that, in laying his head upon the block… in surrendering self to Self… he could pass beyond the veil of death and return with the Grail… Sometimes, there is only Trust.

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The Hunters too had to trust, curtailing their planned course in order to preserve Mystery. The ritual that ended on the Mound, responded to inner prompting and so none saw what should remain veiled apart from the Companions… and a single masked figure who stood quietly by…waiting.

The ritual should have been over, but the Lord and Lady of the Hunt were drawn aside as the Companions moved away…

…a flare lit the night…

…distant drums began to sound the dance of the flames…

…and flaming brands were placed in their hands.

In a silence broken only by fire… The Lord and lady of the Hunt accompanied Lord Fox to meet his Dancers. The procession wound through the village… flames dancing in darkness… the giant Crow strutted in the dancing ground and three processions merged and entered the arena.

Tha magical staff of the Silver Fox chased away both Crow and darkness. Light, sound, colour erupted and flared as the Lady was enthroned beneath a silver mask, wreathed in leaves and crowned with antlers. By her side, her Lord stood tall and white as she tied her favour to the arm of the Fox who was her champion… and the Foxes danced…

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Photos by Morgana West and Chris Hutchison