The What of Life (2)

I want to like you, she thought, loudly.

Please don’t spoil it by picking on science in a stupid, fluffy way… but don’t stop challenging, either… find the villains…

She listened, intently, as he talked about the need to ‘see’ it all differently – Life, biological life, not separated from spirituality, but part of a bigger whole that encompassed them both…

“There is something in the human soul that formed and forms an angry and energetic response to reductionism: that the answers are to be found in the dissected, colourless and cold parts…”

He was right… so right. And biology had become the hidden champion of that. Late to the party, having spent a century emulating a physics-derived worldview from which physics was already trying to escape…

The problem was something called emergence. The beautiful patterns of a snowflake, seen under a microscope, were an example of emergence, but there were thousands more. Biologists were used to something ‘higher’ than the dissected bit emerging in front of their gazes. To the classical physicist, this was anathema. Everything, they said, could be solved by the bits… But even physics was changing, as the power of emergent forms began to grow in evidence and presence; but sadly not in time to prevent the widespread adoption of the ‘reductionist mindset’ in education, science in general and in life.

Seized upon by materialists, they used it to savage any example of the ‘mystical’ that dared say it was of the truth… And it took a hundred years before the ‘reductionist fundamentalists’ came to see that their own disciplines were, in this respect, crumbling beneath them. When that day came, the world of biological ‘form’ – the shapes and organisation that life takes, were seen to be a paramount example of how the whole was much greater than the sum of its parts… and this gave a new dimension to what was driving life along its mysterious road.

“Science’s models of how evolution works are incomplete,” said the speaker. “Or rather, the reductionist view of it – not the nonsense of Creationism – though, at the human level, we can understand the need for a compassionate view of our place in the universe, and the person who gives that away is a fool, for we – the human mind – invented that quest for understanding…..”

Dead right, she thought. Okay, I like you… Now, go where I haven’t … don’t blow it….

The session broke for coffee. She sat there, deep in thought, unaware that she was alone… until the woman in the red hat came over and gently touched her shoulder.


Darwin’s theory of evolution was and is brilliant, but it is only half of a ‘ruling dynamic’ that plays the music against which our slow dance of evolution proceeds. The powerful idea of ‘natural selection’ destroyed much of religious thought – but not completely. Within us all, there is a burning need to reinforce our sense of belonging with the natural world – teacher and exterminator that it is.

With ‘reductionist’ thought, which seeks answers by breaking things into their smallest parts, we have trees – but no forests… The reductionists of biology found they had no language to describe them, so, metaphorically, disregarded their existence…

The ecosystem of the forest is as much a guiding principle as the tree. The huge advances in microbiology have shown the brilliance and the limitation of the reductionist view. So it is with the ‘natural selection’ model of evolution, which threw away any idea of a determining principle beyond random mutation of genes, resulting in a new creature that beat its competitors to the bed-chamber. Nature became a thrower of dice, where it didn’t matter what the result was.

But then there were the gaps in the fossils, in the timeline, where entire species came into existence ‘overnight’. Eventually, these became impossible to ignore and it was apparent that something was working alongside selection to change life.

But, before we look at that something, we need to admire what microbiology found in the small, the ‘atomic’, the reduced. What it discovered was the cell, the glorious ‘bubble’ of organic life in which the entire blueprint of the organism was written. This inner code was the gene: both ‘plan’ and ‘means of delivering the plan’ – gene and machine for the expression of gene.

Deep in those life-cradling ocean vents, where the gradient of heat to cold was so intense that something that became organic life had the energy to come into being, we find that the core principle behind what became life was ‘born. That ‘living’ principle was persistence.

Life does nothing if it cannot persist. ‘We’ persist – and yet we change, constantly. Something within us – related to and harvesting our experience of the world – stays ‘me’. This is true at the organic level and at the psychological level. Some ‘pattern’ that is me moves forward in time, with persistence. Imagine waking up each day and thinking we were a new-born.

We are vastly more complex than the first containers of life. We have memory and therefore identity. Yet the same principles are seen to apply. In the oceanic depths, there were no cells, only chemicals: atoms and atoms grouped into molecules. The forerunners of cellular life were chemical chains of proteins that could self-replicate. With self-replication, they could persist .

The fundamental principle of life had been established, but this was just the beginning. Our self-replicating molecules were still part of their environment. To become more ‘complex’ – more organised, they had to begin to separate themselves from the world around them – yet still feed from it… Next week we will look at the birth of a world within a world; as mysticism calls it, a ‘microcosm within the macrocosm’. In terms of organisation and complexity, two of the building blocks of the new picture of life were about to come into existence…

Other parts of this series:

Part One,

©️Stephen Tanham

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

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

The What of Life (1)

She was sitting in the front row – the car had mysteriously failed to start for the first five minutes of the would-be journey, as though projecting her future to this point with a mechanical will of its own. This point: the front row of a group of about twenty people, possessing a collective warmth – she had to admit – within which she was a complete stranger.

They had sounded interesting. Not presumptuous, not critical, just friendly and intelligent.

The speaker was talking; a man with kind eyes. He had the relaxed manner of one who had given many talks. He looked at her, smiled and asked the question, “What is Life?”

It was the end of a miserable event curve that had begun with the car’s idiocy. Now, she felt nineteen pairs of eyes and ears upon her and she wished herself away. Instead, she breathed, wishing to rise to this double challenge of being unknown and facing a question to which there was no complete answer – itself an unknown…

But his eyes – which had been on her – were moving away.. Had his question been rhetoric? The speaker raised his voice to address everyone. “We all need to ask ourselves that, for it is the basis of any spiritual exploration…” he said.

His head turned towards the back of the room, where she could feel someone straining to answer. There’s always a resident swot, she thought, recalling her school days…

“I would say that….” rose the voice from the back. Then it paused….

It was the pause that did it, she would later reflect. The pause that spoke to her and said here’s a gap. You can fill it with what you know. Damn it! She had studied biology in some depth; had created a synthesis in her own head, mixing it with her belief in universal kindness at apparent war with the eternal process that was the unfeeling universe…

“It’s a mysterious continuity,” she said, firmly – filling the gap.

She didn’t need to see to know that all eyes were upon she of the intervention. His eyes, too, restored to her – dancing with mirth at her interruption, nodding at the depth of her answer.

“Yes?” he said, inviting her…

She would apologise to the interrupted man at the back, later… For now, she had something to say… to share.


So… what is life? It’s an obvious question that has taken us thousands of years to approach. Even philosophers have argued over its tangles, unable to frame the properties of ‘living’.

As a child, and keen on cheap horror films, we would go out into garden with old milk bottles filled from the kitchen tap and create coloured mixtures of soil, bits of plants and various other substances – bits of old cement from the builder’s yard next door, that sort of thing. We’d jam our palms over the neck and shake the contents for all we were worth. Eventually, and exhausted in arm, we’d watch the swirling mass of usually dark liquid spin like its own speeded-up universe.

Was it alive?

Of course not. But a billion years ago, above the broken fractures in the middle of the deep sea oceans, with their bubbling, muddy vents, powered by the intense heat from a gap in the Earth’s crust, something did live – according to the most likely theories on the origin of life.

What lived there that contrasted with our dead but sincerely shaken bottle soup? What was it that came into existence and sustained itself, miles from the surface of the sea, coaxed into life by the energy of the volcanic deep-sea trench?

The answer is fascinating and multi-faceted. One very good answer is that we did. We came into existence in that deep ocean trench, a billion years ago. The chain of life that began then resulted in us – a being that can actually look back, with some authority, on the history of life on Earth. But it doesn’t just look back; it asks whether this was a unique, freak event, or whether the universe is teaming with life…

The growing mind that resulted from that self-sustaining life-form can still only describe what life is, not why. The ‘what’ is wonderful and mysterious, but the why is either ignored with disdain or avoided. Science is not good at sharing the ‘truth’ with anything not based on its rigorous, but limiting principles. There are good reasons for this. The ages before the birth of rational thinking were marked by sheer fantasy and religious dogma as to what life was. The resulting materialistic swing of science was a natural reaction – and a good one. Perhaps now, though – as the questions of consciousness pile higher – there will be a loosening of what has become science’s own dogma, and a much deeper sharing of what it means to be human. After all, the human mind invented science, not the other way round.

Over the next few Thursday posts, we will take a journey from those ocean vents where life began, making the leap from chemical to organic – and watching it change its relationship with ‘the world’ forever.

©️Stephen Tanham

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

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

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at

The Unseen Sea – 16: The Envy of Self



Part Sixteen of The Unseen Sea

Jason Rowbrook, our Foreign Office diplomat, is an example of an Enneagram Type Four.

We talked about the three primary figures on the enneagram’s nine points: Nine, itself, Three and Six. These three express the primary polarities of personality in the underlying trinity of how the self is formed.

To the left and right of these lie two other points, referred to as ‘Wings’. The Type Three, therefore, has Types Two and Four as its Wings; the type Six has Types Five and Seven as its Wings. Finally, the Type Nine has Types Eight and One.

These are illustrated below.


These are not simply arbitrary. Type Three is the home of the Image. Type Six is the home of Fear. A Type Three ‘pulled’ towards the characteristics of Type Six, is a good way of describing the Type Four, and would be a person who was strongly image-centric but fearful. This is simplifying things, but still sufficiently accurate for our purposes in this overview.

It is important to remember that these Types – expressed as characters in our narrative – are not separate within us, but form constellations within our psychological and spiritual makeup. We each have all nine of these types. But we have them in different proportions. One of them, however, will be dominant, and that will form the entire personality’s Outlook on the world and its life.

The detailed formation of that adult personality is beyond the scope of this series of posts, but it does conform to both psychology’s mapping of development and to what knowledge we have of the soul, which shares the journey through life with the body, in a beautiful dance of shifting polarities.

We may think of ourselves as a body which aspires to contact its soul, believing that the soul embodies that higher level of being and goodness. As we travel the landscape that is the magical enneagram, we find that we are, in fact, a Soul that has a body, rather than the other way round. The complex possession we call a self is really an artificial centre, formed in the brain after countless interactions between the body and the world, each of which produced a reaction, thereby obscuring the pristine world of the Soul which lies at our heart. The ego is made from reactions. Little wonder, then, that it is so fragile…

The ‘recovery’ of this true-self perspective is not as difficult as it may sound, since we are already that soul. We do need to be prepared to see the personality – the ego – for what it is. It has done what it was supposed to do, equipping us for the difficulties of adult life, in an often brutal and demanding world. Few people walk a truly spiritual path, for to do so is to cast off the familiarity of ego, and to work to see things as they are, which can be uncomfortable – though a much deeper level of comfort awaits us at the end of that rainbow of personal truth.

We have to start somewhere, and the enneagram gives us a good mapping as to our dominant Type and the relationship of that type to its world and the other aspects of our psyche. From there, we can work our way backwards into deeper and deeper realities – as long as we are prepared to counter the force of ego which colours our beliefs and perceptions and does not want its dominance threatened.

There is nothing negative about the ego; it does what it’s supposed to do. But those whose life has brought them to know the ego’s increasing weight cry, “enough!” and are on the verge of a new world when they view their egos as fuel for the spiritual journey, rather than the centre of life.

The enneagram is both precise and exacting in its instruction. It is worth learning the basics to make sense of what follows. It is a map–a map of a journey home. There can be nothing more spiritual than that.

Next time we will consider how the enneagram integrates the ideas of the Soul-Child and the Heart-Point. We will use all of this to reveal the true nature of Jason Rowbrook, and the challenges he faces with Maria, to whom he seems strangely bound…

End Part Sixteen

The Unseen Sea is an innovative, serialised introduction to the magical enneagram.

The Silent Eye School of Consciousness offers a low-cost, three-year home study programme which delivers a deep and experiential understanding of the Magical Enneagram.

For more information, email us at

Read the previous parts of this series:

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven, Part Twelve, Part Thirteen, Part Fourteen, Part Fifteen,

©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2016 images and text. All rights reserved.

The Unseen Sea – 15: Tall Child of Envy


Part Fifteen of The Unseen Sea

The fish that crawled out of the sea was ancient by the time LUCA, the EarthLife, came down from the trees, and, much later, began eating flesh that was no longer raw, but cooked on the magic of fire–a gift from the sky.

Within the tribe, the eyes marked for change watched and became conscious of… others.

As vivid as the original creation of the separated life, back in the beginning, where only the dark eyes could now reach it, the standing creature with two arms and two legs rose in the circle of the hunt’s celebration flames and realised that they were others; that they were as it was, but that there was something in him that they didn’t have – the me.

The me watched them as they watched him separate – his actions now guided by something different than the Earthlife mind of the tribe. The group seemed aware that something special had happened. They gathered together on the other side of the fire, wondering what this tall child of theirs, with the strange look in his black eyes, would do next…

Tall he was, and strong, but not the tallest. The huddled tribe drew its breath as the intense eyes of solitary Darkchild surveyed them through the haze of flame. Then he moved swiftly, picking up the spear and leaping, directly, across the fire to land at the feet of the startled Treereach, the gentle giant whose flailing arms did nothing to fend off the brutal thrust from below…


Maria looks at the messenger from the Foreign Office. He is sipping his tea and shivering, presumably in memory of the foul weather through which he has just travelled to get to her.

They had once worked together. He had been seconded as her research assistant–his diplomatic knowledge had been excellent–and had kept in touch over the years. But, her upward path had been meteoric, whereas he, despite coming from a well-heeled family, seemed resigned to wallow in Civil Service obscurity, gazing, during their annual meetings, at her, lovingly, while she paraded her achievements before him…

Not that she had done that for a while–and now looked back with some pain at her former self’s behaviour. She cringed with shame at the memory of the younger Maria. Haughty, crushing, ball-breaking… but eternally under the baleful eyes of the inner critic, hated voice from its perfect depths…

Graham had changed all that.

Gentle, mighty Graham, who could hold the world’s worries on his broad shoulders… and its truth in his eyes; absorbing the blows and making peace between warring factions where none seemed possible. Graham the young and brilliant doctor, advancing rapidly to become one of the country’s most respected eye surgeons…

Graham who was now missing… somewhere in the Middle East.

“There was a sighting of him in Syria, last week…” says the tense Jason, watching the woman he adores, hating the pain his words must inevitably bring. His voice lowers to a near-whisper, adding, “Near the town of Al Bukamal.”

Maria has her back to Jason, dismissively. She is checking that her father has not been too disturbed by the intrusion. He’s just gone into the bathroom to have his evening shower. The family have become used to intrusion, these last two months… But now her body stiffens and she turns to look at the man from the Foreign Office. “Al Bukamal? Isn’t that near the Iraq border?”

Jason sighs, lowering his head in a way he would never do in the London office. He nods, letting the words out in a sigh. “Yes.”

“And no contact since?” The QC is back–in full pursuit.


“Why would he do that? He didn’t have time for politics of any persuasion! He was the least radical person I ever met!”

Jason handles it gently. “Was?” In any other situation, he would pounce on the mistake.

Maria puts her hand to her throat. It’s an unconscious gesture that she thought had been left behind in her teens. She blinks away the moment, knowing that it has revealed to their visitor how close she is to the edge.

“It’s okay,” says Jason, dismissing the moment with a brief shake of his head, and as embarrassed as she is at the mistake. Maria Singleton QC does not make mistakes…

We don’t make mistakes, says the voice of perfection, deep inside. Mistakes are for those who don’t try hard enough.

Inside Jason Rowbrook, there rages a small war. The unattainable woman he adores more than life stands before him, close to tears. He’d get up to put his arm around her, but he knows she doesn’t deem him worthy of such gestures, and besides, what would he do after that? Have another cup of tea?

Grandad Lucca steps from his shower, clutching the thick, pre-warmed bath towel around him, and listens to the silence in the rest of the house. You can tell a lot about what’s going on from the world of the silences…

End Part Fifteen

The Unseen Sea is an innovative, serialised introduction to the magical enneagram.

The Silent Eye School of Consciousness offers a low-cost, three-year home study programme which delivers a deep and experiential understanding of the Magical Enneagram. Email us at

For more information, email us at

Read the previous parts of this series:

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven, Part Twelve, Part Thirteen, Part Fourteen,

©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2016 images and text. All rights reserved.

The Unseen Sea – 14: The Layers of Me



Part Fourteen of The Unseen Sea

With the flickering of the cottage’s log fire behind her, Maria looks in on her father, snoozing on his bed after their spat. The stone wall – adjacent to the double bed and covered in red hessian – has four pictures on it, arranged in a line. She’s never asked him about them, but they appear to be a time sequence from the present back to her childhood.

The most recent depicts her on the day she took the ‘silk’ route upward from being a mere barrister. In the photo, the new QC stands proud and severe, her tightly-bound hair and burnt-ochre horn-rimmed glasses as polished as the performances that got her noticed, and shortly after, invited to the Queen’s Council. In the photo, the silk court-robes flow off her shoulder and wrap the lawyer in cascading folds, concealing the shapely figure beneath. Within that hidden space, lies the drama of Jessica–her and Graham’s only child.

She looks through the lenses in the professionally-taken photo. The eyes say it all… The striving for perfection, so common in barristers, is written in the pupils and, lower, the tight lips. No hint of a smile – not when the job in hand is literally, present, as the rolled brief, clutched, like inviolate purpose, in the fingers that lie on the bent knee of the seated figure in the legal chambers.

The eyes that look out of those judgmental lenses hold the entire story of Maria, she thinks. But they sing the same song that the inner ghost that haunts Maria has always sung. “Not good enough, Maria,” says the inner voice, now released, once again, to take her on that journey back…back.

Fixed on the burnt-ochre framed lenses, her attention now flows sideways across the red hessian to the second picture. It is a school photo – the graduation photo, to be exact. There, in a riot of end-of-school misbehaviour resulting in the planned pattern of the five friends being chaotically disorganised, rather than the perfect daisy she had planned, Maria stands, alone, glaring at the four happy friends with whom she has shared the last seven years. They are happy; she is angry. Her father hadn’t meant to capture the anger, but had kept the photo, knowing her display of emotion to be a contrast with the day’s happy proceedings. Oh, she had calmed down later, but her father had kept and displayed the image…for him, it was important. She wonders why? But also knows that she had, later, managed to channel that anger into her perfect understanding of the law.

Oh, she had calmed down later, but her father had kept and displayed the image…for him, it was important. She wonders why? But also knows that she had subsequently channeled that anger into her perfect understanding of the law.

She smiles to herself at her severe reputation… and woe betide those who come under her instruction with a different approach.

The third photograph is of a much earlier time. Maria as a seven-year-old sits on a riverbank in Wales. In her hand is a beautiful Ox-Eyed Daisy. The green perfection of the lush valley is lost to the girl enjoying the family picnic, lost in her adoration of the perfect flower in her palm – staying that way for minutes while the family ate, and Dad prevented them from calling her over while he reached for the camera.

What had she seen in that flower on that beautiful day? At the time it had meant so much – an emotion perfectly captured by her father in the photo. Despite all her mental powers , she could not, for the life of her, recall that feeling…

The final photo is a montage that her father had knocked up on his Macintosh – another beautiful daisy overlaid in harmonic tones on a photograph of Maria as a new-born. There is something deeply moving about this image, and she has never seen it, before.

On the bed, her father begins to stir. Maria turns away, anxious not to be caught in her deep reverie – a mood so different to her normal, busy focus.


There is a knock on the wooden door. She walks across the living room and slides the bar which locks it. Pulling the large iron ring that serves as a handle, she opens the house to the rainy night. Standing there is a man dressed in a green walking jacket, pulling the hood over his head to keep the freezing rain off his prematurely bald head.

“Jason!” she says shocked.

The civil servant replies. “Sorry to disturb your family time,” he says, pulling the hood tighter, as though protecting himself from both her and the weather. “It’s Graham…”

She leans into the wet night. Her intense silence the question.

“There’s been a development…”

End Part Fourteen.

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Read the previous parts of this series:

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven, Part Twelve, Part Thirteen,

©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2016 images and text. All rights reserved.

The Unseen Sea – 13: A Four-Eyed Telescope


Part Thirteen of The Unseen Sea

The history of life’s reactions to its environment – the ‘out there’ – is written in what we now call the psychology of the human. The word psychology derives from the Greek ‘psyche’: literally, ‘The Self’, though self’ has come to mean many things since then.

In previous posts, we have discussed how LUCA’s separation and proto-consciousness arose together. Separation from the primal ocean generated the need for persistence, which became the drive for survival, as more and more organised variants of LUCA were evolved. This occurred because there was both preservation of successful variations and, eventually, the ability to remember, to image and to transmit the results to fellow LUCA life forms, thereby giving humans the ability to evolve, in a subjective sense, within a lifetime.

The journey through life this entails is written into the human psyche. Each of us relives the story of life on Earth as we pass from foetus to breathing and suckling human. In terms of our internal (subjective) existence, we move from a secure ocean in the womb of Mother, to a land-based world where we have to struggle for our own survival. Our early experiences, unless there is trauma for the pregnant mother, are spent in a state of great peace and togetherness.

Birth is traumatic, and the beginning of our own separation. A stable and happy infancy, in which most of our needs are met, will result in a child that knows peaceful love, and has a strong, initial trust of the world. Children who have a more difficult time are left subjectively (and possibly physically) scarred, and these ‘neglects’ will cast their shadow over the whole lifetime unless they are gently revisited and expunged by skilled minds and hands. We will return, later, to a consideration of how these ‘neglects’ are inevitable and can be seen as part of the life-plan, from a spiritual perspective.

Somewhere between the ages of five and seven, the child will normally mature into an entity which is conscious of ‘it-self’. Although it has been biologically true since birth, the child did not think itself separate until this point. This, therefore, marks a fundamental gateway into its world. The words ‘its world’ are deliberate, here, and highlight the subjective power that is crystallised at this point, in terms of both how the child’s world is perceived, and, eventually, how long-held beliefs colour and shape every second of its experience.

All of this is encapsulated in the structures and methods of the modern enneagram. By modern enneagram, I mean the ‘Schools of the Self’ that developed after the pioneering work of Oscar Ichazo in the 1960s, building on the earlier work of G.I.Gurdjieff, who brought the enigmatic nine-pointed figure to the west. This work became known as the “Fourth Way”, and flourished in the middle years of the last century. Use of the enneagram was kept secret and restricted to students of Gurdjieff. Knowledge of it was not made public until the 1940s. From the 1960s, interest in the enneagram exploded, and organisations as diverse as management consultants to the Jesuits became fascinated by its ability to help manage personal transformation.


In Part Twelve of this series, we said that our figure of Maria, the daughter of Grandad Lucca, had a correspondence with the figure 1 (One)  on the clockface of the enneagram (above). This association is known as being a ‘type’ and derives from the core conditions observed by psychology in its work to describe human behaviour and its causes. There are therefore nine such types on the circumference of the enneagram, each corresponding to a subjective route of reaction and perception that the infant takes on its long road to adulthood – Its subjective world.

Powerful stuff… and that’s just the start.

Psychology and spirituality have become inevitable bedfellows in much of the study of the human, mainly driven by such streams of thought as the Human Potential Movement hosted at Esalen, in California, in the 1960s and 70s. Psychology works with behaviour, or what we call personality. Spirituality looks for fundamental relationships between self and the universe and is now equipped with a powerful vocabulary of how the spiritually-intact infant becomes the self-oppressed adult human.

To study it, we take a journey. It’s an amazing journey, and never fails to move those who have the courage to embark upon it… It’s most certainly not aimed at polishing the personality, though there are benefits to that, too.

The enneagram diagram, above, has two components: the nine-sided glyph (this is the Silent Eye’s version), and a stacked figure which contains four divisions marked Outlook, Passion, Virtue and Reality. These are like a ‘tube’ drilled into the ground of each type, in this case, the Type One (or LUCA Type One, as we’ve named it). The full enneagram is, therefore, a three-dimensional figure in which the nine relationships shown by the original enneagram are consistent with four dimensions of depth.

It’s a bit like a telescope that looks into the depths, and eventually origin, of the person in question. We are all very different but each shares aspects of life’s journey. We all came from a position of total trust (in Mother) to a struggle for independence in the world, and we all shared a difficult journey in which a seemingly common world became ‘our world’ in which personal reactions completely determine how that adult world is perceived.

Our telescope of self is unusual, It is designed for four eyes. Each of these four eyes belongs to us. Use of one eye, looking inwards with self-honesty, will generate the second eye; and so on down the telescope, until we come to the gateway between ‘Virtue’ and ‘Reality’, where deeper rules apply as we come face to face with what is, rather than what is perceived… Each of us has all nine of the types, though we will find ourselves skewed around one particular set of fixations.

LUCA, with all her basic reactions, is still in there, rooted deep. To find her, to take our life history back to where we came from, is as T.S. Eliot wrote, “and the end of our exploring will be to arrive at the place from which we started and to know it for the first time.” (my italics).

This is not regression therapy. It is a fully aware, adult journey of great beauty and power, undertaken in the adult mind, emotions and body via personal guided meditations and self-journeys.

In the next post we will explore what Outlook, Passion, Virtue and Reality really mean in this system. We will also meet another of the types in our story.

End Part Thirteen.

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Read the previous parts of this series:

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven, Part Twelve,

©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2016 images and text. All rights reserved.

The Unseen Sea – 12: A Passion for Perfection



Part Twelve of The Unseen Sea

Maria is calmer, now, after their confrontation. The rawness of such encounters is draining, her father knows. Like all deeply personal interactions, they uncover forces deep within the psyche, the self. The advantage is that they still the personality for long enough to allow some real healing to occur. Real healing, in his world, lies not in something originating within the mind–something we can engineer as though finding our way through a fog–but by the connection of our everyday existence with something vast that we have forgotten…

And that lies, hidden, below the personality; a personality that, in us all, is the strongest force we will ever encounter…

“You… we… can’t control every aspect of her young life.” he says, gently, hugging his daughter, who, initially, resists, then slides into the warmth of his embrace, remembering, in that warmth, her own childhood, before the critical voice entered her life, before everything had to be perfect.

“Didn’t we give you as much freedom as we could?”

“You did,” Maria says. “But I made such a mess of things…”

His voice is very soft in reply. “Your mum and I didn’t think so. We were rather proud of your determined assault on life!”

“But I… did… get” she punctuates every word with a loving thump on his shoulder. “So… much… wrong.”

“And you think we didn’t, in our turn?”

She gets up, taking her hot coffee from the small table with the hand-made mosaic top. “I miss Mum,” she says, looking down at the inlaid pieces of brightly coloured glass… and their ill-fitting corners.

Her father catches the line of her sight and nods. “So do I,” he says, sadly.

“And now my child has no father.” It is said as a fact, devoid of emotion.

“That’s not true,” his voice is uncritical, knowing the depth of emotion that led his daughter to express herself in this way. “We just don’t know where he is.”

“Or whether we’ll ever see him alive, again.” says Maria, holding back the tears long enough to put down the drained cup and make it to the guest bedroom door.

Through the wood, Grandad Lucca can hear her crying. This time there is nothing he can do. “It is what it is,” he whispers into the still air of the cottage. “There will be pleasure and there will be suffering.” He looks across at the log-burner and decides that it’s high time they had the flickering magic of a real fire.


The consciousness possessed by early LUCA was awareness of a very basic nature. Biology calls it ‘irritability’. It is a good word to use, since it describes something that exists at the ‘instinctive’ level of every life-form. We do not reason about recoiling from the scalding pan when everything in our body reacts to touching it by accident. Our reaction is automatic. But if the finger of a child were nearer to that hot pan than our own, we would not hesitate to sacrifice our flesh to save the younger being. Is that second example learned or is it something gained from ‘family’ living (ancient or modern) via an initial process of trial and error, which sinks down into the ‘beneath-conscious’ layers of mind, the so-called subconscious? Even the word suggests that all reactions have, at some time, been learned the hard way – through survival and inheritance, or through deliberate evolution of our personal reactive states.

As we have seen, life as we know it exists because it is separated from its environment in its state of self-preservation. However primitive it may be, there is a primary recognition of two states: in-here and out-there.

It seems that separation produced both life and consciousness…

To be conscious, we have to have something to be conscious of. Consciousness does not exist without an ‘object’ to fix our attention upon. That object can be part of ourselves, of course, if our vehicle of self is evolved enough to permit it. But there still needs to be something to ‘sense’. Beyond consciousness there is Being. But Being is for the later stages of our journey. Being can be examined in part but it cannot be subdivided; consciousness is twofold. We live in a world of duality as long as we live in our minds. A brain cannot be ‘out-there’, unless it’s someone else’s brain.

Mind, at the physical level, is the brain’s accumulation of intelligence, ‘What if? What works, and how to repeat it”, harvested from LUCA’s billions of years of evolution. Evolution, as defined by science, claims no ultimate destination. There is no perfect human towards which we are slowly morphing. Science’s view tells us that all is reactive; that we move forward, in time and process, in a manner that makes us adjust to our environment–reproduction being the ultimate test of survival, as with animals. Philosophers might agree on some of the details but often disagree on the underlying principles.

And yet the human mind is obsessed with perfection…

To want to be perfect, we must know–or think–that we are not. What is it that holds this image of How we should be ? And how does it know, since it can’t be there already or we’d have no journey to make towards it? Like many aspects of human consciousness, it is a paradox.

We are most certainly an animal, but are we something else as well – something the animal (and plant and ‘rock’) has carried along as the fruit of the long ascent of organic life?

LUCA-plant, the branch of life on Earth that eats sunlight and therefore feeds the rest of life as we know it, arose long after the seas were already teeming with life, some of it quite complex. There was something deeply significant about that transition from the relatively gentle ocean to the hardness of rock and desert. Some plants did something truly extraordinary that may point to why this change of home was so important: they turned their faces to follow the Sun.


The concept of Perfection has a special place on the enneagram, as shown above. The map of consciousness that the enneagram gives us shows how complex human perception has been moulded by the ways our own lives have mirrored the development of life on Earth. In the next post, we will use the example of point 1 on the enneagram (above) to illustrate this.

End Part Twelve.

The Silent Eye School of Consciousness offers a low cost, three-year home study programme which delivers a deep and experiential understanding of the Magical Enneagram.

Email us at

Read the previous parts of this series:

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven,

©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2016 images and text. All rights reserved.

The Unseen Sea – 11: An Angry Woman



Part Eleven of The Unseen Sea

“You didn’t listen–you never listen!”

Maria is angry. Grandad Lucca has seen it many times. Recent events have, of course, made things worse. Maria has opened the gates and it floods at her father, the only other person in the house.

“It’s not much to ask – just don’t fill her little head with all this mystical stuff!”

Grandad Lucca nods, letting the anger flow from his beloved daughter without resistance on his part. He waits, one hand cupped in the other, while the rage is vented, knowing how it ends. He does not deflect the emotion. He listens into its flow, knowing that, although the state of presence in which the truth lives is difficult to maintain in the face of such powerful emotions, it will help Maria as they bring their combined consciousness to bear on what would, otherwise, be damaging. It’s a process that his daughter has no time for, but participates in, unconsciously, glad of its results, though he would never say so.

When she is finished and crying. He walks quietly to the small galley kitchen – his favourite place in the whole cottage. He fills the two cups of coffee he had prepared earlier, when she arrived, looking like thunder, after the gruelling drive.

“Did Jessica’s return to school go badly?” he asks, gently.

“Quite the opposite,” Maria sobs into her steaming coffee mug. “She faced down the bully with her new ‘big heart’ and is now a celebrity…”

“And you don’t want her to be a celebrity?” he asks, gently.

“I don’t want her to be in anyone’s spotlight.” The sobs are subsiding, the emotion washes around the room, fading into sorrow and regret as they breath it in and out.

Except your own…

It’s not about Jessica, thinks Grandad Lucca. It’s about the one who is missing.

“Did you hear from the Foreign Office,” he asks. It’s almost a whisper. He knows the answer before the words come out in a tiny hiss.


“And is it as we feared?” He’s picking up the pieces, now, because they have little time to prepare everything before word leaks out and their world gets invaded by people who live in someone else’s now.

Maria simply nods into her black coffee. It is all the answer he needs, all the answer he expected. Now it gets complicated, he thinks, taking care not to show his own feelings. For a species that’s only been around for a mere four thousandths of the Earth’s history, he thinks, we’re pretty complex…

Four hundred and sixty million years ago, LUCA had evolved to live on land, in the form of plants with roots that extended into the Earth, and green surfaces that ate the food of the Sun, directly. Plants eat, fertilise and reproduce, period. Their role in the biosphere was to be food and to aid other reproduction – Food and sex: to be sacrificed and absorbed by higher life, to whom they would bequeath their instinctive DNA. This gift, or inheritance, as science would name it, ensures that the larger the unit, the more difficult its basic activity is to overcome.

Countries, for example, eat other countries, a behaviour that does not change as you ‘ascend’ the food-chain, which only exists because LUCA-plant feeds everyone.

LUCA-plant began with seeds which, first, produced living roots beneath the surface. A life that was, in many ways, the opposite of its child, which lived its sun-kissed life in cycles of growth, fruition-seeding, death and decomposition-for-the-whole. Only the roots remained permanent, sensing, perhaps, in their unseparated kingdom, something not visible in the Sun-Moon sky.

Perhaps the Greek spiritual masters who created Persephone knew more than we’ve yet recovered from the eternally co-present LUCA mind…

End Part Eleven.

The Silent Eye School of Consciousness offers a low cost, three-year home study programme which delivers a deep and experiential understanding of the Magical Enneagram.

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Read the previous parts of this series:

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten,

©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2016 images and text. All rights reserved.

The Unseen Sea – 10: Mind and the Enneagram


Part Ten of The Unseen Sea

If you have been following this series of posts, you may have detected a liberal use of the name LUCA. The Last Universal Common Ancestor was a term coined by evolutionary biology to refer to the first cellular life which can be traced back to be the common originator of all current life on Earth. The original LUCA, forming herself as a self-replicating spiral of RNA/DNA and ‘pulling’ a spherical membrane around her to protect her new form from the now-hostile environment, could hardly have exhibited all the properties that I have attributed to her in the previous posts.

I am, of course, using the fact that she was the ancestor of us all to illustrate that there was One Life on Earth and, in terms of inheritance, she is still it. I know of no other term that tries to retain this single view of organic life, complete with its total history and, most importantly, the harvest of the conscious attributes of the separated self. ‘Life on Earth’ is fine, but LUCA implies so much more…

So far, in our journey into the enneagram, we have focussed on two things: the first is the primal part that fear plays in our psychological makeup. The second is how the evolution of the mind has enabled us to make pictures of what we fear. Dealing with these abstractions of danger has become far more corrosive than facing the actual danger – if and when it is actually present.

That so much of what generates fear never actually materialises is the nature of a society that lives, constantly, with anxiety. For example, few of our lives will actually be threatened by terrorism, and yet we react as though it is all around us. Modern fear has allowed it to change the way we live. 

Anxiety is a powerful mechanism that affects us all. There comes a point when we have to call a halt to the conventional means of responding to such mass emotions, or face the loss of major elements of our civilisation.

The power of the image came late in LUCA’s development. It required a sophisticated response mechanism that not only remembers the nature of threats, but can abstract them into generalised cases so that a picture can be formed of what might be. The same mechanism can also be used in the most positive way – the image is at the heart of our creative powers, angel and devil in one package. Few of us would wish it away, so it is doubly important to see how that mechanism – now a part of the brain – can be balanced in its reactions. That this can be done implies a ‘higher brain’ or mind; one which is capable of observing the survival brain’s functioning and its effects on the whole organism – instincts, sexuality, movement, emotions and thought.

For now, let us return to finding a home on the enneagram for Image, Fear and something else that created them both.

The Silent Eye’s version of the enneagram

The enneagram has nine points, spaced at forty degree intervals, clockwise, around its circumference. The ninth, like the number twelve on a clock face, is at the top. The numbers run clockwise, but their internal connections are not so simple. Numbers Nine, Three and Six form an equal sided triangle, shown in our own version, here, in blue. The remaining six numbers are connected in the sequence 1-4-2-8-5-7 and back to 1.

Here are Nine different qualities of life divided into a group of three and a second group of six. The two internal figures – the six ‘diamond’ and the three triangle, do not connect with each other. Instead they designate a world of the ‘lower’ and ‘higher’ powers, respectively, each of which co-exists with the other in a very specific way.

The whole Nine form a unity in perfect balance; but not in perfect isolation.

The whole is a picture of Life, its types and its processes. The enneagram maps Life by way of LUCA’s psychological history, which is also the story of human consciousness. This journey takes us from LUCA’s earliest reactions of being ‘alone’ to the most sophisticated divisions of our adult psyches, and shows where each came from. On one level it mirrors how LUCA developed our brain. One another, it shows the relationship between the isolated individual she became and what was left behind… in that sea.

The world of the Image is at three, and the world of Fear at six. Which leaves the inner triangle without a crown, until we remember LUCA’s first action–that which gave her life in the first place–was to turn away from open interaction with the sea of active chemicals and make herself into a separated form with a inbuilt directive to survive at all costs. 

In creating the in-here she also created the other side of that coin, the out there. Modern psychology would call this an example of Object Relations.

That act of separation, and of recognition of self and other drove everything that followed. The turning away, by creation of the protective and separating cell, from the all-substance which contained the pre-organic soup, became the backbone of life. This first happened at the RNA/DNA level, and then, billions of years later, at the level of the literal backbone of the vertebrates, those dominant life forms with real backbones who now face a future where they are literally capable of destroying the planet that gave LUCA its life in the first place.

But this is not a negative series of posts. Good forces are on ‘our’ side, too… But we should never forget that we are still LUCA underneath – and driven -unless we chose to interfere by an act of will – by her basic needs.

End Part Ten.

The Silent Eye School of Consciousness offers a low cost, three-year home study programme which delivers a deep and experiential understanding of the Magical Enneagram. Email us at

Read the previous parts of this series:

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine,

©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2016 images and text. All rights reserved.