‘The Book of Assassinations’

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We were determined not to get wet, so we went to Chesterfield, on the general principle that there would be both indoor parking and a cathedral big enough to keep us both dry and occupied for some time. We got those points right… but we failed miserably in the staying dry department as the heavens open and the chill, northern rain pelted down. As my companion made a judicious dive for the porch, I found a convenient tree under which to shelter the camera and get some shots of the famous crooked spire.

sheffield chesterfield hare 004The church dates to the 13th Century and the tower was added in around 1362. The tower is twisted by 45 degrees and leans 9’ 6” from true centre. Several local legends tell how it became so contorted, many have to do with the Devil and the purported virginity of brides. Wikipedia says : “One well established legend goes that a virgin once married in the church, and the church was so surprised that the spire turned around to look at the bride, and continues that if another virgin marries in the church, the spire will return to true again; with only 3 weddings in 2010 in the church it seems that this legend understandably discourages marriages at the church. Another legend is that a Bolsover blacksmith mis-shoed the Devil, who leaped over the spire in pain, knocking it out of shape.” There are others, and it is well worth looking some of them up.

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I didn’t linger too long under my tree. It was raining quite heavily and my feet were already squelching in the little slippers I habitually wear for some strange and unfathomable reason. You would think I would have learned by now… Even the pigeons had given up and had taken shelter where they could, so I too followed their example.

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For all the church has been embellished over the centuries, being the foremost building in the area, it still retains its atmosphere of calm peace, and every nook and cranny inside hides symbols and artistic treasures, bits of history and the evidence of the faith of hundreds of years.

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The Lady Chapel, as so often for me, had the most attraction, and a curious Revelations window in the north chapel too had us thinking. There is an eclectic mixture of styles here, from a dreadful neon cross to lovely sculpture with an African feel, from medieval marble tombs to a modern St Francis window full of gentleness.

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The place was full of visitors, though, and that always ends up with me documenting as much as I can with the camera while my companion wanders in search of his own inspiration… we then adjourn, usually to a local pub, and compare notes; knowing we have enough to go on in order to make a decision about coming back on a quieter day. It is these subsequent visits where you begin to really get to know a place, both by its details and by its feel.

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Today was no exception, but, unfortunately for us there was a bookshop and we became a tad sidetracked as we delved through the shelves, exiting with what rapidly became known as the Book of Assassinations as we trawled its pages under an awning while the rain still fell.

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It is odd, of course, we think we are going to places for our own purposes, but so often, if you are open and ready to go where you are led, you end up finding far more than you had envisioned. We had gone to see a cathedral, but came away with a couple of years of speculative thought confirmed by the well-thumbed pages of a dog-eared book. Not a bad way to spend a rainy Saturday in Chesterfield.

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WHAT’S UP DOC? Lines of communication III…

*

… Bugs… The small rabbit came closer to his companion, lolloping on long hind legs.

“Let’s go a bit further, Hazel,’ he said. “You know, there’s something strange about the warren this evening, although I can’t tell exactly what it is. Shall we go down to the brook?”

*

Cara… “All right, Fiver,” answered Hazel, “and you can find me a cowslip when we’re there. If you can’t find one, no-one can.”

*

Bugs… Hazel led the way down the slope, his shadow stretching behind him on the grass.

They reached the brook and began nibbling and searching beside the wheel-ruts of the track.

It was not long before Fiver found what they were looking for.

Cowslips are a delicacy among rabbits, and as a rule there are very few left by late May in the neighbourhood of even a small warren.

This one had not bloomed, and its flat spread of leaves was almost hidden under the long grass.

They were just starting on it when two large rabbits came running across from the other side of the near-by cattle-wade.

Fiver had already turned away.

*

Cara… Hazel caught up with him by the culvert, “I tell you what, let’s go across the brook. There’ll be fewer rabbits and we can have a bit of peace, so long as you think it’s safe?”

*

Bugs… “No, it’s safe enough,” answered Fiver. “If I start feeling there’s any danger I’ll tell you. It’s not danger I feel tonight, it’s, oh, I don’t know, something oppressive, like thunder. I’m not sure what, but it worries me. All the same, I’ll come across the brook with you.”

*

Cara… The two rabbits ran over the culvert.

The grass was wet and thick near the stream and they made their way up the opposite slope, looking for drier ground.

Part of the slope was in shadow, for the sun was sinking ahead of them, and Hazel, who wanted a warm, sunny spot, went on until they were quite near the lane.

As they approached the gate he stopped, staring…

“Fiver, what’s that? Look!”

*

Bugs… A little way in front of them, the ground had been freshly disturbed.

Two piles of earth lay on the grass.

Heavy posts reeking of creosote and paint, towered up as high as the holly trees in the hedge, and the board they carried threw a long shadow across the top of the field.

Near one of the posts, a hammer and a few nails had been left behind.

The two rabbits went up to the board at a hopping run and crouched in a patch of nettles on the far side, wrinkling their noses at the smell of a dead cigarette-end somewhere in the grass.

*

Cara… Suddenly Fiver shivered and cowered down. “Oh, Hazel! This it where it comes from! I know now – something very bad! Some terrible thing – coming closer and closer.”

He began to whimper…

*

Bugs… “What sort of thing – what do you mean?  I thought you said there was no danger? “

Cara… “I don’t know what it is,” answered Fiver wretchedly. “There isn’t any danger here, at this moment. But it’s coming – it’s coming. Oh, Hazel, look! The field! It’s covered in blood!”

*

Bugs… “Don’t be silly, it’s only the light of the sunset. Fiver, come on, don’t talk like this, you’re frightening me!”

*

Cara…The sun set behind the opposite slope.

The wind turned colder, with a scatter of rain, and in less than an hour it was dark.

All colour had faded from the sky and although the big board by the gate creaked slightly in the night wind, there was no passer-by to read the sharp, hard letters that cut straight as black knives across its white surface.

They said…

to be continued…

WHAT’S UP DOC? Lines of communication II…

*

…Cara: If we can’t trust the written word what can we trust?

Bugs settles at the West and Cara at the East.

Bugs: Vertical Polarity!

Cara: recites…

OL SONUF VAORSAGI GOHO IADA BALTA.

ELEXARPEH COMANANU TABITOM. ZODAKARA,

EKA ZODAKARE OD ZODAMERANU. ODO KIKLE

QAA PIAP PIAMOEL OD VAOAN.

Bugs: (Addressing the Companions) Don’t say what this is but if anyone does know what it is please raise your hands. (If any hands are raised to each of those who raised their hands) – Just say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Do you know what it means? (if so) – Please don’t take part in the next bit. So, everyone else.  Those of you who feel that this piece holds power, raise your hands.  (If any hands are raised) Would anyone like to expand on that? Would anyone like to categorise how that made them feel.  In a general way was that feeling Good or Bad? We’ll come back to this…

Cara: But first…

Cara walks to the central altar and removes the cover from the Top Hat and Ears, lifting out the rabbit ears in time honoured fashion they are revealed to be part of two rabbit masks…

Bugs: For those with ears to hear…

Bugs walks to the central altar. Cara hands one of the rabbit masks to Bugs (Black) and keeping the other for herself (White) they both don them.

Cara (now wearing a white rabbit mask) … A story about rabbits…

Bugs: (now wearing a black rabbit mask) … ‘What’s up Doc!’

Bugs explains that the cards have two inscriptions, one on either side but that the companions must not turn the cards over to read the second inscription until directed to do so by the utterance of the ‘Trigger’ word- ‘Carrots’ as Cara hands out the cards. After handing out the cards Cara returns to the central altar. Bugs and Cara circle the altar and then Bugs retreats to the east, while Cara retreats to the west.

TO EACH READ, IN TURN, WHILE CIRCLING…

*

Bugs… The primroses were over…

The May sunset was red in clouds, and there was still half an hour to twilight.

The dry slope was dotted with rabbits…

Here and there one sat upright on an ant-heap and looked about:

ears erect

nose to the wind.

The blackbird, singing undisturbed on the outskirts of the wood, gave lie to their caution.

There was nothing to alarm the peace of the warren.

*

Cara… At the top of the bank where the blackbird sang was a group of holes hidden by brambles.

In the green half-light, at the mouth of one of these holes, sat two rabbits side by side.

The larger of the two came out of the hole, slipped along the bank, hopped down into the ditch and then ambled up into the field…

A few moments later the smaller rabbit followed.

The first rabbit stopped in a sunny patch and scratched an ear with rapid movements of a hind-leg.

He looked as though he knew how to take care of himself.

There was a shrewd, buoyant air about him as he sat up, looked round and rubbed both front paws over his nose.

Once satisfied that all was well he laid back his ears and set to work on the grass.

His companion seemed less at ease.

He was small, with wide eyes and a way of raising and turning his head which suggested a sort of ceaseless nervous tension.

His nose moved continually and when a bumble-bee flew, humming, to a thistle bloom behind him he jumped and spun round with a start…

*

to be continued…

WHAT’S UP DOC? Lines of communication…

Presentation from, The Jewel in the Claw workshop, April 2018…

 

*

For those with eyes to see…

*

Floor Set up

Altar, placed centrally on chequered floor and covered… With, placed on it, top-hat, upended, with, placed in it, rabbit mask and ears x2, and ‘pack-of-cards’, all also covered. South and North lined with nine chairs for Companions.  Adjudicator 1 (male) to sit on central chair of South. Adjudicator 2 (female) to sit on central chair of North. Two chairs in East. One chair in West.

Bugs and Cara initially sit on chairs in East. When all Companions have entered and are seated Cara and Bugs rise to stand, simultaneously, and Cara walks clockwise to stand in front of the west chair.

*

Bugs: Friends, Britons, Countrymen…Welcome to our presentation. In keeping with our Shakespearean theme this year, we have determined to develop some of the concepts of the weekend…

Cara: Horizontal Polarity!

(Bugs and Cara walk anti-clockwise. Bugs to stand before West chair. Cara to stand before East chairs. On the way, Bugs hands Adjudicator 2 Gold Parchment with a sonnet printed on it. On reaching the West Bugs declares…)

Bugs: Love!

Cara:  recites the Shakespearean sonnet as a ‘lover’…

Being your slave, what should I do but tend

Upon the hours and times of your desire?

I have no precious time at all to spend,

Nor services to do, till you require.

Nor dare I chide the world-without-end hour

Whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you,

Nor think the bitterness of absence sour

When you have bid your servant once adieu;

Nor dare I question with my jealous thought

Where you may be, or your affairs suppose,

But, like a sad slave, stay and think of nought

Save, where you are how happy you make those.

   So true a fool is love that in your will,

   Though you do anything, he thinks no ill.

(Adjudicator 2 ‘follows’ the recital from the Gold Parchment. On finishing the reading Cara and Bugs switch positions again but this time they move clockwise. On the way Cara hands Adjudicator 1 Silver Parchment with the sonnet printed on it. On reaching the East, Bugs declares…)

Bugs: Loathing!

Cara: recites the same Shakespearean sonnet but this time as a ‘loather’…

(Adjudicator 1 ‘follows’ the recital from the Silver Parchment. On finishing the reading Cara moves clockwise to the South to collect Adjudicator 1 and leads him to the central altar. Bugs moves clockwise to the North to collect Adjudicator 2 and leads her to the central altar. Both Adjudicators follow the central line of the ‘board’ and square corners around the altar, to stand facing each other centrally as directed by Bugs and Cara. Once at the altar they are asked to verify that both the scripts are the same. When they have done so they swap parchments and then are led to opposite seats and re-seated.)

Bugs returns to East.

Cara returns to West.

(During the following exchange they circle the altar, alternating between East and West as they speak.)

Bugs: Ladies and Gentlemen, please, a hand for our adjudicators…

Cara: And so, we see, that, Horizontal Polarities are interchangeable, and represent two sides of the same coin…

And we can also see, that, opposite ‘emotions’ can be evoked by the self-same words?

Bugs: The written word, it seems, needs context…

Cara: But if we cannot trust the written word what can we trust?

to be continued…

Radiance of the Invisible Pearl

(Pearl image: Pixabay. Background by author)

Certain internal ‘states’ are realities deep within us. Love, strength, and boundlessness are examples of levels of conscious experience that are not simply psychological constructs; they indicate that our ordinary ‘day-consciousness’ is in contact with the deepest parts of who and where we really are.

These deepest layer of self – Self, as we write it, in order to differentiate this from the egoic ‘me’- are more real than the outer identity, but we have tuned our reality to our outer experience, only, so miss their significance and spend our lives struggling to interpret them.

The mystical journey of self to Self is one that restores the balance between the reactive ‘me’ of the egoic personality and the sheer belonging of the inner Self. Both are important. Without the egoic nature, and its attunement to the world, we wouldn’t have a mechanism for the inspired Self to ‘do’ in the world.

One element of this inner Self is the experience of contentment: literally, without wishes, as often discussed in ancient mystical texts. This is described as a peaceful state of a meditative nature… and so it can be. But it also has a dynamic side, and this expresses itself in an active state of completeness, rather than a withdrawn contentment.

To experience completeness is to be entirely ‘full with oneness’ in the moment. This changes the nature of our desires, in the sense that whatever happens to us is the very nature and gift of the now. To resist this is to place ourselves in a position of thinking we know better than the universe what we most need to experience next…

To cease this resistance to reality is like being held by a lover. Indeed, there is frequently a ‘glow’ in the upper front body and arms that accompanies it.

The inner reality of the now gently peels away what would have been the reactive layers of memory-based perception, replacing them with a freshness and sureness in which our core is not only central to the experience, but is secure enough to meet anything we may face in life – but in a new and more measured way.

For many of us, the sheer presence of that feeling may be the first proof that there is more to us than the physical body. Though this state of warmth in the chest and upper arms may feel entirely physical (which is a good thing!) its energy originates at a higher level of what we might think of as the ‘super-physical’.

The familiarity of its co-existence through the levels of our Self-self is a wonderful and warm experience. This experiential evidence that we are more than we thought we were, is a moment gifted from within to show we have embarked on something truly real that belongs, without any doubt, to us.

This ‘empowering by completeness’ can become a compass-needle for the further journey into the real Self, via its essential properties.

Essence is the term used for the inner architecture of our Being. This first experience triggers the opening of a whole path before us, one filled with delight and, above all else, a sense of personal truth and self-belonging…

If you’d like to approach this via a guided mediation, try this:

Sit quietly in a place of calmness. Close your eyes and imagine a wide circle around you at a distance of about 10 metres in radius. Breathe in so that you are gently filling about half your chest capacity, then breathe it all out, holding the final ‘empty-state’ for a second, before taking in a full breath that begins in the lower lungs and fills like a curve, upwards, until you are charged with fresh air.

Expel the new air gently, and, as you do so, move your inner vision, clockwise around the circumference of the visualised circle, placing on the circle all the valued physical things in your life, like your home, your car, your best clothes, your warmest winter coat, and so on.

When you’ve finished populating the circle, come back to the start point and draw another series of breaths, as before.

Then see each of these precious objects gradually fading over time, losing their specialness and disappearing as the inevitable processes of form and decay take their toll. Let your circle devolve to a state of emptiness.

Now, begin to feel a warmth from this ‘nothing’ as you circle clockwise in your mind.

Halve the diameter of the circle and feel it closing this loving warmth around you. Halve it again and feel it like a skin, warming as it approaches your skin. Close your eyes and enjoy the warm belonging. Remove any desires from your mind and let this new and joyous place of completeness be a temporary home to which you can return whenever you wish, just by triggering the memory of that warmth in the upper arms and chest.

The exercise is self-contained. Its context and deeper understanding is part of the Silent Eye’s three-year distance-learning programme.

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.

http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk

A glittering piece of the real Self

It’s like a beautiful, glittering kite, flown high and above the regular considerations of our lives; and yet this part of us, long recognised by psychology, has the potential to transform us into people of being, rather than reaction…

(750 words, a five-minutes read)

When we are children, we have to be seen. By this, I mean that special feeling when your parents see you shining at something and radiate pride in what their child is doing.

The young child, hungry for this feeling that is essential to the development of their self, demands constant attention with trivial things. Over time, these become refined, as the youngster comes to appreciate the quality of the seeing – the energy it brings to their developing being.

The child begins to understand that when this is mixed with something real, something that brings achievement in the world, the eyes of the parents radiate a special energy of appreciation, knowing their child is showing the first signs of adult achievement and self-discipline.

Some children never get this. Their glittering kite, flown constantly and increasingly desperately for the parent’s seeing, goes unnoticed, as yet another aspect of play. The parents are too involved with their own lives; too wrapped up in the set expectations they have for their offspring to see the reality of what is played out before them. The child’s real identity is never acknowledged, though their existence may be comfortable and even luxurious.

For children whose kite is never seen, the string gets longer, they let out more and more of it so the glittering object rises higher and higher, barely visible… only seen by the child, itself; but at least protected.

Psychology calls the kite the ego-ideal. It is part of the set of self-states that we form as we explore our relationship to the world. Later, we may come to understand it as our world, but that requires that we grasp a deeper level of reality.

In terms of Freudian psychology, which was the foundation for so much else, the growing sense of a ‘reality of me’ has the building blocks of ego, id, and superego. The ego is what we think of ourselves. The superego is the constant sense of ‘should do’ that sits on our shoulders and nags us to be better. The id is the wild energy of our being that is suppressed ‘below’, like dark fire, ready to erupt and ruin our place in society.

The young science of psychology was shocked to find that the ‘self’ is capable of dividing itself to form separate self-states, but it does; such is its power and importance – a strong and stable ego being the main goal of modern psychology.

So where does the kite, the ego-ideal, fit into this? In the heart of the Superego there lives a single attribute based on us – our identity – rather than the imposition of expectations. It is the best of us, and, seen or unseen, it represents our metaphorical sword, our armour, even our wings, because it has never lost its connection to our real Self, the one we are born with, but which, through lack of recognition, seldom gets to grow and bear its jewelled fruit in our lives.

We all know people who have that certain energy of being. They may not be wealthy, but they have a naturalness of expression and a bigness of soul that carries them, shining eyed, though life. These have never lost their connection with who they are. By accident or nurturing, they have protected and refines their selves so that they can express what is within them.

Psychology usually stops there… but spirituality doesn’t.

And, at the end of that other journey, we can feel the emergence of a completely new us. Stronger and more real than anything we could have imagined.

That kite, because it is real, can become the seed of a new level of being. We can pull it down from the high blue sky in which we have kept it safe, and explore its reality. We can let its true energy spill over into the rest of our lives as we contrast its presence with that of lesser things. We can choose to look and find other aspects of our real selves because we know the taste…

Perhaps then, walking along the beach of our lives, we can come across other little children flying their lonely kites; and help them see the reality of what’s on the end of that fragile string…

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.

The Ferocious Healer

Healing can be gentle and tender; but certain healing acts on an inner level of the self, racing like a cold wave to resolve us, before washing us up on the beach called tomorrow, but under a different sun…

(1000 words, a ten-minute read)

We all progress through an inner journey in our lives. We may not work with any specific system of self-development, but we come to the same perspective about ourselves. We come to know, with certainty, that there are things about us that have far more importance than anything else. These are qualities, rather than things. They do not relate to things; to what we might have, how secure we are. They are concerned with an ‘easiness’ (or not) of our inner state, our ‘me-ness’.

When we enter this awareness, usually in our middle years, we are on a path to self-knowledge, whose gravitational force becomes stronger as we age. True, there is a contest between bodily health and focus at that point – as shown by the increasing take-up of combined Eastern systems, such as Yoga, or derivates like Pilates. A daily walk confers much of the same benefits. Whatever method we adopt, the gains are reflected within as a calmer interior.

If we inquire into where unease comes from, we are pointed at a many-coloured quilt of mind and emotions, made from pieces of our experience, solidified as responses. There are desires, regrets, resolutions and powerful insights woven into this fabric. The whole of it comprises the self, the personality, and, although it feels complicated, it really isn’t – once we find the dynamic states in there, and begin to separate the dross from the real.

The real is vitally important, and we are compelled to approach it in stages. These stages reveal a pattern of ‘really important things’ – things with a power to change that interior state and make us renewed, within – which then changes the without…

The real is based on truth. Our relationship to truth is subtle, and, initially at least, learned. We are brought up in societies where many of the most important ‘powerful people’ lie. They lie all the time, carving and shaping the societal world in a way that protects their existence as liars. We all lie, but becoming aware of our lying is a key part of putting real life, as opposed to illusion, back into our interior state. We may not have the power to make our societies true, but we do have the power to make ourselves true.

We don’t want zealots here. There’s nothing as deadly as a zealot, clinging to his or her first vision of real truth and preaching how important it is to give up our present lives. We want gentleness, we want sharing and, above all, we want compassion…

Compassion is one of the great discoveries of the land inside us. Like anything else we presume to know, compassion has hidden depths. Compassion has two apparent faces: the one that soothes the friend who is going through illness, providing a reassurance that things will be okay, when we know they will not; and the the other, deeper face, that acts like a silent twin of truth.

If we have any ‘spiritual’ intentions, we must find our own truths. I’m not talking about the methods of development we may choose. I’m referring to an interior capability to ‘feel’ the truth of any situation. It can come as a shock to find out that we have an inner organ that knows when something is true or not; that knows when we are bending our complex and sophisticated past to accommodate something that is really an indulgence, rather than what we have set ourselves to do.

This is hard, really hard. But it is the way forward, and no amount of false compassion, the pat of self-reassurance that we have lots of life left to get it right, will substitute. Conditions arise in our lives for a reason. Life is an interior school of self-development, as millennia of wisdom has taught. People on a path of self-development are wise, no matter how far along that path they are. They listen to life, reading in its events, good or bad, what they should be learning on their individual journeys.

And it is here that the little-known power of real compassion comes into play. Compassion for ourselves will help us face the truth of our lives. It acts like a ship that reveals a bigger world. But its direction can only be towards the Truth, and in that powerful voyage, its engines have to be merciless in carrying us forward.

Once we face truth, nurture it and and learn to make it our constant advisor, we are set on a course, and the mighty engines of self-compassion, matched to the compass of truth, assume their real power, which is to make the brave happen… eventually healing the wounds that seem less and less important as we gaze out on a truly new day.

©Stephen Tanham, 2021.

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a modern journey through the forest of personality to the sunrise of Being

The Belief Tree

It might be thought that, in our technology-driven age, the concept of belief has become less important. If we go back fifty years, belief was still central to most people’s lives; so what has happened to change that?

(1000 words, a ten-minute read)

A friend of mine suggests, slightly tongue in cheek, that the biggest factor in religion’s decline is shopping… We might substitute football for shopping, to even up the gender sheet. The principle is the same: occupation of the mind and emotions by identifications with things of a tangible nature. If we’re fortunate, these may be luxuries. If less so, they are the passions generated by, say, our favourite team, of whom we are a loyal and devoted follower.

Passions for the less tangible things of life seem to be fewer, in this more advanced age…

Life is a struggle towards maturity and the personal crown of independence, which may be achieved in various degrees. Being self-supporting would be a key stage. Having a good job and ‘a place of our own’ would be important milestones.

At the end of decades of life we might find ourselves truly independent and able to choose how we dedicate our energies. This freedom from the influence of others can prove an arid place, however, when we realise that sea of experience in which we now swim reflects only our personal likes… and not the rich tapestry of challenge that it used to contain. ‘Beware what you wish for’ can be appropriate words, here.

Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs showed us that we only get to develop a depth of understanding of ‘higher things’ when our basic survival and comfort needs have been met. Yet religion usually features in the lives of the poorest people.

Is this a sign that the ‘undistracted’ are closer in their simplicity to where the spiritual originates? It may be that the closer-knit societies of the poor – outside of the developed West – have tightly woven communities where worship and neighbourly care go hand in hand. In this sense, religion is not chosen, it is a given, perhaps reflecting life in the West from a previous era, but with different religions at its heart.

Our societies have lost coherence and become a hotch-potch of identifications, desires and fears. The solid, if imposed, set of values that religion used to provide as life-basis has been replaced by a gradient of thoughts ranging from life purely as consumer, to the deepest explorations of a variety of philosophies, some linked to disciplined exercise regimes, as with Yoga. Seldom in our history have more people been seeking…

Science generally mocks religion. I once watched a whole programme by one of my favourite scientists: the astronomer professor Brian Cox, who filmed religious worship around the world – particularly funerary rites – just to say, at the end of programme, that God, and associated life after death, had no basis in demonstrable fact. I remember feeling sad that so much energy had been spent negating the basic and genuine needs of so many subsistence-level people.

Not all scientists feel this way, as individuals. Psychologists work at the known frontiers of the mind, stabilising the all-important sense of ‘self’ that arises when the individual works successfully towards maturity and individuality. We might say that all the gains and many of the ills of the modern world have resulted from the cult of the self, allied to consumerism.

How is the young, thinking person to approach this, if they decide there is more to life than comfort and the personal prestige of accomplishment? We might say they will be met with three concepts: to believe; to have faith; and to know

The tree of wisdom has, throughout the ages, and within all the world’s systems for studying a ‘supreme being’, begun with belief; asking the aspirant to adopt a deeper, more values-based approach to their lives. We are urged to do this as a trial, setting aside our established thinking, to consider that there might be states of mind and heart that are truly ‘higher’.

Some systems of development, such as Buddhism, advocate no such supreme being, rather focussing on the potential of the individual human, instead.

Belief traditionally provides no proof, except for reference to ‘good people’, but offers a path of focus on an ideal that may have the power to change the aspirant. The majority of people satisfied with belief, alone, are ‘woven’ together in a community centred on some kind of church or other centre of worship. A belief system with associated values may cause us to examine whether our lives are ego-centric. It’s a useful truism that a good way to lessen your troubles is to take on the troubles of others. It is sufficient for many people to remain in this state of belief, helping and serving their communities and enriching all our lives with their kindness.

Those who want to go beyond this and access the often referenced higher states of consciousness are first faced with the question of whether these actually exist. Fortunately, life provides each of us with moments of extreme and unusual lucidity, called ‘peak experiences’. These are so different in terms of ‘quality of consciousness’ that they point to something very real in the human potential. In simple terms, the memory of these states is vivid and we want to be back there…

Sufficient work on the self, at this level, reveals there to be a related family of such states of the higher Self, all ready to host our active consciousness, if we can find the way to them. Once ‘tasted’, these states of what are commonly called ‘Essence’, entice us back, because they contain something that can only be describes as a certainly of rightness.

We simply know, beyond question, that we are in a mental and emotional place that has an extraordinary level of clear thought and feeling; indeed, that the word thought is no longer sufficient to describe how we ‘see’ the world.

This new state of consciousness, albeit it temporary, takes us beyond belief and faith and into a place where the words, essence and spirit are seen for what they have always been, ready for our own interpretation into the language of our age, thereby perpetuating a tradition of teaching and learning whose only goal is the service of our fellow human beings – because we all share this potential, which only needs awakening.

We have travelled from belief, with its fine community spirt, through faith that there is a higher consciousness available to us, and worth the work, to the place of knowing, or gnosis, as the ancients rightly called it.

And all of this is the birthright of mankind, and always has been. It is available to every man and woman, regardless of race or creed. The language used to describe it is different in each culture, yet the experience is the same. In the place where there are no words, the language of experienced certainty is universal… and startling in the new world it unveils.

©Stephen Tanham, 2021.

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a modern journey through the forest of personality to the sunrise of Being

The Big Picture (6) : Unshakable Mine

I am the child of two loving parents. One gifted me a living background in philosophy and mysticism; the other gave me the gift of verbal conceptualisation… talking.

(1500 words; a ten minute read)

My father passed away a decade ago. We’re still clinging on to mother, who at 91, is robust only in her ability to talk. She is in our care for the foreseeable future and I would like nothing better than that she passes away gently, in that state of being loved and cared for… if not always understood.

Neither of my parents had a clue about the sciences, yet I, despite being a moderate folk-singer in my youth, I eschewed the rock star dream and headed for a Computer Science degree, achieving it after four years (the old-style ‘sandwich course’) of struggle at a Polytechnic in the north Midlands.

I was not a gifted student, but I could talk. Also, I noticed I could explain complex things quite well – finding analogies, new words and metaphors, not to mention humour, to make the complex comprehensive and… fun. I was a vice-president of the local Student Union – a natural fit with talking, I suppose.

Only one of my lecturers understood fun, and I cherish his memory. He knew I wasn’t a good student, and that my final grades were not going to rocket me into a starring role in the emerging world of computing. Remember, this was 1977, and the world of business computing was an exciting (and brutal) frontier.

My fun-loving lecturer called me into his office one day. There, opened on his old, metal desk, was a huge centre-page advert placed by a well-known computing company named ‘Burroughs Computers’.

“Look at the headline,” he said. “They need a thousand graduates in computing to sell their computers… Looks a good package, too.” He rocked back in his chair. “Be a tough first year of survival, mind you…”

He leaned forwards, placed his giant hands on the desk and fixed me with his dark eyes, suddenly full of ice.

“Now get out of here and make something of that wonderful ability to talk!”

Two months later, clutching my degree certificate of under-achievement, I sat down in the cold kitchen of our greengrocer’s shop in Bolton and began to ring every computer company with a office in Manchester. Fifth on the list was a German company called Nixdorf, with a regional office in Sale, Manchester.

Minutes later, the office secretary put me though to the branch manager. I recognised a scouse accent, and the friendly but challenging voice that, bluntly, meant business.

“Why the hell would I be interested in a grubby ex-student like you? Did I mention I hate students,” he snarled, in a passable likeness of John Lennon on a bad day. I tried not to be sick with tension – which resulted in my first ever example of what I later learned was the sales ‘power of silence’. In truth I was choking and had taken my head as far from the phone as possible.

A door in my consciousness opened. I actually heard the ‘crack’. A rush of blood to the head and lungs and then: “Because I can talk well,” I said, clearly and slowly. I sounded calm… I wasn’t.

All I could hear was his laughing. “Bloody hell, I can‘t fault that,” he laughed. “Be here next Monday morning at 7:30. Let’s see if you can get up, as well as talk.”

He put the phone down. “Bloody hell”, I repeated to myself. My best and worst attributes in the same adrenaline rush.

I was there at 07:25 on that Monday. My orange VW Beetle, part financed by my Dad, but now my own responsibility, was parked discretely behind the office.

I stood by the door, but not blocking it. Not overly familiar but not looking like a ‘bloody student’ either. I stood aside as he passed me. He issued a small but rueful-sounding “Good morning”, injected with a tiny degree of irony. Nothing else.. But he let me see his smile as he swung the door open.

I got the job. The first year didn’t go according to his plans, as I was courted and, frankly, seduced, by a divorced senior lady systems analyst who had a sporty BMW. She toyed, elegantly, with my affections and other things. She was great and we had a lot of fun, but it wasn’t learning the day job. The Branch Manager tried to warn me off. Headstrong, I wasn’t listening.

Of such things are harsh lessons made…

At the end of the year, with little sales success, I knew the manager was ready to fire me. I sank into a depression. It wasn’t that I wasn’t trying – I hadn’t let the high-octane fraternising frazzle all my brains. It seemed that no-one would take me seriously – out there in the boardrooms where people brought expensive computers. Was I just too young? Had my ability to talk failed me?

That evening, I had a pub meal with a new friend I had got to know through working in my parents’ shop. I liked Ian a lot. He had a tough but humorous, no-nonsense manner and he liked BMW cars – though he couldn’t afford one. He had been a chef, but had swapped it for a job as a salesman in a catering engineering company who made high-end industrial cookers.

I was explaining my imminent demise and he listened, deeply, reading my face. For the past few months, over several evenings, he had coached me in the nitty gritty of ‘selling the person, not the product’. He finished his drink, but continued the silence.

I went to the bar for the second round.

“Do you know,” he said, as I set the drinks down. “that selling is the only profession that gives free consultancy?”

The sentiment was new to me at the time. It hit me like adrenaline. “Look at all your training,” he continued. “Four year computing degree; ‘sandwich-course’ during which you gave up your summer holidays to work in industry. Smart, well spoken… “Whereas, half the people you are selling to are dull, imagination-less lickspittles…”

It was the first time I’d heard such sentiments. Looking back, they were designed to fire me up, but much of the sentiment was true. You had to learn to value yourself if you hoped to sell anything. I knew that, I just hadn’t ‘actualised’ it. Later, I found a better word for that.

“What are you doing tomorrow morning?” he asked, sipping his beer.

I drank mine, conscious of the importance of the day to come. “Final attempt to close the deal at a wholesale Painting Suppliers in Salford. My last chance.”

He looked at me, eagle-eyed. “What are your chances? Really?”

I drank some more beer. “Not brilliant – but there’s a nice BMW in the car park. I’ve noticed that there is definitely a correlation between that and what kind of reception we…. I… get; German company and all…and the Operations Director’s a nice bloke and gets me a coffee.”

“Good,” said Ian. “Then use it. Make it count.”

Mr Johnson, the Operations Director, was a man who combined warmth and acute intelligence. His office was classy but minimalist – quite avant-guard in Salford. He watched me, intently, as I worked to summarise my proposals and tell him why now was the right time for him to sign the deal. I felt I’d done a good job and sat back, ready to use the power of silence to its best effect.

After twenty seconds of mutual silence, he rocked his chair back and let me have a half-smile.

“Steve,” he said softly. “I like you… the financial director likes you. We think we have an honest soul, here. Someone who will work with us to deliver this… beyond the selling.’

He let his chair rotate forward so his arms could lie on the desktop, and fixed me with eyes that contained a different sentiment to any he had displayed to that point. I knew something completely new was about to happen in my life.

“Now let me tell you how you’re going to sell this to us…”

In those few seconds, my entire world changed. It was the beginning of the sense of worth solely related to my-self. Mr Johnson was going to instruct me in how to use that because he felt I was was worth it. That sense of worth – in this adult context – was dramatic and life-changing. I’ve never forgotten it… I’ve never wanted to. I think of it as ‘unshakable mine’.

It was only years later that I realised it had a spiritual dimension. One of the key stages in our individual development is to realise that each human has a great importance to the cosmos. This is something that can trigger a fundamental change in ourselves – and link us more closely with everything that is creative in life.

It’s a Little Us that carries a spark of something almost beyond belief. But the journey to that realisation is the story of how we get there, in a weird and wonderful paradox, full of divine humour and discovery.

We are all born with amazing potential, but we have to realise our relationship to the world we live in – the whole, vast universe of it…

Finding that deep sense of self, beyond the ordinary egoic concept, is central this journey.

A week later, as promised to the Nixdorf Branch Manager, the deal was signed. It probably wasn’t the thing that saved me. The outspoken manager had fallen out with one of the senior managers in Germany and had resigned… The man who took over had warmth and had seen the effort I was making. I lived to fight – and learn – another day.

Next week, in the final part of this series, we will pull together the threads through these posts, and summarise the truly ‘big picture’ of Self-development.

Other parts in this series:

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, This is Part Six.

©Stephen Tanham, 2021.

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, A journey through the forest of personality to the sunrise of Being.