Living in a fairy tale

brian froud goblins
                     Painting by Brian Froud

I’ve been looking into old faery lore lately. Not the sanitised Victorian version of miniature winged  beauties, but at the old tales of strange encounters, customs that go back beyond memory, time lost in the faery realm and the darker aspects of the hidden folk. I watched a documentary and, amongst a few other ideas, one in particular got me thinking. The suggestion was that if faeries do not have a concrete and objective reality of their own in our world, but do exist for us in the realms of imagination, perhaps imagination itself is a state of being we do not fully understand, bridging the gap between our usual vision of reality and unreality  in a way that has a validity of its own. As a concept, and after years of working with magical systems, that works for me.

In esoteric terms, the realm of imagination is a realm of causation…the place where abstract ideas take on the substance of proto-reality, one step removed from concrete materialisation. You could consider a can opener. A need arises for some method of opening a can, need fuels that abstract thought, but that won’t get the beans on the toast. Imagination is what creates the design for the tool that will. You see it as a reality, a working gadget, in your own mind, long before it becomes a prototype or opens a can. You could call imagination the matrix of reality and that would not be very far away from some of the recent postulations of scientific thought.

I couldn’t help thinking about the Disney version of Pinocchio and how much he wanted to be a real boy. The wooden puppet and his externalised ‘conscience’ sought the help of a faery and it was she who would eventually be the catalyst for his transformation from wood to flesh. Only the catalyst, not the cause… the puppet’s own actions make him real. I was wondering how closely that applies to people. Many of us are Ugly Ducklings, Cinderellas or Sleeping Beauties for much of our lives.

Ugly Ducklings feel sidelined, shunned by the ‘in’ crowd, left out in the cold because we are not ‘like them’. It is untrue… but it may as well be, because that is what we feel and we become self-fulfilling prophecies of our own isolation. We may withdraw…or we may become the victim of our own desire to please and to ‘fit’… unless, by some leap of inner vision, we can finally see ourselves for the Swans we have always been.

The Cinderellas are not so different. We are not good enough… we are lesser, unworthy in our own eyes and will do anything to feel ‘good enough’. It takes a catalyst, the ‘fairy godmother’ or a critical loss perhaps, to reveal our true being. Sometimes it just needs someone to see beyond our dark imaginings and hold up the magic mirror of their own being in which we can see, like Snow White, that we are ‘fairest of them all’. And always were.

Sleeping Beauties wait for life to wake us, never reaching true maturity until someone or something gives us that ‘kiss of true love’ that shows us we were always valued and able to love.

The archetypes portrayed by our fairy tales may have happy endings… at least according to their modern versions; many of the older tales have darker endings but they all reflect aspects of the human condition. I am fairly certain we could all find one where the essence of the tale fits our outlook, from the child lost in the wood, to the imprisoned beauty or the princess who kisses a frog. We are living in fairytales… and many of them are dark.

It is very easy to see how imagination is at the root of reality when you look at the human mind. Every emotion is rooted in imagination and we create our reality according to our emotions. We read a book and, if it engages our imagination, laugh and cry with its characters. We fear the dentist because we anticipate pain, imagining the sound of the drill and the sharpness of the needle. We finally meet a pair of eyes and smile… we may even say hello… but before we do so we have already imagined that first touch and the shiver of romance… and then we are notoriously insecure in those first throes of romance because we imagine the ‘what ifs’ and potential loss.

What we imagine is real for us within its own realm. That applies equally to the ‘Christmas morning’ moments that are as delightful as any Victorian faery and to those moments where our inner vision leads us down a darker path.

We tend to think of imagination as part of a creative process, assuming that some, like writers, artists and musicians, are more gifted in that area than others. That is a false concept; they may have a particular facility for expressing that process as tangible creations, but the imagination itself is shared and accessed by all of us. Every time we think, we are engaging in a creative process… and how often are we not thinking? In the Silent Eye, the active imagination plays a large part in the work we do, drawing upon its depth and potential in order to create change. We are not alone in recognising the power of imagination… there are countless self-help systems out there on varying methods of positive thinking, and what is that except engaging the creative imagination to shape reality by choosing to believe in something not yet real in order to make it real?

Some things have to be believed

Before they can be seen…

In the documentary, it was suggested that faeries cannot be seen with the eyes, but only with the heart.  That is true of people too… and equally true of ourselves. Unless we believe in ourselves, we will never become ourselves. Imagination may be the matrix of reality, but I wonder if it is also an expression of the feeling mind and the thinking heart. A heart that cannot think falls into sentimentality, a mind that cannot feel risks being frozen by its own logic. Imagination may belong to a different level of our being and, properly embraced, may open the doors to a treasure-house, where, if we can believe in the possibilities we find there, we can balance all the aspects of our selves and find the way to that fabled happily-ever-after.

“What dreams may come…”

From the Big Bad Wolf to Pinocchio, from Ogres and Giants, to the Pied Piper and the Wicked Witch… Have you ever wondered what happens when Beauty sleeps?

Join us for a weekend in heart of Derbyshire to find out…

Awaken the beauty that sleeps within.

What lies beneath the surface of familiar childhood tales? How do these old stories relate to our own lives? What can we learn from the archetypes and recurring themes? What can they teach us about ourselves?

Our workshops are open to all. Using techniques both ancient and modern, we explore the spiritual journey through symbolic stories, meditations and fully scripted ritual drama. No prior experience is needed, just come along and enjoy the weekend!

The weekend runs from the evening of 17th April 2020, to the afternoon of Sunday 19th. Fully catered accommodation is included in the workshop price of £240 – £265. An electronic copy of the workbook for the weekend will be supplied prior to the event, with paper copies available to purchase if preferred.

To read what it is like to attend your first workshop with the Silent Eye, click HERE.

Bookings are now being taken for the Silent Eye’s Annual Workshop 2020.

Click below to
Download a Booking Form – pdf

For further details or to reserve your place:

Where Beauty Sleeps

Great Hucklow, Derbyshire

17-19 April, 2020


The Light between the Railway Carriages

The light between the railway carriages…

It was one of the best analogies I ever had given to me; yet it took me years to grasp its fullness. Like any true seed of ‘spiritual’ insight, it was strong enough to lie on the rock till a little pocket of earth developed beneath – a receptive place into which it could extend its roots.

We all grow up thinking, without question, that ‘thought’ is continuous, and the basis for our ‘in-here’ existence. It may take a lifetime to see that the thought-machine that fronts our world is our own creation and coloured with our thinking and emotional history. This colouration paints ‘the’ world, making it our world, familiar in its likes and dislikes, fears and moments of courage – many of them unobserved, except by that mysterious watcher within us.

The world we inhabit is therefore the sum total of our reactions to everything that has happened to us. Many of these reactions protect us – like knowing not to put our hands onto something burningly hot; others fill us with prejudice against threats that are not present in our moment.

The ocean in which this history exists is the internal ‘field’ of our thoughts.

‘Look, there’s a cherry-blossom tree!’ We cry, imposing the history-carrying words over the raw and beautiful experience of the reality. Names are useful, but they also pre-program our seeing. Knowing this, we can work backwards if we choose, and repeatedly use the word so that it temporarily loses its meaning. We may then find ourselves on the edge of a kind of fear. Have we damaged our brain’s memory of what a cherry-blossom tree is?

Of course not… but staying within that uncertainty may teach us something.

Just seeing how the mind takes that defensive stance is instructive. If, instead of allowing that fear, we carry on with the exercise and spend a ‘mute’ few minutes next to the ever-changing perfection of the tree, we may experience the gap – the light – between the railway carriages of the train of consciousness thundering by on its eternal and dominating journey.

In those precious moments, we may see that there is a landscape beyond the noisy and flashing train, one that comes slowly into focus and reveals itself as a very different place, yet one to which we are, most certainly, closely related – since we and it are now still… gazing upon each other in a new way.

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school 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 Rotating Blade of Meaning (8) – Final Part

helicopter-meaning blog - 1

In the preceding parts of this series (see below for full list) we have seen how Arthur M. Young, inventor and chief engineer of Bell’s early helicopter design, was convinced that it was possible to construct a ‘map of human meaning’, a graphic figure that would show the relationships between the laws of physics and the observer in a new way.

In its experiments, science had always tried get rid of the observer; and yet it was the observer’s mind that constructed the experiment in the first place…. How odd, thought Young, to try to get rid of the core animating principle behind the whole thing!

His early confirmation of this came with a new analysis of the common forms of motion, starting with the idea of distance from a point, then examining the relationship between distance travelled and the time taken (velocity); then considering the rate of change of such velocity when more force (pressing the accelerator in a car) was applied to create acceleration.

Each of these could be laid out on a circle, with distance being at the right, horizontal point. Each of the others came into existence at a right angle – ninety degrees – to the previous. In parts two and three, we saw how velocity was distance (a straight line) divided by time; acceleration was distance divided by time squared (an area); and that there was something missing at the final point (the upper vertical), which would equate to distance divided by time cubed – a 3D cube – the foundation of our physical world.

As an engineer, Arthur M. Young knew that he had used formula that divided by things cubed in his control systems for the helicopters he designed. He realised that this was the point at which the observer interacted with the system, in the form of control.

His task was now to extend this circular mapping to integrate all the other equations of ‘motion’ in the greater sense. These included all the remaining formula used by physics to describe aspects of motion.

First, he had to reconcile the properties of ‘fourness’ that had led to the mapping of general meaning with the key mystical concepts of ‘threeness’

The diagram above shows the process whereby something of a ‘higher nature’, spiritually, divides itself into two ‘children’ in order to come into manifestation at a ‘lower’ level. This is a deeply mystical idea and is the basis of most of the world’s metaphysical thought.

The key to understanding this is the realisation that the ‘above’ does not entirely remain there, it ‘enters into’ its creation – the lower. Nothing is lost… in fact much is gained. The whole, the One, becomes Two, but does not lose its oneness, when seen at the original level. The result is Three… represented by the triangle, which can direct itself up or down. If down, it is in the ‘God-descending’ process of involution. If upwards, it is the planetary process of evolution.

The One undertakes this transformation only because it can extend itself in the process. The potential role for mankind is to bring this intent to fruition; matching the microcosm (us) to the macrocosm (the creator). To ‘God’, there is an involvement with the creation. Mankind has to learn first to ‘see’ God in the multiplicity of the world. To do this requires the undoing of much of our ordinary learning, based upon the desire be a living part of unity.

Sadly, it is beyond the scope of these few blogs to provide more of the mathematical and logical mapping that Arthur M. Young carried out. Many of the techniques were invented by him. He was seeking what he called his ‘Rosetta Stone of Meaning‘. We can, therefore, cut to the chase and show the finished thing:

The figure comprises the original square cross of our original process of human meaning overlaid with four triangles. The result is twelve points on the circumference of the circle – exactly the number that astrology uses in its map of the year and the signs.

What had Arthur M. Young achieved with this reconciliation of physics, metaphysics and the place of the observer within both?

First and foremost, he had shown that our state as observer of ‘the’ world was not a single state, that there were incremental stages of consciousness corresponding to his maps of meaning. He showed that raw experience was the first product of our perception and that it occurred before our consciousness of anything. Whatever is ‘out-there’ has to register before our mind can begin to process it. After that, as the Rosicrucians often said,  ‘mind assigns it dimension’. This produces a literal depth of perception that a different part of the mind can then categorise.

It does this so it can group like things, giving related sets of experience. As an infant (as discussed in Part 7) the most important of these is what will hurt us. The organism has to endure, and there are many things in the out-there that can hurt or kill it.

Over time, we confuse the two organic fear of survival with what we like and dislike. In this way our registered experience become confused with what is being ‘valued’ as good and bad – in the Genesis story this is the fruit of the tree of good and evil. Ultimately, there is no good and evil, only what is. But our personal growth demands we take the long learning curve to real knowledge of our place in existence: gnosis, as the ancient teachers named it.

Arthur M. Young showed us that our consciousness – that jewel at the centre of our organism, needs threeness and fourness to divide its ‘circle’ of meaning into twelve parallel aspects. Once these are known, there is nothing that can fall outside their realm. The totality of our existence is mapped into this glyph – and it is of great significance that this corresponds with the twelve-fold divisions of the wheel of astrology – the most ancient of the ‘power-glyphs’.

What is humanity in this picture?  As organic beings, we are wholly of this planet. The good Earth lends us her bright materials, and the seed from afar takes root and grows. It’s highest function is to be fully conscious, and, within that, to use the inbuilt gradients to set a course for ‘heaven’. Many storms await, but captains are made of storms, not books on navigation – though the latter are vital if this life-layer of humanity is to learn to give its fullest love back to the globe that nurtured it.

Information about Arthur M. Young, 1905-1995

This series of blogs are based upon the book: The Geometry of Meaning, by Arthur M. Young.  ISBN 1-892160-01-3.

Many of his talks are available on YouTube.

Previous posts in this series:

Part One,   Part Two,   Part ThreePart Four

Part Five   Part Six

Part Seven

©️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

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

The Rotating Blade of Meaning (7)

Now we have finished with our incursion into maths, and I know that will be welcome…

Why have we been talking about such non-spiritual things as acceleration, velocity (speed) and distance? The answer is that these aspects of motion are at the heart of how we learn about the world, and how we interact with it. In learning, we forget how we learned and become absorbed in the results.

When the infant reaches out to grasp the hot cup she shouldn’t touch, and her fingers fail to grasp it, but push it away, she is using acceleration in the force she is trying to exert with her fingers. The small training cup may move but a larger and hotter teapot wouldn’t. The difference is not in the child’s fingers but in the mass (heaviness) of the teapot. A burn may be the result. It’s important to be able to gauge the mass of things – cycling into a tree or a wall is more painful than a hedge.

When the young boy, against his parents’ wishes, finds himself following his friends across that busy road, his life depends upon his ability to gauge the distance and how fast (velocity) he can run before the approaching vehicle kills him. If he’s successful, his parents will never know – and he is free to carry on learning.

If, halfway across that road, he sees that he has misjudged the speed of the approaching car, then he still has one chance of survival left to him: he can begin to run faster, in other words, accelerate. By generating more power (force = acceleration) in his leg muscles, he can propel his body forward, faster than before, and then faster, again, until the limit of his straining organism is reached. The swerving car passes him, its wing mirror rips the back of his coat, its horn is blaring, the driver frantic… but the boy is alive, and has learned something that will affect the rest of his life. In accelerating by choice, he has exercised something not present in position, distance, velocity or acceleration: he has developed control using his desire and free will to survive – using his mind and the mechanical capabilities of his body.

These are vital things, and they are key to how we learn and continue to learn. They give us our basic capabilities; and they help us to make sense of the world – our individual world – for we can know no other. Can we relate them to Arthur M. Young’s core diagram of how we learn the meaning of anything?


Let’s take a journey into ‘micro-time’. We enter a new house. In the corner of the first room there is a shape. It looks like a triangle, but so do many things. This is our first ‘taste’ of the previously unseen object. We examine it in more detail, believing that knowledge of its construction and function is important. We are at the stage of the Objective General in the above diagram.

We notice that triangle is actually three dimensional and has little ‘dimples’ in its material, We have good evidence that this object is made from a compressed paper derivative. We are now at the level of the Objective Specific.

Further study shows that there is light escaping from the edges of the object, and that its colour is a vivid orange. This is the Subjective General – because we are now imposing on it values (colour etc) that are actually part of our own minds – none of us sees exactly the same shade of orange, for example.

In a flash of recognition, we know its purpose: it is a lampshade, and it has been switched on.

This example shows how we perceive, though we do this in ‘micro-time’ and automatically. If we encountered an object whose like we had never seen, our minds would have to evaluate it in this way, step by step – but that process, too, would be automatic.

The  ‘automation’ in our consciousness is necessary. Without it, we would be exhausted with all the routine ‘processing’ our brains would have to do. Its negative cost is that our world very quickly loses its magic unless we deliberately ‘look-again’ at things.

This science of perception was already well known to scientists, psychologists and mystics. Arthur M. Young’s interest was in the fact that it could be viewed as a diagram of meaning, as above.

He superimposed the attributes of motion that we have discussed in the last three posts onto the circle in the same way. Remember that each of the sequence: distance, velocity, acceleration, and now, control, had been seen to emerge from a 90 degree shift from the previous state – a ‘right-angle’, as the ancient builders described it. This followed the way the line (a number) became a square (the number squared), and then a cube (the number cubed).

What resulted was this:


We move clockwise from Distance to Velocity to Acceleration. This is the point where classical physics ends. But Arthur M. Young was an engineer and knew that you had to add control (and thus the Observer) to have the whole system work – as in the creation of the helicopter. Control needed to be at the top of the circle, with another 90 degree shift from Acceleration.

With this discovery, Arthur Young knew that the circle had to be capable of holding all the relationships to not only how we know objects, but how we interact with objects. More importantly, these relationship would each have their own angle in the circle. The above diagram shows how the fundamental quality of time had a 90 degree relationship with this master-symbol, and could map itself four times around the circle before returning to its original state.

Young had been fascinated by the history of how Egypt’s treasures had been discovered. He remembered that an artefact named the ‘Rosetta Stone’ had enabled the same description to be mapped between the ancient Greek and Egyptian languages, opening up the written story of that mighty civilisation.

He decided that his search was of a similar nature. Could he extend how Time was mapped into the circle to the other fundamental qualities of physics, such as mass and length?

In the next and final post of this series we will summarise the conclusions he came to, and show his Rosetta Stone of universal meaning.

Previous posts in this series:

Part One,   Part Two,   Part ThreePart Four

Part Five   Part Six

©️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

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

Part One,   Part Two,   Part ThreePart Four

©️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

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


The Rotating Blade of Meaning (6)


Bell_30 sm St(Above: the original Bell 30 which established commercial helicopter technology, and was invented and developed by Arthur M. Young. Picture Wikipedia, public domain)

In our last post, we looked at those most frightening objects: numbers which are squared and cubed. This exercise in cruelty was an attempt to remove the fear of these things in order to put them in a very special place: Arthur M. Young’s conception of how consciousness worked – and its simplicity.

Arthur Young discovered that how the human mind grasped ‘meaning’ could be represented in a very simple graphical figure; one which gave greater depth to our understanding of consciousness. As well as being a scientist and famous inventor (the Bell helicopter was his creation) Young was a master astrologer – a very unusual activity for a scientist. He did not feel that astrology was antithetical to science, and admired the way the ancient science tried to encompass the whole of mankind’s experience rather than just the workings of the material world.

Young reminded us that our picture of the ‘world’ is our own; and is formed as a composite of information from our senses and our mind. This includes the way we react to it, as well. Let’s absorb this. There is no world, except the one we make. We are incapable of a full consciousness of the ‘out there’. That is not to say that we will always be limited in this way, but the present development of our species forms a very subjective picture: what I think, as opposed to what is. And we need to remember that it is very much a picture, though it has more dimensions than the area of the ‘picture’ we constructed in last week’s blog (Part 5).

There are certain things that have always been with mankind. A good example is the sky with its sun, moon and the mysterious planets – those ‘wanderers’ in the night sky that behaved very differently from the constellations around which ancient peoples spun their stories.

Arthur M. Young had determined that there were four stages, or aspects of how the pictures formed by our consciousness. Now, we must bear in mind that all of these are projected by the mind onto what we paint as ‘out there’. These stages have been carefully constructed during the course of our evolution, so Young felt justified in placing them at the centre of things.

One of the drivers of evolution was how we reacted to the motion of objects, friends and predators. To Young, the motion-related issues of distance covered, velocity and acceleration were related to three of the four aspects of meaning that we humans need to fully comprehend what is happening to us, and how we should interact with it. We examined this in Part Three and Part Four, like this:

(1) Distance travelled is seen to be the baseline of motion. It is analogous to our simple line of blocks in the last blog. The diagram is reproduced below:

Arthur Young line alone

(2) Velocity (or more commonly Speed) is Distance divided by Time, as in miles per hour. In other words, it’s a rate of change. With a constant speed (as in car staying at 70 mph on a motorway) the motion is at a constant rate and there is no acceleration, until we ‘speed up’ or brake. In our simplification of the formula we saw that Velocity is equal to Distance divided by the Time taken to cover it. in the diagram below, the distance is simply the length of the top line of blocks.

Arthur Young 3+3 +RightAA

3) Acceleration is the rate of change of the previous aspect of Velocity. In a car travelling at a constant 70 miles per hour is not accelerating.  If our car, which had been travelling at constant 70 miles per hour, suddenly accelerated to overtake a wagon, there would be an increase in not only the distance, but also the velocity. This equates to the distance divided by time squared. We have seen that anything squared is equal to a square. Here’s our square from last week:

Arthur Young Nine Full wallAA

In each case of the above aspects, we have evolved our understanding by creating a ninety degree (a right angle) turn. We moved from a line (1+1+1) to an area, a square, by turning our evolving shape through ninety degrees and extending all of it by the same length.

Have we finished what we can know? Our blocks have been carefully drawn to show that another transformation is possible. One more turn through ninety degrees is, effectively, extending all the squared blocks backwards into the diagram three times (1+1+1) as we hinted in the final diagram from last week, reproduced below:

Arthur Young Nine Full27cubeAA

Do we know this figure? Most certainly – it is a cube. We got to it by dividing distance by time cubed. We live in a world of cubes; that is , we live in a three-dimensional world. Arthur M. Young proposed that there is a missing type of motion related to this final transformation of the aspects of motion.

In the next part of this story, we will look at the nature of this third derivative of distance and time; and the vital link it provides between a scientific world of ‘only matter’ and the presence of the observer as an intelligent part of creation…

To be continued…

{Note to the reader: These posts are not about maths or physics; they are about a unique perspective on universal meaning created by Arthur M. Young. If you can grasp the concepts in this blog, your understanding of what follows will be deeper.}

Previous posts in this series:

Part One,   Part Two,   Part ThreePart Four

Part Five

©️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

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



The Elusive Shrimp

Caridina-multidentata-ingestion.jpg Shrimp by Richard Bartz, Munich Makro Freak via Wiki. This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.
Image: Richard Bartz

They seek him here, they seek him there...” I couldn’t help thinking about Baroness Orczy’s Elusive Pimpernel as I watched the translucent creature foraging in the corner of the aquarium. He’s not exactly scarlet, being more of a watery pink, but he could certainly be the ‘shrimpernel’ of the tank.

Quite where he came from, or how long he had been in there, I’ll never know. I can only assume that he hitched a ride on one of the plants I brought home from the fish place. I didn’t even know I had him until he was discovered, lurking in the bottom of the old tank when I transferred the fish to their new home some months ago, and it had been months before that when I had last bought plants.

I saw him again the following morning, swimming merrily across the glass of his new home and really hoped I would see more of him; they are fascinating to watch. I even bought another half dozen shrimps to keep him company, knowing them for social creatures. But, despite cleaning the tank at least once a week, I hadn’t seen him or his fellow crustaceans since. They just disappeared into the undergrowth, never to be seen again.

Until last night, that is, when, bold as brass, a shrimp sauntered out to raid the fish food that had fallen at the front of the tank. I had been convinced for some time that I had lost them all. I had seen the vacant exoskeleton on the sand one day, just after I had medicated the tank. Invertebrates are not good with many aquarium treatments and I was convinced he had been a casualty of the war on white spot. And shrimp are a delicacy for bigger fish too.

No matter how carefully I look, though, or how assiduously I peer into the plants, nooks and crannies, there are no shrimp to be seen. It is nice to know he is there, though, quietly working behind the scenes, doing what nature intended. I only know he is still in there because he allowed me to catch that one, fleeting glimpse. It was enough to reassure me that he is alive and thriving, but it also makes me wonder what else might be in there, present but unseen.

There is something about the tranquillity of watching fish that can induce a meditative state. Or maybe I just indulge in weird trains of thought. But it seemed to me that the presence of the invisible shrimp could serve as an illustration for other unseen presences.

We cannot see love or hope, but we feel them, and see their effect on the world around us and in our own lives. We cannot see the wind, but we watch the trees bend before it and their leaves dance in its breath. We cannot see yesterday, but we know it was there… and we trust that tomorrow will come. We live our lives trusting in the presence of the invisible.

Neither deity nor the soul are visible to us, even when we have faith in their presence and existence. Without direct experience, we may trust that they are there, but we cannot know for certain; that is the very nature of faith. But, every so often, we are granted a fleeting glimpse of something beyond the scope of the everyday world.

It may be the beauty of a sunset or the first rosy blush of dawn, the perfection of a newborn babe, an act of love, or the whisper of that still, small voice within that holds a wisdom far beyond our own. These things can all be explained away as mere manifestations of a prosaic reality, but when they touch your heart and fill your being with wonder, you are gifted a glimpse beyond the mundane realms of fact and know that you have been touched by grace.

The peripatetic ant

The ant crawled across the windscreen of the car, right in my line of vision. Ever since the spider-bite incident, I am wary of creatures that have any kind of personal arsenal hitching a ride, so my first thought was to defenestrate the little blighter. It was only a split second later that I realised how far he was from home.

I had been driving a good half an hour without stopping, so he had probably hopped aboard before I left. Ants are social creatures, pretty much defined by their role within their community. What, I thought, would a lone ant do if he suddenly found himself in unfamiliar territory, miles from home?

Would his sense of belonging be so decimated that he would curl up and die? Would he find another community… and if he did, would he be accepted or slain as an intruder? Or would he begin the long trek home, drawn by some unseen force to the place of his beginnings?

I couldn’t do it. I left him to wander the dashboard, hoping he would understand that all he had to do was let the journey take him where it would, before it carried him home.

I thought about him a lot as I drove, wondering what his reception would be after the journey? What tales might he communicate to his nest-mates about the big, wide, world out there and all the things he had seen. Could they believe him? Like the fantasy hero who steps into a magical time and place, he would have been gone no more than an hour or two from his home, yet his odyssey would have carried him as far as a worker-ant might walk in a dozen ant-lives. Would they accept his fantastic story or think him delusional?

Ants who had never set foot outside the colony would almost certainly dismiss his tale. Those who had ventured out, but only within the known confines of their territory, might doubt. Some would be envious, others would scoff. The likelihood is that only those who had themselves risked stepping beyond known ground, exploring the world on behalf of the colony, would see the glimmer of truth and recognise an echo of their own explorations in the traveller’s tale.

And what of the little ant? Was he afraid of the unknown, or excited to explore new and unimagined realms? Did he recognise the landscape that flew by at such speed as being akin to his home, or did he feel as if he had been plucked out of his world and transported to some magical otherworld by a giant with a roaring steed? How would he see life-after-journeying? Would it seem flat and boring, or safe and comfortable? Would he cower in corners, afraid of stepping outside his comfort-zone ever again? Would he ‘dine out’ on his travels, boring is nest-mates with tales of ‘when’ and ‘where’? Or would the change in his circumstances and perspective have been so dramatic that he would spend the rest of his life pondering existential questions or striving to be worthy of the privilege he had been accorded?

Such musings occupied my mind until we once again reached home and I set him down on the grass beside my parking space. Like the ant, I had taken a journey, within the journey that is my life. Because this was ‘my’ world, the destination and the route were both familiar to me, though there are always unknowns on the way and no-one can predict what will happen, or how the comfort-zone of familiarity will be challenged… especially when you look at life as a journey.

There is beauty to be witnessed, there are mysteries and magic to be found; we never know when or where, nor do we know how we will greet them or how others will react if we try to share such experiences with our own community.

I watched the tiny creature scurry away into the grass. I suddenly wondered what I had done and whether my interference, though well-intentioned, had produced the right effect. Had I set him down anywhere near his home? What if he’d been with me a while… had come from my son’s home or the supermarket… and was now lost in some strange landscape? Had my intervention caused more harm than good? Or was he destined to be a blackbird’s breakfast no matter where he wandered?

To some questions we will never have answers, but I felt a keen sense of kinship with the ant as he disappeared beneath the grass. We are both on a journey. It will carry us where it will and we will experience what we must… and we are both on a greater journey still, finding the way back to the beginning.

Lord of the Deep – Workshop April 2019

The Silent Eye’s Spring workshop for 2019


The glories above were unamed.

The word for that world beneath, unuttered.

Source and time, unfettered, merged…

From the mingling waves-of-water came mud and slime.

Enshar and Kishar, twin halves of the globe, shone out of them.



The Oldest written story known to man…
What spiritual treasures lie hidden in this, five thousand-year old, Epic?
What can this ancient civilisation teach us about the questions of existence?
Join us on this quest of a life-time, next April, to find out…

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

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

Click here to download the Booking Form

Updated Gilgamesh booking form

For further details or to reserve your place:

Lord of the Deep: The quest for Immortality

26-28 April, 2019 – Great Hucklow, Derbyshire

A practical course…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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