Five Faces of the Macbeth Human

Exploring the faces of the ‘human condition’ should be consuming our world at the moment. We might reasonably conclude that understanding the heights and depths of our shared experience, as we drain the planet of its living life, would be of interest to us.

But we don’t…

Instead, if we ask any questions at all, we spend months looking at things from a political perspective – from power; assuming against expectation, that somehow, the political process will throw up something good for our world.

Psychopaths are having a field-day. Across the globe, they are running things, some of them even showing us how deluded we are to worry about this; that it’s all nonsense…

The story of one of the most successful psychopaths in fictional history was set in northern Scotland. A hardy group of us are shortly to spend a day driving to the town of Grantown-on-Spey, in the northern Cairngorms, to work out our personal and mythical relationships to Macbeth – Shakespeare’s fabled warrior, who, assisted by his wife, Lady Macbeth, rose from glory to bloody dominance before being toppled by forces from within himself – and herself, if you widen the mystical interpretation of the story.

We will carry with us the means to construct our own ‘Guiding Star’ – a five pointed figure well known to everyone as the pentagram.

Throughout our history, scholars have questioned the source of the negative side of being human. Since ancient times, geometric figures have been used to explore and question human nature, often being viewed as somehow ‘magical’ when they were simply an aid to what we now call psychological understanding. The value of such figures – derived from the properties of the circle – is to show how forces that act upon us – psychologically – are related to each other, and do not act in isolation. That, alone, should give us food for thought.

Within the Silent Eye, we use another figure – the enneagram, which is ‘nine pointed’ – as the basis for our self-exploration. But the pentagram is older, and considers the inner and ‘magical’ nature of mankind within a mapping of five qualities: Air, Earth, Fire, Water and one other…

Mystically, these are called the Elements. Although they derive from an age in which modern science had not thrown its analytical light on the atomic and vibrational nature of matter and energy, the philosophers of that age did not see a valid division between the inner and outer worlds experienced by our consciousness.

Because of this, the four elements were seen to be both subjective and objective, coming together in a fifth – Spirit- which opened the door to mastery and harmony in which the created and the creator were re-united, within the creation; the world in which we live and breathe and have our being.

At a simple level, the element of Earth may be seen as our foundation of physicality. It is slow and cold in its operation. Without animation from others elements, it cannot evolve.

Air is what we breathe and also how we communicate. It provides one of three elements of what makes our biology work: the other elements being the intake of Water (also emotions) and the stability of the foundational Earth. Fire is something different and is closely aligned with energy and transformation; burning off the dross of the lower forms of mortality.

The sequential alignment of the self with each of these Elements is a key process in so-called ‘magic’. For magic, we should read self-transformation; a concept for which we now have deeper psychological understanding, though psychology still does not acknowledge the deeper implications of this approach.

The key is the sequence used, and the fundamental attraction generated with what turns out to be higher aspects of the self; known as the Self. Implicit in this approach is the presence of the famous golden ratio – an intrinsic property of the pentagram, and one of the basic dimensions of biological life.

In a triangle of landscapes between Grantown-on-Spey, the highland coast at Findhorn and the historic Macbeth castles near Inverness, we will explore these relationships and the potential for alignment with the Self, using prompts from Shakespeare’s famous play. The story of Macbeth, seen as an allegory, is the story of our own confrontation with materiality and the wrong kind of ambition.

Dean Powell, who is based in the north Cairngorms, runs a local esoteric group: Lodge Unicorn n’ha Alba. Dean will be leading our group through his adopted Highland landscape in an exciting journey of self-discovery shared by all.

The Silent Unicorn is the name of a workshop (14-16 June, 2019) which will bring together the work of Lodge Unicorn n’ha Alba and the Silent Eye into a weekend of physical and spiritual exploration in the setting of the Scottish Highlands.

If this blog has given you an appetite to join us, there are still a few places remaining. Send an email to rivingtide@gmail.com and we’ll provide more details.

©Copyright Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism 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 stevetanham.wordpress.com.

Full Circle: Giants in the churchyard

The last of the winter light was beginning to fade as we left St Andrew’s and wandered out into the churchyard. In many respects, what awaited us outside was far more impressive and interesting than the Georgian interior. There were stones.

It is fair to say that most churchyards have stones of some description, and this one was no exception. Set within the old precinct and ringed with buildings from another era, the green space is a place of peace peopled by memories. A memorial pays tribute to those who served and fell in the great wars, and close by, one grave marks the last resting place of Mary Noble, an old lady who lived to the grand age of a hundred and seven. She was born around the time that Louis XIV, the Sun King of France, finally gave up the ghost. She lived through the years of the French revolution, the reign of Napoleon and his final defeat at Waterloo, seeing the French monarchy temporarily restored under Louis XVIII. Not that she would have cared or known much about such great events, even though they would undoubtedly have played a part in shaping her world. She was a spinner, and continued to spin her threads until three months before her death.

The Late Mary Noble of Penrith, Cumberland by James Ward; Photo: Lakeland Arts Trust

Near Mary’s grave is another that is often passed unseen, marking the resting place of the parents-in-law of the poet, William Wordsworth who, with his sister Dorothy and his future wife, Mary Hutchinson, attended Dame Birkett’s School overlooking the churchyard. Home meant different things for Mary Noble and the poet. One would immortalise the beauty of the area with his words,  the other, born decades before the poet and living a long life after his death, spun the threads that clothed the ordinary people who lived and worked the land. Yet, ultimately, for both of them, home would be cold earth and the hope of heaven.

These, however, were not the stones we had come to see. What we were after were stones that had already been around for over eight hundred years when Mary was born. One, known as the Giant’s Thumb, is a tenth century carved ‘wheelhead’ cross, dated to around 920. Tradition suggests that it may have been erected by Owen, King of Cumbria, as a memorial to his father. At some point it was used as a pillory to punish wrongdoers and the lower holes may have been enlarged for this purpose.

The scheduled monument listing designates the cross as Anglian, and says of the now-weathered decoration that a drawing was made in 1921 that showed, “…the east and west faces to have displayed a decoration of scroll and interlacing with a crucifixion scene on one side depicting Christ flanked by two figures interpreted as Longinus the spearman and Stephaton the sponge bearer. Above Christ there is a serpent. On the opposite side of the stone there was another human figure too weathered to interpret.”

It is always with a sense of privilege that we stand in the presence of a stone that has seen so much history and one which, moreover, still carries the carved mark of an artist. For over eleven hundred years this cross has been part of the life of its community… and yet, it is a mere babe compared to some we would see over the course of the weekend.

Just a few yards away is a much more unusual collection of stones, known as the Giant’s Grave. On face value, the group of six stones is no more than a pair of Anglian Crosses with four Viking hogbacks, the carved stones used to mark Norse burials, and yet, uniquely, it is said to be a single grave.

The earliest hogbacks date back to around 920, like the cross of the Giant’s Thumb. They are usually carved with a pattern that looks like roof tiles and are thought to be a stylised representation of a house for the dead. Many are covered with patterns alone, often flowing and sinuous in a style wrongly named ‘Celtic’. Others are also carved with legendary and religious figures…not all of them Christian. Many such stones are beasts in themselves, others are carved with people, boars…and dragons.

The two cross shafts, of a similar date, are also carved, though they are badly weathered.  The interlacing is different on every stone and we have wondered if there is meaning to each pattern… a meaning  to which we have lost the keys. Curiously, given that we had not yet finalised the details of the weekend at that time, and never announced them, writer Mary Smith sent me, as well as the photo of Merlin’s cave, a newspaper cutting that discussed the lost language of symbolism and a booklet on the old carved crosses. ‘Coincidences’ like that tend to reassure you that you are on the right track…

Legends say that the Giant’s Grave is the resting place of Owen Caesarius, king of Cumbria between 920 and 937 AD:

“The common vulgar report is that one Ewen or Owen Cæsarius, a very extraordinary person, famous in these parts for hunting and fighting, about fourteen hundred years ago, whom no hand but that off death could overcome, lies buried in this place. His stature, as the story says, was prodigious beyond that of the Patagonians, in South America, seventeen feet high, that the pillars at his head and feet denote it, and the four rough unpolished stones, betwixt, represent so many wild boars, which had the honour to be killed by this wonderful giant”. Todd.

Some say the Grave is the burial place of the mythical giant Sir Ewan, who lived in the Giant’s Caves on the banks of the river Eamont near Penrith. One old record says that the Grave, ““was opened when I was a Scollar there, by William Turner, and there found the great long shank bones and other bones of a man, and a broad Sword besides.”

Yet others link the grave with Owain, also known as Ywain, or Yvain who was the son of Urien, King of Rheged… and thus to the legends of King Arthur. Owain was, in the later Arthurian Romances, known as the Knight of the Lion and a Knight of the Round Table, and tales were penned about his exploits of knight-errantry. The most famous episode tells of how he rescues a lion who becomes his companion… and helps him defeat both a giant and…a dragon.

Yvain-dragon.jpg

Without realising all these details when we had planned the weekend, they were beginning to make themselves felt as gifts, joining the dots of what we had planned. Another gift awaited us too,  beyond the sundial where the ley line passes through the churchyard. A peace garden was to be our final official visit of the day. Created in1971 by the local Rotary Club, its wheel-like motif and their motto, ‘Service above Self’, were perfect for a shared dedication to the work of the weekend, which would continue the next morning with a visit to King Arthur’s Round Table…

Chief Prince of Pen Rhionydd…

*

D: Before Merlin was a soothsayer he was a miraculous child who solved the mystery of Vortigern’s Tower.

W: What mystery was that?

D: Every time the tower was raised by Vortigern the hill on which it was built swallowed the tower whole.

W: And the answer to that mystery?

D: The answer to the mystery was that the hill was hollow…

and in the hollow of the hill was a pool…

and in the pool two stones languished…

and in each of the stones was a dragon struggling to get out.

One Dragon was White, and the other Dragon was Red.

W: And what was done to reveal this mystery?

D: The Hill was excavated…

The pool was drained…

The stones were pulverised… and the Dragons loosed.

W: What happened then?

D: The Dragons contended… and became One.

W: Thus, the braided tower was raised upon the hill… and remained.

*

Contexts: kingship…

*

Kingship was the only form of government in Ancient Mesopotamia.

It was ordained by the Gods for the guidance and prosperity of people and cities, to maintain order and to protect the wealth in society.

Among the kingly duties were military leadership, priestly functions, law-giving and city building.

When kingship broke down so did law and order, with terrible consequences.

*

 … “We are talking ‘Divine Kingship’ here, are we not?” asks Wen.

“Possibly… Possibly, not. It is not exactly clear is it? One thing is apparent though.”

“Oh yes?”

“At this juncture in time the institution was already ancient.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“The kingly duties listed here would originally have fallen to different individuals.”

“You mean, our king has been busy usurping the functions of his ruling elite?”

“Something like that.”

“Naughty, naughty, Mister Kingship!”

“Indeed! In cases such as these we may even have to consider the introduction of terrible consequences before the break down of this venerable institution.”

“Oh, Don, you say the kindest things.”

*

LORD OF THE DEEP: THE QUEST FOR IMMORTALITY
A DRAMATIC RETELLING OF THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH

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

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

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

Click here to download Booking Form

Going west – stories great and small

Wales 159

It is impossible to walk through any ancient place and not wonder about its story. In somewhere like St Davids Cathedral there are many stories, from those of the craftsmen who built the place, to the Story that inspired their work…and the tales of every pilgrim, priest and visitor who have passed through the old Norman doors.

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For the most part, those stories have slipped silently into the forgotten vaults of history, unknown and now unknowable. Who, for instance, will know whose feet passed through the arches on the day we were there? The annals of the cathedral will record the mayor-making that had delayed our entry. They may record the names and stories of the civic dignitaries who were there… but the stories of pilgrims, the faithful and the curious who were also there on that day will leave no more of a mark upon the building’s history than their shadows.

Wales 147

Yet none who enter fail to add their own story to the great stream of history. Even on the physical level, each person who breathes alters the air and how it preserves or damages the building over time, each footstep adds to the wearing of the stone, each hand that touches leaves a trace behind that adds to the maturing patina of the building. Every story matters.

Wales 160

The tomb of a knight in armour shows the passing caress of centuries, the pale stone irrevocably changed and polished by the touch of hands and the irreverent carving of graffiti. Even those whose hands have traced the carvings on his breastplate will have forgotten their touch… yet the trace of their passage remains.

Wales 144

Few leave a lasting story here that can be as readily seen and understood as the great memorials, like the elaborate  tomb of the Countess of Maidstone who died in 1932. Her name, acts and face are remembered in the cold marble of the chapel of Edward the Confessor that she restored, some three hundred years after its roof was stripped of its lead by marauding troops.

Wales 153

Some stories belong to the building alone and the nameless, faceless craftsmen who have passed quietly into the pale pages of history, leaving behind stories in stone and wood that seem to invite our questions. Some are symbolic images whose message we can trace or deduce… others seem to be an expression of inner joy and secret jokes that invite us to share their laughter. Nowhere is this more easily seen that in the misericords… the mercy seats for the ecclesiastical rumps to support them through the long hours of standing and service.

collage

Folk-tale and symbol, allegory and observation…and quite possibly the odd reference to a disliked cleric… all wait in the shadows beneath the wooden perches of the Quire, though after five hundred years, the object of the joke and its carver are both forgotten. It is a reminder of our impermanence and the futility of seeking to impose our image on memory.

Wales 151

Fearing oblivion or through a desire to be remembered when they are gone, many seek to ‘make their mark’ upon the pages of history, carving from life the story by which they wish to be known. Yet such stories, by their very nature, are not remembered by their creator, but only through the perceptions of those in whose memory they survive. Time and forgetfulness will eventually erase us all from the great story of humanity… yet we each of us contribute the essence of the story to its pages.

Wales 218

Few of us will change the world in ways that history will notice, though all of us change the world with every thought and deed, every day. How, or even if, we are remembered, will be out of our hands. Why should we even wish to be remembered by those we did not know and love unless we too fear the oblivion of the unknown?

Wales 146

Like the artists and craftsmen whose names and stories are now lost to us, it is only what we do with each day that counts. The empire of the financial genius or property magnate will do him no good as he breathes his last breath, though his name may be remembered for years to come. Yet the teachers whose names we have forgotten, the parents whose children were raised in love and tolerance, the nameless smile that lights a day or the quiet act of generosity… these will never make the history books, but they change lives every day, shaping both present and future and annealing the past.

Wales 219

Going west – the talking stone

Wales 114

While I was researching the cathedral at St Davids, I came across a couple of legends that caught my fancy. Both of them concern Llechllafar, the talking stone. The name just by itself was intriguing… where did the emphasis lie? Was it a stone that spoke, or a stone where people could speak? I soon found out and it tied in with the legends of the old corpse roads that Stuart and I had come across when working on our books.

When villages began to get their own churches, quite often  it would only be the mother church of the area that had burial rights. People were obliged to carry their dead, often long distances, to bury their loved ones. There were many legends associated with these old highways that could scale hills and ford rivers for mile upon mile, following a straight line, very like the leys, that might take them even through homes…the spirits of the dead always took a straight course, and a convoluted path would confound or confuse them.

There was a corpse road at St Davids… and it was crossed by Llechllafar.

The talking stone was a huge white  slab of marble, ten feet long, six feet wide and a foot thick. It lay across the little river Alun that separates the cathedral from the palace… making me wonder which side was that of the living and which that of the dead, especially as, beyond the ruins of the bishops palace, there is only the sea and the islands that float in the mist…

Llechllafar, wrote Giraldus Cambrensis around 800 years ago, as part of the corpse road was so old even then that it was worn smooth with age and the passing of many feet. As one body was carried across it for burial, the stone spoke. So far I have found no record of its words. The effort of making itself heard was so great that the stone split asunder and, from that day, none would cross that way through fear.

There is another legend that does record the words…  though here, it was Merlin, not the stone, who spoke them. Merlin foretold that an English king would attempt to cross the bridge.  This king would have conquered Ireland and would also have been injured by a man with a red hand. Crossing Llechllafar the king would die.

King Henry II, having just returned from Ireland, made a pilgrimage to St Davids. He heard of Merlin’s prophecy yet chose to cross the water by Llechllafar. As he reached the other side alive, he laughed at the prophecy, calling Merlin a  false seer. A local man shouted out that Merlin’s words held true… Henry had not conquered Ireland, so he was not the king of the prophecy.

Henry never did defeat the whole of Ireland…

It wasn’t until the 16th century, that a new bridge was built and the stone taken away.  Llechllafar is now lost, along with any words it may have whispered as to why it was so important. In a land where the hills hold the quarry from which the bluestones of Stonehenge were hewn, and where ancient stones now stand silent in the landscape, you have to wonder about its origins…

 

Mister Fox and the Green Man

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

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

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

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

green man montage small

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

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

Available now on Amazon worldwide in Paperback and for Kindle.

 

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

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

sir-gawain-green-knight-ff94v-95

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Seeing the sacred

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A recent trip to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford brought us face to face with history, covering many centuries and many cultures. One of the things that struck me was the quantity of objects that were associated with the sacred. It is perfectly understandable that this should be so as those things that are considered to be sacred, or be representative of the sacred, would doubtless have had a special value, both artistically and emotionally, and would thus have been more likely to be preserved for posterity than a cooking pot or hair comb, for instance and even more so than a simple jewel of mere financial value.

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The details of religious belief have differed widely throughout human history and across the world, but the underlying idea of sacredness in itself is common to all. There is a veneration of something we see as being greater than our human selves, worthy of respect and reverence. For our early ancestors the Earth itself was sacred. Later, gods and goddesses personified aspects of Deity with stories not unlike our own; we could begin to understand the abstract principles behind the Forces that were given such forms and understanding them began to be an intellectual pursuit as much as a question of faith.

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Many of the symbols of these ancient beliefs seem strange to our eyes, yet they are no stranger than, say, a crucifix would look to someone who knew nothing of Christianity. The symbols of religious belief encapsulate stories… and the stories themselves are symbols for a greater reality beyond conscious thought, but which speak to us on a level deeper than emotion. It is as if we have a capacity to understand the message of a symbol, even if we do not know its story. We have an inherent, if basic,  understanding of common symbols. The Horus Hawk speaks to us of soaring flight… the crucifix of suffering… the solar disc of light… and the green gods of fertile life.

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We recognise the sacred from across time and space, even if its symbols are not familiar and not our own. We may couch our understanding of them in terms of our own beliefs and fail to see their depth of meaning… but we recognise them as having been symbols of the sacred once upon a time. Some will reject them utterly, others accord them respect because of the faith they once inspired, but even to reject them as ‘pagan’ is to own their erstwhile sacrality.

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What is perhaps the oldest faith needs no symbols. We have only to look. We live, breathe and have our being within it. The fruitful earth is beneath our feet, the starry canopy of the heavens above us, the great fiery eye wakes every morning and warms the soil and its tears fall as life-giving rain. Our world qualifies as ‘bigger than Man’ and worthy of revernce.

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The sacred nature of our home is all too often overlooked and our modern consumer society treats our planet as a soulless resource upon which it can prey or scavenge without consequence, even though we, as individuals, know that to be untrue. If we render our home unfit for human habitation, it is we who will perish, not our planet. It may take a few thousand years, but Man’s depredations will be erased by the fertile earth when we are no more than a crumbling forgotten memory.

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Our ancestors knew a thing or two worth the knowing. We have only to look at the inner meanings of ancient myths to realise their phenomenal understanding of the human psyche. We have only to study the stellar alignments and geometries of their monuments to see how advanced their practical knowledge may have been without the benefit of our telescopes and computerised instrumentation. Perhaps it would be worth according their belief in the sacredness of the earth a little respect too. We are surrounded by miracles every day. They are not forgotten symbols of ancient faith… they are cherry trees in flower… bluebell woods… a soaring hawk… a loving touch or a laughing child. They are all the small, familiar things that are not gods, not gilded or jewelled… but they are reminders, symbols, of a life greater than our own and worthy of reverence.

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