heroes in a landscape (6) fellowship of the shepherd

Continued from Part Five…

There comes a moment in any weekend event when the carefully cultivated sense of order breaks down… no matter how good the plan. At that point one looks to ‘heaven’ knowing that the success is in the ‘laps of the Gods’.

The man striding up the hill from Great Salkeld towards Long Meg Stone Circle possessed a brain whose capacity for the solution of additional problems had ceased…

You can only do so much to anticipate what might go wrong. This is different from careful planning; which provides a framework which should be resilient, and above all else, elastic.

The companion who was having difficulty walking was, to the best of my knowledge, still somewhere close to Lacy’s Caves; and being looked after by some, if not all, of the walking party. Even with their help, she might be unable to walk out of the Eden Valley.

She was later to write to Stuart and I that there must have been a remarkable amount of ‘elastic in the system’ to bring things to a successful conclusion. At the time, it didn’t feel like that…

The Saturday of the Journey of the Hero workshop had gone very well. The problems were entirely about how it was ending…

(Above: Long Meg and her daughters – the day was ending problematically)

To the best of my knowledge, I was the only one not still ‘trapped’ in the Eden Valley. Somewhat hot and sweaty, courtesy of my self-imposed route-march, I was approaching the Long Meg Stone Circle – where all the cars were parked. Other than breathing deeply and being hot, I felt okay. There was no sign of extreme fatigue. My concern was entirely for the companions farther back along the route.

A glance at my watch showed I had made it back in record time. But there was none to lose. It seemed unlikely that we would be making our early dinner appointment at the Shepherd Inn, Langwathby – the next village, but a million miles away in problems. A prime Saturday evening booking cancelled… they would be rightly annoyed.

I located my car keys in the backpack and opened the door… It’s amazing what sliding behind the wheel of your car can do for the spirits when you’ve spent the past hour walking at a near-run. Now, finally equipped to get somewhere fast, I could begin to put a rescue into effect. Down in the village the large gate was padlocked and I would not be able to take the car on its return mission without solving that first.

I glanced at the Long Meg stones and made my silent prayer, again. Then drove off down the steep lane back to Great Threlkeld.

Five minutes later, I swung the car round the corner and into the small road by the village green to find that three people were sitting on the bench, looking at the arriving fast car. Stuart was one of them. I couldn’t work out what had happened but was relieved to see at least some of the party. They were equally surprised to see me, and explained that they presumed they had been just behind me on my self-enforced march.

It transpired that the lady with the walking difficulties had made a determined effort to have another go at it; and found out that her Covid-suppressed leg muscles had begun to respond to her needs! She was somewhere behind on the trail but being assisted by one of our strongest hikers. In my absence, the problem had begun to resolve itself… There’s a lesson in that, I muttered to no-one in particular…

(Long Meg)

It seemed there was nothing I could do to speed up the situation, so the critical path shifted to getting everyone who was here back to their cars.

Without delay, I ferried them back up the hill to Long Meg. I was about to set off, again, back to the village, when one of the party approached me looking glum and shaking her head.

“I appear to have lost my car keys,” she said in a low voice.

She’s an experienced lady, and hosts workshops of her own. She looked downcast, conscious that the slim possibility of getting to our dinner had just evaporated…

Stuart and I looked around the car, then got down on the ground to see if the keys had dropped beneath. Nothing. Meanwhile, the lady without the keys was searching every pocket she had, including those of her backpack. It was fruitless…they were not there.

The three of us mentally retraced our steps to think where they might have been dropped. She said that, after locking the car, they were always placed in a certain pocket of her walking jacket. She patted it, silently.

(The ‘pink mill’ at Threlkeld – still milling flour using the old water-wheel)

“One of my daughters lives close by. She said, brightening. She took out her mobile. “She’ll not be surprised…”

I always admire self-deprecating humour. In the face of difficulty, it’s a noble thing.

Stuart sighed and said, in the way he does when he’s wearing his Reaper’s look, “Lacy’s Caves… we all sat down for that tea and chocolate…They might have fallen out there!”

(Sometimes one needs a short rest)

No-one responded. The implications were ‘too horrid’, as a long departed mentor would have said.

I took stock: we did have enough seats in the available vehicles to get us all to the Shepherd Pub in nearby Langwathby. We were short two people, one of whom might be limping along the river trail.

It was 17: 40. The dinner table was booked for 18:00. It was Saturday evening; they wouldn’t hold it long.

“I’ll drive back into the village” I said. “You never know, the final two might have made it that far.”

I got into my car, again, opening the side window to catch any last-minute developments. The companion without her car keys was phoning the daughter with the spare set. I could hear the cackle of laughter at the other end.

“Again!”

It was beautifully good-natured. We would be okay, even if we had to dine off fish and chips, standing on the pavement in Penrith…

I drove down the lane, again. This was beginning to feel like the central character in Gerard Hofnung’s story of the bricks… If you’ve never heard it, it’s ten minutes well spent.

The lady with the limp and her stalwart protector were sitting on the same bench. She looked fine. I had a growing sense of amused unreality.

“I’m fine, Steve. My leg started working, again. Just lack of exercise… I should have done some training before the weekend!”

I thanked her protector and we climbed back into the car. I was about to set off for Long Meg when a different plan presented itself…

I dropped them outside the Shepherd Inn in the nearby village of Langwathby with instructions to secure our table and delay things as long as possible. If we were thrown out at that point, we had at least battled and lost. Dinner in that delightful pub was to be the high point of the day and I wasn’t going to surrender it, lightly.

I went back up the hill to Long Meg… (See I told you you’d like the Bricklayer’s tale)

The lady without her keys was standing behind her car, talking with her daughter. The keys being brought seemed to be a minimum of an hour away. All hopes of the nearby dinner were vanishing.

She turned to lean on the back of the car and – to her visible surprise – the boot swung up and open…

“That’s not supposed to happen,” she remarked, quietly, to her bemused daughter on the other end of the line. “I think I know what the problem is…”

Stuart and I looked on in astonishment as, saying nothing, she walked to the driver’s side and pulled the handle. The door opened. It hadn’t been locked…

Flashing me a ‘please don’t say anything until I’ve had a drink’ look, she reached down into the well of the door and extracted her keys…from where she now knew they’d been, all along.

“Done it again,” she murmured to her daughter, who was still on the phone. “Thank you!”

Nine minutes later, our party arrived in Langwathby and parked by the village green, next to the pub.

As we crossed the threshold, I looked at my watch. It was one minute to six…

It was a lesson in the art of the possible – as long as you let the possible happen. A lesson that Stuart and I are unlikely ever to forget… It was also an excellent dinner.

The morning after, we would be climbing a mountain… but not exactly in the way we had planned…

(The Shepherd Inn at Langwathby)

To be concluded in Part Seven.

Other parts in this series:

Part One, Part Two, Part Three,

Part Four, Part Five,

This is Part Six.

©Stephen Tanham 2022

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

http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog

A Poolewe diary (4) : Once upon a time in the far north-west

We’ve got to approach this, carefully… Or you won’t have as much fun as I did.

Badacro Creek… I’m not sure there’s a ‘creek’ in there, but if there’s not, there should be. Badacro is well known in these parts as a safe anchorage for boats, particularly sailing boats. It lies at the heart of a ‘jigsaw’ of inlets and creeks just south of Gairloch.

At least, that’s what the guidebooks say… The reality is something far more vivid than such words can convey. And there are surprises here, too.

(Above: Badacro ‘Creek’, south of Gairloch’)

Badacro is a hidden gem, tucked away in one of the most beautiful, yet secluded parts of the North-West Scottish coast.

Standing at the top of the tiny lane, these things are made apparent by a combination of the faded map and old, weather-worn signposts. Badacro has an inn, and as it seems to be down by the water, I’m drawn to it. I love shoreline locations. I’ve known about this one for all of two minutes…and I’m intrigued, and intent on following the narrow lane that winds down towards the sea.

We look at the sign at the intersection; it groans as it flexes in the cold wind. The day looks warmer than it is. No change there, then…

And it’s not raining – which only adds to the sense of something strange (but beautiful) happening.

It’s rained continuously since we got to this far corner of North-West Scotland nearly a week ago. But now, there’s an hiatus. We have an undoubted ‘window event’ opening up, here. I’ve learned to recognise them over the years. There’s a kind of inaudible crackling in the air… which fades to an intense and pregnant silence.

Something’s gonna happen here… a familiar and mischievous voice in my head chuckles. The skin on the back of my neck prickles, supportively. Definitely…

Cue the music… ‘Once Upon a Time in the West‘… ( link: https://youtu.be/6MZw_Iv0wdU)

It’s my nomination for the best-ever western, and it has nothing to do with this part of Scotland…except that the music comes to me every time one of the ‘window events’ occurs.

Every Christmas, in a stolen slice of late evening, usually on Boxing Day, I watch the whole movie, having hypnotised the family into thinking that I’m walking the dog…

(Above: to the sound of Charle’s Bronson’s harmonica, we wind down towards the creek)

That wailing harmonica – played by good guy Charles Bronson – whose character is only known as ‘Harmonica’ – to a nearly empty hotel bar… Those eyes! Cinema at its 1960s best.

(Above: ‘harmonica’ played by Charles Bronson. Image YouTube)

Bronson’s mysterious ‘Harmonica’ eventually wins out against the emerging railroad’s chief enforcer, ‘Frank’, played by Henry Fonda.

It’s a good fit to the brightening mood in Badacro Creek.

(Above: the first building – disappointingly – is not the inn)

Back in Badacro, the first roof-line comes into view. But the lovely cedar-panelled building on stilts over the creek is not the Badacro Inn. It’s a nautically-themed gift shop. They don’t take dogs, not even acting dogs that understand Ennio Morricone’s music, so we carry on walking down the steep slope, anticipating that the inn is close.

As we near the waterfront, there’s that slightly unreal feeling. At the next turn, The Badacro Inn comes into view… If you’re an old romantic like me, it’s what you want to find at the end of a lane that curves down to the sea so beautifully. Everything seems to be lined up. The music is playing. Bury me here, my love, I want to say, but the Collie says stop being stupid, Dad.

(Above: a sea vista that begins with an ocean view from the deck… heaven)

The image above is only half the story. To the right of this, there’s another unexpected feature.

(Above: All this with Pizza and Prosecco thrown in! Are we dreaming?)

We didn’t get to find out whether the ‘Pizza and Prosecco’ trailer is part of the pub or a licensed extension. Either way, I can only imagine it being a welcome offering to sailors, locals and wet gunslingers in search of refreshment… and fun.

Claudia Cardinale provided the fun in Once upon a time in the West. Her character rises from supposed seediness to noble heroine, despite the death of her husband-to-be at the brutal hands of the icy arch-villain of the piece – Played superbly by a steely Henry Fonda – ‘Frank’.

(Above: the Theatrical poster for the film’s launch in 1968. Image source Wikipedia)
(Above: beneath the furl, the fabric reads Guinness. It just gets better and better)

I’m not a frequent beer drinker, but when I do, I love a well-kept pint of Guinness. With this thought, the laughing feeling grows, triggering remembered stories of how one’s favourite things and places are arranged as experiences at the end of life… It’s not a morbid thought, but it invokes the mischief-maker within and the harmonica music, of course. Always the harmonic music.

(Above: The quayside full of sea-facing tables is wonderful. The pub, itself, looks promising, too…)
(Above: just when you feel that – courtesy of that pint of Guinness – you’ve got your handle on reality back, a Collie changes your mind…)

We go inside the Badacro Inn and it’s just as tempting. There’s an old naval chart showing the location of this part of the shore. I’ve ringed it in red in my photo.

(An old sea-chart shows our location, just south of Gairloch)
(Above: It’s a bar styled like a ship. How could you better that? Bernie is used to watching me ‘go off on one’ – artistically, of course.

The Badacro Inn used to offer accommodation, but the Covid years seem to have changed that. It may need some tender loving care to help it back to full functioning . Let’s wish it well. It’s simply a beautiful place, but, for now, the gunslinger may just have to move on. Here’s how Sergio Leone handled Harmonica’s departure. This is not how it ends, only how it ends for now.

Somehow, the return to Poolewe feels flat. The rain begins, again of course. It’s comfortably familiar…and today is our last day in the village. Tomorrow, very early, we leave for Ullapool and the car ferry to the Outer Hebrides. It will be a very different world.

But, then, so was the Badacro Inn… and the fine memories that, briefly, lived again.

(Above: Leaving Poolewe)

©Stephen Tanham 2022

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

http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog

The Light in the Cathedral

All cathedrals are places of wonder…

Whatever your beliefs, the sheer scale of the construction, the devotion of effort and vision – often spanning centuries – humbles us as we struggle to take in the vastness of their creation.

Chester Cathedral is no exception but it does have an additional quality that I’ve not found when photographing similar buildings. – the softness of the light.

I’ll be doing a blog dedicated to this deeply peaceful place, shortly. For now, here’s a few photographs…

©Stephen Tanham 2022

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

http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog

Painting the Universe (1)

There are some ‘big blocks of colour’ in an understanding of the mystical perspective – which is the inner truth of our lives. Even a cursory examination of these brings insight. Let’s consider them…

Foremost of these is that there is a more powerful Life behind life; that the life we see is seen through a lens that distorts, and that our belonging, our real identity, is with that which is beyond the distorted lens. The basis of this is quite simple, but let’s approach it carefully.

The Sufi philosopher and poet, Rumi, wrote:

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

What did he mean? Was he simply talking about love between two people – that we should devote our lives to ordinary love as we know it? Clearly this is insufficient. We can sense something vast in what he was trying to import, something that used the passion of love as a metaphor.

The Sufi poets used both ‘love’ and ‘wine’ to convey the experience of what lies beyond the clouded lens we use to look at the world. They also had a special meaning for the word ‘Beloved’. We will examine all of these in this series of posts.

True teachers of the ‘mystical life’ see – by direct experience – that there is a deeper life centred in the human consciousness. Our ordinary consciousness is a product of a ‘self’ developed from birth onwards. This self sees and feels objects around it. Some of them are pleasant and some aren’t. Because the newborn has no sense of itself – it simply is – it hungers to know more, and so adopts these reactions to the objects around it.

It’s a tasty world, and the child is hungry to understand it… and even more hungry to understand it-self, since this is where all the impressions of its world come to reside and stay. Even at this stage, the brain is busy recording the history of the person, generating a vast store of experiential data that will be added to all its life – as the primary filter (memory) against which all experience will be judged.

The adoption of these vivid early impressions becomes its first identity. We all have a primal hunger to know who we are. These patterns of identity, like and dislike, become the foundation of its character, its self. As the child grows, we say it develops a personality, more accurately, an egoic self.

We all have one… we were all once children experiencing this, hopefully under the loving eyes of our parents, who could do no more than guide the child to be what they were…

The word ego was bestowed on the developing self by the pioneering psychologist Sigmund Freud, whose work showed that the egoic-self had three divisions: id, superego and ego. As the child developed, it suppressed – under guidance from the parents – some of the wilder instincts in its nature (the id) – in order to fit in with the expectations of the parents, and, later on, society. This pattern of censure became the superego. Between id and superego, the child developed an identity of ‘acceptable me who gets praise’ and this is viewed as the ego, though really it’s part of a three-fold psychological structure.

From this early stage, the child colours everything that happens to it with the lens of its egoic-self. As the growing human becomes more capable, it fortifies its self. By adulthood, it is a suit of armour, which, initially, is wonderful… but gradually is seen to progressively dull the experience of life. This ‘dulling’ invites a question: If the suit of armour of the egoic self is all there is, then how does it know that fresh expereince has become ‘dull’?

Wordsworth famously wrote:

“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star, Hath had elsewhere its setting, And cometh from afar: Not in entire forgetfulness, And not in utter nakedness, But trailing clouds of glory do we come From God, who is our home: Heaven lies about us in our infancy!”

It is a profound re-telling of what I’ve written above but written in the 1790s. It illustrates the depth of perception that great poetic and emotionally sensitive minds have always found, in ages that did not possess the idea that truth had to be numbers…

We shall have more to say about these ‘clouds of glory’ and – without trying to upset anyone, God, in future posts of this series.

For now, let’s close Part One, with the idea of ‘Object Relations’, an understanding of which, in the context of the truly spiritual, is the basis of these blogs.

The different experiences that colour the infant’s perception, and eventually becomes adopted or ‘imprinted’ on the child’s consciousness as building blocks of its identity, are referred to in developmental psychology as ‘Objects’ – that is, they are recognisable as separate things, capable of being labelled by the consciousness. In others words, they have repeatable properties. The field of Object Relations is one of the backbones of modern psychology. But this series of blogs is not intended to focus on psychology, beyond borrowing some of its words. Our purpose is to pursue Wordsworth’s ‘clouds of glory’ to see if the nature of the early ‘objects’ in our consciousness actually contain signposts back to the Greater Life from which we came…

And whether we can, in our modern world, remove the many barriers to Rumi’s ‘love’.

©Stephen Tanham 2022

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

http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog

Lakeland in Winter (1) Bowness-on-Windermere

I thought you might like a walk through Bowness-on-Windermere. It’s the place that most people think of as ‘Windermere’, but the actual town of Windermere is a 45 min walk up the hill from the lake: the final station on the rail line from Kendal, and as close as the Victorian engineers could get to the lake from the surrounding hills.

Holidaymakers arrive in droves from Easter onwards, so it’s nice for us ‘locals’ to make the most of the Winter quietness. We’re driving to the outskirts of Bowness so that our stroll into the town can incorporate a dog walk and ‘frisbee chuck’ on the hilly pitch-and-put course that wends its way to the ferry point.

We were expecting it to rain the whole day – as it has for the previous two; but the skies are brightening. My trusty iPhone 12 is in hand and I’ll be making this a very visual walk, so you can ‘feel’ the atmosphere of this beautiful place.

After much barking and running – and that’s just me – we cross to the other side of the pitch-and-put course and arrive at the far hillock that overlooks the town of Bowness-on-Windermere (Bowness) and its busy ferry point.

The local council allows dogs on the mini-golf course, which is deeply appreciated. Being a former (but not very good) golfer, I stay off the greens of course!

It’s at this point that we realise that it’s a lot busier down there than it should be on a winter Monday… We share this view with a passing fellow dog-owner who laughs, and reminds us it is both half-term and Valentine’s Day. We remember exchanging cards, and tea in bed, but the school holidays have somehow eluded our radar…

Crestfallen, we descend towards the crowded ferry wharf…and don our Covid masks…

As we near the bottom of the hill, a graceful shape slides through the trees. One of the large passenger ferries is about to dock. You’d think it was summer…

You can take ferries along the whole ten miles of Lake Windermere; from Lakeside, in the south; via Bowness; and on to the northern tip near Ambleside, whose ferry point is Waterhead.

The boat – now seen to be the M.V. Swan – the largest of the passenger boats on the lake – beats us to the dock as we watch its graceful entrance to Bowness. There’s something deeply moving about seeing a large craft like this dock, elegantly.

Ahead of us, the Swan dominates the space, its sheer, white presence lighting up the winter water.

Bernie notices a panel on the side of the ticket office which shows the height of the terrible floods caused by Storm Desmond in 2015. She has me pose with extended elbow to show the water level at the time… The ferry harbour was closed for weeks.

The picture below shows the same place after the floods … Devastating.

It’s time Tess had a drink of water, and we’re due a coffee, so we head along the shore and into the town. We’re about to turn off the road into a Costa Coffee shop (with outside seating for dog owners – we know how to live!) when I notice that the intensity of the ‘holiday’ traffic on this main road has diminished…to nothing.

I turn to view a road empty of traffic and there’s one of the largest articulated lorries I’ve ever seen. It’s slowly climbing up from the ferry point, flanked by an escort car that is racing ahead to halt and disperse all other vehicles.

Tess has been in the adjacent ‘coffee garden’ many times. Terrified of the behemoth roaring up the gradient, she drags me towards the gate…

I manage to grab a final shot of the monster as it rages past, then turn to console the Collie… Large coffees, we think… are they licensed? She nods… we’re a complete synthesis of human and dog. Inseparable.

And that’s about it, really. We amble around the shops, loving Bowness’ artisan back streets and alleyways…

There are even some period arcades, their original woodwork intact…

I always look for some humour on these occasions; something to end the piece with a smile… Here’s today’s offering. The new owner of a shop that’s been there ‘forever’ has repurposed its space.

I’ve expanded their wonderful (and I’m sure tongue-in-cheek) tag line in the image below…

Next time you need that unique sterling silver statement jewellery with repurposed attitude, you know it’s time you visited Bowness-on-Windermere… love it!

It’s never dull in Bowness. Come and join us…

©Stephen Tanham 2022

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

http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog

being being

I usually write it with a capital: Being. But strictly it is just another noun, so it’s fine as simply being.

Except it’s not…because that devalues its importance.

Being is the word. Being is the gold ‘hidden in plain sight’ of the alchemists.. They were searchers for the inner nature of Nature. Some of them found it but had to create a language of obfuscation or be burned at the stake.

Let’s set it in context: Being is the highest state of existing we can envisage. It is a state of such utter fullness-in-itself, that all else in creation aspires to it, the aspirer believing itself to be separate, then finding that the separation was an illusion, all along. Nothing actually changes except the consciousness of the experiencer. And then that changes everything. It’s a paradox. The highest concepts in mysticism often are. It’s a deliberate way to turn the mind.

The world ‘plane’ is often used here; in the sense that Being is ‘on a different plane”. Frequent use and repetition of ‘plane’ takes away the true sharpness of meaning; and the modern association with an aircraft doesn’t help. Rosicrucian mystics of a previous generation, like my father, used ‘plane’ extensively to paint an inner picture of a world tightly linked with ours, but above it.

‘Above’ it creates its own problems, as we immediately look up! This involuntary vertical association undoubtedly derives from religious pictures of holy figures in the air, or on a kingdom of clouds. Saints, Saviours and God were to be seen in this different land – represented as elevated humans of course… which has an amusing irony of its own.

Being is more correctly placed as ‘within’ the other, rather than above it. That sense of inner separation at least implies that Being is at the heart of everything – although its very nature may later suggest that there never was an outer… Paradox is everywhere at this level of language, and used to tease at something that can only truly be experienced, not written about. But we must try; to recombine old words so that a hint of what lies beyond the tired letters may trickle through.

There are, then two worlds: Being and Becoming. Being does not become. It is already what the next state is. It unfolds. Human consciousness sees a past and a future and ascribes becoming to the prior state of what has just arrived in front of us.

In last week’s blog I wrote about how our use of language literally locks us into the ‘level of being’ that we currently occupy. I catch the ball is an example. ‘I’ is the subject. ‘ball’ is the object. There is a verb – a doing word in the middle. One of the keys to understanding the role of language in spirituality is that there must always be a subject and a doing-word for ordinary consciousness to make sense of it.

Language does permit ‘the ball is caught’. But it’s an abstraction. We envisage that here is someone, as yet unstated, who, as subject, has caught the ball. So, all is right with the world. No-one has broken the laws of doing by getting rid of the doer.

If we postulate that there could be a ‘state’ of caught…. Without there necessarily being a catcher, then our brain consciousness begins to get a bit queasy. Our mind quickly constructs something like: ‘He has been caught’ to correct the potential void that looks troublesome.

This can rapidly get academic, whereas Being is not at all academic. It’s a state of experience. More accurately, it’s a state of consciousness beyond the brain’s normal world of perception; a state in which the observer is changed into something else – without loss of continued consciousness.

It’s a state in which the experiencer and what is being experienced are the same. There is no subject-object relationship, no ‘me and it’. There is a continuous stream of knowing – the origin of the world ‘gnosis’. Some of our Silent Eye students humorously remark that this crystal-clear consciousness is an act of gnowing… And that’s accurate.

The mind is a better word. The mind has a magical ability to look out on the world… or back on Being – the place it came from. When the mind looks at the world it sees duality: subject and object, me and it, the world of doing. When it looks back at its source, it sees an all-and-everywhere centre of the universe, its home, and its substance. Being birthed the mind, which bore the egoic self; each is a reflection of the source at the next outer level only a return to that source – fully conscious, restores mankind’s rightful place in the universe.

All spiritual journeys are along this path. Various techniques are used, but the inner goal is the same. Eventually, we loosen the ties between subject and object, me and that, so that we cast off our ‘subject anchor’ and learn to sail on a different sea. Nothing of real value is lost. The ship is better navigated from the top of the mast rather than at the wheel on the deck…and the air is beautiful up there.

Other parts of this series:

Part One: Language: maker and destroyer of worlds

©Stephen Tanham 2022

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

http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog

seven christmas postcards

This will be my penultimate post of 2021. After Thursday’s blog, I will be taking a break till the new year.

Every December, I try to capture a set of images that would make good Christmas cards. I used to have a colour ‘photograph’ printer, and would send some of these to family members. But the device was old and had begun behaving erratically. For such a small level of use, it wasn’t really worth replacing. But they do find a good home in blog posts…

Here then are my pick of December 2021’s photographs, sent with love and thanks to those whose companionship and support has become so special, despite us only meeting here, in ‘cyberland’.

In these harsh times of Covid, this ‘virtual’ – yet very real – world has become precious to us all, and provided a continuation of communication and creativity that would otherwise have been aching void.

(Above: a favourite: a small lane that connects the village of Sedgwick with its neighbour, Hincaster. The brightly coloured Copper Beech hedge is a joy to see throughout the deep winter, lingering like a part of the year past that refuses to die… A bright messenger to 2022!)
(Above: The line of the old Preston to Kendal canal has been drained along most of its northern extent for decades, but it still defines the landscape. Here, caught in the freezing mist, the canal basin emerges into a farmer’s field beneath one of the ‘bridges to nowhere’ then disappears – at least for a while – into a ploughed field)
(Above: the old Wakefield House (now Sedgwick House) glimpsed through the mist. This was the stately home of the last of the ‘gunpowder barons’ who created the modern village of Sedgwick, where we live. The former mansion is now divided into luxury apartments)
(Above: another shot of Back Lane and the hedge, this time, I deliberately left the photo to be a gentle gradient into the misty distance)
(Above: I couldn’t finish without a shot of the powerful River Kent thundering through its limestone gorge, taken from the old bridge that links the village with the feeder road to the M6 motorway.
(Above: my favourite shot – the River Kent in the snow, just before it plunges into the gorge)

And there we have it… Happy Christmas! Thank you for being ‘out there’ and here’s to more blogging companionship in 2022.

©Stephen Tanham 2021

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

http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog

stepping back from the noise

Are we losing the spirit and purpose of quietness?

Quietness and privacy are intimately linked. We need that space inside us that can’t be intruded upon. It’s a place to go when we must make the most important decisions of our lives.

Are we are losing the art of privacy? Perhaps even losing the idea of a right to privacy? The result is that we are further enmeshed in the ‘machine of society’ that appears to be the world ‘out-there’; something that, from a spiritual point of view, is deadly, for it robs us of the only true source of knowledge about our real selves.

Much of this is fuelled by the digital age. Most people have far more digital connections than actual friends. Spending time with our digital friends is easy – we just sit down with our device and that cup of coffee, and message, share emails or even video-talk face to face… There is another sense of ‘needing to’ here. There is an expectation that, since we are part of this or that group, we need to spend time within it, to help keep it functioning.

It’s not the real thing, but it’s a significant part of the real thing. My son’s family live in Australia, just about as far away as you can get. We have visited, but not recently, due to Covid. The years are passing, and the joy of being face to face with our two young grandchildren is deeply missed. But at least we have the ability to make video calls, which maintains some semblance of connection. In this sense, the connectedness is a good thing. We are choosing to use the only link we have to connect. Privacy is not an issue.

But our relationship to social media is a much more complex thing. If we have achieved a stable adulthood we have the discrimination to know when to ‘pull back’ and live in the real world. But our children are growing up in a world where the expectations in digital space are just as powerful as we used to have in the school playground. There is, in the child’s mind, very little differentiation between a conversation in reality – with all its subtleties of non-verbal communication – and one carried out in cyberspace.

Recent allegations about social media have revealed an institution that is alleged to take a middle-ground opinion and steer it towards an extreme view; and this deliberately designed into the algorithms that govern what we see. To an adult this is dangerous – few of us have the time to really research a political situation, so we look for a ‘trusted’ source of condensed research. To a child, it’s deadly; forming early views that can become fanaticism: like the shooting of others in a college gardens… Once, again, the healthy mature mind is not in danger; but a mind nudged towards an extreme is.

With governments, the position of social media is even more scary. Good government is by consensus and encouragement, not the imposition by authority. The police, as tools of the state, walk a fine line between the democratic and the overbearing. With social media, we have the authoritarian’s perfect tool: a mechanism to sway opinion to a degree that will ensure a manipulation of democracy – with lies, of course; but lies wrapped up in memes that appear to make clarity of complex situations.

Life is complex. The patterns of the truth, like those of lies, must be arrived at with long consideration, for they will form the basis of how we make decisions that affect the rest of our lives.

We are not just sponges that absorb other people’s hatred. We are complex beings who take in information in a variety of subtle ways. The truth is part of that distilled information if we let it be so. If we are consumed by the prejudice inherent in whoever is paying the social media big bills, then we are not using what nature has provided us with – the ability to think, feel and decide for ourselves.

It may be that the digital age was always going to be a pathway to doom. But equally, it can be democratic and ‘info-cratic’. It need not reflect the lower part of our individual humanity – the base reactions and unthinking, inherited opinions. Most of us are not like that, anyway – except when we’re lazy and don’t take the time to value truth. Some don’t want the truth; they are happy with the sideswipes and sleaze of the ever-present gutter-press and the new gutter-bytes.

All the world’s a stage, Shakespeare wrote; now perhaps a loud concert. With the volume at max the chances of having a deep relationship with our own thoughts and true feelings is minimal. But we can ‘package’ that external noise into a single ‘thing’. And by seeing it like that and seeing that it is not ‘us’, we can push it away to a safe distance… and spend some time with the loving and deeply considering being we really are.

©Stephen Tanham 2021

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

http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog

Autumn and Arnside pastels

(Above: Arnside at low tide)

At first glance, it has something of the ziggurat about it. In reality it’s the final bit of Arnside’s Victorian pier, taken from a short distance back in order to include the famous viaduct – nearly 1600 ft – that links Arnside with Grange-over-Sands.

Arnside has the kind of beaches that you’d rather photograph than paddle on. The sands around here share Morecambe Bay’s treacherous reputation. The danger comes from two directions: the estuary is the outflow of the rivers Kent and Bela. The Kent being so powerful that it has carved deep gorges in the limestone rock in its approach to the sea – this over rather a long time, admittedly…

The other is the strength of the incoming tide, which crosses Morecambe Bay with a speed faster than a galloping horse.

Frequent trains cross the Arnside viaduct, linking it to Manchester and Barrow in Furness.

I love it, as you can probably tell. The whole landscape of estuary, cascading village, station and viaduct reminds me of an boy’s ideal model train set! Not that I’ve had one of those for a very long time…

It’s also a great source of good photographs – in particular sunsets, of which I must have hundreds in my iCloud online storage. Today, while taking the collie for her morning walk, the pastel colours of the October sky reflecting in the calm waters of low tide were the epitome of autumnal stillness.

(Above: a very calm Arnside)

Not that it’s always quiet… During daylight hours, the peace of Arnside village is disturbed by a series of very loud klaxon noises. These mark the turning of the tide – fed by the powerful currents in nearby Morecambe Bay.

At very high tides, the klaxon signals not only the incoming water, but also the estuary’s own ‘bore’ – a single wave that travels inland, often for miles. It’s not as dramatic as that of the river Severn, but is a fascinating sight, and people travel to Arnside specially to see it.

(Above: The way to fine coffee…)

There is a safe place for the collie to chase her ball; it’s near the entrance to the village and forms a kind of wild park on the foreshore. When she’s exhausted with that, we walk though the town and along the shore path to a newly-opened tiny cafe set back into the rock, by a steep path that takes you into the posh residential part of the village. It’s run by two young women who do their own baking. It offers some of the best coffee for miles around… and they sell home-made Cornish pasties… I admit it’s not your usual breakfast…but it’s astonishing how hungry you can get when you smell the baking… They do admit that is part of the ‘marketing’.

The cafe is take-away only. It’s too small to do much else. Clutching what we have come to call our ‘Arnside brekkie’, we walk a little way down the estuary to a favourite block of limestone which boasts an accidental cup-holder, and I spread out my walker’s padded mat to sit on it. I’ve photographed the moment for our delectation…

(Above: that Cornish Pasty moment…)

And then it’s back to the village with a wistful glance at a rapidly filling estuary. The drive home can wait a few more minutes while I finish the last of that coffee, and reminisce about the pasty…

(Above: the final few minutes of calm before the tide begins its race)

©Stephen Tanham 2021

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

http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog