The Art of Dark Leaving

It could equally well be titled ‘The dark art of departure’, I suppose, but, in this case, it’s not the act but the leaving which is dark…

At the time of writing, we are about to leave Sydney, aboard a cruise ship: the Royal Caribbean ‘Solstice’.

We’ve never been on a cruise ship before.  It is only happening because two years ago, we booked a short cruise to the Norwegian Fjords which was cancelled at the last minute by the cruise company. We were due to depart the weekend after our main workshop of the Silent Eye’s year – the Spring event in Derbyshire. The timing was perfect; such events are very demanding, and the idea of a restful break in the glorious surroundings of Norway seemed perfect. In grim fashion, the man paid to break the bad news to us said that, basically, not enough people had died… Cruising, he explained, generally appeals to an older audience, and the organising companies have to take a statistical prediction as to how many cancellations they will get, due to severe ill health or death. Knowing this did little to help our mood, but Bernie soon found us a flight and hotel in the Mexican Yucatan, which enabled us, in consolation, to see the Mayan pyramids of Chichen Itza – a life-changing event I recorded at the time under the blog heading ‘Unexpected Shaman’.

We were compensated for the cost of the holiday and all consequent expenses: hotel in Southhampton, car parks and sundries… and… offered an additional free cruise of the same value anywhere in the world. We did query that there might be nothing to stop Celebrity Cruises from doing this to us again, but the man assured us we now had a direct link to him and that he would ensure that our next cruise definitely took place

So here we are….

Here is Sydney, a very lovely and friendly city. And only our second ever trip to Australia, where our son and daughter in law, both doctors, are bringing up their two young girls. We don’t get to see the grandchildren very often, and it’s hard to be a real part of their lives, but such a trip gives us the chance to be with them, play and laugh and fill the short but intense few days with the real, instead of the largely-artificial world of the ‘Skype’ or ‘Facetime’ call.

It occurred to us that we had the chance to combine the two; that we could fly to Sydney (instead of Adelaide, where they live) and then do our cruise, ending it with a flight to join them on a more local holiday. So the plans were made, and we are about to embark on a twelve-day sailing to New Zealand, ending in a flight from Auckland (where Bernie has a close school friend) to Adelaide to meet up with the family.

These few days in Sydney, following a flight from Manchester with a stopover in wonderful Singapore, have not been sufficient to scratch the surface of this city; but there is a compensating factor. The greatest attraction of Sydney is its harbour – or, properly its harbours, as the waterways are a vast complex linking the many nearby towns that supply it with many its daytime working population. The ferry terminal was allowed to be constructed right in the heart of the city; and show off these massive ships to perfection…

Now, we are on ours and, after a lengthy check-in, we are finally sitting, unpacked, on our balcony, looking down from a great height onto the very heart of Sydney. It’s a photographer’s dream, and my little iPhone has served me well in such situations before. Additionally, and, I like to think as some sort of karmic compensation, the sun is beginning to set, flooding the harbour with golden light.

We can feel the throbbing hum of the engines beginning their departure preparation. Then there is the most ‘perfect’ noise I have ever heard, as the Captain of the vessel gives the five minute warning signal. It intense, rather than just loud; it is a specially tuned sound that sounds like it comes from ‘the Gods’. I’m convinced that a few minutes of it, done as therapy, would drive any sense of depression from a soul… not that we are in the least depressed; but it carries that kind of ‘trumpet of hope’ feeling. Images of the Tarot card ‘The Last Judgement’ spring to mind… Whatever you were doing before it, you won’t be doing now.

In response, and to show their defiance of this leviathan of the high seas, a dozen of the smaller (but very fast) local ferries scurry off their piers to get their hard-working passengers away before the idlers on the ‘Solstice’ begin their holiday. A boating fury to rival Henley on Thames ensures the then, with the earth-shaking second warning blast, the giant begins to slide, backwards, away from the key. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the early Star Trek films, but, for their time they had masterly sequences of the Enterprise leaving the orbital terminal very, very slowly, before building up to ‘warp speed’ somewhere safely away from the Earth.

The slow initial departure of the ship Solstice is just like that, and about a million souls on Sydney’s Circular Quay are watching and smiling in the golden evening light.

We can hear very little. With perfect timing, our steward has entered the cabin and presented us with an ice-bucket holding our complimentary bottle of champagne and two flutes. I can’t resist taking it out to the balcony and popping the cork – discretely – allowing us to toast the lovely city to which we are now saying goodbye. We may be back, but you never know. It’s a long way from home and we hate leaving our beloved cat and dog for so long.

With the minimum of fuss, the huge ship slides into the main channel, still backwards. Then it begins to turn, bringing the Bay Bridge into full view. The light is now photographically perfect and I take as many shots as the rotating angle will allow. Then the vibration of the engines becomes even more purposeful and the Solstice begins to accelerate towards the open sea-still a full two miles distant.

We navigate the twists and turns of the widening estuaries, then comes a wonderful moment as the pilot boat comes right into the back of the cruise ship, nearly disappearing from sight.

When the Pilot boat reappears, the pilot has been transferred back to his home vessel and the smaller craft pulls away with a wave and set of lighted signals. As he falls behind the ship gathers speed toward the open sea… and adventure.

It’s time to have our first dinner on board. With one last wave we say goodbye to Sydney. Next stop Melbourne, then on to New Zealand for what we hope will be the trip of a lifetime.

©Stephen Tanham

Steve Tanham is a director of tbe Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not for profit organisation that provides distance learning courses for the deepening of self understanding.

A Walk with dogs, The Lune and St Michael

The Lune Valley is always worth exploring. The river Lune rises as a stream near Ravenstone Dale, Cumbria, and gathers momentum and volume as it winds towards the sea at Lancaster and its one time port, Glasson Dock. Devil’s Bridge, above, is, perhaps its most famous landmark, and was once the main highway between Yorkshire and the north Lancashire region – prior to the rejigging of the ancient counties that created Cumbria from Westmorland and bits of old Lancashire.

It is near Kirkby Lonsdale that the Lune Valley is at its most beautiful. We jumped at the chance to be part of a sponsored walk along the river and duly met up with the other participants in the Sun Inn, in the centre of the town, where we began the day with the time-honoured breakfast of walkers: the bacon butty…

The landlord of the Sun Inn, himself a dog owner, was joining us on the walk, and served out breakfast for his fellow hikers. Duly fed, we navigated ourselves and the dogs (It was an abandoned dogs charity we were supporting), and made the ten minute walk to the park area at Devil’s Bridge.

No-one is sure how Devil’s Bridge got its name, but the lady guide brought in for the occasion explained that it was normal for churches to fund bridges. Sometimes they didn’t and the fund-raising fell to the hard-pressed locals. In retaliation, they named their creation appropriately!

In similar fashion, no-one knows where the name ‘Lune’ came from. We had always assumed it to be a Norman-derived name for ‘moon’ but the guide explained that there were three theories:

1. It was Roman for ‘healthy and pure’.

2. It was named after the Roman God Lalonus who featured prominently in local worship.

3. Lune can refer to a prominent oxbow curve in the river, for which Kirkby Lonsdale (‘lunes’ dale) is famous – in the shape of what is seen from the spectacular Ruskin’s View near the church (photographed during the Summer):

Our guide was an English teacher who had a passion for local history. She had constructed two such walks. The first – the one we were on – was more suitable for dogs, and hence the choice on the day. The second was more concerned with the early industrial history of Kirkby Lonsdale. We may do it in the future.

Having cleared the edges of the town by crossing the perilous A65, we settled into a reasonably fast pace along the river bank. The walk was planned to last just under three hours, allowing for a couple of discussion stops. The route was constructed around a rectangle that would allow us to walk along the river to a point where we could turn right towards the historic town of Whittington, home of an ancient church and a rather unusual pavement…

We were blessed with cold but clear weather. The bright sunshine made the opening leg along the riverbank particularly pleasant. The golds and yellows have been strong and striking this year.

The happiest walkers were the dogs. Our Collie, Tess, discovered a good friend in a nine-month old Golden Retriever. They ran and ran in the bright sunshine, never seeming to tire.

The path divides after about two kilometres. Leaving the river path, it is necessary to scramble up a gulley to reach the start of a path that leads towards the village of Whittington.

Here the fields stretch on either side of the path. To the North lies Ingleborough, one of the highest peaks in nearby Yorkshire, and part of the famous Three Peaks challenge, during which contestants have to scale all three in a day – a very demanding ordeal.

Eventually, the horizon is lost behind hedges that hint at a more domestic landscape. The village of Whittington comes into view.

Whittington is a small village with a famous church. It forms part of a cluster of sisters along the Lune valley. Each of these has evidence of a castle’s motte and bailey fortification. This is the densest concentration of Norman castles outside of the those on the Welsh border.

St Micheal’s Church is strongly linked with two nearby churches of St John the Evangelist, Gressingham, and St John the Baptist, Arkholme. The church stands within the bailey of the former Norman castle, as can be seen from the above photo. It is thought that a church has stood here since around 1200. The oldest part of the present church is the tower, which dates from the early 16th century. The rest of the church was largely rebuilt in 1875, funded by Colonel D.C. Greene of nearby Whittington Hall.

Being a Sunday, the church was in use and we were not able to venture closer than gate. Happily, there was a compensation…

Beneath our feet, was a pebble-based mosaic, created, locally, to mark the millennium, by Maggie Hogarth, a local artist and sculptor. The photo does not do it justice. It marks the Church of St Michael the Archangel with great respect.

To complete our journey, we had a further climb of about a kilometre. From this, the highest point, we could see the whole landscape of our walk. The view across to Ingleborough was the best of the day.

Kirkby Lonsdale lay at the foot of the far side of the hill. Slightly weary, we trudged down to the Sun Inn, where a discounted lunch awaited those who had completed the walk.

©️Stephen Tanham


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

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

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

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

For fifty years I sought you…

For fifty years I sought you

Beneath an ashen tree

And when at last I caught you

You were hiding behind me

What jests your lips had whispered

As I darted too and fro

Till I lay down at the wayside

With nowhere else to go

Quiet, your fingers touched me

Bidding stillness in their grace

Made soft with love the journey

By turning round the face

The night of sight was ended

From this head that wore a frown

And the throne of Self lay open

As your palms displayed a crown

Now my tiny kingdom’s hidden

Beneath a starry sky

But my eyes drink light forever

As the opening days roll by

For fifty years I sought you

Beneath an ashen tree

And when at last I caught you

You were smiling back at Me

©Stephen Tanham

Dedicated to Rumi, who lit the way…

A Chip off the Old Block (part 2 of 2)

cube of space+wake you smaller

In Part One, we looked at the implications of one of the hot topics in modern physics: that of Block Theory, and its two offspring theories – Expanding Block Theory and Evolving Block Theory. These dull names hide a very exciting and radical view of the universe – our world – and the dynamic part that awakened humans can play in it.

We don’t need to change what we do to work within the ‘Block’ of Block Theory. We can’t do anything else. Our ability to ‘do’, including the logic of decision, is built into the dynamic of being Human – which means the organic part of us operates wholly within the framework of the Block universe. When we turn our head, go to the car, decide to drive to the petrol station, and then pick up a chocolate bar as we pay, we are exercising the under-considered power of choice. We are creating the next moment of the present. The result of that choice is the equivalent of what quantum physics calls ‘measurement’. Measurement, in this sense, means interacting with the now.

Evolving Block Theory is related to Quantum Physics. Within Quantum Physics, a very different universe exists from the ‘solid’ one we think we live in. Our real quantum world is a sea of possibilities so vast that the mind struggles to conceive of it. This ‘sea’ resolves itself into a ‘something’ only when we interact with it; the equivalent of the scientific action of measurement. The classic thought-experiment of Schrodinger’s Cat was initially put forward to mock this, but the (both) alive and dead cat is there in full potential until the box is opened – this is actually the truth in a quantum universe. Within our minds, we have normalised this process into the Newtonian classical and solid world, but, really, we live in a shifting sea of potential – and our minds have a unique relationship with it; they may even be able to co-create the unfolding now in an advanced way, once we have mastered the ‘magic’ of the mechanics…

How does Block Theory, and in particular Evolving Block Theory, fit into this quantum world? The two are the other halves of each other. Block Theory says that, while there is length, breadth and height, there is no time as we think of it, conventionally. There is only the human mind choosing from the possible courses of action – intelligence, in other words. Everything that could be done exists, before us, in the quantum universe, powered by something wonderful. But it is not the future; just potential. To become the present: the only place where reality exists, we have to make that choice and combine consciousness with it. Once that actualisation begins, we not only create the present, we are the present.

Evolving Block Theory contributes something very special to this: it puts forward the potential of light, itself, to be the living sea of possibility from which the present is knitted. Only light has the vastness of ‘atomic’ potential to fit the requirements of this world which constantly resolves itself into what we have chosen… But, once that choice is made we do not ‘move’ into that future, the combined now of us and light unfolds before us…

Choice has, therefore, many components. The world in which ‘we’ find ourselves from birth is not in any way fixed. At the atomic level it is the potential of pure light. We live in a three-dimensional world but the property of time belongs to us – possibly to all Life, though the powers of mentation and therefore choice are more sophisticated in the human – and often cruel. We can surmise that, as yet, we are mere infants in the exercise of this ‘supermind’ potential.

While science has made enormous progress, it has done so without a conscience. It may say that is not its role, but there is a growing sense of responsibility among scientists. The ancients did not have the benefit of our powers of instrument-enabled observation and measurement – in a general sense, though the Greeks, peoples of India, and medieval Arabs laid the foundations of what became Western science. But the ancient philosophers did understand consciousness – and the disciplining of the mind; and this has always been the other half of the equation. In this, they pursued the deeper meanings of consciousness, rather than taking it for granted in the way that science initially did.

Thankfully, Quantum Theory changed that, though an understanding of it still evades most people – and why wrestle with it, if the older Newtonian world will do just fine?. Evolving Block Theory offers a radical new view of the ‘out there’; one potentially controlled by the fully balanced human capable of bringing wise choices into the all-powerful present, whose potential, like the chess pawn becoming a Queen, would then be, literally, limitless.

The emotions empower our choices, as does habitual pleasure and pain. But in a mentally-strong human, the mind, alone makes that choice. The depth of intent is therefore of prime importance in navigating the art of the possible which unfolds before us. This is astonishingly close to the ancient art of magic, which aside from the fluff and egoic dross, is concerned with the focussing of intent.

Acting for the good is very different from acting out of self-interest, only. The greatest ‘magicians’ of the coming age may be those who combine deep intent with the universe-expanding power of ‘good’ and thereby step beyond the level of humanity as we know it, reaching back to teach and show those of us who yearn for those heights of the soul.

A Meditation

So let’s imagine that we are a new type of magician, one intent upon working with this world of Evolving Block Theory. How could we act in accordance with what we see as its potential?

We need to comprehend that, organically, we are already its child. Our creative power within the ‘Block’ will already have been at work in our lives – in both positive and negative ways. But, consciousness of this brings greater power to work with it in the light of knowledge rather than accident.

Realising that we stand in the threshold of a new world, our first action might be one of cleansing; by which we mean freeing the apparently frozen world around us from negative patterns we have unconsciously imposed on it – as creator…

To help us, we can consider that what we thought of as being ‘set in stone’ might not be; that thoughts, feelings and outdated opinions can be, literally, dissolved.

Let us see ourselves as a castle made of heavy and solid stone. Imagine each part of you: thoughts, emotions and your sheer physicality. Let each of them be a part of a castle of self – see it clearly.

Now imagine that this, your castle, has actually been carefully constructed by skilled builders from blocks of ice, not stone. See that fixed structure melting slowly until it resolves itself into a lake of water. It has lost none of what it had except for the restrictive patterning that held it fixed. Really, it was always water…

When the waters of the ice castle have melted, and the lake is full, let us imagine that we are gazing down onto the pure, glowing surface of the lake. Behind us, high in the sky, is the golden disk of the Sun. The gold is so bright that, initially, we see ourselves only as a silhouette. But then our eyes become more powerful and we look deeper…

What do you see?

Stay as long as you wish above the golden lake. When you are ready, close the meditation with this affirmation:

“I am a co-creator of this world and I will create in full consciousness.”

©️Stephen Tanham


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

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

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

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

The spiritual minefield

“’Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought,’” said my son, reading out the daily inspirational quote he has delivered to his phone. “It says it is by Basho. Who’s he?”
“Seventeenth century Japanese poet.” It was a short answer, but enough for the question.
“Okay, Google,” he said with disgust. He was not using voice commands…that is one of the politer names he calls me.

It was a good quote though, when I had just been writing up another of our visits to an ancient sacred site. It summed up perfectly why these places matter so much to us and what it is we find there. We do not seek to return to an earlier time or belief system, but to move beyond the imposed and acquired dogma of our times. Somewhere, beyond both the beliefs of the ancients and our own, is the source of the questions mankind has asked of both his heart and the heavens; whatever path we have chosen to follow and in whatever era we have lived, ultimately our goal is the same.

The symbols we use, the stories we believe, or in which we have faith, all arose from a need to understand. We want to know about the origins of life and our planetary home, our place in the cosmos and the forces that shape all we know. We want to know why we are here, and what is the purpose of it all.

We have sought answers to how we should live and developed moral codes by which we are supposed to abide. Some are practical… if we must live as part of a community, then there are basic behaviours by which we abide. Other rules we have made and think of as universal, yet across time and culture, they too have changed and shifted their parameters so much, and so often, that mankind starts wars because we cannot agree on the basic details of how we ought to live. Or how our gods should behave.

At one point in history, gods could be vengeful, jealous, permissively polyamorous and sometimes downright vicious. Another era sees its gods…or at least their priests… exercising strict control over every aspect of their people, while yet another time sees the gods as loving, forgiving and nurturing. And sometimes, the same god, over the course of time, will run the gamut of all of the above.

Within their time and place, all these manifestations were acceptable to the populace. They filled a need that matched the era and culture… and when they ceased to fill it, new gods came in to supplant them. But the same questions remained.

There is knowledge to be had about our planet and solar system. We now know a great deal about how nature actually works. We can see brain activity and are busily engineering nano-robots to send into the body to fix its problems. The scope of human knowledge is vast, even if there is still far more to learn than we can know or imagine at this moment. But all these things are just facts.

The questions held in the recesses of the human heart and mind cannot be answered so simply and the answers must be found by each of us, in our own way and our own time. Only knowledge can be transmitted. Knowledge may point a way, but it cannot grant understanding, only show us what and where someone else sought and found their own answers.

And then there is the dichotomy of seeking and not-seeking. The only way we know how to find anything is to look for it, or stumble across it by accident. We are told by spiritual teachers and philosophers that we should seek and strive to grow… and told by just as many of them that we should neither seek nor strive, but just be. We are promised paradise if we adhere to one set of rules or another, and a thousand shades of torment if we choose the wrong path. And that path can be any or all of the ones who promised paradise in the first place.

Spirituality is a minefield. So, what is a seeker, especially when we are not supposed to seek, supposed to do?

Seek what they sought. Look beyond the stories to why they were told… beyond the dogma, the rules and conventions and listen for what sings to your heart. We may be too small to encompass the entire understanding of Creation, but we may get a glimpse that sheds enough light on our path to carry us forward. It matters little upon which path we begin, for once we have found a song of the soul that calls to us, the path chooses us and it lives in truth within us.

A practical course…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT’S UP DOC? Lines of communication…

 

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For those with eyes to see…

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Floor Set up

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

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

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

Cara: Horizontal Polarity!

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

Bugs: Love!

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

Being your slave, what should I do but tend

Upon the hours and times of your desire?

I have no precious time at all to spend,

Nor services to do, till you require.

Nor dare I chide the world-without-end hour

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

Nor think the bitterness of absence sour

When you have bid your servant once adieu;

Nor dare I question with my jealous thought

Where you may be, or your affairs suppose,

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

Save, where you are how happy you make those.

   So true a fool is love that in your will,

   Though you do anything, he thinks no ill.

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

Bugs: Loathing!

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

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

Bugs returns to East.

Cara returns to West.

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

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

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

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

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

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

to be continued…

A Candle in the Mind

Candle of the MindAA

If we wish to make a voyage into the self, we need a set of tools, with which to:

a) Investigate, as objectively as possible, what this ‘me’ is doing.

b) Create a space; a different part of us, that our growing and real consciousness can ‘live in’.

These may initially sound somewhat forced, but that is only because western language, with its notional structure of “(I) do something to (that)” embeds the principle that there is an ‘I’ in the form we think of it; therefore we never question the root of the problem.

The ‘toolkit’, strange-sounding though it may be, is only there to correct the language-based falsehood within which we all live. But truly understanding that comes later, when we live on the upper floor of ‘ourselves’ rather than the ground.

When we begin to watch ourselves, we run, immediately, into conditioning. Conditioning is the result of society, family, job, school, mates – best and otherwise, job pressures, the club for football/books/golf/cricket/(insert here). In short, everyone who has ever laid an expectation on us that we accepted, has contributed to this conditioning.

Most of this conditioning is there to mould our personality into an acceptable form so that we can live, harmoniously, within the society into which we were born; or into which we have relocated, due to a bad fit of the first one…

Part of the valid conditioning is a set of moral values: the good and bad of it. These often affect us the most, especially if we believe that good and bad are powerful things.

When we accept a framework of a philosophy or religion, we subscribe to a subset of values associated with that ‘method’ of instruction. This applies, equally, to any School of spirituality which imposes on us similar constraints.

Are we to be anarchical in our search for personal truth? Are we to cast off everything we hold dear to find a pure layer of self within, as though we were beginning our lives again?

It’s not a trivial question, since, at the right time in our development, there are truths in some of the above scenarios. But such a transition, done brutally, negates the value of the developed personality and its potential for doing ‘good’. In the West, we need to work within the framework of our society – we’re not particularly suited to the life of a monk, regardless of the religious basis. Few of us believe that discarding everything we own will do anything but destabilise us.

The mistake is thinking that the personality can solve this, all by itself. Since our goal is to rise ‘above’ the everyday life imposed on us by the habitual nature of that personality – with all its habits and hungers – we can hardly expect cooperation from the creature, itself!

Tricky…

A clever, stealthy and subtle way to go about it is to become a ‘self-watcher’. Self-watchers do everything they’ve always done, but they resist the societal urge to judge what they are watching in themselves. Self-judging is also habitual; and was exposed by Freud, the pioneering psychologist of the last century, as belonging to a part of the personality called the superego. We can never satisfy the critical demands of this monster. It’s like your worst authority-figure. Whatever we do, that critical voice is always there, telling us we may have tried our best but it’s just not good enough…

When we become a self-watcher, the superego comes at us like a charging tiger. It applauds what we’re finding about our ‘weak’ self! It loves our unveiling of the pathetic nature of our resolve to give up that nasty habit… or six.

The dedicated self-watcher has to learn a new skill: to ignore the judgment of that inner voice. It does this initially by trust. Later, with experience and a deepening sense of something good and calm growing inside us, it does this because it knows the approach opens up a new world. An inner realm, seen from a judgment-free perspective, brings a new energy to the study of how we really live our lives. This new energy is far more potent at personal transformation that any scowling superego could ever be.

One of its most wonderful attributes is that it loves us…

Watching has a power of its own, no matter what scale it operates on. This is one of secrets of the ancient methods of spiritual development, and one that is vital to learn if we are to find any peace and retain our sanity in the perceived nasty and crazy world we find ourselves in, today.

It doesn’t operate on its own; of course not. Other things have to happen, too. But the establishment of a watching-place inside us, inviolate from criticism–an inner room in which we can say: “In here I will learn about me in peace and free from persecution”, is the single most powerful tool we can adopt if we want personal transformation in our lives.


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via home-based study and practice courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

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

©Stephen Tanham

 

To dare, to dream, to be…

‘To know, to dare, to will… and to keep silent’… this is a phrase heard within many branches of the Mysteries and one which echoes facets of the labyrinthine journey undertaken by those of us who work within them. It is an old saying, but none the worse for that, as much of the magical and mystical tradition is rooted in history. It contains much wisdom… a veritable treasure trove that responds to exploration by the meditative mind.

When we were setting up the Silent Eye, talking about how we could encapsulate something of the essence of the School’s ethos in a few words,  that phrase was the starting point for a discussion. The school is a place where we ensure that ‘the heart and the head drink from the same stream’. It is just as easy to get lost in soggy sentimentality as it is to bury oneself in hardcore intellectualism and on the spiritual journey both ends of the spectrum need to arrive at the consensus where we find the road to Being.

It takes courage to set out on that road, for it is ultimately one that must be walked seemingly alone, facing the image of the constructed Self; the Ego that is our vehicle through this life in the mirror of the soul. It is not always a pleasant stroll; the flawed monsters that lurk within each of us are the demons the magician faces in his rites of evocation. It takes courage too to set out on a path that departs from the traditions and teachings you have worked with all your life and seek something new. To dare that road can seem like stepping off a precipice into the unknown… or it can be the most exciting voyage of a lifetime.

It is something many of us dream of doing. Yet where to start? How to translate that dream into a reality? And what is a dream anyway? It is a multivalent concept. We may think of a dream as something of no substance, the ephemera of the night; no more than a fleeting shadow of the impossible that haunts the edges of the mind. Many systems of thought, including our own, use the idea of the dream-state to reflect the limited reality of our daily lives, focussed upon the mechanical movement through the tasks and responsibilities imposed upon us, both by the world and by ourselves; seeing in our restricted and sleeping consciousness merely projected images upon the screen of the mundane world.

We can look at the Aboriginal and Shamanic dreaming that has woven its magic behind humanity’s vision, shadowing forth those aspects of being and divinity we have sought to understand for millennia. On the other hand, we may see a dream as an aspiration… something worthy of the questing soul that seeks the depth and meaning of the inner Light.

It has been asked which is the dream… does the soul dream this life… do we awake from life into a dream of the soul … are we ourselves the dream, the dreamer… or the dreamed?

Perhaps we are all of these and in that realisation… in daring to seek to bring the dream of the soul into reality, in the clear light of consciousness, we can live the dream and touch the realms of pure Being.