emerging from the mist…

There’s a certain amount of ‘fighting back’ in this. The long period of Covid restrictions, followed by a summer in which we all got a taste of gentle freedom again; the sad death of the ‘third musketeer’, Sue Vincent, in March of this year, the inability to hold our regular workshops in the mystical landscapes of Britain…

But then there were positive things: learning – and continuing to learn – the techniques that make Zoom a powerful tool for holding get-togethers across the planet in a way that eliminates cost and distance – though not time; the emergence of new people, in particular a lady from Canada who we will be introducing as part of the team in the next few months. Caroline is already at work updating the three-year course with which we literally accompany those willing to work on themselves and their relationships to ‘the world’, in order to enter a new land of the mind and heart.

And finally, the sheer sense of determination and creative energy that we all feel, the flush of new ideas, and an absolute conviction that we need to not just carry on, but expand the work of the Silent Eye.

The first of these was the Healing Circle, a combination of group meditation and focus, and the mental and emotional creation of a place of working. We had the help of a lovely artist and friend, Giselle Bolotin, who lives in Australia, to paint a beautiful motif for the endeavour, reproduced below. Our own Barbara Walsh stands guard and guide as our high priestess of a beautiful and gentle place that does not physically exist in this realm, but is a solid reality in another – as many who have received its healing assistance will testify.

(Above: the Healing Circle motif, created by Giselle Bolotin for the Silent Eye)

And then Stuart returned from many years working in South Yorkshire to his native Lancashire, meaning that, with me just over the northern edge of that fine county, the two of us could meet on a much more regular basis, and perhaps over the odd glass of Guinness or two…

These more regular meetings have enabled us to focus on the immediate needs of the School, particularly in dovetailing what we do on our monthly Silent Eye Explorations evening, held over Zoom, on the third Saturday of each month. It’s a coming together of interested people – not all from the Silent Eye’s world – but people who understand the importance of such a gathering, regardless of time or place. It builds an ‘egregore of the mind and heart’ as an old mentor and friend once said… The Zoom meetings – Silent Eye Explorations (a Facebook Group) is open to all. We welcome new visitors.

The third is the return of the workshop. We cannot predict what the currently increasing Covid rates will do to restrictions in the coming winter, where Zoom meetings may again be the only way of meeting, but we can look forward to the spring and the potential for having a completely new style of workshop; one that does not rely on the use of a hall, or conference location. We dearly miss our visits to the heart of Derbyshire, and the Nightingale Centre, but Covid and understandable inability to travel has forced us to look at a different formula. That ‘old style’ of hands-on workshop may have become a luxury that few can take advantage of. It’s our duty to explore the alternatives.

Our landscape weekends, which did not rely on a certain number of attendees to play the dramatic roles we had scripted, have always been popular and financially viable. So, we thought, let’s combine the two ideas and have a big one, where people don’t take on dramatic personas but play… themselves. Our last Zoom meeting was inspired by the work of Joseph Campbell, who used the word ‘monomyth’ to show that the world’s myths and legends had a commons meta-story at their heart. This generic ‘journey of the hero’ will be the basis for next May’s journeys in the landscape in the northern Lake District. Each person will become their own hero, during several experiences over the weekend of 6-8 May 2022,

(Above: The Journey of the Hero – weekend of 6-8 May, 2022)

Viruses willing, we will emerge from next winter to a bright May morning where an international gathering of spiritually inclined people will follow a mysterious trail through lakes, mountains, waterfalls and, most of all, a silent language of ‘movements’, each one building on the previous until we culminate the power of this in a final visit to the magical stone circle of Castlerigg, high in a natural ring of mountains and surrounded by nature’s grandeur.

Our final project is in honour of our departed Director, Sue Vincent. The three of us often discussed the power of the traditional Tarot images to convey many of the deeper aspects of the mystical journey towards the deeper Self. We wondered if we had the capacity to create a set of ‘oracle cards’ for use by ourselves and our student/companions. The Silent Eye uses the enneagram, rather than the Kabbalistic Tree of Life as its teaching basis. Any such project would have to reflect the unique and circular basis of the enneagram, rather than the vertical down-up structure of the Tree of Life.

(Above: the Silent Eye’s Teaching Enneagram – the basis for the coming Oracle)

At the time, we parked it. Sue was uncertain that she had the artistic skills to do it, and we decided that we would be better equipped to scope it when we had a generation of companions who had made the three-year journey with us. We are in discussions with an artist of great skill, whose work has often been this type of vivid depiction. By the time of the spring workshop in the northern Lake District, we should be well on with the project and ready to give an update. Who knows, we might even be able to use some of the prototypes oracle cards for the weekend…

The mist is certainly clearing. It appears there is a lot to do… wish us luck!

©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

Links:

Contact points and web addresses for the Silent Eye’s work:

Click the link below to go to the Healing Circle page:

The Silent Eye Healing Circle

Silent Eye Explorations (Facebook Group page)

The monthly Silent Eye Explorations Zoom meetings are open to all. The documentation for this is on the Facebook Group ‘Silent Eye Explorations’. As Facebook is a closed environment, you will need to click the link requesting to join the group. We will then authorise you, and you will be able to see the previous meetings and join us in meetings to come. These are held on the third Saturday of the month at 8:00 pm.

For more information on any of the above, email us at rivingtide@gmail.com

SEE: October Zoom Cyber Room…

Photograph – courtesy, the estate of Sue Vincent

(All Tarot Card Images – Rider-Waite Deck)

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The Silent Eye’s October Explorations Zoom Talk

The Thousandth Face – breaking through from the ordinary

Jospeh Campbell’s book, ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’, sold over a million copies.

In it, using his knowledge of philosophy and psychology, Campbell describes how all human myths share a common fundamental structure, which he called the Monomyth.

Essentially ‘the hero’s adventure’ is summarised as:

The hero ventures forth from the world of the common day into a region of supernatural wonder. Fabulous forces are encountered and a decisive victory won. The hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow good fortune on his fellow man.

The ‘Mono-Myth’ describes a number of key stages or steps along the way:

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The hero’s adventure begins in the ordinary world with a call to adventure…

The Hobbit – Bilbo seated outside his Hobbit Hole smoking a pipe in the morning light.

The Matrix – Neo’s mundane job in a tech company.

The Arthurian Mythos – The Knights seated around the Round Table in the hall of Camelot

Tarot Card – The Devil, In this instance,

represents the Egoic Nature.

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The Tower (Tarot card) - Wikipedia

…The hero sometimes refuses the call to adventure…

The Hobbit – Bilbo Refuses to have anything to do with adventures when first invited and then tells Gandalf that he ‘has got the wrong hobbit.

The Matrix – Neo follows the white rabbit but when following Morpheus’ instructions to avoid the Agents he fails to cross the abyss of the skyscraper and is captured.

The Biblical Myth of Jonah – The call from God in this instance is flatly refused by Jonah who tries to flee onboard a ship. After a number of negative events which the crew ascribe to Jonah he is thrown overboard to save the ship from further mishaps and swallowed by a whale which regurgitates him alive back at Ninevah.

Tarot Card – The Blasted Tower: The Egoic Nature

is penetrated by Higher Forces.

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The Fool (Tarot card) - Wikipedia

…He/she leaves the ordinary world after accepting the call to adventure…

The Hobbit – Bilbo’s empathy and compassion for the Dwarves, who have lost their home, prompts him to embark on the adventure.

The Matrix – When Neo contemplates running from Trinity she says ‘You’ve been down that road a hundred times before and it doesn’t lead anywhere.’ (paraphrase)

The Arthurian Mythos – The Knights follow the White Stag into the Enchanted Forest.

Tarot Card – The Fool: Penetrated Egoic Nature results in a ‘reckless fool’.

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The Hermit (Tarot card) - Wikipedia

…With the help of a mentor, the hero will cross a guarded threshold, leading him to a supernatural world, where the familiar laws of the ordinary world no longer apply…

The Hobbit – Gandalf. The Matrix – Morpheus. The Bible Myths – God. The Arthurian Mythos – Merlin. Celtic Irish Myth – Mananan mac Lir.

Tarot Card – The Hermit: In a high place, which may well be interior,

holds aloft a light.

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Strength (Tarot card) - Wikipedia

…There, the hero will embark upon a road of trials, tests, or temptations…

Indiana Jones – Take your pick! 

The Irish Hero CuChulain – The Sword Bridge. 

The Arthurian Mythos – Perilous Seat, Grail Questions. Combative Knights.

The Hobbit – Golem’s Riddles…

Myth of Christ – Jesus in the wilderness tested by Satan.

Tarot Card – Strength: An unarmed,

feminine character closes the mouth of the Lion.

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The Star (Tarot card) - Wikipedia

…Mysterious allies sometimes assist…

In the Welsh myth of Culwch and Olwen, the hero Culwch is aided in his quest to find Olwen by a number of aged, wise animals.

Stag… Raven… Owl… Salmon…

These animals talk, guiding the hero to the next in turn until he is finally transported to the Other-World where his treasure awaits.

Tarot Card – The Star: The feminine figure

represents the planetary being of the earth.

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Death (Tarot card) - Wikipedia

…As the hero faces the ordeal, they encounter the greatest challenge of the journey…

The Hobbit – Slaying the Dragon…

The Matrix – Overcoming The Agents…

Culwch and Olwen – outwitting Olwen’s father, Ysbaddaden.

The Arthurian Mythos – The Green Knight.

Tarot Card – Death: although the ground is strewn with body parts a glorious sun rises on the horizon.

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The Chariot (Tarot card) - Wikipedia

…Upon rising to this challenge, the hero receives a reward, or boon…

The Hobbit – The Trolls Treasure.

The Matrix – Freedom within the Matrix.

Culwch – marries Olwen, or is united with his Soul.

Arthurian Mythos – The Grail is achieved.

Tarot Card – The Chariot: The balanced psyche

moves forward without hindrance in the world.

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The Lovers - Wikipedia

…He/she returns to the ordinary world, empowered to act in a higher way…

Tarot Card – The Lovers: ‘open up and get out of the way.’

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‘There were a few outstanding questions, including whether Campbell focused on the masculine and, if so, what would the feminine hero’s journey look like if it were different.

We were left with four leading questions to ponder:

What is being described?

How does each part of the Mono-Myth relate to one’s own story?

How do we know that the Quest has begun?

Why would we want to undertake this Journey?

An open invitation was extended to the group to join ‘The Hero’s Journey’, the Silent Eye’s next landscape workshop, at Castlerigg Stone Circle and its environs, Cumbria, UK, May 6-8, 2022.

This will be a personal journey related to each individual as the hero of their own life, shared in a communal environment with meals at local hostelries…’ – Recorder

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Crucible of the Sun

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…For three days Gwythyr-the-Bright journeyed

in the gullet of the Black Salmon of the Lake of Light.

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On the third night, he came to a river valley

whose edges were forested with tall trees.

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From root to crown, one half of the trees

in that forest were aflame while the other

half were green with leaves.

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There were level meadows on both sides of the

river and on one bank grazed a flock of black

sheep with on the other a flock of white sheep.

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When a white sheep bleated a black sheep would cross

the river and turn white and when a black sheep bleated

a white sheep would cross the river and turn black…

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Crucible of the Sun: The Mabinogion Retold

By Stuart France

“I will dazzle like fire, hard and high, will flame the breaths of my desire; chief revealer of that which is uttered and that which is asked, tonight I make naked the word.”

Once upon a time we gathered around the flames of the hearth and listened to tales of long ago and far away. The stories grew in the telling, weaving ancient lore whose origins lie somewhere in a misty past with tales of high adventure, battles, magic and love. In Crucible of the Sun, this oral tradition is echoed in a unique and lyrical interpretation of tales from the Mabinogion, a collection of stories whose roots reach back into the depths of time, spanning the world and reflecting universal themes of myth and legend.

These tales capture a narrative deeply entwined through the history of the Celtic peoples of the British Isles, drawing on roots that are embedded in the heart of the land. In Crucible of the Sun the author retells these timeless stories in his own inimitable and eminently readable style. The author’s deep exploration of the human condition and the transitions between the inner worlds illuminate this retelling, casting a unique light on the symbolism hidden beyond the words, unravelling the complex skein of imagery and weaving a rich tapestry of magic.

‘The author’s creative and scholarly engagement with the material and enthusiasm for the original tales is evident throughout.’ The Welsh Books Council

‘I found it very inspiring!’ Philip Carr-Gomm, former Chosen Chief, Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (O.B.O.D.)

Available worldwide via Amazon, in paperback and for Kindle.

 

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

the mysterious ladder of life

If I asked you to name a famous ladder, it’s likely that something quite ancient would come up as the answer: Jacob’s Ladder. It was the subject of a dream that the biblical Patriarch Jacob had while he was fleeing from his brother Esau, in chapter 28 of the Book of Genesis.

(Above the picture of Jacob’s Ladder from the original Luther Bible of 1534. Source Wikipedia CC by SA)

The biblical God is all-powerful by ‘his’ very nature. He does not ‘transport’ Jacob to heaven – or any other place of safety. He offers him a path; in this case a rather different path to what one might draw on a map of a landscape. The key here is that Jacob still has to climb the ladder; he is not given freedom from the conditions below except by his own efforts. The higher has provide a way. The lower has to climb this narrowly defined route. In so doing, he or she will be transformed. That is the nature of all true developments of the self.

This idea of a vertical path is one taken up in the study of the Qabalah (also Qabala, Kabbalah), whose most famous diagram, the Tree of Life, is often considered to be a ‘ladder of lights’ linking the ordinary ‘earthly’ state of consciousness with a progression to a higher nature that already belongs to us. The Tree of Life is a strange kind of ladder, and offers us multiple routes for most of the journey… but not all.

(Above: the Qabalistic ‘tree of life’ which offers not, one, but two routes between the ground and the heavens)

The idea of stone steps, or, later, a ladder, has always had a magical or mysterious property. In the case of a rugged path up a hill or mountain, the route is created by nature. But in the case of steps or ladders, the making is by the human. It is engineered to take us – all of us who might wish to travel – from one level to another. Not only that but it does so in stages. Each representing an equal amount of effort, safely fashioned to the needs of the human self. A ladder that had gaps of a metre would be little use to us…

The steps may be equal, but the result of taking each one is that our position over the landscape becomes higher each time, and thus introduces an element of risk. If, in the act of mastering the first few steps, we do not learn the importance of staying true to the principles of how the ladder was constructed, we risk moving our balance beyond its centre of gravity and toppling ourselves and the ladder to the ground below. This reflected both the observation skills and the self-discipline of the mystical path. It is no accident that the word disciple resembles discipline.

(From the Ryder-Waite Deck; the card of the ‘Lightning-struck Tower’ is a reminder that the intellect of mankind can only take us so far in our ‘ascent’)

Here, we might be reminded of the Tarot card ‘the lightning-struck tower’. Towers have internal steps leading to a position of greater viewing; a wider perception of the landscape, giving us more contextual information with which to make decisions, though we are now far from the ground and must descend to the world of the ‘ordinary’ if we are to effect changes in the world we inhabit, physically. This is an important point, for the ladder, or set of steps, does grant us the power to better understand the relationship for higher to lower. Careful study and some assistance may allow us to discover a set of ‘creative laws’ by which the lower came into existence from the ‘higher’. To operate with will in this higher ‘plane’ requires a dedication to the truth…

This is the subject of mysticism, or so-called magic. Mysticism is the identification and partaking of a life based on an understanding of how things happen in the higher and lower worlds. Before physics, these were deemed to be ‘God’s work’. Now, we see them as natural results from often invisible causes: for example, electricity. But physics deals with the physical. For the metaphysical, we need to understand our selves.

Magic is the working in harmony with the natural order of creative forces as they ‘descend’ or ascend the invisible ladders of life. The Tree of Life is particularly good at illustrating this, but a deeper discussion beyond the scope of this post.

As humans we have both visible and invisible layers of our ability to do. One of the most powerful of the invisible powers is our gift of imagination, whereby we are able to visualise the state of change we wish to bring about – ideally for the good of all. Morally, this is a tricky issue, for it presumes the practitioner has a better view of reality than other who might be affected as a result…

For this reason, sacred admonitions like ‘Do no harm’ have reverberated down the ages to ward the unwary or the egoic-centred away from use of what is at the top of the ladder.

The mystic tends more towards the contemplative view that we are better to harmonise our consciousness with what we find up the ladder, than to inject our egoic nature to force things… That way lies disaster, most of all for the soul of the practitioner. Seeing oneself as ‘working with the good’ is a sure guide for individual action. Even then, we still turn to the above to understand, in depth, what is truly ‘good’. One person’s good is another’s interference. We cannot venture on such a path without taking responsibility for our actions, and understanding that though we are capable of seeing and feeling the good, we may also miss the subtlety of that which operates in a far more intelligent way than we are capable of grasping.

To close this piece let’s return to the simple ladder…

(Above: the humble wooden ladder, and its most wonderful and often overlooked attribute)

The story of Jacob’s Ladder could just as easily have been ‘Jacob’s steps’; but it wasn’t. I can’t speak for the great minds that wrote this part of the Bible, but it’s noteworthy that a humble ladder was depicted as Jacob’s means of ascent. Our final attribute is that you can take a ladder with you, unlike stone steps. At this level, the ladder becomes a metaphor for method rather than physical object. We begin to see how this method of personal growth is reliable because we can take it step-by-step, but we can also take it with us. Each step brings a new internal view of the ‘landscape’, safely adding its stable revelations to the one before. This may remind us of the ancient initiations, by means of which men and women progressed through degrees of understanding, with time to reflect, digest, and put into action what was learned as they rest between the levels.

Like the best symbols, the humble ladder offers a wealth of consideration, and can form the basis of a meditation where we envisage our present state of being to be the result of a the loss of a forgotten ‘land’ above us. Closing our eyes, we let go our cares for a moment and climb that first rung – one of only three – envisaging that we are in a more peaceful yet powerful state. Above us, now, is something we have no conception of… Dare we risk taking another step to glimpse its nature? Mystery Schools are so named for a reason…

©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

Midnight Mask

I’m not a fan of horror films. Many are simply exploitative, and the genre in general has normalised extreme violence.

But once in a while I come across something that, to me, is exceptional, and only in the genre of ‘horror’ out of misunderstanding; or even better, because the ‘film’ has two layers of meaning… and if you stick with it, you get to the second, deeper one.

Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, although sci-fi and not horror, was a case in point. It was really about the ultimate evolution of the human race – in the face of its imminent extinction, though that was much easier to ‘get’ if you’d read Arthur C. Clarke’s book – which came after the film, which was jointly produced by Kubrick and Clark. Many people who watched the film had no idea what was really going on…

We’ve recently finished watching the Netflix series of ‘Midnight Mass’, and, though this is classified as a horror/mystery film, it’s really something a lot deeper.

A charismatic young priest arrives on an island some miles off the coast of Maine on the eastern seaboard of the USA. The small Crockett Island is much diminished from its former days of being a fishing haven. Spillage from an oil tanker several years prior has reduced the standard of life to general poverty.

The Catholic Church on the island used to be the centre of its life, but is now sparsely populated. Drugs have found their way into the lives of the younger people; ‘pushed’ into their meagre existence by a couple of low-life types who masquerade as fishing boat mechanics.

As if that wasn’t enough, all the cats on the island are disappearing.

The film’s opening takes place in a quite different location: New York. We later find that the man siting in handcuffs on the pavement between his wrecked sports car and the police vehicle is the emigrated son of one of the fishermen on Crockett Island. Across the glass and metal strewn street, we see the dead body of the girl he’s just killed in the crash – caused by his being drunk. The image of the newly-dead girl, her face encrusted with fragments of shimmering glass, reflecting like jewels, is to haunt him for the rest of the film.

Later, we discover that he’s a successful investment banker on Wall Street… was a successful banker, because he’s sent to jail for several years for causing the death of the girl whose image now follows him.

We fast-forward to the day of his release from prison, when he arrives on Crockett Island on the mainland ferry, to return to life with his ‘only friends’ – his parents. His arrival coincides with that of the sudden appearance of a charismatic young priest, whose mission is to revitalise Crockett Island’s small church, and restore the once-vibrant spiritual life of the remote community.

The banker is now reduced to living with his family and being a poor fisherman, again. While the priest enjoys enjoys a rise to local fame – and a full church – with the aid of a series of miracles, although his health seems strangely suspect. As the congregation grows, we see the rise of the usual suspects – the zealot (a woman Deacon) who considers the rest are not holy enough; the town mayor, getting in on the act and asserting his temporal importance; the local violent drunk, whose only soft spot is for his beloved dog.

But the priest keeps ahead of this, and, each week, challenges the congregation to increase their efforts to ‘imitate Christ’. Soon, the church is full. Even the disgraced banker attends; at the behest of his father, though he will not take the communion wine.

Gradually, the entire life of the island gets drawn into this new pattern of life and worship; until, one morning after a storm, the beach is found to contain a long line of all the dead cats that had gone missing…

I’ll not spoil the story, whose plot is clever and surprising. But, throughout the film (series) you can feel what’s happening, even if you don’t understand it. The direction is subtle and sinister – while remaining deeply understated.

Sufficient to say its conclusion is shocking in the extreme, but not for the sake of it. It becomes the meeting and clash of two worlds: the vision of the priest for his flock versus the reality of what’s happening behind the scenes.

The dreadful confrontation between what’s been killing the cats and the full congregation is difficult to watch, but has a purpose way beyond violence. In that conflagration is shown all the best and worst of human nature and the crisis results in a condition where most of the island’s people are faced with possible death.

At the centre of this is the relationship between the disgraced banker and his former girlfriend, from when he lived on Crockett Island, There is a beautiful late-night scene where the two of them talk about their respective views on death and the afterlife – a motif repeated at the very end of the film, as the sun rises on the beach, where the remaining islanders are lined up to greet it…

The purpose of this blog is not, generally, to promote films, but the underlying wisdom of ‘Midnight Mass’ is beautifully and bravely crafted, and results in an ending filled with hope and wisdom, rather than the usual ‘vengeance’ aftermath of such scripts.

The film is also about ignorance, and those who follow what they want to hear, rather than seeking the reality – the truth.

You can’t describe it as a ‘feel good’ film, because it’s too shocking. But you can describe it as a brilliantly crafted story – filled with redemption, in the deepest sense.

©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

sweet soup and pot dogs

(Above: the scene of the salt massacre…)

I usually do serious posts on this Thursday slot. They are generally aimed at the Silent Eye audience, so involve mystical perspectives on some of life’s challenges.

But sometimes one’s own life drops a ‘corridor’ over you, from which there is no escape, and you have to take a withdrawn and usually humorous view of events… or go completely insane.

She passed me the fragile blue bag, stuffed, now, with second-hand paperbacks, each only a pound. Morecambe market is like that: full of old fashioned value, full of lovely people who care. It’s also one of the sites for the town’s growing network of food banks.

Her eyes had spotted a quite decent pot dog in a glass display case on the next stall. Dementia is like that; constant flitting from one objective to another, small attention span. But at least my mother has some concentration left. That will fade, of course. But we make the best of the present.

“We have to meet Bernie (my wife) and Joanne (her sister) at the Midland, in half an hour,” I said. This bag won’t take any more, it’s already starting to come apart.”

I looked through the display case at the pot dog – a cairn terrier of quite good quality, and was about to speak…

“If I don’t get it now, “ she said. “It will likely have gone next time we are here. It will make the perfect Christmas present for Doreen.”

Doreen is mum’s best friend, still living in Bolton, our old home-town – but largely immobilised after encephalitis. Their relationship is now entirely phone-based: one of the miracles of hope over expectation is the success of that little mobile whose recharging cradle she can still work…

I had to think fast. The pot dog would still be there when we came back. But I didn’t want to upset her spontaneous generosity to the woman she has shared all of her life with – they used to live across the cobbled street from each other in the early 1930s (the place I was born) and have spent most of the intervening years protesting against the obscenity of fox-hunting, even being rounded up and nearly crushed by police horses.

“Well, let’s get you a tougher bag, then we can have that cup of tea at Meg’s Corner Cafe and return to buy the dog before we meet the girls.”

(Above: despite it being only September, it was freezing outside the market cafe)

It was, I admit, duplicitous… The tea was much needed, though the alleyway in which the cafe sits was freezing. Lunch at the wonderful Midland’s Rotunda cafe was imminent, she wanted something to eat to go with her two cups of tea from the ancient chrome pot.

Fifteen minutes later, tea and (her) Eccles cake duly consumed, we crossed the road to the Midland. She had been in a new lock-down at the home after an outbreak of Covid on one of the upper floors. Three weeks of the outside world being closed. I wanted to provide a big treat to celebrate her restored freedom. She normally walks a mile or two along the promenade each day. For a ninety-one year old, she’s in remarkable condition…

We left the market cafe. The pot dog forgotten.

The Art Deco Midland Hotel

Joanne had nabbed us a circular booth. We sat, smiling at the thought of delicious food to come. The Rotunda cafe shares the same chefs as the more expensive restaurant that is justly famous as the heart of this Art Deco masterpiece.

Mum wasn’t hungry… the Eccles cake had filled her up. We ordered her soup, and Bernie and I chose a chicken club sandwich and some thin chips. We had gone without breakfast to better enjoy the treat.

Mum’s soup arrived – looking and smelling delicious. Butternut squash and honey, plus a few spices to gently enhance. Some chef-made wholemeal bread, still warm from the oven, finished the presentation. I could smell how good it was…

“It’s sweet!” She wailed, dropping her spoon back into the offending liquid. “Soup’s not supposed to be sweet!” I could hear the rumbling of doom, and feel my club sandwich going cold, the chips withering.

I leaned over to extract some soup with my teaspoon. It was heavenly.

“Some of the best soups are sweet,” I ventured. “Spain is famous for its variety of soups, including sweet ones… and this has honey in it – your favourite thing on earth!”

It was never going to work. A passing waiter spotted our agony and offered to help. Before we could say anything, she shouted to him: “Can I have some salt, love. This soup’s not right…”

It results in a kind of paralysis – watching these events unfold; yet wanting to be constructive and see it ‘from above’. I watched her pour two sachets of salt into the sweet soup and stir it. I knew it would be inedible.

Her face when she tried it confirmed my diagnosis. I had to do something.

“Mum, you have my club sandwich and I’ll have your soup… I like…sweet soup…”

I tried it. It was beyond dreadful, but would have made a beautiful meal in its former state.

I watched her smile and tuck into the chicken of my club sandwich. Bernie cut me a piece of chicken from hers and I made an impromptu open sandwich with the still-warm bread.

“You’re not eating your soup,” mother said. Then added “I like it here…”

Somewhere across the road, a pot dog was smiling…

©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

how connected do we need to be?

It’s a thought that began after I’d spent a full day writing in various forms: email correspondence, working on journals from our students in the Silent Eye, and preparing blogs for the week.

Each of these involved an intense degree of ‘connection’ – via the internet, of course; that universal highway of data and opinion. It got me wondering at what point ordinary connectedness begins to veer towards overload. I found myself thinking: how would I advise anyone else what the right level of connectedness is?

My question is not about the actual connection technology. The evolution of what was the simple voice-based phone line to become the universal connector to the world within the internet is staggering and wonderful. What it has enabled has changed the way we live our lives, and the way we work.

As with any such fast-moving development, the earlier achievements have sunk beneath the layers of today’s user tools, as each type of connection threw up a winner, ensuring it was embedded beneath the consumer’s world. We might say each was a classic example of a different type of evolution at work.

The web-browser is a good example: our window on the digital world, one whose coming ensured that everything we wanted to see could be presented in the same way so that it was capable of being unbundled by the browser into not just text (which used to be be only option), but into graphics and sounds, as well. An everyday thing, now, yet when it was launched, it replaced thirty years of previous technology at a stroke…

Back in the bad old days, every industry seemed to have its own means of connecting; and not to an overall source, but just to the other members of that type of business. This peer-to-peer type of connection even became the basis for the first versions of e-commerce.

I’ve found, talking to others, that there is a growing sense that we are drowning in information. There’s also the feeling that we’ve lost the ‘honesty’ of the original internet; that it’s a free-for-all and the one that shouts loudest wins the argument. It’s much easier to understand opinion than facts. The truth is more complex than the slick lie, designed and packaged to fit into our prejudices by the populist press whose real interest is manipulation of politics.

It is reckoned that a well-read quality newspaper conveys many times the information we currently get from our pre-selected interest in the online equivalent. The downside of being able to select what we want to know is that we don’t expand what we might need to know.

Is there any reasonableness in asking how connected we should be?

If we work via computers, we have little choice in their use for the purposes of our employment. Many young people come home from work to eat a meal, then sit down to play online games, connected to thousands of their companions across the globe. To me, that’s way too much screen time, but their loyalty to this pastime can be fanatical. I think it’s vital that we surround ourselves ourselves with the ‘real’. I believe one of the main reasons we are seeing such an assault on the truth is that too many people live in an online fantasy world, surrounded only by those of like opinion.

On the other hand, we might even do the opposite; becoming so concerned with a particular humanitarian issue, that we lose sight of anything else.

We can learn much from nature and evolution. Our brains have developed to feed us the truth via some very clever consolidation. If we had to ‘listen’ to the vast amount of raw information coming at us from our senses, we would literally go insane. At the same time, evolution has gifted us some amazing ‘algorithms’ with which to evaluate the truth. If we have an arrow flying towards us, it’s no use arguing with some fanatic who says arrows don’t exist…

If the arrow is flying towards him and we’ve tried to issue a warning… well, evolution takes care of that, too…

It serves us well, I think, to value the truth so highly that we select a set of well-respected sources and be prepared to pay a small fee for their continued presence in the world. I do this with my online newspaper – The Guardian. Using such a source – and there are many – I can make a start in understanding the complexity of what I need to know. Were I to begin at the beginning, I’d never get there, alongside everything else I need to do in a day.

My online newspaper – my source of the truth – only works because there is another consolidation mechanism at work within its ranks: the journalist. Persecuted in many so-called societies across the world, these people, in ‘print’ and online news, bring a vast store of experience to their dedicated work, each contributing a deeply considered view that becomes a small part of an overall mechanism of transmitted truth – something seen as a continually refined goal, not a fixed object.

The truth is complex, but, so long as we have such people, we have one of human-nature’s mechanisms on our side. Let us treasure them wherever they are found; and make their assistance our starting point for our own knowledge of complex things.

©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