Yellow and Blue

(Above: the image ‘Yellow and Blue’)

I’ve always been a bit artistic, but more of an illustrator than a painter. Sue Vincent was our painter, and a very good one – though she was modest about her achievements.

In the early days of the Silent Eye, Sue and I worked together to create a version of the Silent Eye’s enneagram – seemingly a nine-pointed star, until you look deeper – in a style where I laid out the geometry in Adobe Illustrator, and she added the ‘heart’ of the interior in a rose-based design. People were still commenting on it, years later. it was a very emotive image…

(Above: a Vincent-Tanham production!)

When we lost Sue, we lost our ability to have ‘paintings’. There are some subtle – and usually emotional – creations that need the gentleness of touch that the painter brings.

Our world brightened in this regard when Giselle Bolotin offered to help our work with her designs for the Silent Eye’s Oracle Deck – a work in progress; example below. But we can’t keep abusing Giselle’s time and need a degree of expertise in the use of simple ‘painter’ techniques to support the photography that Stuart and I rely on within our blogs.

(Above: a prototype of one of Giselle’s Image: The Tyger Lord)

So, I gritted my teeth and bought a licence of Adobe Fresco for the iOS platforms – iPhone and iPad. My iPad is rapidly becoming my main creative tool – something I would have thought impossible a few years ago!

It’s not that it’s better than my desktop Mac. For one thing, it’s far less logical. But it’s very fast at doing certain things; especially with images. I may not be a painter, but I’m a busy photographer… and the iPad/iPhone combination is at the very heart of that work.

I have a love-hate relationship with Adobe. In my former, corporate life, I had a licence for their entire Illustrator/Photoshop suite, including the desktop publishing component – InDesign, in which the three years worth of monthly lessons were created. Adobe let all these older licences ‘die’ when they brought out their new ‘CC’ architecture, and would not update the older software to be compatible with new Macs. I can see the commercial logic – just about all the big software companies have moved to an annual ‘subscription’ model – but their actions increased the cost of running Adobe software as a ‘small creative user’ by an order of magnitude.

With the considerable skills of Caroline Ormond joining our management team, we were able to migrate the older InDesign documents to a Microsoft Word format, enabling us to roll out a new generation, protected from the considerable price hikes we would have endured. Despite all this, I remain a big fan of how Adobe software works and is thought through for the ‘professional’.

Generally, I avoid Microsoft applications, finding them non-intuitive and layered with things you need to know from their history, but Caroline says, with the right medication, I may even be able to use Word myself…

But back to Adobe Fresco; the App with which I hope to become a ‘painter’, albeit of simple things…

After some particularly harrowing TV news from Ukraine the other day, I took Tess for a walk along the old canal path. Festooned with golden daffodils, it’s a joy at this time of year.

There, in the middle of the path, were a group of daffodils that had been mutilated, perhaps by some children venting their frustration at something. I picked them up and photographed them in my hands, seeing in the unnecessary death a loose parallel with the unthinking emotions that drive occupying soldiers to massacre civilians. I’m not comparing the two, but the blind emotions of destruction are related.

By photographing their ‘wounds’, I felt I had prolonged their life a little bit longer. Later, I wondered if they would form a visual centrepiece for a post… this one.

The bright yellow reminded me of the Ukrainian flag. I considered whether I could create a photo-based image that also had that flag’s blue as well? To do that in the way I wanted, I would have to ‘paint’ over the photo in a way that showed the brushstrokes.

Warily, I opened the Adobe Fresco app and began to learn. Several hours later, I had the opening image, above, made by layering the broken daffodils over a recent landscape of Derwent Water, then painting over some of the flowers in different brush strokes and colour washes with a digital ‘watercolour’ brush.

It’s not great… but it’s a start. We can get better from here. The exercise also let me channel my feelings about Ukraine onto the flowers. Perhaps their mutilation was not a total waste.

Note: You can see more of Giselle’s work on her Instagram page. Just key in ‘Giselle Bolotin’.

©Stephen Tanham 2022

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

Unsung Heroes: Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley

The man put down the copper piece. Its construction had taken months, each day a voyage of learning. The elderly and bearded tutor had been patient, his bright eyes – a contrast to the dark beard – had eagerly overseen the development of the shaping of the copper pieces, then the detailed carving of the flowers, followed by the refinements, and eventually, the final buffing and polish.

At the beginning, the student had known nothing of making art in metal; had never even heard of ‘industrial art’. All he knew were the valleys and hills and the cattle and sheep that grazed on them in the summer… but not in the winter, when there was no work…

In the December of a normal year, he would have been unemployed and near starving to death, with occasional hand-outs from the local church keeping him alive. Until the pasture work in spring returned, he would spend his nights in a barn, graciously granted by one of the farm-owners who employed him in the summer. Being ‘dumb’ – as the inability to speak was then known – was often a death-sentence.

Now he was being called forward to receive the school’s accolade for best-worked piece of the term. Hesitant, he carried the beaten copper ‘raised dish’ through the rows of benches to the front of the class. At the age of thirty-one, but looking twice that, it was the last thing he expected to be doing.

His mentor with the dark beard watched him, nodding and encouraging his progress to the front. When he got there, their class teacher held up the copper dish and the rolled certificate of merit that had resulted from it and said, “Gentlemen, we’d like to present this special award to Tom Hardkess…” he paused, then, as though the emotion were too much. “Tom has been unable to speak from birth, so his gestures are all he has to express his feelings at being such a successful part of the Keswick School of Industrial Art.”

Hardkess turned, nervously facing his classmates – all of them adult males. He bowed and placed his hand over his heart… nothing more. Then he went back to his seat beneath the glowing and somewhat misty eyes of his personal mentor, a man named Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley.

(Above: the home of the Keswick School of Industrial Art)
(Image Wikipedia)

Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley wasn’t just the man’s friend and protector, he was the founder of the Keswick School of Industrial Art; one of several such metalworking ‘evening colleges’ found in the Lake District in the 1880s. They were established to alleviate the seasonal unemployment of the region, and, as a social force within the Arts and Crafts movement, to reduce alcoholism among the poor workers of that remote farming region… long before mass tourism lifted it to relative prosperity.

Rawnsley was a church Canon and had served as personal Chaplain to the King, George V. He attended Oxford University before rising rapidly through the church. He was deeply attracted by the writings and speeches of John Ruskin, a fellow student at Oxford, who was a pivotal figure in social reform legislation and the Arts and Crafts movement. Ruskin was a fellow Lake District dweller and I hope to do one of these post on him. Ruskin was the primary sponsor of the artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of English painters, poets, and art critics, founded in 1848 by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Michael Rossetti.

(Above: ‘The Light of the World’ – by William Holman Hunt. owned by Manchester Art Gallery)

Note to the above Pre-Raphaelite painting: The door in the painting has no handle, and can therefore be opened only from the inside, representing “the obstinately shut mind”.[2] The painting was considered by many to be the most important and culturally influential rendering of Christ of its time. Those of a mystical persuasion may reflect on the deep symbolism)

The Arts and Crafts movement was dedicated to the retention of ‘hand-made’ skills in the face of ‘ugly’ mass production’. We can perhaps smile at the implicit indulgence of those wealthy people who were at the centre of the movement. But it did provide a critical balance to bad design and produced its own practical creations – such as many of today’s most sought-after country houses.

Good design, like art, is timeless…

Rawnsley loved the Lake District. The latter half of his life was devoted to improving the lot of those in his small parish of Crossthwaite, near Keswick. He was a modestly wealthy man, though he donated much of it to local causes.

(Above: Our treasured ‘bon-bon tray’, handmade at the Keswick School)

Canon Hardwick Rawnsley and his wife Edith founded the Keswick School of Industrial Art (KSIA) in 1884. Its aims were to teach woodwork and repoussé metalwork. The school prospered. Within ten years more than a hundred men were enrolled and working on the production of beautiful objects of furniture and metal-based decoration. Shortly the school became self-funding and was able to move to its own building on the outskirts of Keswick – see picture. The school closed in 1984. The building became a restaurant.

(Above: when the evening light catches it… here and the opening image)

My personal connection with the Kendal School of Industrial Art came about unexpectedly when I spotted the copper dish above in the window of a Keswick antique shop. It was expensive and, after dithering in the shop, I walked away… only to run back an hour later and buy it, declaring that I would have it as a Christmas present. It sits in pride of place in our living room and comes into its own when the summer sun shines on its hand-worked surface. Recently, I began to research the school that created it, and the kind of man whose deft fingers made it… and decided to write this blog; hopefully the first of several on the unsung heroes of the Lake District.

Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley was a man of amazing energy, he devoted his life to improving the welfare of those less fortunate. In addition to his religious duties at Crossthwaite and as Canon of Carlisle Cathedral, he was a County Councillor in Cumberland and fought hard to extend education to a wider community and to bring about improvements in public health.

He masterminded campaigns against the despoilation of the Lake District by indiscriminate railway construction and mining operations. An active campaigner for the Open Spaces movement, he did much to ensure that public rights of way in the Lake District remained open – ensuring a lasting legacy for the millions of walkers who enjoy its unique scenery. Finally, and to his eternal credit, he was one of three founders of the National Trust, which spearheaded the preservation of our unique history in landscapes and historic gardens and buildings.

Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley published some 40 books, including biographies, travel guides and accounts of archaeological excavations. He published several volumes of poetry and wrote hundreds of sonnets.

He died in 1920.

There is an excellent family website here.

©Stephen Tanham 2022

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

An Artist named Giselle

(Above: one of Giselle’s paintings for the Silent Eye Oracle Deck)

Geographically, it’s an unlikely partnership… One person in Victoria, Australia, the other in Cumbria…

Giselle Bolotin is an Australian artist, but was born in Europe. She and I have never met, fac to face, but have established a good working relationship via the virtual world of the internet. We are collaborating on a set of images to illustrate the Silent Eye’s new ‘Oracle’ deck of cards.

When I say ‘we’, I mean Giselle paints what will become the oracle images, while I do my best to define to her the physical, intellectual and emotional nature of each of the characters to which she is giving form.

Giselle Bolotin- artist and friend

Giselle is joining us for the May 2022 workshop based in and around the Lakeland town of Keswick, so we will finally get to meet.

The words oracle and tarot are often confused. Both pertain to a set of cards representing the position and meaning of the image in a symbolic diagram.

In the case of the Tarot cards, the images are pictorial representations of states of consciousness and experiences within the Tree of Life as a map of personal consciousness. Those exploring the Tree can use the cards as a basis for meditations about where they feel themselves to be on the journey that the glyph encapsulates.

In the case of the Silent Eye’s Oracle, the cards will represent the journey of nine characters (each person’s different primary mix of characteristics) interacting and moving over three inner landscapes, taken in sequence as their understanding of the journey from ‘self to Self’ deepens. The three landscapes are:

1. The Land of the Exiles – a desert kingdom representing the experiences of the egoic self.

2. The Shallow Sea – an emotional and watery landscape in which personal transformation gathers speed.

3. Nine Gates of the Sun – a place of mysterious laws where the Egyptian Gods assume the forms of living beings who teach…

The Silent Eye’s work does not use the Tree of Life, though the founders of the School have experience of both systems. Instead, a figure called the Enneagram is the visual basis of the system.

Brought to the west by G I Gurdjieff, an Armenian philosopher from the early 20th century, the Enneagram has evolved in the hands of a fusion of developmental psychologists and modern mystics to describe the dominant characteristics of mankind’s ‘interior makeup’ – its personality, and the accelerated evolution that is available to us all.

In the Silent Eye’s system, the companion’s journey is taken through what we call the stations (1-9 in the image) of the outer personality. These develop inwards, eventually revealing the faces of the soul whose early loss – in childhood – gave rise to the shape of our personality. Each of the outer stations is reflected at two deeper levels, each involving deeper levels of our Self.

It’s a journey to the inner Self, by – as the Sufi poet Rumi wrote – ‘removing the barriers to love.’

(Above: another of the images from the new deck)

Giselle’s opening image is of a character known as the Arbiter-Queen within the landscape of the Shallow Sea. It illustrates the psycho-spiritual transformation of this formerly self-important and judgemental figure.

The Silent Eye Oracle is a work in progress. We hope to release the full deck, with accompanying guide-book, before the end of the year.

You can find samples of Giselle’s work on Instagram. Just enter her name in the search box.

©Stephen Tanham 2022

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


Heavy metal, thinly sailed, is cast

Like toy, and dropped onto the stone.

Hedges bend, bow and form

New writhing shapes – grotesques –

Their twisted tongues malforming names

Of foolish men who thought to tame

The wild and winds of Cumbria…


And yet, from this we do emerge

In harsh, unruly tufts of grass

And mud that drains off torrents passed.

Bleached and battered, humbled, mute

To greet like rite the coming Spring

With eyes washed clean of Winter.


©Stephen Tanham 2022

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

WHAT’S UP DOC? Lines of communication II…


…Cara: If we can’t trust the written word what can we trust?

Bugs settles at the West and Cara at the East.

Bugs: Vertical Polarity!

Cara: recites…





Bugs: (Addressing the Companions) Don’t say what this is but if anyone does know what it is please raise your hands. (If any hands are raised to each of those who raised their hands) – Just say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Do you know what it means? (if so) – Please don’t take part in the next bit. So, everyone else.  Those of you who feel that this piece holds power, raise your hands.  (If any hands are raised) Would anyone like to expand on that? Would anyone like to categorise how that made them feel.  In a general way was that feeling Good or Bad? We’ll come back to this…

Cara: But first…

Cara walks to the central altar and removes the cover from the Top Hat and Ears, lifting out the rabbit ears in time honoured fashion they are revealed to be part of two rabbit masks…

Bugs: For those with ears to hear…

Bugs walks to the central altar. Cara hands one of the rabbit masks to Bugs (Black) and keeping the other for herself (White) they both don them.

Cara (now wearing a white rabbit mask) … A story about rabbits…

Bugs: (now wearing a black rabbit mask) … ‘What’s up Doc!’

Bugs explains that the cards have two inscriptions, one on either side but that the companions must not turn the cards over to read the second inscription until directed to do so by the utterance of the ‘Trigger’ word- ‘Carrots’ as Cara hands out the cards. After handing out the cards Cara returns to the central altar. Bugs and Cara circle the altar and then Bugs retreats to the east, while Cara retreats to the west.



Bugs… The primroses were over…

The May sunset was red in clouds, and there was still half an hour to twilight.

The dry slope was dotted with rabbits…

Here and there one sat upright on an ant-heap and looked about:

ears erect

nose to the wind.

The blackbird, singing undisturbed on the outskirts of the wood, gave lie to their caution.

There was nothing to alarm the peace of the warren.


Cara… At the top of the bank where the blackbird sang was a group of holes hidden by brambles.

In the green half-light, at the mouth of one of these holes, sat two rabbits side by side.

The larger of the two came out of the hole, slipped along the bank, hopped down into the ditch and then ambled up into the field…

A few moments later the smaller rabbit followed.

The first rabbit stopped in a sunny patch and scratched an ear with rapid movements of a hind-leg.

He looked as though he knew how to take care of himself.

There was a shrewd, buoyant air about him as he sat up, looked round and rubbed both front paws over his nose.

Once satisfied that all was well he laid back his ears and set to work on the grass.

His companion seemed less at ease.

He was small, with wide eyes and a way of raising and turning his head which suggested a sort of ceaseless nervous tension.

His nose moved continually and when a bumble-bee flew, humming, to a thistle bloom behind him he jumped and spun round with a start…


to be continued…

Rotating Hope

(Image Pixabay)
As a Captain in a blackened storm
Scans a ravaged horizon
To find rotating hope:
Not only where but who
The ship, by edge of darkness
Locates the world beyond the sea

So we, with storm and prayer
Scanning signs of inner life
Find voyage in a pulsing light
A presence there, then gone
Returning if we will but stare,
And hoping, count the circles

©Stephen Tanham 2021

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

Through a hole clearly: the Legend of Sallow Kenneth

(Above: a hagstone of the type used by ‘Pale Kenneth’ to see into a second world)

We were looking for dolphins…

Between Rosemarkie and Fortrose, on the shores of the Black Isle, north of Inverness, there is a promontory named Channonry Point. It projects out into the Moray Firth in such a way that the local population of some sixty bottlenose dolphins take delight in swimming in the rapid tidal races just off its rocky shore.

(Above: Channonary Point on the Black Isle)

We had just missed them (wrong state of the tide) when I spotted the notice board describing Pale Kenneth…. Suddenly there was something more interesting than the disappointment of missing the bottlenoses.

(Above: The Moray Firth is home to a large population of Bottlenose dolphins. Image from the information board)

His name was Coinneach Odhar which means ‘Pale Kenneth’. But the real meaning is ‘sallow’, an older and more historically charged description of a ‘fey’ person. Coinneach Odhar, then, is Kenneth the Sallow.

Kenneth was a 17th century seer from the Hebridean island of Lewis who came to work at Brahan (Bra’an) Castle near Dingwall, about ten miles from where the dolphins swim though the tidal races at Channonary Point.

He is portrayed in a slightly comic fashion on the information board, but, having looked into this, I suspect this carries some cultural sarcasm…

(Above: image of Coinneach Odhar from the information board at Channonary Point)

The ‘seer’, literally ‘see-er’ had possession of a ‘second sight’ – whereby the holder could see two worlds at once; the normal and the inner, more supernatural. The second sight was viewed in Scottish history as more of a curse than a blessing.

Local legends say that Kenneth the Sallow’s mother was responsible for his second sight. She was passing through a graveyard one night when the ghost of a Danish princess appeared before her, intent on returning to her grave. Kenneth’s mother demanded that, in return for her free passage, she should pay her a tribute. She asked that her son be given the magical sight. Later that day, Kenneth the Sallow found a small stone with a hole in – through which he would look and see the ‘second world’.

“Ah, take patience with the lad for he has the Sight and it is a terrible affliction.”

Exercising this ability, the man known by then as the Brahan Seer, or Coinneach Odhar saw visions that came unbidden by day or night. His prophesies were viewed as impressive and accurate, and his fame spread… Some of these prophesies are still quoted to this day

The Brahan estate, where Kenneth worked, was the seat of the Seaforth chieftains, from somewhere around 1675. These became powerful families with great authority and wealth.

Some of Kenneth’s prophetic visions that came true in the years following his death include the Battle of Culloden (1745), which he uttered at the site, and his words were recorded. “Oh! Drumossie, thy bleak moor shall, ere many generations have passed away, be stained with the best blood of the Highlands. Glad am I that I will not see the day, for it will be a fearful period; heads will be lopped off by the score, and no mercy shall be shown or quarter given on either side.”

Kenneth the Sallow’s other prophesies include:

⁃ The joining of the lochs in the Great Glen. This was accomplished by the construction of the Caledonian Canal in the 19th Century.

⁃ He talked of great black, bridleless horses, belching fire and steam, drawing lines of carriages through the glens. More than 200 years later, railways were built through the Highlands.

⁃ North Sea oil was foretold : “A black rain will bring riches to Aberdeen”

⁃ He even told of the day when Scotland would again have its own parliament. He said this would come when men could walk ‘dry shod’ from England to France. The opening of the Channel Tunnel in 1994 was followed by the opening of the first Scottish Parliament since 1707

⁃ He said that “Streams of fire and water would run beneath the streets of Inverness and into every house… Gas and water pipes were laid in the 19th century.

⁃ Pointing to a field far from seashore, loch or river, he said that a ship would anchor there one day. “A village with four churches will get another spire,” said Coinneach, “and a ship will come from the sky and moor at it.” This happened in 1932 when an airship made an emergency landing and was tied up to the spire of the new church.

⁃ “The sheep shall eat the men” During the Highland Clearances, families were driven from the Highlands by the landowners and the land they farmed was given over to the grazing of sheep.

At the height of his fame and powers, Odhar made a fateful prediction which would ultimately cost him his life. Isabella, wife of the Earl of Seaforth, asked for his advice. It appears she wanted assurances of the true nature of her husband’s visit to Paris. Sallow Kenneth reassured her that the Earl was in good health but would not be drawn further.

The enraged Countess Isabella demanded that he tell her everything or she would have him killed. Kenneth said that her husband was with another woman, fairer than herself, and then he foretold the end of the Seaforth line, with the last heir being deaf and dumb…

The truth is written in Scotland’s history.

Francis Humberston Mackenzie, deaf and dumb from scarlet fever as a child, inherited the title in 1783. He had four children who died prematurely.The line, indeed, came to an end.

Countess Isabella was so incensed by this, she had Kenneth the Sallow seized and thrown head-first into a barrel of boiling tar.

But the actual history may have been different, though the legend of Sallow Kenneth is a firm part of Scotlands traditions. There is no record of a Coinneach Odhar ever having existed in the Highlands during the the 17th century.

But there is in the 16th century…

Parliamentary records from 1577 show that two writs were issued for the arrest of a ‘principle enchanter’ known as Coinneach Odhar. He was reputedly a gypsy known to supply poison. His skills were purchased by a Catherine Ross, who sought to remove the rivals to the inheritance she wanted for her sons. It was said she had already paid for the skills of over twenty witches, each of whom had each failed.

The records show that many of the witches were caught and burnt – Scotland had a terrible reputation for witchcraft, something that terrified many of its kings. What happened to Coinneach remains a mystery. If he was caught it is likely that he too would have been burnt, which reflects the later legend that he was killed in a spiked tar barrel.

Was this legend transplanted a hundred years into the future?

But what is the link with the lighthouse and the dolphins at Chanonry Point, near Fortrose, the place where our story began?

There is a stone slab at Chanonry Point that is said to mark the spot where Sallow Kenneth died. The inscription reads: “This stone commemorates the legend of Coinneach Odhar better known as the BRAHAN SEER – Many of his prophesies were fulfilled and tradition holds that his untimely death by burning in tar followed his final prophecy of the doom of the House of Seaforth.”

Were these two different people or the same? Perhaps the 16th century Coinneach was the grandfather of the Brahan Seer?

Whatever the truth, these legends, and the prophesies they bear, are set as stone in Scottish lore. One prophesy carries particular resonance.

(Above: The Pictish ‘Eagle Stone’, subject of one of Sallow Kenneth’s enduring prophesies. Source)

An important Pictish stone, the Eagle Stone, stands in Strathpeffer, Ross-shire. The Seer predicted that if the stone fell down three times, then Loch Ussie would flood the valley below so that ships could sail to Strathpeffer.

The stone has fallen down twice: apparently it is now set in concrete, indicating that the legend of Sallow Kenneth continues to hold sway in these parts…

©Stephen Tanham

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