Painting the Universe (1)

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

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

The Sufi philosopher and poet, Rumi, wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wordsworth famously wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Stephen Tanham 2022

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

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

being being

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other parts of this series:

Part One: Language: maker and destroyer of worlds

©Stephen Tanham 2022

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

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

the other side of colour (2 of 2)

In part one, we travelled through a world of autumn’s dying colours to consider the continuing life beneath the earth – the world of the root. There is an inevitable sense of loss as the warm months fade away, leaving us with memories of pale blue skies and the perfume of the summer days… and the fullness of life.

We are presented with a ‘bare’ world, where only evergreens break up the grey and ochre of the wet and frozen world of winter. But we know that life continues beneath the damp earth, indeed, we can say that the very foundation of upper (or outer) life is approaching a subterranean frenzy. The beneath is also the world of the ‘blind creatures’ such as worms, whose role is essential to the quality of the soil and hence the continuation of life on earth.

We are not present to this world, though it supports our life. Even if we could see into it, our normal range of bright and varied colours would not be present. It’s a good illustration of how fundamental colour is to our sensory existence. We associate colour with life and health; we say ‘you’re looking’ pale. And mean that someone is ‘off-colour’.

(Above: refraction of ‘white light’ through a prism. Wikkipedia)

Much of our existence is based on seeing the colour of things; so, let’s have a closer look at colour. We all remember the school experiment where a beam of light is separated into the colours of the rainbow as in the image, above.

We can probably name the colours if this rainbow, and in right order, but, if asked to name the single colour from which they came, we would reply, ‘white light’. If, at night, we employ a domestic torch and point it at an object, we would see its features and colours highlighted in the circular beam. But we may not stop to consider what colour that beam is before it reaches the objects.

If we stand back, holding out our torch arm, what we see is a beam of light made slightly visible by tiny dust particles in the air. In all other respects, the beam is colourless and invisible. It is not white light, it is bright light. Light is visible to our eyes as brightness, but only visible as colour when it reflects off something else.

The property of colour is a puzzle for science. It can be described, mathematically, as a vibration – a wavelength and frequency; and even a particle – but its experience in consciousness cannot be described in scientific terms. To our minds, the idea of a warming red is the simplest of experiences but our consciousness of it remains outside of the descriptive powers of science. It is as though its realm existed before science… and has never been subject to the powers of number as quantity.

The fact that light has no colour except ‘bright’ might make us think that nature has set a trail for us to follow? When bright light strikes an object, its ‘rays’ are reflected. Used to our scientific thinking, we assume this reflection is to ‘everywhere’ within range of the object; but the experience of colour is present only in ‘your’ eyes – and each human has a unique experience of their own colours.

The meanings of the word ‘reflection’ are many. The mechanism for colour’s perception is only one of them. Psychologists have long detailed the mechanism of ‘projection’, which externalises powerful aspects of our conscious and unconscious natures onto other people. The implications of this are seldom discussed as part of everyday life, and yet they are as important as the fact that the traffic-light ahead has just changed to red.

Everywhere, there is reflection. In the summer, we drink the colours, yet we are the source of their meaning and effect, the sea in which they generate their emotive results. In the winter, we are robbed of this brightness… perhaps to make us look harder?

The winter takes away much of nature’s outer colours. The solar brightness fades and we are left to explore the life that is ‘dormant’ yet busily unseen beneath the earth. It was no accident that many of the ancient religions and mystical schools had their most potent rituals in association with this period approaching the shortest day and longest night. Sunrise on the winter solstice was considered one of the most powerful times of the year. Its effects were on the natural world, most certainly, but also on the inner person, the one from whom the ‘colour of life’ originated. Infused, he or she would be filled with power seeded in the deepest winter. Thus, the priest earned his influence and his respect.

Just as the summer solstice celebrated and enjoined the powers of the full visible outer cycle of nature, so too did the winter solstice celebrate the height of the invisible powers of nature at work in that which is fundamental to – and the basis of – the inner life.

It’s not obvious, but we have the deep, ancestral and unforgotten ability to attune with this profound time in the spiritual calendar. All we need to do is open different eyes to the Sun behind the Sun.

©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 size of life

What size is our life?

It’s an odd question, but the kind of challenge that gets us thinking… Does our life have a ‘size’? We can measure it in years elapsed, of course, and that may have a lot to do with how we think we got ‘here’. But that continuity is entirely in our head, and, has little to do with the real world of now, out there. It’s curious that we allocate more reality to the solid stuff beyond our eyes than we do to the supposed ‘supercomputer’ that is busy assembling all this into reality.

Eyes, it is always said, are the ‘gateway to the soul’. But they are also the gateway to what we are taught is the world. The eyes detect a vast part of what we assemble into that world – which exists only in the mind. And yet, when we look out with those eyes, we see a world with which we are totally involved, with no sense of distance or division, and no real distinction between the in-here and the out-there – that is only added when someone invites us to consider that there may be a duality at work. Even then, the duality may be false.

There are eyes, and then there is seeing. How big is our seeing? There’s another odd question. I know that science says that what sees is in my head, but how much of my head does it take up? Is it, symbolically, like a vast cinema screen that I watch all the time, except when I’m sleeping, and maybe even then – in the form of dreams; which may explain why they make so little sense. Perhaps the part of the supercomputer that makes things make sense sleeps, leaving the connected feed to the outside world intact… But that seems not to be the case. The senses shut down the second we fall asleep, which is why we drop that teacup onto the carpet when we fall asleep in our armchair. The dream, then, seems to deal only with what we already have inside us.

The ‘me’ seems to return with wakefulness, which shows how interlinked with ‘the world’ it is. It makes us wonder what the other, dreaming self, really is? Perhaps that dream awareness is more machine-like than we think? Or maybe it’s just connected to the universe in a different way…

Back to size. In my waking ‘self’, I don’t feel any size at all. I have been taught by the world that I’m a certain size, so I behave according to that and perhaps look to bolster my medium height with other strategies that make me important, which makes my-self feel good.

But really the ‘point’ of me has no size at all. It’s simply the act of watching. When my mind is not watching the world, it is usually in that dream state, because the constant change of sensual stimuli is not present. If there are changing things out-there, my mind is busy watching and interpreting them. There is even a kind of voice that narrates the watching, giving each thing its name, like in the Bible book of Genesis. We are not only close-coupled with the world, we are also habituated to narrating its stream of existence.

Why is our existence so complicated? Mystically speaking we have two answers: It may not really be so complicated at all; and, secondly, finding the answer is what makes the whole journey so worthwhile.

In order to get out of our habitual way of being locked into the world and give our deeper ‘self’ its rightful place, we need techniques that ‘shake’ the questionable foundations of our perception. One of these, handed down from the spiritual wisdom of old, is related our opening focus on size.

Place a candle in front of you. Lean forward to light it. Be conscious of the distance. Sit back in your chair and focus only on the very centre of the flame. Notice its twin nature, with intense brightness forming a ring around a sometimes black centre where the flame begins.

Now imagine that your world is the bright ring. See its constantly changing nature and watch how it commands your attention. Then gaze into the middle – the point of origination of the flame – and let your whole attention be drawn into the central dark area within the light. Feel the unity of both aspects of the flame but know that your own ‘point’ of true self is at the centre, and that the rest is a process of reflection. Imagine you are nothing (no-thing) in that central point, yet completely present to everything.

©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

Gnosis and the Spider

(Image by Pezibear from Pixabay

I realise that spiders might be a difficult subject, so instead of the actual photo of the tiny spider, I’ve used this beautiful image of a web caught in morning sunlight from Pixabay.

I was spraying wood preserver on our fence. Its a big fence, and every three years it needs a wood preserver spraying on its entire wooden surface. The other side is, of course, in the neighbour’s garden, so I’d asked them to move their car to remove any danger of the projected preservative droplets settling on the paintwork.

I had only ever used a large paintbrush in the past. But this time had invested in a hand-pumped power sprayer… and it worked – beautifully. I’d started with the neighbours’ side and worked my way around. By the time I got to what used to be the canal bed – the lower half of our reclaimed garden – I was a bit tired…

I topped up the sprayer with the last five litres of the wood treatment and pumped the device the requisite 25 times. The pressure release made a quick hiss, then stopped. I was good to go. I picked up the spray head and began a careful, horizontal pattern. Nearing the end of the first panel, I pulled my hand back, quickly and let the spray valve go. Then I looked at what had made me stop. Nestled in the 90 degree corner was a spider. The line of the spray had stopped less than a centimetre from it. As we gazed at each other, the spider made a wise decision and ran off – very much alive.

It was only later that I realised the little story had much to teach about intelligence – the planned subject of this blog.

There are many measures of intelligence. Over the years, I’ve used different models to illustrate it with a spiritual twist. My favourite is that intelligence in humans is best understood with what I’ve come to call the ‘preplay’. What’s a preplay? It’s the ability to look at a developing situation and visualise what different things might happen next. That might be hundred of things, so our minds have developed the ability to use probability to tell us what is the most likely outcome from all the things that might happen.

Once decided on, we can then make a plan to encourage or defend against it. Either way, we are preplaying the outcome. How we adjust it depends on the context. If I were a hunter in a tribal family, I might want to kill the beast in front of me so that my family could eat.

If I were a man spraying a fence, I might want to be careful not to kill spiders, knowing them to be smart creatures who do a good job of eating what I like even less. Apart from that, I might not like killing things at all. Some hunt and kill for fun, but I’m not one of them, and I view those that do as lacking in something essential to us as an evolved species.

The concept of time is a big part of intelligence looked at in this way. I have to understand how the object in question will ‘change its state’ in my immediate future. An arrow coming at me is changing its state very quickly. Its terminal state might be within my body if I don’t do something about it. Even better is to foresee the state of the hunter who doesn’t like my attitude on killing… and wants to kill me.

Not being there when he fires the arrow might be the smartest goal I can achieve. This multi-state prediction requires an extraordinary amount of brain power – and yet we do this kind of thing all the time when we, for example, drive a car. Cars plus drivers have an amazing statistical ability not to collide with each other.

The spider has a simple life compared to us driving a car. It spins a web and extends its hunting sensors into the strong fibres. The smallest disturbance will alert it. Its genetic history is full of instinctive intelligence that allows it to differentiate a breeze from the landing of a fly. But when the edge of a high speed spray comes towards it, spewing chemical death, it doesn’t stand much of a chance.

The simple spider caught in the chemical headlights represents instinctive intelligence, with no ability to do anything but run; and not fast enough in this case.

Then we have the human being who was tired and ready for that cup of tea. On full alert he might have used his predictive intelligence to visually comb the panels ahead, but he didn’t… This story is not about his intelligence.

There is another level of response available to the developing human – one in touch with their own true nature at a deeper level of consciousness. The ancients called it Gnosis. We retain the name to contrast it with ordinary knowing. Gnosis is the act of knowing something as though it were already a part of you and being ‘rediscovered’ in ‘real-time’ – or even faster. It is not adding something new to the mind. It bypasses reason. It is the solution to what is happening outside of time, and it is always optimal.

You don’t have to think about it, because, without this small example of it, I would have sprayed the little spider to its death in the next quarter second. But…my arm moved, safely and away; taking the spray head a short distance from the creature below. When I looked at where the spray should have been, I could see the spider. But only then.

I moved to the next fence panel, returning to the place of the spider’s survival a few minutes later. Happily, it had gone. I did not resist the smile. This happens rarely, but when it does, I know what it is…

©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 Wrong Queue

We were sitting on the M6 motorway. The car was stationary, as it had been for the previous thirty minutes. Ahead of us was the next junction, within sight, but closed off. Beyond that there was a wall of standing traffic. The motorway was closed but we – the stranded – were still on it.

The fourth ambulance came screaming up the thankfully empty lane next to the central reservation. It had been closed for resurfacing; a miracle, really, given the likely mayhem that lay ahead of the wall of silent cars in front of us.

More for something to say than any real content, we began to talk about how it had been ‘one of those days’ and how we were always unlucky in trying to pick the fastest queue for checkout at CostCo, the place from which we had just come, only minutes before hitting the brakes at the sight of the wall of cars and trucks going nowhere.

We do a lot of our monthly shopping there. Like most warehouses, it’s not pretty, but it is functional, and allows us to buy in bulk, rather than shopping every weekend. The collie and her need for lots of exercise usually dictates the nature of our days. We’re probably a lot healthier than we would be without her. We’d rather spend our time dog-walking and writing than shopping. So CostCo serves us well.

Our chosen queue, moving efficiently when we switched to it, had proved the very opposite in the few minutes afterwards. I knew how sensitive the northern M6 would be to peak traffic, and we were about to enter that period of almost exponential build-up. I had muttered under my breath; eager to be checked out and on our way back to Cumbria.

Now, sitting on the vast tarmac strip that is a modern motorway, we could see movement. Two of the traffic policemen were removing the barriers to the exit road – an escape that would at least allow us to find another route home. In less than a minute, we were moving and driving up the ramp, from where we could see the carnage that had been just around the shallow bend of the carriageway.

And then the revelation struck me. At 70 miles per hour we would have been at what had become the crash scene a few seconds ahead of where we were. In other words, we would have been in the middle of it…

Switching queues, with our usual dismal result, might not have been so bad, after all. The wrong queue had, quite possibly, saved our lives.

©Stephen Tanham

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

The Big Picture (6) : Unshakable Mine

I am the child of two loving parents. One gifted me a living background in philosophy and mysticism; the other gave me the gift of verbal conceptualisation… talking.

(1500 words; a ten minute read)

My father passed away a decade ago. We’re still clinging on to mother, who at 91, is robust only in her ability to talk. She is in our care for the foreseeable future and I would like nothing better than that she passes away gently, in that state of being loved and cared for… if not always understood.

Neither of my parents had a clue about the sciences, yet I, despite being a moderate folk-singer in my youth, I eschewed the rock star dream and headed for a Computer Science degree, achieving it after four years (the old-style ‘sandwich course’) of struggle at a Polytechnic in the north Midlands.

I was not a gifted student, but I could talk. Also, I noticed I could explain complex things quite well – finding analogies, new words and metaphors, not to mention humour, to make the complex comprehensive and… fun. I was a vice-president of the local Student Union – a natural fit with talking, I suppose.

Only one of my lecturers understood fun, and I cherish his memory. He knew I wasn’t a good student, and that my final grades were not going to rocket me into a starring role in the emerging world of computing. Remember, this was 1977, and the world of business computing was an exciting (and brutal) frontier.

My fun-loving lecturer called me into his office one day. There, opened on his old, metal desk, was a huge centre-page advert placed by a well-known computing company named ‘Burroughs Computers’.

“Look at the headline,” he said. “They need a thousand graduates in computing to sell their computers… Looks a good package, too.” He rocked back in his chair. “Be a tough first year of survival, mind you…”

He leaned forwards, placed his giant hands on the desk and fixed me with his dark eyes, suddenly full of ice.

“Now get out of here and make something of that wonderful ability to talk!”

Two months later, clutching my degree certificate of under-achievement, I sat down in the cold kitchen of our greengrocer’s shop in Bolton and began to ring every computer company with a office in Manchester. Fifth on the list was a German company called Nixdorf, with a regional office in Sale, Manchester.

Minutes later, the office secretary put me though to the branch manager. I recognised a scouse accent, and the friendly but challenging voice that, bluntly, meant business.

“Why the hell would I be interested in a grubby ex-student like you? Did I mention I hate students,” he snarled, in a passable likeness of John Lennon on a bad day. I tried not to be sick with tension – which resulted in my first ever example of what I later learned was the sales ‘power of silence’. In truth I was choking and had taken my head as far from the phone as possible.

A door in my consciousness opened. I actually heard the ‘crack’. A rush of blood to the head and lungs and then: “Because I can talk well,” I said, clearly and slowly. I sounded calm… I wasn’t.

All I could hear was his laughing. “Bloody hell, I can‘t fault that,” he laughed. “Be here next Monday morning at 7:30. Let’s see if you can get up, as well as talk.”

He put the phone down. “Bloody hell”, I repeated to myself. My best and worst attributes in the same adrenaline rush.

I was there at 07:25 on that Monday. My orange VW Beetle, part financed by my Dad, but now my own responsibility, was parked discretely behind the office.

I stood by the door, but not blocking it. Not overly familiar but not looking like a ‘bloody student’ either. I stood aside as he passed me. He issued a small but rueful-sounding “Good morning”, injected with a tiny degree of irony. Nothing else.. But he let me see his smile as he swung the door open.

I got the job. The first year didn’t go according to his plans, as I was courted and, frankly, seduced, by a divorced senior lady systems analyst who had a sporty BMW. She toyed, elegantly, with my affections and other things. She was great and we had a lot of fun, but it wasn’t learning the day job. The Branch Manager tried to warn me off. Headstrong, I wasn’t listening.

Of such things are harsh lessons made…

At the end of the year, with little sales success, I knew the manager was ready to fire me. I sank into a depression. It wasn’t that I wasn’t trying – I hadn’t let the high-octane fraternising frazzle all my brains. It seemed that no-one would take me seriously – out there in the boardrooms where people brought expensive computers. Was I just too young? Had my ability to talk failed me?

That evening, I had a pub meal with a new friend I had got to know through working in my parents’ shop. I liked Ian a lot. He had a tough but humorous, no-nonsense manner and he liked BMW cars – though he couldn’t afford one. He had been a chef, but had swapped it for a job as a salesman in a catering engineering company who made high-end industrial cookers.

I was explaining my imminent demise and he listened, deeply, reading my face. For the past few months, over several evenings, he had coached me in the nitty gritty of ‘selling the person, not the product’. He finished his drink, but continued the silence.

I went to the bar for the second round.

“Do you know,” he said, as I set the drinks down. “that selling is the only profession that gives free consultancy?”

The sentiment was new to me at the time. It hit me like adrenaline. “Look at all your training,” he continued. “Four year computing degree; ‘sandwich-course’ during which you gave up your summer holidays to work in industry. Smart, well spoken… “Whereas, half the people you are selling to are dull, imagination-less lickspittles…”

It was the first time I’d heard such sentiments. Looking back, they were designed to fire me up, but much of the sentiment was true. You had to learn to value yourself if you hoped to sell anything. I knew that, I just hadn’t ‘actualised’ it. Later, I found a better word for that.

“What are you doing tomorrow morning?” he asked, sipping his beer.

I drank mine, conscious of the importance of the day to come. “Final attempt to close the deal at a wholesale Painting Suppliers in Salford. My last chance.”

He looked at me, eagle-eyed. “What are your chances? Really?”

I drank some more beer. “Not brilliant – but there’s a nice BMW in the car park. I’ve noticed that there is definitely a correlation between that and what kind of reception we…. I… get; German company and all…and the Operations Director’s a nice bloke and gets me a coffee.”

“Good,” said Ian. “Then use it. Make it count.”

Mr Johnson, the Operations Director, was a man who combined warmth and acute intelligence. His office was classy but minimalist – quite avant-guard in Salford. He watched me, intently, as I worked to summarise my proposals and tell him why now was the right time for him to sign the deal. I felt I’d done a good job and sat back, ready to use the power of silence to its best effect.

After twenty seconds of mutual silence, he rocked his chair back and let me have a half-smile.

“Steve,” he said softly. “I like you… the financial director likes you. We think we have an honest soul, here. Someone who will work with us to deliver this… beyond the selling.’

He let his chair rotate forward so his arms could lie on the desktop, and fixed me with eyes that contained a different sentiment to any he had displayed to that point. I knew something completely new was about to happen in my life.

“Now let me tell you how you’re going to sell this to us…”

In those few seconds, my entire world changed. It was the beginning of the sense of worth solely related to my-self. Mr Johnson was going to instruct me in how to use that because he felt I was was worth it. That sense of worth – in this adult context – was dramatic and life-changing. I’ve never forgotten it… I’ve never wanted to. I think of it as ‘unshakable mine’.

It was only years later that I realised it had a spiritual dimension. One of the key stages in our individual development is to realise that each human has a great importance to the cosmos. This is something that can trigger a fundamental change in ourselves – and link us more closely with everything that is creative in life.

It’s a Little Us that carries a spark of something almost beyond belief. But the journey to that realisation is the story of how we get there, in a weird and wonderful paradox, full of divine humour and discovery.

We are all born with amazing potential, but we have to realise our relationship to the world we live in – the whole, vast universe of it…

Finding that deep sense of self, beyond the ordinary egoic concept, is central this journey.

A week later, as promised to the Nixdorf Branch Manager, the deal was signed. It probably wasn’t the thing that saved me. The outspoken manager had fallen out with one of the senior managers in Germany and had resigned… The man who took over had warmth and had seen the effort I was making. I lived to fight – and learn – another day.

Next week, in the final part of this series, we will pull together the threads through these posts, and summarise the truly ‘big picture’ of Self-development.

Other parts in this series:

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, This is Part Six.

©Stephen Tanham, 2021.

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