Where are we going? (2) – The Vice

Where are we going?2 Sweetheart Abbey2 - 1
It may be that the present compressed and negative feelings that we humans are experiencing is a birthing chamber rather than a vice.

This outrageous idea ties in closely with what was written in last week’s blog. In it, I suggested that just as a body has trillions of cells, so the planet has a vast number of connected parts of its ‘mineral, animal and mammal’ consciousness; each made up from the physical atoms of the Earth, Sun and the ‘debris’ of ancient exploding suns; without which there would not have existed the chemical components of life.

Through our human body passes the dying bodies of life on earth, be they vegetable or animal. We cannot, yet, ‘eat the Sun’ though one wonders if this is where evolution will eventually take life on Earth.

We don’t really question this ‘eating’ of other things – and plants are alive, too, of course; yet our aliveness depends on the absorption of this sacrifice.

The biggest act of sacrifice we know of is the Sun, the ancient symbol of ‘life-giving’ in all cultures. The Sun – our Sun, because we owe it our very lives – literally gives up its energies to feed the lives of its children. Looked at from a mystical perspective, it is slowly dying so that we can live. Something has made a transition from the cosmic level of physics to the vastly organised awareness of the human (and other) organisms, whose eons-long development has resulted in consciousness not only of things, but of ‘self’. This is a pinnacle very different to being top of the food chain.

The star that made this possible – our Sun – is not outside the laws of physics, and the atomic fusion of hydrogen can only last so long before the whole solar system dies to organic life.

Is the Sun conscious? Mystics speculate it has a hyper-consciousness, a vibrational awareness of life in the whole solar system, but over a vast timescale which sees our own lives as a blink. Scientists, quite reasonably, from their training and experimental perspective, say this is emotional nonsense, and that the laws of gravity and nuclear physics take care of the rest. It is wise to be open to both perspectives, and to remember that even science, accurate and marvellous though it is, is conceived and evolved through the window of the human consciousness, though it seldom acknowledges this perspective. A growing number of scientists have observed, wryly, that the ‘mystics got there first’ when it comes to some of the consciousness-related revelations from the quantum world.

Whatever the truth, no-one steps out on that first spring morning of the year, when the power of the sun replaces the long and cold winter chill, and feels physics in their hearts…

As a species, we are rather taken with our ‘specialness’. Educated to be the top of the food chain, the ‘apex predator’, our civilisation has felt free to work its indulgent will on our world… and we wonder at the resulting lack of happiness, and that lack of inner belonging.

The idea of us being organically eaten – as we do, unthinkingly, with our own food, seldom occurs to us, yet it is plain that everything that lives is eaten in its turn – only the fleeting and creative state called consciousness seems to be from a different place than the purely organic… though it would be nothing without that organic basis as a vehicle.

This kind of thought can be both humbling and re-aligning, since it shakes the fluffiness from our life-expectations and also threatens us with some basic reality – a very important aspect of being alive in an age where we increasingly live in our heads and in front of screens that distance us from the vividness of life ‘out there’. When we are disconnected in this way, it is easy for intolerance and prejudice to fester. We meet, on social media, with those of like mind… and Like their actions and opinions. If we don’t like what someone ‘says’, repeatedly, we Unfriend them, leaving us in a potentially sterile pool of self-reinforcing opinion.

The human process of maturing requires that we brush up against often painful experiences that are definitely not what we like… but the digital world is taking us away from this school of maturity that has ensured that our lives are at least broadened rather than narrowed. It is to the credit of the emerging generation that many of them seem to be caring and involved, and, certainly in the UK, politics and social involvement are on the increase. Much of this is a reaction – a very positive one – to years of so called ‘austerity’. Sharing the pain of overspending is a necessary goal, but not if that sharing is a farce…

The most troubling parts of the world are where those in charge are exhibiting the strongest ‘egoic’ characteristics. It is as though we are being shown the inner nature of this negative and tyrannical aspect of the human soul; shown it in a way that bares its ugliness. There are, of course die-hards who thing such fundamentalism is a good thing, and will offer us control of our lives again, making our countries great in the process. But anyone with real maturity in their own lives knows the bitter taste of such egoic self-aggrandisment; and its ultimate cost.

To truly ‘come together’ we need to feel our shared humanity in a way we have not done, before. We need to see the unsurpassed beauty of being part of a life-wave that has been gifted this beautiful planet for our collective and personal evolution; and, within that, to see that we also have the power to destroy it. To ride that edge of the utmost danger can only be part of our collective maturity as we evolve from eating and eaten to something potentially magnificent that is ‘involving’ itself with the star-dust of the Earth.

Our survival as a species is by no means assured. But the large-scale awareness of the present horror shows that fill our screens might just bring us, kicking and certainly screaming, into a new age – one where the true ghoul is seen to be the dark side of human nature and not circumstance or those we can victimise.

Other parts in this series:

Part One

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence.

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

Image: Sweetheart Abbey, near Dumfries, Scotland. Taken by the author.

©️Stephen Tanham

Where are we going?

Where are we going?

When things are going well in ‘our’ world, there is an understandable tendency to assume that a generally benign evolution of civilisation is taking place, one in which we play our part, however small, being a kind of swimmer who lives and dies within that flow of slow progress.

But when we are faced with the kind of politics, violence and social upheaval we are surrounded with at present, we find ourselves questioning the assumptions of the good times. These are certainly not good times, not when measured against a yardstick of caring, kindness and any semblance of equality. They may be good times for the relative few who ‘own’ the planet, but they are not so for those who care about the general welfare of mankind. The general system we call capitalism has carried us far into the expansion of our world, and produced wonderful systems and things, but now seems to be falling from its own, autonomous ledge into an unknown abyss.

This is not a political website, though, as directors of the Silent Eye, we are free to express our own, often strong, opinions.

Normally, I would not begin a post with the above sentiments, but I have begun to see a strong spiritual thread in the events around us, and on a global scale.

The human has a psychology. The concept, given to us by the early pioneers like Freud and Jung, is based on the fact that we form a ‘self’ which governs our actions at a different level to our biological survival mechanisms, though it derives from them, in its primitive stages of individual development. This multi-faceted self is what psychology addresses in its treatments. For other schools of teaching, such as the Silent Eye, the elements of this self are the starting points in the individual search for a deeper identity – one without the limitations of the egoic nature we wear during the day.

The self forms by separation. We are born a part of the world. Though seen by our loving parents as separate, that is not our experience. Reaction is the key to our development. Reaction forms from pleasant and unpleasant organic responses and an increasing need to choose the pleasant. Eventually, this reaction become a ‘thing’, a centre for our experience; and the brain turns it into a self. The attributes of this self are ‘groomable’ to make us fit better into the world by conformance and intelligence, which grow together until they are challenged by the individual who comes to see their unhappy limitations.

Sadly, this thing at the centre, this ‘us’ is little more than a machine of reactions, a composite of our personal history, conscious of its vulnerability but intent on its own survival at the centre of things.

So here’s the link to our civilisation: nations have ‘selves’, too. They are made up of the collective selves of the individuals, just as our own bodies are made up of the trillions of cells that have evolved to work together to provide us with an aware and sensitive vehicle. The human self or ego has its parallel in the society where we have our lives. We are a part of it, dramatically linked to its essential health in a way we cannot yet see, but our spiritual qualities of essence, kindness and selflessness do not flow into us through the ego – they come from beyond it.  In the same way, the outer, conditioned responses of the individual within a society do not represent the potential inner state of that nation; or group of nations, that make up a country or continent.

The lowest levels of control centre on violence. Violence generates fear, which conditions group behaviour. Is it more violent to have a war or to find that the wealth of a society is concentrated in the hands of a few? There are many forms of violence, and we need to take a fresh look at them and empower ourselves to feel true, moral outrage, again or we will sink beneath the sea of despair that threatens to overwhelm us now.

I am not an advocate of revolution. It solves nothing. I do, however, believe in the power of the deep, collective mind to link with others of like intent in the throwing off of old ideas which have become morally and spiritually bankrupt. What is seen in truth is seen differently. That action of truly seeing is its own light and its own motive force. Quietly and without violence, it reveals what can no longer be hidden; and in so doing shows a pathway to a different future.

In this lies hope, and hope is so very needed in these dark times. We were never society; that is an invention to help us manage the collective. We were never a body, that is a collective to allow us to experience the trials and joys of matter. We are, singly and collectively, an un-cageable creative individuality whose existence is part of the unfolding of the universe – our aliveness ranges from atom to cell to human to planet, and is something that will not be denied… We were born to share it because we are it…

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence.

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

Image: Sweetheart Abbey, near Dumfries, Scotland. Taken by the author.

©️Stephen Tanham

Fractured vision – the eye of the image

cr1“That’s not how I see it at all!”
“Well, you wouldn’t…you’re coming at it from a completely different angle!”

The conversation was good natured, but the debate was real. Two opposing viewpoints meeting in the no-man’s land of middle ground, where neither felt their personal perspective was being given due consideration, yet both realised that the other was not ‘wrong’. It happens to most of us, probably more often than we realise. How else could it be, after all, when we alone look out on the world through our own eyes and every other person on the planet looks from their own unique perspective, bringing their own particular experience and understanding to every moment of every day.

Even reality has to be based upon this middle ground… a general consensus that accepts the dictates of language, usage and empirical evidence to construct a vision of the world that agrees with that of the majority. Not everyone, however, has access to the same data. Location, sensory ability, age and culture all affect how we perceive our environment.

How, for example, would you explain a snowstorm to a native of a desert without access to the media that brings such phenomena into our homes? Even were he to admit the possibility of snow, his belief would be tinged with a reserve of judgement, perhaps, and at best would be lacking the depth of detail that comes only with feeling cold flakes settle upon your skin and watching their delicate patterns dissolve to water or turn the world to white. Personal experience shapes all our beliefs.

Even, perhaps especially, our understanding of each other is based upon our own perception and experience. In the Silent Eye, for example, we make use of the Enneatypes… nine basic ways of interacting with the world. The system is best known for its use in profiling in the psychological and corporate worlds. It does, however, have a deeper application. For the purpose of the school, we shape the system into a way to explore our own personality from a spiritual perspective. Nine archetypal figures, each reflecting a particular pattern of reaction to the world and the way in which we, as individuals, move through it.

In contrast to the popular misconception, none of us are ‘a type’, but show aspects of all of the types in varying proportions. It is not a case of saying, ‘he is a six,’ or ‘I am a nine’… all we can say is that each of us interacts with the world around us predominantly through the characteristics of one of the ‘types’.

There is a problem, of course, because the essential nature of each of these archetypes is designed to illustrate a particular numbered ‘type’, and, in order to teach we must present a clear picture. Yet how can we do so with absolute objectivity, when our personal interactions with these types is purely subjective?

The perfectionism of the archetypal One, for example, will judge each of the other eight characters through a personal and critical lens. This will not be the same perspective as that of the archetypal Two, who seeks only to be loved, whatever the cost; or the Three who needs to cover a lack of self-worth by standing out from the crowd. So, even for our Nine basic types, there are 72 individual viewpoints. The One might look at the Two, for example and see only base manipulation in their desire to gain love through good actions. To the One, the Three might simply be seen as vain, where the Two might see that type as in need of compassion for the underlying fragility…

To teach within the School, therefore, we had to create a set of archetypes to embody a middle ground… a consensus… for the traits inherent in each of the types, yet of course, those traits are not fixed, but evolve, ranging from the ‘worst case’ to the pinnacle of humanity… so our 72 now shifts to a multi-layered spiral of experience, where our way of interacting with our world may rise from self-preservation to saintliness… or anywhere in between.

Complicated? It would be, except for one small point… while it is necessary to realise the extent of the subjectivity with which we view each other and our world, for each of us there is only one viewpoint possible… our own.

Even though that viewpoint may shift and change over the years and with experience and understanding gained… even though we may change our opinions and beliefs as we grow and learn, allowing new influences to work upon us in ways both positive and, sadly, negative, our view of the world remains unique and personal.

The spiritual journey is one of change. It is a journey we all take as part of our personal growth and evolution. To make a conscious choice to walk a spiritual path is to deliberately set foot upon a journey of ‘accelerated evolution’. It is not always an easy path and there are times when the road seems full of rocks and sharp stones. Yet it has a purpose. By embracing this path, we can change the world around us, we can change the people we know… not by altering a single thing about them, but by changing ourselves and in doing so, moving our own perspective and perception to see a wider view with a clearer sight.

To change our own viewpoint may be the only act that can simultaneously change our present, our future and how we perceive and understand our past, as we learn to see the underlying causes of our present selves and how that shapes our world-view. To be able to look on past pain with compassion and see it unfold, revealing seeds of possibility that have lain fallow within, can have a dramatic effect on how we are able to address the present.

Many find their personal path leads them forward alone, others seek the comfort and companionship of fellow travellers in a group or school. All share a similar journey, learning to see ourselves with a clear sight that will, in turn, change how we see our world.

‘Know Thyself’ was written above the doorway at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. It is often quoted and one of the first maxims learned in the Mysteries. Within the Silent Eye, that is where our journey begins, not only in acknowledging the darker side of our human self, with the weaknesses, hurts and fragilities shaped by the experience, but, by using guided journeys of the imagination, in learning to separate the ‘I’ from the image and see the Light that shines within each and every fragment of creation… and within our own Being.