That still, small voice…

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As we each begin the conscious journey of the seeker we may become aware of a sense of presence; a realisation that seems to spring from a place deeper than thought. We may have spent a lifetime in study, engaging the brain and its processes, bringing them to bear on the abstract concepts of existence and creation. We apply logic, lose ourselves in meditation, we learn and collate techniques and information, examine perspectives and points of view. We assimilate the useful, discard the inappropriate and file what seems to be correct for our own understanding in the index of the mind. We may hold the acceptance of what we have learned close; guarding it as a precious thing or we can set it free and feel its flight.

There may come a moment when instead of ‘just’ thought, instead of a reaching outwards towards a line of reasoning, there is an opening inwards for inspiration. And this opening brings with it both conscience and imperative…. And yet further questions. What is this awareness and where does it come from? Many names have been given to this presence that seems both separate and part of our selves. Some systems have named it in angelic terms, many feel it is a higher aspect of the self, others perceive the hand of external divinity or a bridge between the human and the divine; many simply call it ‘contact’.

Much is written in esoteric literature about contact. It is something many strive for, seeking perhaps for something that is already there, waiting behind a door that is closed in the mind. We seek and try, looking towards what appears to be a distant goal, yet it is possible that like the guardian angels much loved by Victorian illustrators it stands quietly by until we notice its presence.

We do not know what exactly we are to feel or what to expect if we achieve this contacted state. Some will speak of it in ways that make us feel we are somehow lacking until we attain it. But it need not be such a complex thing.

I can only tell what it feels like subjectively. It is a Presence in whose shadow we stand and learn. Whether this presence is seen as a Being, an Archetype, a divine Intelligence, as part of the psyche or the inner Self, or indeed as something quite different depends, perhaps, on perspective and semantics.

Whether it is seen as external or interior, in practical terms, does not seem to matter. What matters is the relationship one develops with it and the quality of the realisation that comes.

Working with contacts we tend to feel them as distinct personalities, often taking on the form of an ancestor or an ancient godform, created by the created to represent and embody a very real aspect of the divine forces, but animated and vivified for us by a spark of Light.

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We can communicate… some do so in a very direct fashion, some simply feel the brush of a consciousness against their own and learn almost by osmosis. And every shade in between, it seems. Those familiar with esoteric thought will have heard of the mind touch, overshadowing, indwelling, perhaps… there are many terms that have been coined in an attempt to describe something that is ultimately too intimate for words.

At the end, the method or names do not matter any more than the apparent form. It is a Knowing. An understanding that passes the bounds of thought or education, a certainty without references or footnotes. An unshakeable, life-changing conviction that proves itself in the living of it.

We clothe our contacts in forms we can understand and that are congenial to the nature of the forces they embody. For all practical purposes we see them as individual characters. Yet it is not what they are. In fact, even in this we fall into an ever present error, marking a separation between Them and us, between the divine and man. For both they, whatever they are, and we, are but tiny refractions of Light in the multifaceted Jewel that is the One.

In pursuing the dream we have been given, we are challenged to step outside of our comfort zones, forced to reassess and re-examine cherished and long held beliefs. We find ourselves walking paths we would never have expected and which require us to question our own preconceptions. It is right that this should be required.  Setting our feet to the path before us and listening to the whisperings of that still, small voice, should not be seen as an end in itself, but as a beginning.

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‘Aye’ of the Unicorn: Armchair…

*

As the weekened progressed

we were to work our way around ‘the limbs’

of an elemental pentagram.

*

Two sites from the region

were given over to each element.

*

In the first we would consider the element in question

with the help of a conducive environment and our core text.

*

In the second we would construct and walk our pentagrams,

again in a conducive environment,

whilst examining notions of our magical self

in relation to the element and its inner psychology.

*

Late Saturday afternoon and early Sunday morning,

we considered and worked with the element of fire.

*

We were back with the witches, again,

on the blasted heath.

*

I’m not sure whether or not our heath had been blasted

but it had certainly been scorched…

*

The witches really represent past, present, and future,

for our soon-to-be-king, Macbeth.

*

He was Glamis and is now also Cawdor, although

at the moment he is unaware of the promotion,

and he is promised King…

*

The crux of the matter is really

one of free-will or determinism.

*

Would he have got the crown

without seizing it

and what difference would that have made?

*

The rest of the ‘prophecy’ may still have held

but brought about by different circumstances…

*

That fire, or desire, could actually be a weakness

is not always fully grasped.

*

Just ask Falstaff!

 

‘Aye’ of the Unicorn: Enneagram…

*

As the weekened progressed

we were to work our way around ‘the limbs’

of an elemental pentagram.

*

Two sites from the region

were given over to each element.

*

In the first we would consider the element in question

with the help of a conducive environment and our core text.

*

In the second we would construct and walk our pentagrams,

again in a conducive environment,

whilst examining notions of our magical self

in relation to the element and its inner psychology.

*

Mid Saturday and Sunday mornings

we considered and worked with the element of earth.

*

Our character Macbeth is given reason

to believe that he has the potential to become king,

but his treacherous manner of achieving this desire leads to all sorts

of trouble both for him and his soon to be acquired kingdom,

and when he finally gains access to the crown he discovers

that to be king is not all it is cracked up to be!

*

Like a castle sinking into the earth

his kingdom, his sanity,

and ultimately his life slips from his ignoble grasp.

*

It could have been so different,

had he only sought integration

instead of dominion.

‘Aye’ of the Unicorn…

Stuart France

Image result for Alchemical unicorn

*

With almost prescient clarity

we commenced our summer workshop in a graveyard!

*

Except, not quite, for before we entered the graveyard,

we stood by the swiftly flowing waters of the river Spey

and entered into a guided meditation.

*

The Unicorn of Spirit

sailed down the Spey

disembarked from its boat,

and invited us all astride its back

for a tour of the elements…

*

Somewhat unsurprisingly then,

our first pentagram was that of Spirit,

which could be called the ‘parent’ of the elements.

*

Have the bodies buried in the earth,

hereabouts, had their constituent parts

returned to spirit?

*

One might well hope so!

*

In Macbeth, the Bard uses the three witches

to represent the spiritual realm.

*

As with a lot of things he wrote

this is simultaneously;

a joke,

a reflection of characterised psychology,

and can also allude to something far deeper…

*

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Where Beauty Sleeps ~ The Silent Eye Annual Workshop 2020

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It is a familiar story. Both gifted and cursed at birth, a princess grows within the safety of a castle. Reaching adulthood, she is cast into sleep in the most inaccessible tower, surrounded by walls of stone and a hedge of thorns… waiting for the brave prince to cut his way through the briars and awaken her with the kiss of true love…

There is a lot more to fairytales than the wide eyed child understands, but we seldom question them as we grow up and tell them to our own children. We are so very familiar with them that they simply ‘are’.

Take the Sleeping Beauty story, for example, but in place of the princess, think of that essential Self we call the soul.

We are born into a magical world, where our childhood is peopled with fairies and wonders. We are given gifts and talents, yet we must grow within our bodies, like the princess in the castle… this is the place we inhabit and come to know as home. As we reach adulthood, the magic fades, or more precisely, our awareness of it fades, clouded by the small doings of everyday, by logic and necessity. Like the princess, something within us falls asleep; we are lost to the song of the soul as the ‘curse’ takes hold… waiting….

 

Around us the thick, thorny wall of ego grows and separates us from the world, holding us prisoner within its bounds. It may bear roses, it may bear fruit… it may sustain a whole ecology of other lives… yet the thorns are there making any passage through them, from the inside or from afar, fraught with difficulty and pain.

The princess’ sleep continues until the prince becomes aware of her and braves the thorns, cutting his way through the briars. Her plight touches his heart and calls to him and in turn he searches until he finds her. It is a quest of love. He has only rumours to guide him, yet he is called to the task.

There is a turning within that calls us too at odd moments, like the whispered rumour of a sleeping princess heard by the hearthfire. We sleep, yet there is something that pulls us, knowing we can wake. Our dreams reach out across our inner landscape and call the kiss of awakening to us… in turn the hero within each of us journeys through the maze of thorns in search of the truth that lies sleeping.

We cannot see what waits beyond the thorns; there may be dragons and ogres… there may be nothing more than a fairytale… or beauty may lie sleeping there in truth. But it is Love that calls us to the quest. We are both Prince and Princess in our own stories and through the reaching out from within, may find that something reaches out to us in equal measure, waiting to awaken us with the kiss of Love. Then, like the phoenix, we can be reborn from our own ashes…

But that is another story…

“What dreams may come…”

From the Big Bad Wolf to Pinocchio, from Ogres and Giants, to the Pied Piper and the Wicked Witch… Have you ever wondered what happens when Beauty sleeps?

Join us for a weekend in heart of Derbyshire to find out…

Awaken the beauty that sleeps within.

What lies beneath the surface of familiar childhood tales? How do these old stories relate to our own lives? What can we learn from the archetypes and recurring themes? What can they teach us about ourselves?

Our workshops are open to all. Using techniques both ancient and modern, we explore the spiritual journey through symbolic stories, meditations and fully scripted ritual drama. No prior experience is needed, just come along and enjoy the weekend!

The weekend runs from the evening of 17th April 2020, to the afternoon of Sunday 19th. Fully catered accommodation is included in the workshop price of £240 – £265. An electronic copy of the workbook for the weekend will be supplied prior to the event, with paper copies available to purchase if preferred.

To read what it is like to attend your first workshop with the Silent Eye, click HERE.

Bookings are now being taken for the Silent Eye’s Annual Workshop 2020.

Click below to
Download a Booking Form – pdf

For further details or to reserve your place: rivingtide@gmail.com

Where Beauty Sleeps

Great Hucklow, Derbyshire

17-19 April, 2020

The Quest for Immortality: Anomalies…

*

Given that much of the Epic of Gilgamesh

has found its way into the Hebrew Book of Genesis

in a somewhat garbled form…

Why, we may wonder,

is the flood story re-told almost word for word?

*

We say ‘almost’ because there are some intriguing discrepancies.

Unlike Utnapishtim, Noah is in no sense regarded as immortal.

The rainbow, as a necklace and love gift of Sky to Earth,

is infinitely preferable to the covenant

of a contrite and remorseful God,

and is also highly poetic.

Yet, as a reason for implementing the ‘catastrophe’

in the first place, noise and godlessness

can be regarded as equally arbitrary?

*

The institution of Patriarchy seems already well established

in the culture that produced the Epic…

The only Goddess to remain on the Divine Council is Ishtar,

although it is apparent that the Moon God,

Nanna, was once also feminine.

Be that as it may a number of Gilgamesh’s titles

still appear to be ironic?

*

With this in mind, in the final analysis,

perhaps, it is not Lords, nor indeed Ladies,

of the Deep which are needed

so much as disseminators of its wisdom,

and that task falls to all those who receive it…

*

Our thanks to those who could not make it but tuned in anyway.

Our heartfelt thanks to those that did make it.

See you all next time!

Lord of the Deep: Taking root

One of the questions people don’t like to ask is whether or not our ritual drama weekends serve any useful purpose. It is all very well coming along to share the fun… and they are always fun… or enjoying a shared experience that is outside the norm for most of us. It is good, too, to meet and work with people from widely different backgrounds and with varied beliefs and approaches to the spiritual journey; the group dynamic augments personal experience, creating something far greater than the sum of its parts, and people also feel less isolated, for the spiritual path can sometimes seem a lonely one to walk.

We use the ancient format of ritualistic drama to open the doors of the mind, letting imagination lead the way to levels of awareness and understanding beyond the surface mind. But does any of what we do ever filter through into everyday life?

We, who organise these weekends, can see the changes in our own lives. On the outer levels, such changes can be rationalised by the growth in confidence that comes with standing up in front of a group to speak, crafting a long and detailed script, and the organising and presenting of a complex workshop. The changes that we have each felt within our own inner lives and attitudes may be profound, but as we are the ones organising these events, anything we can say is of little value to people wondering what benefits, if any, our weekends may offer.

Only those who have attended can paint a true picture of what the events have meant to them, and each person will take away something different. We are lucky in that, after our events, some of the attendees will write of their experiences and allow us to share their stories. Those are the testimonials that matter.

This year, I have been in the unique position of watching at close quarters as some of the seeds sown at the Lord of the Deep weekend took root. My son came along to be our Technician and take care of the music for us and, as such, was better placed than most to simply observe and listen. He came along to the presentations and watched the story of Gilgamesh unfold. Since the workshop, I have been quietly watching as one of the major symbolic themes of the weekend seems to be growing in his life.

During the workshop, the ‘Quest for Immortality’ was approached through two primary avenues. One was the story of Gilgamesh, whose ego sought immortality through the illusions of worldly success. He wished to carve his place in history…which, in spite of everything, he did; his name lives on in the ancient Epic from which we were learning. The other strand concerned the ‘Herb of Immortality’. This part of Gilgamesh’s story was not mentioned until close to the end of the story, yet we had built the symbolism of the Herb into the weekend… depicted as a Tree of Life… right from the very first moments, but without highlighting or explaining any of it.

The temple itself was dressed in reds and orange, with twin Trees as a backdrop, reminiscent of the two Trees of Knowledge and Life in the story of the Garden of Eden. During the welcome session, we had given each of the Companions a wooden bracelet bearing a charm incised with a Tree, telling them that this was their Key to the temple, but with no other explanation. The twin staffs we dressed with the veils representing the colours of life were both natural tree branches, gifted by the trees themselves. The two tokens each Companion carried beyond the Veil bore the images of trees.

Then, in the final ritual, Shiduri, the ale-wife, guides Gilgamesh on his journey to find the Herb. Lorraine, who took the role of Shiduri, also most appropriately, focussed on trees for part of her presentation on the relationship between Man, Nature and Spirit. She spoke from a Druidic perspective, but drew upon the latest scientific research about the consciousness of trees… something we are barely beginning to understand, but which has been part of many sacred and legendary traditions since time immemorial. She also suggested ways we could attune to the life and energy of trees.

My son took little notice of symbolic details, he simply followed the story and was focussed on getting the music right. Trees were not mentioned at all when we discussed the weekend afterwards. But he is having to have his garden ripped out and rebuilt as it has become unsafe for both feet and wheelchair.

The cost of making the garden safe and durable is prohibitive, so all our thoughts are on creating the hard-landscape. Plants…in which my son has absolutely no interest except to look at them… will have to be salvaged from the existing garden, so our now-daily trips to the various local garden centres have all been about aggregates and slabs. Knowing me to be a plant-addict with a very empty garden, he even banned me from looking at anything green and growing… until something caught his eye.

Instructing me to push him through all the plants to this one bit of foliage, he promptly fell in love. It was an acer, a Japanese maple, of a variety named Inabe Shidare, which was close enough to Shiduri for me to take notice straight away. Its red leaves echoed the colours of the temple; it was glorious…and would cost a ‘mere’ six hundred pounds.

Reluctantly leaving the tree behind, we ended up looking at every acer that we could find, in every garden centre and online, from the tiniest bonsai to young saplings. Being slow-growing trees, a sapling would take a very long time to reach the maturity of the huge, potted tree with which he had fallen in love, but gardening and patience go hand in hand.

As this was the first time he had ever evinced any interest in plants, let alone an all-consuming passion, I really wanted to be able to find something. And, on one rain-battered trip to the last garden centre in the area, I spotted a distant patch of red.

A young Inabe Shidare, its slender stem standing six feet tall and beautifully twisted into a spiralling column, wept deep red leaves at the back of a display. A bit of rummaging and I found a price tag… an affordable fraction of the expected price… and it was soon on its way home.

That would have been odd enough, but by next day, my son had not only researched everything about caring for the tree, decided where it would be planted when the garden is done and purchased specific acer food, he was also talking about it as a living being, not ‘just’ a tree. He checked on its well-being continually and even launched himself across the room… bearing in mind he cannot walk unaided… when he heard something outside that made him worry for the tree’s safety.

His passion for this tree spilled over and he began taking notice of the other trees around his garden, which, until now, have been no more than a green backdrop… and from there, the needs of Nature and his own response to them have begun to change the way he sees the world around him, in a quite dramatic fashion.

In the grand scheme, it may seem a small thing perhaps, but something has completely changed one man’s awareness of the natural world and its creatures, opening his mind to a new way of looking at Nature with conscious love and respect.

We cannot know where the motivation came from, what level of mind and heart were awakened to the life of trees, nor where that awakening was born, but it does seem a little ‘coincidental’. And, were the experiences of the weekend to achieve no more than that, I think we could say it had served a useful purpose.

Gilgamesh descending (8) ~ Steve Tanham

The portal through which all the others have passed – except ghostly Enkidu and forlorn Gilgamesh – shimmers and fades. My brother – his twin – fades… And he and I… and then only I am left alone in the middle of the most threatening inner space I can imagine…

There is the dominating sense of ‘nowhere else to go’; and yet I know that there is only ‘me’ in here… until I look at the walls, made gently visible by the light that is not light in this atmosphere of total darkness.

The feeling of ‘shimmering outline’ comes again, as it had when I chased Shamhat through the labyrinthine passageways. In the dimness, I can see carved images in the stone all around me. The recognition of these strengthens their form, and I can make out that they are the figures and faces of the Divine Council of Elders of Uruk… Those whom I scorned as ‘effete’ only a short while ago.

Continue reading at Sun in Gemini

Lord of the Deep: Outrunning the sun

“Can’t stop,” said I, dashing through the corridor. “I’ve got to paint celery…”

“Can you help me with my skin?”

“Sure. I’ll just grab the pins…”

There were a number of puzzled looks, as if to say, ‘she’s finally lost it…’. It had been a hectic weekend… but edibly-gilded celery and a Lycra-clad snake were both required for the final ritual drama, and we’d had a whale of a time coming up with a suitable costume for the skin-shedding serpent that would finally unravel Gilgamesh…

Following the directions of Shiduri, Gilgamesh seeks out Urshanabi, the boatman of Utnapishtim, who is in the forest, trimming cedar boughs. But, she tells him, Gilgamesh must be wary, for Urshanabi is with the Stone Men.

As he enters a clearing in the forest, Gilgamesh hears a voice,

“We are the Stone Men!” The King raises his sword and charges, but before the blow can fall, another speaks. “We are the cold men!” Changing direction, Gilgamesh rushes at the second speaker, but before his raised sword can fall, “How will you cross the Waters of Death with us in your boat?” Another voice turns him from the kill.

“We are easy to destroy. One strike will smash us into smithereens!” And again his blow is halted. “Like you destroyed the Bull of Heaven.” In rage, Gilgamesh tries to strike, but another speaks… “Like you destroyed the Cedar Forest.” Gilgamesh snarls… then the voices in unison stop him in his tracks.

“Would you destroy the ground you walk upon?” And now, at last, he begins to understand what he has done. Reeling with the realisation, he hears yet another voice, that of Urshanabi, the ferryman.

“You cannot cross the Waters of Death with war in your heart…”  Urshanabi holds out his hands for the sword of the King. He tells Gilgamesh that the Waters of Death are not what he believes them to be. They are the Underworld that Shamash, the Sun, traverses every night before his daily rebirth; would Gilgamesh take that path also? Then the King must outrun the Sun that halts for no man.

For nine hours of utter darkness, Gilgamesh ran. With no light to guide him, he passed through the Underworld, the Sun hot on his heels. But when exhausted, he again came into the light, he found himself in the garden of the gods where jewels grow as flowers on the trees and the fruits are of lapis lazuli.

Gilgamesh walked amazed through this paradise until he came face to face with the immortal, Utnapishtim. And, in spite of all, his first thought is for his weapon.

“I was going to fight you, but I gave away my sword…”

Utnapishtim considers Gilgamesh, commenting upon his haggard looks. The King says that he has neither eaten nor slept during his quest. That he has mourned his friend for six days and seven nights ‘until a maggot fell out of his nose’. Utnapishtim asks him what he has achieved by all this, apart from bring himself a day closer to death, and asks if he has ever stopped to compare himself to a fool to whom only the dregs and crusts are given?

Gilgamesh wants only to know the secret of immortality, but Utnapishtim tells how the gods gathered at the end of all things, after the Flood when he had built the great ship called Preserver of Life, to grant eternal life to himself and his wife, Shiduri.

Why should the gods gather for Gilgamesh? How would they know he deserved that grace?

Gilgamesh says he will do anything. Utnapishtim tells him that he must stay awake for seven days and nights…for if he can prevail against sleep, he may also prevail against death. Gilgamesh agrees, but Utnapishtim tells Shiduri that he will try to deceive them when he fails.

The eternal couple watch from afar and, whenever Gilgamesh sleeps, Shiduri bakes a loaf of bread and places it before the King. After seven nights, Gilgamesh lies, trying to convince Utnapishtim that he had not slept. The couple show him the seven loaves, from the freshest to the stalest, and Gilgamesh falls into despair. He sees only Death around him.

Utnapishtim tells him he must leave the garden of the gods, never to return. He orders fine raiment to be brought, as befits a king, to clothe him before he leaves. But Shiduri takes pity on Gilgamesh and entreats her husband to tell him of the Herb of Immortality… a thorny plant that grows in the waters of the Great Deep that will grant its bearer eternal youth.

Tying two stones to his feet, Gilgamesh plunges into the Great Deep to find the Herb and emerges triumphant. But there is no thought of service to his people in his mind. He will, he says, take it back to Wall-Girt Uruk and there he will test its powers on an old man. If it works, he himself will eat the rest and be eternally young!

***

The road back to the city is long and exhausting, but Gilgamesh walks with a spring in his step, grasping the Herb. Outside the city walls, he stops by a spring to wash and sleep awhile before his triumphal return, still grasping the golden Herb securely in his hand.

But, while he sleeps, a serpent silently slithers from beyond the Veil and, taking the herb from the sleeping King’s hand, eats it… shedding its skin before disappearing once more beyond the Veil.

When Gilgamesh wakes and sees his empty hand, all he can do is weep.

Now at last he sees his own folly. Now, at last, he understands and accepts both the responsibility and the consequences of his actions. Now, when all his plans are dashed, and he stands empty-handed before the walls of his city, he begins to understand the twin mysteries of death and life… and he passes through the Veil with heart and mind open.

And now the Fates speak, telling once more of the glories of Wall-Girt Uruk where, for the first time, ‘in their bedchambers at night, the young folk sleep soundly.’

***

Gilgamesh stands at the portal. Beside him stands Enkidu, his Other Self. Here, there is no death. Together they answer the call, and side by side, kneel before Shamhat, the High Priestess who is the vessel of the Goddess. She binds their hands with threads of red and gold, placing in their joined hands the Voice of Destiny, that the twin halves may speak with one voice. With fragrant oils, upon each brow, she traces twin symbols in blessing. One third man, one third beast, one third divine… no longer fragmented but whole.

Gilgamesh tells of his journey, but Enkidu says it was no failure… that the gods have granted them a glimpse of the immortality all carry. As Enkidu speaks, a circle of hands surrounds them with a gesture that says, ‘fear not’.

From each wrist hangs a bracelet of wood, red as cedar, bearing the symbol of the Tree of Life… the Herb of Immortality… that all have carried with them from the beginning, and that all will carry with them when they depart.

The Key to the Temple.

As all depart for the final time, they pass beneath the Rainbow, held aloft by Anu and Aruru, the Sky-Father and the Earth Mother.

“When the waters receded, and dry land appeared, I set free the animals to roam.

That day I burned reeds and cedar and myrtle branches.

Smelling their fragrance, the gods gathered round.

Aruru came first, relieved that people had survived the destruction.

She held aloft her necklace-of-many-colours,

which had been Anu’s gift to her when their love was young.”

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