Wilfully blind…

I may sit with my back to most of the house a lot, but I still have to do the housework. I can’t ignore it, even though I can’t necessarily see it. I know it is there and, if I leave it too long before getting started on the daily chores, it is as if something is staring at the back of my neck. I can’t settle to anything productive until it is relatively tidy…  which is as tidy as living with the small dog will allow.

So, I came home from work, played with the dog and her ever-present ball while I had a coffee, then went through to make the bed. As I shook out the covers, a shiny black spider stared back from the place where I lay my head. Now, I have no problem with spiders wandering around any other room, but me and spiders do not share the bedroom if I can help it. And I have no intention of sleeping with one.

I know they lurk in dark corners and under the bed, but as long as I do not see them, I am okay with that. I can pretend they are not there. This one, however, was not allowing me that illusion and had to be evacuated. He escaped en route to the window and scurried off who knows where. So I know that I still have a shiny black spider in my bedroom… but as I cannot see him, he doesn’t exist.

It was the same when my son brandished his leech-encrusted gloves under my nose. It is not easy to screech quietly through gritted teeth, but I consider that I managed it admirably, telling him politely to remove them from my sight as, if I looked at them…properly looked and registered what I was seeing… I would not have been able to continue with the job in hand.

And that is a completely illogical reaction, on a par with the dog hiding her eyes under a cushion. Small dog or not, she does not fit under a cushion and most of her is very visible. But, as far as she is concerned, if she can’t see me, I can’t see her.

It is like sweeping the dust under the carpet. The expression has found its way into common language, but we wouldn’t actually do it. For a start, we know that would be unhygienic, and if we did it too often, a few specks would soon become a pile, and an even messier job to clean that it would have been at the start. But we are good at doing it nonetheless and, like the dramatic trope of the unopened letter so beloved of cinematographers, there is a self-preservation mechanism that kicks in to protect us; what we do not see or acknowledge does not exist for us, so we often choose not to look.

We know about the spider, the leeches, the contents of the mythical envelope or the dust bunnies under the bed. We may even have seen them. But, unless we choose to look in such a way that what we see imprints itself on our reality, we can behave as if we have not seen anything at all. We know what is, we know what we are choosing not to see, and know that choice does not change reality one whit. But it changes our version of reality.

We see it happening all the time. We do it ourselves… and I doubt any one of us can say, with absolute honesty, that we have not. Whether it is a bill left unopened, a news item we don’t want to know too much about, the junk drawer that is quickly closed because it is in need of sorting, or avoiding the eyes of someone whose story we do not wish to know, be that a beggar in the street or the little old lady who can talk for hours.

There is no denying that it can be a useful thing, this refusal to acknowledge reality. We won’t miss your bus talking to the little old lady. We will sleep at night in spite of sharing the room with a spider. Some ancient skeletons are better left in their cupboards. And if we never look at the grass, it will never need cutting…or, not for us, at least.

It is often said that we ceate our own reality and, in this respect at least, it is true. Everything we experience through our senses changes our perception of reality. And what, of that reality, we allow to be acknowledged by consciousness, changes us.

A well-known prayer asks for the ‘serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference‘. Apply this to perception, and the ability to ‘know the difference’ is clearly the key, especially is we paraphrase a little and think about the things we need to see and the things we can choose whether to see or not. Our conscious mind is where we store the things we will act upon, while the things we choose not to acknowledge are filed ‘safely’ away. In many ways, what we allow into consciousness defines who we are choosing to be.

Just what are we sweeping under the carpet of consciousness? Whose eyes do we refuse? And how many of us will be sleeping with worse than spiders under the bed tonight?

In the shadows

P1110792I woke from little sleep to glorious sunshine and crawled blearily from my bed, which seemed the most comfortable place in the world at that moment, even though it might as well have been a bed of nails the night before. Odd, isn’t it, how the same thing can look so very different depending on how you feel at the time? Take the sunshine… if I was going out to play, instead of heading to work, it would be a gorgeous day! If I were taking the camera out, not that I go anywhere without it, but you know what I mean, I would be delighted to have the backdrop of clear blue as a foil, for instance, to the mellow gold of old stone.

There is something about the stark contrast of the shadows thrown in sunlight, silhouettes dark against warm… that chiaroscuro created by the interplay of bright and sombre. It gives a scene life and texture… even when it is simply crumbling stone. Vistas of long empty spaces, punctuated by doors full of unknown and exciting possibilities yet painted on the canvas of memory, lead the eye and mind into adventure.

Imagination takes flight and spaces are populated with images and stories, flights of fancy or the quest for a deeper understanding of the vision before us. Thought meanders off at a tangent, exploring darkened doorways or gazing from the shadows to the clear sky framed above. Memories are created, images that take up residence in the mind, linking themselves inextricably with emotions and sensations, and the imprint of place remains long after the event has receded in time.

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The darker the shadows, the greater the contrast, the brighter the light appears… which is something we all know, though even that, too, depends on how we feel at the time. We may only notice the shadows, diving or tiptoeing from one dark and unknown doorway to the next through a landscape painted by fear… wondering what monster may lurk around the corner, seeing only a tenebrous labyrinth. The bright patches on the ground then leave us feeling exposed and vulnerable and offer no respite, serving only to mark yet another threshold into the shadow that awaits.

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Yet that light is cast from somewhere. Beyond the shadows there is a source of brightness. It is inescapable. The shadow is cast when something comes in between, blocking the sun. Yet there can be no shade without that source of light. It is always there. Shadows, no matter how deep, are intangible, they are effect, not cause and on the other side of the obstacle you can guarantee the sun is shining.

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We may see the shadows and enjoy their cool respite from a sun too bright. We may be grateful for their softening of the marks of time upon our face. Perhaps they allow us to look up and see the source of light in all its beauty, glimpsed through a window. Sometimes, I think, they are just there so we can see it, be aware of it and understand its presence as we walk through the alternating brightness and shade, enjoying the adventure in all its twists and turns, looking back on the shadows from the warmth of the sun.

The photographs were all taken at Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire some years ago.

Spreading wings

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The hill was a verdant emerald rising into a sapphire sky that sparkled with motes of light… so high and clear. My companion walked behind, following at a far more sedate pace as I ran headlong to the summit, an uncompromising, absolute joy within that seemed to inundate every fibre of being. The white path led me higher and higher until I could see the curvature of the earth and felt I could reach out my arms and embrace the whole world and gather it to my breast…

My dreams have been vivid of late. They always are but even more so than usual, with the clarity and reality I knew as a child. I recall the flying dreams with the rollercoaster feeling in the stomach… I cannot have been more than eight years old and every night I would soar. Far too young to have any knowledge or interest in aerodynamics, lift or thrust, I can yet remember the minute adjustments needed to stay in the air and direct my flight. I seem to remember them in my flesh even though it was just a dream. I can feel even now the memory of physical sensation as my body swooped and banked through the air, learning to ride the wind, seeking the air-currents and updraughts, like a small fish playing in water, darting and diving through sunbeams. It was sheer joy. Every night as I closed my eyes I would wait for that first moment of flight with happy anticipation.

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It felt utterly real… the sensation of rise and fall in the gut, the air on my face, the wind in my hair. So real that my waking self would stand on my bed beneath the window, certain I would not fall but would fly if I launched myself from there… yet knowing also that it was supposed to be impossible. Wasn’t it? There was always that doubt in the mind, even though the body felt it knew just what to do.

So real was the experience for that young mind that it was, in those moments by the window, impossible to distinguish dream from reality. It was as if I was perfectly poised between two realities, each equally valid by their own rules and in their own world… which I believe they are. Yet I was in neither… I was apart from both, a third reality, if you will, where I was subject to neither of the others but could see and judge with yet another part of me what fragment of experience should fit where.

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I had always been aware of the existence of that higher part of being that we call the soul, the essence… and many other names. It was simply something I grew up with, that awareness. Yet this was the first time I remember feeling conscious of its reality. Not because I could see or feel it specifically, but the observation of the two realities by the third… and the fact that on yet another level I was somehow ‘seeing’ that observer… So what was seeing it? And was anything watching that? And where did ‘I’ end and Something Else begin?  This seemed to ‘click’ and I understood somehow in a way for which I am still not sure I have words.

To the eight year old mind that was something of a revelation. To us now, as adults, it is an illustration of infinite regress, a concept we explored at the first of the Silent Eye’s Glastonbury talks some years ago, yet it took a while before I made that connection. One of the inner ‘observers’ finds that highly amusing, that the conscious mind should take the best part of half a century to really realise a gift given so young.

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However that is often the way of things and we are adept at accepting what we know and believe, filing them in the cabinet of facts by which we live and not revisiting them with the added experience and understanding of years. As we grow and learn our store of facts expands, but we seldom take out the old ones and update them. We can, indeed, get very protective of them and refuse to even consider that we may have misunderstood, or been plainly wrong, through lack of a salient piece of information.

Over the past few years, as I have examined more and more the entrenched beliefs to which I have clung, I have found myself being obliged to discard and update many of them. I have also revisited many ideas I discarded as facile when I was much younger, realising that with the knowledge and experience I can now bring to them, they are richer by far that I imagined when I first dismissed them. The adventures with Stuart and our books have made me re-evaluate many things, while the School has seen me set aside the framework of many decades and begin to look at the essence of those beliefs from a different perspective.

When, some years ago, a friend and renowned author who had walked a similar path, told me he had spent half a lifetime building the inner Qabalistic Tree of Life… and the rest steadily dismantling it, I was surprised and recoiled from the very idea… now I know what he meant.

The ideas we cling to limit us. We do not seek beyond their bounds… why would we if they satisfy us? They are our beliefs and they ‘work’ for us. Yet, should we step across those self-imposed boundaries, prepared to risk seeing what might lie beyond, a whole world of possibility may open before us. It is worth a thought. Who knows… some part of us may even learn to fly.

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Graven Image…

10 Top Pictures Of Saint Michael The Archangel Full - Archangel Michael Wallpaper Hd, HD Wallpaper Download #1990668

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‘ … And look! A man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold… His body also was like beryl and his face had the appearance of lightning. His eyes were as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to burnished brass. The voice of his words was as the voice of a multitude… and he said, “… To you am I now sent. Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, your prayers were heard and I am come for your prayers… I am come to make you understand what will befall your people in the latter days. I will show you the literal truth of these things. There is no other that can do this.”‘

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It is very difficult to find any illustrations for this piece.

Perhaps that is linked to the Hebraic injunction against graven images.

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In the current climate of image saturation it might be worthwhile

 considering the possible reasons for such an injunction…

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Speaking of his encounter with the ‘man clothed in linen’ Daniel says, “I alone saw the vision and the men that were with me saw it not but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled and hid themselves… I was left alone and threw myself to the ground. When he spoke I stood, trembling, and when he had finished speaking I was strengthened.”

Elsewhere in the text Daniel is less sure of this being’s precise nature:

“… And look! One like the similitude of the sons of men touched my lips. I opened my mouth and spoke… Then there came again, and touched me, one like the appearance of a man…”

Michael is described both as a ‘Chief Prince’, and as ‘Daniel’s Prince’ by the narrator.

And later, as a ‘Great Prince’… “How long until the end of these awful things?”

Then I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the water of the river, swear by the Ever-Living One as he lifted his right hand and his left hand to heaven, “For a time, times, and half a time and when the breaking of the power of the holy people comes to an end, then shall all these things be fulfilled.”

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Already, after this brief overview we can glimpse some of Michael’s traditional attributions.

He is concerned with ‘end times’.

He strengthens and protects the individual and can be petitioned on behalf of nations or ‘a people’.

He acts as a bridge and can communicate, high to low, and low to high.

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In times of hardship and stuggle he may well be worth invoking…

 

Curiosities…

St Michael’s victory over the Devil – Sculptor, Jacob Epstein

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The French occultist, Eliphas Levi, the German philosopher Franz von Baader, and the Theurgist, Louis Claude de St. Martin spoke of 1879 as the year in which Michael overcame the dragon.

In 1917, Rudolf Steiner the founder of anthroposophy, similarly stated, “In 1879, in November, a momentous event took place, a battle of the Powers of Darkness against the Powers of Light, which ended in the image of St Michael overcoming the Dragon.”

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All of which is, to say the least, curious…

The traditional texts which mention Michael, and they are few, do not mention a dragon, and yet, iconographically, St Michael slaying the dragon is almost as ubiquitous as St George…

Religious paintings, sculptures and stain glass windows are all in agreement despite many, if not most,  of them being produced before 1879!

So what is going on?

Pull up a seat…

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‘ … And look! A man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold… His body also was like beryl and his face had the appearance of lightning. His eyes were as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to burnished brass. The voice of his words was as the voice of a multitude… and he said, “… To you am I now sent. Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, your prayers were heard and I am come for your prayers… I am come to make you understand what will befall your people in the latter days. I will show you the literal truth of these things. There is no other that can do this.”‘

– First appearance of Michael :  The Book of Daniel, Chapter 10: 5-21

A matter of choice…

I never did like doing as I was told.

I might, through necessity, for example, obey the authoritarian order of an autocratic boss, but orders would never inspire me to give of my best. I would do just enough to be obedient within their sphere of influence… and not a sausage more. Both mentally and emotionally, I would be kicking against the bars of the imaginary cage… and although I might be a dutiful underling, I would never be an eager and willing participant.

Ask me, on the other hand, trust me to see a job done, give me a choice and let me take responsibility and I wouldn’t just go the extra mile… I’d run the marathon.

I do not, for one minute, think I am alone in feeling this way. Most people respond with far more enthusiasm to a modicum of trust and will pull out all the proverbial stops to not only meet, but exceed expectations, when they are given a choice and thus accept responsibility for their actions. A good boss knows this and handles their employees accordingly, allowing them to utilise, explore and extend their own strengths, which in turn gives them a sense of self-belief and self-worth… which in the end, is good for everyone… and especially the business.

Oddly, thinking about this put me in mind of a daft sketch I had done over a decade ago. It was the product of a conversation between Running Elk and myself. My memory is not precise about the sequence of events, but at some point during that online exchange, we spoke of Hades’ Ferryman, who carries the souls of the departed across the River Styx. A typo later and the Keeper became the Kipper of the Styx and, a few scribbles after that, the kipper was committed to paper.

I was pondering the liminal Kipper and realised that he is, if nothing else, the guardian of a point of transition, a point of choice and change.

In Greek myth, the river forms the boundary between the Earth, where the living dwell, and the Underworld, which is the realm of the dead. There is always a price to pay for passage across that river and those who do not pay, cannot cross, nor can they return to the lands of men. They do not know where they are going, they know only that the time has come to cross into another phase of existence. They must pay the price and move forward in trust. The only part of that story that worries me is the idea that someone else can pay the Ferryman for your crossing. I don’t think that, in real terms, that is ever possible. Sacrifice, too, must be a choice. It has no spiritual value if it is imposed…it must be a willing contract in order to hold power.

Like the Death card in the Tarot pack, death and the Underworld in symbolic terms, usually refer to a change in the state of being that is not always a physical death. The year I drew that sketch was the year my son was stabbed, leaving him facing change on a monumental scale as he addressed the physical, emotional and intellectual challenges of a sudden and enforced removal of both the popular and his personal concept of normality.  The one thing that remained to him and completely within his control, was choice. He could not choose to return to the normality he had known for twenty-five years; that life was over and there could be no going back. He could not simply choose to be on the other side of the nightmare either. The choice lay in whether or not he chose to make the journey between the two, paying its price or remaining locked into the imposition of disability, like a soul wandering in limbo.

He chose to make that journey, trusting that the undefined goal was the right destination to aim for. He did not know what lay ahead, nor how far he could go. But he went anyway.  At first, he followed what to many seemed to be a false trail, chasing the red herring of complete physical recovery, even whilst he accepted that such was unlikely. The distant, seemingly unattainable goal, was a good one. It demanded a high price, making him push the boundaries of his own expectations and carrying him much further towards that stated goal than anyone could have expected.  It may have been a red herring, but the quest for that recovery taught him a great deal about himself and what really mattered to him.

Then came a point when he began to reassess and exercise his inner choices rather than his muscles,  with the emphasis he chose being less on how to walk and more on how to live. Again, he had to trust that the journey towards impossible goals would take him to where he needed to be… and now, another world of his own making lies open to him, full of adventures.

My son’s situation was unusual, but the choices we each of us have to face are much the same, from the small, everyday moments where we have to trust in the outcome of our decisions, to the life-changing and momentous situations where all we know is that we cannot stand still and must move forward, even if we cannot see where the current will lead.

There is another story in mythology about the Styx. As a baby, the invincible warrior, Achilles, had been dipped in the waters of the river. The only point the water did not touch was his heel… and that was the only point of vulnerability he had. To bathe in the river of choice at a point of transition does render us invulnerable, for, like water, our choices ebb and flow about us all the time, and choosing to embrace, in trust and full awareness, whatever journey lies at our feet gives us a strength that cannot be easily broken. Even those choices that are red herrings will offer us opportunities to learn and teach us things we may never have known without the false trail.

Our choices are not always right, we do not get it right first time very often, but when we listen to the promptings of the inner heart and being,  and choose our way with courage and conviction, the effort of the journey is always worth the price we choose to pay.

Blinded by the Light…

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… So, we return to the quest.

And turn shining eyes to the south.

Not that we ever left it, yet the churches had definitely ‘fallen off-line’…

Until Skipton.

Until one particular stained-glass window in Skipton.

It is tempting to think that later traditions lose much that is essential to preceding ones.

In magical traditions derived from the Hebrews, the Archangel Mikael is a guardian of the south quarter and if a ‘Michael Window’ is present in a church, it is a relatively safe bet that it will be found on a south wall of that church.

So, why were we charging around St Michael’s, Hathersage, looking at stained-glass windows on the north wall, with such singular precision?

Because we were desirous of another window.

This headlong, wilful charge, bugles blaring, could well have been our undoing, had we been alone.

There was no ‘Michael Window’ in St Michael’s, Hathersage.

But there was this…

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So, what to say of this banner?

It is a work of art, certainly.

It is a work of art which transcends the medieval style of its composition, although, the ‘S’ as an ‘eight’ and the ‘M’ as an ‘omega’ are remarkable.

The ‘lance’ too, as ‘celtic crozier’, is a sublime touch.

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Was the dragon always golden?

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Does this hue, denote the beginning or even the end of a process?

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Was the beast once much bigger?

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Is this really how one earns one’s ‘spiritual wings’?

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The spirals on the Saint’s shield are, to say the least, suggestive…

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 But the burning question which most readily springs to our mind is this:

if we nearly missed this depiction

can we hope to find the Archangel when it is being deliberately ‘hidden’?

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Given…

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If we ever had any doubts about what it is we do, then the circumstances of our ‘flying visit’ to Skipton was lying in wait to dispel them.

‘Hell, we weren’t even supposed to be going to Skipton!’

Over the course of the last five years, this ‘fella’, along with his close associate, St George, has appeared at various intervals to trail new revelations in their wake.

Given the nature of our endeavours it is entirely possible that our conversation the previous night had called this ‘revelation’ into being.

Or, had we been ‘called’ and that conversation merely a premonition of what was about to transpire?

Such ponderings are legion on the quest.

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Some of the easy to miss symbolism of this window, whose artist is still, as yet, unknown to us, is itemised below…

The dragon is situated on an island with two fruit trees which both appear to be bearing apples.

The sinuous coils of the dragon’s body is wrapped around the two symmetrically arranged trees.

The dragon’s body is multi-hued.

The dragon’s head is central and points skyward, and, in apparent acceptance, towards Michael’s raised spear.

Despite initial appearances Michael does not stand on the mainland but upon a rock or cloud.

Michael’s head is surrounded by a night sky of stars.

We await translation of the inscriptions on the banners or scrolls which also coil around the two trees.

The radiant symbol above the whole appears to be the greek letters, Omega, and Iota, conjoined.

One really curious thing, is that, from below the Dragon looks quite menacing… Yet from above, less so?

Those readers with a penchant for arcane symbolism will not be surprised to learn that the church which houses this window has been struck by lightning on two separate occasions.

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