Keys of Heaven (3): the synchronicity of kindness ~ Steve Tanham

There’s a certain ‘presence’ about kindness. Like the spiritual – or, more likely, as a part of it – the act of unexpected kindness drops into our lives like a messenger from the ‘Gods’.

So it was with our visit to the ancient church of Lythe in the middle of the Friday afternoon of the Keys of Heaven workshop. The village of Lythe lies just north of Whitby and marks the the beginning of the towering cliffs which run northwards as far as Saltburn. Within this landscape, Lythe is set on its own hill and has commanding views all the way to Whitby Abbey in the distance.

(Above: the distant Abbey ruins on the far side of Whitby. Seen from the beach near Lythe

Continue reading at Sun in Gemini

Whitby weekend: Making soul cakes?

Whitby

There is more to a Silent Eye workshop than a simple wander in the landscape, but although the shape of the weekend may be carefully crafted, much of what happens next comes from the intent of those who attend. Working as a group, the shared journey amplifies the experience as we learn from and with each other. If we do not always go into great detail about how such a workshop ‘works’, it is because you really have to be there and be part of the alchemy, to feel the full effects.

Steve, who organised the Whitby workshop, has told how we gathered on the Friday for lunch and to talk about the themes for the weekend. On the slip of paper I pulled from the bag that was passed around the table, the four words given spoke to me on several levels. My immediate reaction was to identify them as pertaining to a point on the enneagram; those of us there who are part of the Silent Eye had the advantage of recognising their origin.

The enneagram is a symbol best known as a psychological tool but it can also provide a window on the inner and spiritual life, which is how it is used within the school. The nine points of the enneagram illustrate the nine major personality types. We are none of us just one ‘type’, but are, each of us, a unique mixture of all of them, with one being dominant. Within each type are levels of function, encapsulating the ‘best’ and the ‘worst’ aspects of how that type can…and will… interact with the world. The system is simple enough on the surface, but gets more complex the deeper you go, with each type being influenced by its secondary type, as well as its sub-type… and with each one of them functioning on different levels.

It is easier to think about baking.

Flour… eggs… milk… fat/oil… sugar… baking soda… spices… fruit…  nuts

I know that with just these nine basic ingredients in my cupboard, I can make any number of different cakes, cookies, pies and puddings, biscuits and buns. Within each type of ingredient, there are sub-types… I could, for instance, use butter, margarine, lard or oil. Demerara, white or powdered sugar. Any of the hundreds of available spices…

What comes out of the oven depends upon the proportions, quality and quantities of what goes into the mixing bowl, how each ingredient is treated and the process I use to combine them. A lemon meringue is a very different experience from, say, a pancake, a scone or an apple pie.  I could make any or all of them from those basic ingredients. None is better than another. All will be delicious if cooked to the highest standard… though personal taste may say otherwise… and all, even the best, have their negative side in their calorie content.

Beneath the Crossing at Lastingham

So, although the chains of four words that we each picked from the bag may, or may not, have pertained to the predominant lens through which we see and interact with the world, they were all relevant to all of us and, as the weekend progressed, we would each learn from the others as we explored their meaning.

The words I chose were indolence, procrastination, action, love. They illustrate an evolving process. For me, they were immediately relevant. I have never mastered the art of indolence…pure laziness does not sit well with me. Even when I am still and silent, it is an active stillness… a conscious choice with which I am engaged.

Procrastination, on the other hand, I have mastered. I can be hugely and genuinely busy… far too busy to begin the things I know I ought to be doing… especially if they are likely to be unpleasant or upset the status quo. And, like indolence, that is a fear reaction. Fear of change… of shifting the balance… of possibly making a situation worse…of failure…or even of facing an uncomfortable truth.  There are any number of fears hidden behind the pleasant veil of procrastination.

Action is what we choose when the tipping point is reached… when we step, deliberately, from one pan of the scales to the other. From resisting to embracing life in all its glorious, complicated messiness. We move towards love… and, as we do so, it reaches out to us.

A string of words, randomly chosen yet wholly pertinent… and, because we gave them our attention, applying them to our lives in a way that allowed us to focus on aspects of self we had, perhaps, ignored or simply not seen, any of them would have given us the keys to a shadowed part of our being. By looking within we can explore a wider horizon.

At the Crossing, Whitby Abbey

Later that weekend, at Whitby Abbey, we would be asked to find a location that symbolised the essence of those four words for each of us. The symbolism inherent in any place once held sacred can speak to us, regardless of the path we follow.

I chose the Crossing, where the vertical aisle meets the two ‘arms’ of the transepts. It is, in many ways, the heart of a church. The cruciform shape echoes that of the crucifix and the heart of the crucified would have rested above it.

Pickering Church… where we found the same icon as we had seen at Lastingham.

For indolence, it symbolised all the possibilities that were there for the choosing… and the choice made to embrace none of them. For procrastination, it was the perfect illustration of its fear and uncertainty; what happens when you leave the place where you stand? Have you made the right choice? What if you get it wrong? Better not to move at all…

By choosing action, you move, take one of the paths offered… actually get somewhere, even if it wasn’t where you thought you might go. And by moving, you leave the space empty for something else to come in… and what comes as you embrace life is light and love.

St Oswald’s, Lythe.

Let go… G. Michael Vasey

Gary continues to share his experiences on the recent weekend workshop in North Yorkshire:

The last time I visited Whitby Abbey I was a boy. I recall little of it. Just that I was bored. Of course, I have been to Whitby many times since, often with my father who had business there. He would leave me for an hour or so to wander and once I recall taking my oil paints to paint the harbor. I was last there just a few years ago with my parents, ex-partner and daughter. I do like Whitby!

I must say that the abbey ruins are fairly impressive but I felt no atmosphere or energies. It seemed a dead ruin to me. A stark reminder of other times. As we pondered aspects of the Abbey in the context of the spiritual prompts of the weekend, my sense was of the skeletal remains of something erected to the glory of man rather than the glory of God. What was left reminded me of what Asteroth has called the ‘horny matter of experience’ – essentially, the structure that we build through life to protect ourselves, shut out the inner and act out our public outer selves. The spiritual activities that took place in the Abbey are no more and, for me anyway, have left no energy ripple in time that I could pick up. In considering this analogy, I was reminded of how we act out roles, how we have our sensitivities dulled by our experience of life, and how we often lose sight of the true spiritual nature of self.

Continue reading at The Magical World of G. Michael Vasey

Keys to Heaven: Planning…

Image result for odin's cross

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Baldrick, famously, hatches cunning plans which always back-fire.

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Dick Dastardly, equally famously, hatches devious plans which always back-fire,

and he usually has to be saved from destruction by his pet dog, Muttley.

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So, what is it that they are doing wrong?

The plans they hatch purport to deliver the best possible outcome

but from their own, limited perspective, alone.

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But surely, having some form of plan

is better than having no plan at all?

The key may be in the phrase, ‘some form of plan’.

Meticulous planning to the ‘nth’ degree is destined to fail

if it leaves no space for spirit…

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Before we convened on Runswick beach at dusk, for our

inaugural ‘ritual’, the first of four, we visited St Oswald’s Church in Lythe.

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We had been to St Oswald’s before, one bitterly cold January day,

on our way back from our first stone inspired foray

into Scotland, which was now, almost five years ago…

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Curiously, neither of us recognised the spire of the church,

even though we, were on the right road and, were

expecting it to be where it was.

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St Oswald’s is famous for its ‘Ginger-Bread-Man’.

A depiction of the Norse God, Odin, swallowed by wolves

at Ragnarok, carved onto a Viking, Hog-Back, gravestone.

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The image is justly iconic and we speculated on its relevance to one

of our themes for the weekend: Unity from Duality.

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Were the wolves, swallowing, or regurgitating the Wide Wanderer?

And does it have to be wolves, in the well known fable it is a fox?

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Alongside the display of old stones were photographs

of the old church with its old spire, which, almost impossibly

is how we had remembered the church even though it had

not looked like that for over one hundred years.

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Image result for odin's cross

Spirit of ‘What-Not’…

Trinity like Norfolk church

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We can, perhaps, now understand, a little of where this diagram is coming from.

It may be that this figure is supposed to represent a tetrahedron, yet because of its overt Patriarchy it is tempting to see a hidden second point on the underside which reads Goddess, with the reverse of, The Son, sphere being, The Daughter, and the reverse of, The Father, sphere being, The Mother.

This is, probably, not quite what the Holy Fathers had in mind, though.

We may hope that The Holy Spirit is way beyond such gender wrangles.

Triangle of One

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163                         136

To re-cap…

One-Three-Six is not One-Six-Three and vice-versa, One-Six-Three is not One-Nine-Nine and vice-versa,  One-Nine-Nine is not One-Three-Six and vice-versa but One-Three-Six, One-Six-Three and One-Nine-Nine are… One.

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Image result for lemniscate

Merlin, Beast-Master…

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… It was night, the horns of the bright moon shone,

the vault of heaven’s lights gleamed…

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From the top of a lofty mountain,

Merlin regarded the course of the stars…

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‘Guendoloena has left me in my absence,

and now clings to another man.

When tomorrow’s sun shines, I will go

and take with me the gift I promised her when I left.’

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So, Merlin went about the woods and groves

and collected a herd of stags and deer,

and he himself sat astride the largest stag…

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When day dawned he had arrived at the gates

of the place where Guendoloena was to be married.

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‘Guendoloena! Guendolena! Come!

Your presents are waiting for you!’

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Guendolena came to the gates and marvelled

at the man riding on a stag at the head of a herd of wild beasts.

Her bridegroom who was watching from a lofty window

looked down, in wonder, and laughed.

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When Merlin saw the bridgeroom

he wrenched the horns from the stag

 and hurled them at him smashing in his head

and driving the life of him out into the air.

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With a quick turn of his heels,

Merlin set the stag a flying,

and went on his way back to the wood…

– Adapted from, ‘The Mystic Life’ by R J Stewart

 

 

 

‘Aye’ of the Unicorn: Tower…

Image result for Alchemical unicorn

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To complete our pentagrams

we returned to our

core principles and considered the shadow.

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The setting was not the swiftly flowing Spey

but a quitely progressing brook

which arced in a crescent

around the space in which we chose to work.

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Out text saw the Queen of Witches,

Hecate, admonishing the Weird Sisters

for tampering with the modalities of time.

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A fitting end to conclude our adventures.

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The child outgrew the shadow

 filling the limbs

and head of the pentagram

before climbing astride

the Unicorn

and bounding away…

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With thanks to Dean Powell and Steve Tanham for organising the weekend…
and to all those who joined us in Scotland for making it a great one.

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If you would like to join us for a weekend, exploring the inner, spiritual landscape, within the Living Land of Britain, please see our Events page.

‘Aye’ of the Unicorn: Circle…

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As the weekened progressed

we were to work our way around ‘the limbs’

of an elemental pentagram.

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Two sites from the region

were given over to each element.

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In the first we would consider the element in question

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

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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.

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Mid and late Saturday morning,

we considered and worked with the element of water.

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Which all turned a bit weird.

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For one thing we abandoned our core text

and instead considered the information board

to the Holy Well at Burghead.

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There was no disputing that the place

was ancient and held to be sacred,

but some of the uses to which it had been put

caused rumblings in the assembled ranks of the Companions.

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These only increased as the steep steps

down to the cavernous well head were traversed.

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There seems to have long been an ancient connection

between skulls and sacred waters.

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Symbolically, this combination relates

to accessing the pool of ancestral wisdom.

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A ‘baptism’ in these waters would be an acceptance

of this higher source of being which reaches beyond the circle of time…

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As if in confirmation of such a notion

when we reached our second site

for the element of water

the tide had come in!

 

 

 

‘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.

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Mid Saturday and Sunday mornings

we considered and worked with the element of earth.

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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!

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Like a castle sinking into the earth

his kingdom, his sanity,

and ultimately his life slips from his ignoble grasp.

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It could have been so different,

had he only sought integration

instead of dominion.