My Spiritual Journey by Steve Tanham

This week, I will be sharing again a little about the people behind the Silent Eye, starting with its founder, Steve Tanham:

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Sue has asked Stuart and I to record, in an interview style, our individual spiritual histories. Here’s my offering:

I was born in May 1954. I came into the world (with the help of my mother and a good midwife), in a terraced house belonging to my grandparents in a working-class district of Bolton. I had the good fortune to be born into a Rosicrucian family. My father had come across an advert for AMORC (one of the best-known Rosicrucian Schools) in a magazine he was reading while waiting at a railway station. He was on his way to carry out his basic training at an army camp. Later, he became the spiritual beacon of our family, and my mother married him, largely, she claims, because he was “different” from other men in this respect.

I was enrolled into AMORC’s Junior Order of Torchbearers as a child, and loved the gentle introduction to the Mysteries that they offered. There was no hint of indoctrination in those early lessons (nor since) and the gradient of teaching was very gentle – perhaps too gentle.

Fast forward twenty years and I joined the local “Lodge” of AMORC, in Manchester, of which Dad had been a founding member. I served diligently and, a few years later, became one of the youngest Masters of the local body. The word “master” here corresponds to the use of “Magus” in a magical lodge, and relates to work undertaken rather than spiritual superiority.

diggingdog 266I was first married in 1980. Our two sons were born in the mid-80s and I took a decade off from mystical service to be as active a dad as my busy corporate life allowed. Something in me changed during that period. I became conscious just how much the expectations of being a good son and successor to my father had featured in my earlier involvement with AMORC. I had been dutiful, yes, but had I acted from the perspective of my own soul? No. So, when I re-joined AMORC in 1999 I was determined to approach it from an individual perspective, rather than doing the “expected thing”.

Today, I would recognise that as a breaking free from one aspect of the Superego, but, back then, it came as a growing realisation of the need to find my own path – which is an equally valid way of describing it. That drive, that search for a personal path, became quite dominant and often led me to lonely places. It was only much later, and reading works by such writers as Kishnamurti, that I realised the significance of what I had done. We often have to cross deserts alone . . .

Through the early years of this century I continued to work with AMORC, again becoming Master of the local Lodge (it was actually what AMORC calls a “Chapter”) and going on to become a Regional Monitor and then Grand Councillor for the North of England. Looking back on this period I can see both the spiritual and egoic patterns of my life evolving, as they have to, in a lifetime that contains an unfolding quest of this nature. I often cringe as I revisit the ego-based decisions that accompanied this period in my life. I was enjoying considerable commercial success at work and took that to indicate a cross-life ability to deal with everything in the same way. Looking back, I became insensitive to the many cries for a more gentle approach as I pushed by own “business-like” agenda through AMORC, aided by others who felt the same way. Some of this was necessary, but much of it showed a lack of real spiritual development, and also compassion. The period was also characterised by the pursuit of mystical knowledge, which I mistook for depth. Some very hard lessons lay ahead . . .

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I retired from AMORC in 2006, shortly after I met Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, the Director of Studies of the Servants of the Light (SOL) and her husband Michael, who ran the administration systems using manual techniques. I remember the grim day on which my father, hearing the news that I had resigned from AMORC, remarked, bitterly, that I had become the “master of surprises”. The wound lingers, but, from where I now look back on those days, I would not have changed that decision.

I had become fascinated by the magical Qabalah and its use of the Tree of Life. To this day, I believe strongly in the power of the right symbol to help teach – and teaching had, by then, already become my passion. I wanted to study with (and assist), an organisation with a genuine lineage back to the time of the Golden Dawn. I was looking for what I saw as an authentic “Englishness” – something that would take me deeper into my own landscape and geographic spiritual heritage. The seven years I spent with SOL were richly rewarding on both sides. Dolores taught me many things, and she, Michael and I shared triumphs and crises together, as I helped bring SOL’s administrative systems into the digital age and put its operating finances back on an even keel. I was not alone in this work, many other lovely people gave their time and efforts to help.

What I learned most from Dolores was the sheer beauty and power of ritual. More than that, I learned how freely we can use ritual, if such innovation is applied with respect for the powers one is dealing with. These powers are not “external” to the human mind. They are directly related to how we engender a change of consciousness in a group, opening a door for the Higher to enter the prepared space; and the prepared people. Towards the end of my time at SOL, I undertook the creation of two annual workshops, using the innovative formula of a single (new) story, told in a number of ritual dramas over a weekend. These workshops were known as Alchemy I and II. Despite being unsure that I could pull this off, I wanted to do this so that SOL members could count on a continuation of the School’s excellent dramatic and ritualistic workshops at a time when the former architects of such events had moved on to other things.

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Dolores and I worked very closely on these, and the results are a living part of me today. I remember what I think of as my “graduation” from her ritualistic nurturing, when, during Alchemy II, arm in arm, we left the temple room in Great Hucklow after one of the main ritual dramas and she turned to me, smiled and said, “Well, they don’t come any better than that.”

Alongside my Qabalistic studies another thread was developing in me, marked by a desire to break away from historical symbolic systems and to find or develop something entirely “modern”. This implied no lack of respect for Qabalistic work, I simply felt that the underlying truths could also be told in a different way. I had studied Gurdjieff as a lone student, since I couldn’t find a school near enough. I was deeply attracted to Gurdjieff’s no-nonsense approach, and the fact that he saw spiritual development as something that should take place during each moment and not be relegated to a remote meditation period. For me, he was also the first person to point out the destructive effect the personality (ego) has on spiritual development, and the importance of countering this, before anything else could be attempted. Many people have had individual “peak” experiences, only to lose their effects shortly afterwards due to the power of habitual responses from the entrenched personality. Gurdjieff did not teach that the personality was a bad thing, simply that it had to be harnessed to the Will of the developed Essence – the personal part of Being that is the deepest layer of our Soul.

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Having come across the original use of the enneagram in Gurdjieff’s work, I was increasingly fascinated by the impact of those who had developed from a Gurdjieffian base and used the principles of esoteric psychology, in conjunction with the enneagram, to tell of the journey of the Soul. With great sadness, I left SOL in 2012 to pursue this, and thus was born the Silent Eye School. I had approached Sue Vincent to work with me as a mystical artist to create what I thought would be a new Tarot deck (really an Oracle, since we were not using the Tree of Life as a basis). She graciously agreed but then found herself drawn to the greater quest and joined me as a founding Director in 2012.

I considered it inappropriate for the new School to be a ‘daughter school’ of SOL, since the symbolic bases were so different. The Silent Eye had to sink or swim on its own merits. Dolores and I agreed to keep closely in touch as the new School began its life.

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I brought with me what I had earned; and took nothing else. A handful of people from our old SOL Lodge in Manchester joined me and I introduced them to Sue, in her new role. Stuart France has since joined us as a fellow Director of the School; and that completes our “triad”.

By founding the Silent Eye we knew we were asking for a process of “rapid personal evolution’ and that it would work on each of us in different ways, according to our strengths and weaknesses. We could not condone teaching what we had not experienced for ourselves. The Silent Eye is focussed on a model derived from a synthesis of esoteric psychology and an inheritance from our former “magical” world. We have therefore, in many ways created the “magical enneagram” – the title of a book I am currently beginning to write.

What we teach is what we have become. It is based on the premise that we are born in contact with our Being – our true home. Life necessarily separates us from being, since we have to learn to be independent in the world. This outer growth via separation develops the Ego or Personality by a process of Reaction. That complex of fear and reaction becomes the pattern of our lives, even if it is well hidden. But Being is ever waiting for us to call it back into our lives, and our Souls are the intermediary to make that happen. I believe the soul to be the vehicle for our experiences in life – that the substance of that experience conditions the outer layer of the soul, which must be washed clean in order for the clarity of its depths to reveal the “lost horizon” of Being from whence it came.

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Looking back on my life to date, it has really comprised two major stages, separated by a ‘turning point’. The first stage, which contained all my outward successes, was really about the word ‘More’. The second stage, which came much more recently, is described by the word ‘Less’. The secrets of the inner life are revealed by a reduction in what we carry, what we wear, what we look through. These are metaphorical rather than literal, though they can be both.

Either way, to be true to your real self, you need to take away that which prevents it shining into the world. It already shines – we can never diminish it, but we can clean and polish the glass in the windows . . .Less is most certainly more.

Are we qualified to teach anyone else? That’s a very good question, in the sense that perhaps, ultimately, we have to take responsibility for our own spiritual education. But, we can, as a School, offer a method and companionship. Methods have an inbuilt danger in that they, too, can become mechanical, whereas a self-found path should always be in the “now” and filled with the emerging vitality of Being. Perhaps the best definition of the Silent Eye is that it seeks to be a Companion along the way, there to converse, to cajole and, above all, to be a friend. The method of distance learning, supplemented by workshops, is the best one we know to achieve this in a manner that is affordable. We are a not-for-profit organisation; we exist to teach and share, and we put a lot of our own resources into that work to supplement the meagre resources of the School.

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I have been told by my treasured colleagues, Sue and Stuart, that I am, essentially, a storyteller. I have always tried to use the mechanism of story-telling in my presentations and in the way I teach. I am passionate about how things are taught; and the Silent Eye’s three year distance learning programme is based on a continuous story – really a guided journey of the soul – to which is added the theory sections which accompany each month’s lesson. I am happy with that label. A good story, well told and brought to life, has been a human tradition around the communal hearth-fire for as long as people have gathered under the stars and looked up.

So if you’ll pass me that jug of ale, I’ll compose myself, draw a deep breath and begin . . .

LEAF AND FLAME : An Introduction to the Dynamics II

As a school The Silent Eye subscribes to the triadic energy system taught by Gurdjieff and adopted by most proponents of the Fourth Way.

This system recognises three distinct centres of consciousness in the human entity.

To wit: the intellectual or Mind Centre, the emotional or Heart Centre and the instinctual or Movement Centre.

The key word here is distinct.

In undeveloped humanity which is where we all start these three centres operate entirely independently of each other and are oftimes actually in conflict.

It is also common to have one of these centres more developed than the others and to operate on a daily basis more readily through the most developed centre. This is natural.

We are all aware of ‘hard headed business men or women’ (Intellectual Centre) and people who ‘wear their hearts on their sleeves’ (Emotional Centre). Most sportsmen and women earn their living through a strongly developed Movement Centre.

Whilst these examples are to a large extent stereotypical, the centres reach much deeper than this.

When Carl Gustav Jung started analysing peoples dreams he found that some people preferred to relate the stories of their dreams verbally, others preferred to write them down whilst others found it easier to draw them. Still others felt most comfortable acting or dancing them out!

These centres then are intrinsic to our being and how we express ourselves and if they are not working together in unison we are by definition unbalanced and hence less than we could be.
It is tempting to depict this triadic energy system thus:

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By now you should probably be able to see where this is going.
But one of the reasons why we initially shrunk from depicting the figures vertically is that whilst it is tempting to ascribe symbolic positions for these centres in actuality they don’t live ‘anywhere’ other than in consciousness which is a ‘nowhere’.
By which we mean to say a now here.

More accurately, the energy system then can be depicted like this:

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Where 1 or 3 can be either the Heart or Intellectual Centre and 2 is the Movement centre.

Like the Celtic Cosmological model of Figure 2, Sphere 2 is traditionally formed of three components for the Movement Centre also includes the instinct which is really just useful or necessary and hence ‘remembered movement’ and also the generative function of sex which is both an instinct and the source of movement.

It can also be seen from this depiction that the Movement Centre holds the key to the reconciliation of the Heart and Intellectual Centres. The harmonious operation of two or more centres inevitably results in a corresponding rise in consciousness. This is just one of the reasons why we utilise movement in our dramatic rituals.

We hope that this brief introduction has indicated why we feel at least justified in adopting the Gurdjeffian system for our exploration of the Celtic Mythos.

We are confident that by the end of the weekend this decision will have been more than vindicated. Why not come along and find out if it is?


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Click here to download a pdf Booking Form for Leaf and Flame

For further details email: rivingtide@gmail.com

Six Faces of Avalon

We have learned much from our visit to the six faces of Avalon – the ancient name of the fabled Glastonbury. We have changed so very much in the process. The idea of a modern Mystery School is one thing, but to actually go out and talk to perfect strangers, passing to them an outer skin of what we teach, is something else.

Glastonbury is a lovely town, and it is a place with many faces. We do not pretend that the six faces we have seen in our bi-monthly talks are what it is – but they were the six faces that came into our collective consciousness; six windows onto the soul of Avalon. As such, they contained what we needed to know, as long as we had the wit and insight to approach that experiential knowledge and convert it into understanding.

The alchemy of the conversion of knowledge to understanding was a key part of the talk. The fact that we can convey knowledge to another, but can never convey understanding in the same way, was shown as illustrative of the way mankind is made. In many ways we are reversed in our natures; and the process of esoteric learning teaches that, to put ourselves back together, we have to reconnect the pieces in a way that requires faith.  Not a faith in God, though that may come; rather a faith that a living process guides our efforts, making connections where we cannot – what Gurdjieff, chief teacher of Maurice Nicoll, the subject of our talk, would have called ‘an intelligent process in the world’.

World and Word.

We began the talk, “The Secret Language of Esoteric Christianity” in this way, reading the opening of St John’s Gospel and asking the ring of kindly people to describe their own concept of what ‘the Word’ means. They all obliged, and we had our beginning. In the beginning, our beginning, was the word, therefore . . . and little else, because we had restricted ourselves to an absolute bare minimum of props and devices. Gone were the projector, screen and other layers of artifice. In their place was simply a ring of people, sharing an evening.

We had arrived for our first talk, one winter ago, in February. We were, on that wet and cold night, fully ‘armoured’ so to speak – with projector, screen and roving hand-held iPad to control things – in the true manner of the corporate presenter.

In contrast, We did our final talk, on Thursday, symbolically naked, without even our enneagram temple mat for company. This marked an important transition of collective self-knowledge. We had learned that the people of Glastonbury like to simply share things; and that such talks are better on a person to person basis within a much gentler and more intimate setting, where technology does not get in way of the human voice . . . and what it carries.

We owe many thanks to our sponsor for the visits, – the lovely Morgy, who runs the Glastonbury Reception Centre. For most of the talks she put us up in her home on a variety of beds, camp beds or sofas.  Replete with much wine, we have usually fallen asleep some time after two in the morning having had a wonderful time.

Thank you Glastonbury. We’ve had a challenging and wonderful year. We’ve learned a lot about you and even more about ourselves . . .

I’m sure we’ll be back . . .

Get thee behind me, Satan . . .

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Fragment of Gospel of John (Wikipedia)

We are in the final stages of preparing for our last talk of the year at Glastonbury, working with the Glastonbury Reception Centre, who have been our hosts for the full six talks which have run, bi-monthly in that lovely Somerset town. Thursday will see us, once again, returned to a winter landscape, allowing a wonderful contemplation of the full year which has just passed.

This pre-Christmas talk is entitled, “The Secret Language of Esoteric Christianity” and examines the very deep interpretation of the Gospels put forward by Maurice Nicoll, who studied with both Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, and was asked by both to prepare a detailed interpretation of these sacred works from the perspective of the thinking of the Fourth Way, as Gurdjieff’s teachings became known after his death. During his life Gurdjieff never compared ‘the System’, as he called it, to Esoteric Christianity, but close to his death, he said that the two were, in fact, very close in method.

It took Nicoll the last ten years of his life to prepare the two volumes – ‘The New Man’ and ‘The Mark’. They provide a very radical view of Christ’s mission, and one that can be uncomfortable to read; as it challenges the somewhat sanitised and moralistic nature of our relationship with this received wisdom in its conventional form.

Such sayings as “The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother, the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law” (Luke 12:53) should make us think very deeply about what might be hidden in such very specific wording . . .

On Thursday, we will be considering three of the parables and using them to uncover a language of meaning that is consistent across each. There are so many revelations as one considers each tale in the light of this deeper and profound approach. One of the parables we will not have time to cover is the narrative (quoted here from Matthew XVI 24-25) where Jesus says to Peter, his disciple “Get thee behind me Satan, thou art a stumbling block for me: for thou mindest not the things of God but the things of men”.  Now, in the context of a modern interpretation, where the word Satan is equated with the Devil,  this is an astonishing thing to say to anyone, let alone a close disciple.

The build-up to this is Peter’s insistence that Jesus is surely not going to die as others do. Nicoll proposes that the word Satan has a different context and really means mixing up the levels of meaning. It is accepted that the parables were capable of being read on at least two levels – the literal and something higher. Many of them, such as the the Pool at Bethesda, make no sense at all in the literal, and require much deeper probing if we are to tease out a profound and mystical meaning. We will be considering this story on Thursday. For now, and by way of the revelations that such probing can produce, let us consider the background to Jesus’ apparent attack on his friend.

Jesus goes on to say, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it”.

In the original texts, the word used here for ‘life’ was actually ‘soul’ and, strangely, if you ask people to quote the verse, they often use the word ‘soul’ in place of ‘life’.  Presumably, the church, having immortalised our ‘souls’ by placing them out of reach of all but priests, found it difficult to maintain the analogy with such contents of the actual Gospels.

As we are, according to the story, dealing with men who originated as humble fishermen, we have to question how Jesus taught them. We know nothing of the inner work he carried out with the disciples, but we can infer much from the implied dual meanings of the words of the Gospels.  The concept of levels of meaning was dear to the hearts of Gurdjieff and his followers, and not just from a neo-Christian perspective. He taught that it was vital to separate things so that they could be compared on their own levels – and to mix these risked enormous confusion.

One such example from the Gospels is the use of the word ‘Pharisee’ – apparently Jesus’ favourite targets. He was certainly direct in what he said, but did he really pick on a religious group so singly and savagely?  Or perhaps he meant the Pharisee in each of us – the one who made visible worship to show to others how much he/she was worthy of their admiration; and how much they adhered to the letter and the law of their worship? If this were the case, then what a powerful metaphor it created in a single word . . . of such impeccable and higher logic are great and secret languages woven.

Returning to our theme of laying down one’s ‘life’ or ‘soul’. If Jesus was seeking a way to convey the ‘me-ness’ of a person, then the word ‘life’ might not be specific enough. Life is more easily equated with the difference between a living and a dead thing. The animation is Life, mysterious and difficult to define though it may be. The interior life of a person is the garden of study for all philosophical systems, and it is reasonable to surmise that the word ‘soul’ was used to describe this. In our modern world, the birth of psychology has seen this notion replaced by the term psyche, but the meaning is very similar except that, from Greek times on, great scholars viewed the soul as containing all the interior experience of a person, including what we now call the spiritual, rather than just that belonging to the physical.

If we re-examine the notion of laying down a life in this context the quotation from the Gospel of John becomes:

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his soul for his friends.”

Here we have a very different metaphor; that a ‘man’ would die, not to his organic life, but to the current level of his interior state – something that few psychologists would dare approach. And yet, this teacher of fishermen, two thousand years ago, said it plainly. In laying down his ‘soul’ in this way, he approached the kind of conscious love that mystics attribute as the supreme teaching of all avatars who come into Life to teach in this way.

Could the phrase of Jesus: “Get thee behind me . . .” not indicate a simple layering from front to back, of the interior higher state having precedence?

In this context, Jesus goes on to speak of the difference between servants and friends. Servants are those who obey because of authority and without understanding. Friends are people close to us, perhaps Companions of the Way, for whom we are willing to lay down our present state of ‘me-ness’, sacrificing and risking all, in the centurion-like faith that such a ‘death’ of state renders us a vessel for inner re-birth. The centurion most certainly made a friend of his servant, thus transferring him between levels of his interior life.

In our talk on Thursday, we will approach more of this secret language and open it to discussion and examples from all our lives. It will be a rich and rewarding forum.

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The Seeds of Heaven

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A month from now, on the 4th December, the Silent Eye will be giving its last talk of our year in Glastonbury. It has been both a wonderful and a challenging year, and we have learned as much about ourselves as we have about the culture and interests of Glastonbury.

For the December 4th talk, we have chosen to close our year with the subject of Esoteric Christianity. We are using the works of Maurice Nicoll; particularly The New Man, first published in 1950, to illustrate a dramatic perspective on the deeper meanings of the Gospels. This talk will focus on the secret language and metaphors used by those who documented the life of Christ.

Nicoll died in 1953, three years after the publication of The New Man. His was a long and dedicated life, during which he left behind a lucrative Harley Street psychiatry practice to work with G. I. Gurdjeiff at the famous Institute for the Harmonious Development of Mankind, which operated in an old priory, just outside Paris. When Gurdjieff closed the Institute, in 1923, Nicoll returned to England to work, once again, with P. D. Ouspensky, who he had known prior to meeting Gurdjeiff. Nicoll was tasked by Ouspensky to use what became the last decade of his life to document the ‘secret language’ of the Gospels.

Nicoll’s work, published in two books, The New Man and The Mark, preceded the use of typical 1960s and 70s ‘sensational’ headlines, such as Eric von Daniken’s “Was God an Astronaut”. Although Nicoll’s work was entirely revolutionary in its implications, his was a much quieter technique, one that used his psychologist’s mind to deconstruct the writing in the Gospels to uncover a consistent and hidden set of metaphors used within them.

When the New Man was published, in 1950, he gave it the modest subtitle “AN INTERPRETATION OF SOME PARABLES AND MIRACLES OF CHRIST”.

One example of Nicoll’s work is his conclusion that the Gospels use three different words for Truth.

Truth is at the centre of our search for meaning. All serious students of the spiritual are faced with this quest at some time in their lives. Often, our lives are marked by a long climb to some degree of comfort and material success; but ‘getting there’ can leave us feeling that something significant is missing.

We can have simple truths, such as the fact that it’s now a certain time of day, according to GMT. This is relative only in the sense that it relies on a shared convention. Such a simple ‘truth’ is an everyday part of our outer consciousness. It’s really just a fact. Facts are useful, but they don’t contribute much to our consciousness of higher things, in the way that, say, understanding does.

Understanding is something higher because it knits facts together into a kind of pattern – and that pattern lets us see something bigger – some sense of an underlying working that has larger implications. This was always there, but hidden from us until we had the ability to see (and feel) the whole. Facts are rigid things (stone); understanding is fluid, it can flow round a problem and yet retain its coherency, its spirit, helping us find new ways that actually extend our breadth of that understanding.

I can write down a set of Health and Safety rules for display in my office. These will make perfect sense and yet they are not the ‘spirit’ of safety. Such a thing would require a commitment to it, and an adaptability to probe what might be dangerous in new and evolving situations. This level of understanding could never be written down as a list.

Facts are a poor substitute for understanding; and yet they need to be written down because understanding cannot be transmitted. We can receive facts from others – the whole of education is based on this – but unless that set of facts takes root, like a seed in good soil, the plant of understanding that should mature may wither.

In his ground-breaking book, The New Man, Nicoll proposes that the Gospels (and other parts of the Bible) use the word ‘Stone’ as the literal truth – the set of facts, much in the same way that the Old Testament references ‘Tablets of Stone’ for the Commandments. These are really only lists of instructions at the level of the literal fact. For many people, this is sufficient. It is an important principle that writers of spiritual works must also be able to create simpler and easily digested snapshots of what they are trying to convey. This principle is used throughout the history of myth, for example.

In many ways, these seeds, although literal, are of the greatest importance, because they have the potential to connect the ‘higher’ to the ‘lower’. They have, in other words, the potential to be a seed. But only something that comes from a higher perspective of understanding has this power. Knowledge, alone, does not.

Nicoll proposes that Jesus’ lifetime was entirely about the connection of the higher to the lower. The higher being the Spirit; the lower, the personality, which itself grows as a result of our reactions to life but can never know the world of the Spirit unless the latter ‘reaches down’ into our reactionary world, infusing it with a seed of Being beyond the fact. In this process three words are used for Truth – Stone, Water and Wine. We have discussed stone above.

In our Glastonbury talk on the 4th December, will we be following this stem and exploring how the stone of fact becomes the plant of understanding and beyond, in a marriage of something profound, for which the wine is a fitting symbol.

The talk will be hosted by the Glastonbury Reception Centre.

What is Esoteric Psychology?

 “Ideas have the power to change our lives – but only if they are acted on such that the initial impulse which accompanies their arrival in our consciousness becomes the fuel that begins their germination.”

 

The word ‘esoteric psychology’ can appear to suggest an intellectual path, one in which we envisage lots of theory and a difficult mental journey to understand the spiritual via the intellectual mind.

In practice, nothing could be further from the truth. The Silent Eye School is not run by a team of psychologists – we are three people drawn from very mixed spiritual backgrounds who shared a few years together on the same path and then decided that we had enough commonality and passion about what we wanted to teach to get on with it – together.

In truth, the Silent Eye School is as much magical as it is mystical; as much about emotion as it is about the intellect. We weave together what we know works, and, importantly, what we know well enough to be able to teach.

We described the Silent Eye as being a School of Esoteric Psychology because we wanted to be able to take advantage of the insights into the ‘self’ gathered by nearly a hundred years of deep research.

Most of this was directed at the pursuit of the ‘stable self’ – meaning the stable personality. Historically, the application of psychology has not always been directed at well people. Why then, would we be be so interested in it as the teaching core of our approach?

From our perspective, the big advances in spiritual psychology came out of the famous ‘Human Potential’ movement, associated with such places as the Esalen Instititute in California. The movement has been glamourised beyond its historic value, but many developments of great importance came from its stable. The agenda for this was to bring together the threads of old and new to create a modern spirituality that combined many fields of human research, and to ensure these were not overly bound by tradition. But, within that goal, to respect all traditions from which the mix came, for example, much Buddhist thought came into the West via this route.

The elements of this movement involved meditation, so called ‘new age’ thinking, psychology, and many other threads. Obviously, the 1960s and 70s were also strongly associated with drugs. Our policy here has always been that the risk of damage to the human mind intent on genuine exploration via the inner journey is too great to justify the use of drugs. We do not advocate or take them, a modest degree of red wine, notwithstanding!

Claudio Naranjo was one of the leading lights of the Esalen community. He was strongly influenced by his studies with the Bolivian-born mystic, Oscar Ichazo, who ran the Arica institute in Chile and was the first person to widen the use of the enneagram beyond Gurdjieff’s model of cosmic process and intelligence.

Naranjo worked with Fritz Perls, who founded the new psychology of Gestalt Theory, and became one of Perl’s closest friends. Naranjo had also been a student of Gurdjieffian thought (as had Ichazo) and made much of its clear thinking central to the way he developed his psychology-based spiritual approach. Naranjo sums up this period in his autobiography with the words:

“I had the opportunity of becoming Carlos Castaneda’s closest friend, of becoming Fritz Perls’ apprentice, and of becoming part of the early Esalen community.”

Naranjo no longer teaches enneagram-based studies in English, in protest at the growing commercialisation of the field, which takes its focus away from the original ethic – which was to use the map of personality afforded by the enneagram to indicate the way to return to a spiritual home, rather than ‘polishing’ the personality as so often happens in recent approaches. But Naranjo’s early work created an impetus which gave rise to such teachers as Sandra Maitri and Almass. They are the present torch-bearers of Naranjo’s spiritual inheritance.

The logic of this approach is inescapable: It argues that even people who had been through spiritual ‘peak experiences’ find themselves returning to ordinary consciousness afterwards, as though the spiritual experience did not have enough power to overcome the sheer accumulated weight of ‘ordinary life’. The search for why took the pioneers of esoteric psychology into a deep study of the power of the personality (in psychology – the ego) the home of the everyday self.

That accumulated weight was the result of how our sense of self – resident as a construct in the mind – had to form in response to the world into which we are all born; from basic reactions to our Mother, through to the discovery that the environment we were born into, no matter how loving, would not sustain everything we felt belonged to ‘us’. This tree of responses became the mental and emotional structure, like a set of cloudy lenses, with which would see and feel the world.

 

 

The pioneers of esoteric psychology showed that this structure of the personality could be described by a shape, and, moreover, that this shape already existed in the world of sacred teachings. This shape or pattern was the Enneagram, whose nine points map exactly onto the nine types of personality that result from the different ways our early experiences skew our views of the same world.

Initially, the excitement of being a self propels us out into the world – as it is designed to do; but later in life, we begin to feel that conditioned dullness which is the result of the formulation of a lifetime’s reaction. As our reactions become habitual, we lose that sacred space between the observed and the observer that gives us entry into the true experience of Self.

The first step is to recognise that this is how our lives feel. If we can face up to that, then we can begin to do something about it.

The ego or personality (since the two are the same thing in this type of self-study) then has a choice. It can accept that the spiritual excitement of life is over, and sink into whatever comforts are available, or it can summon up what we call the “Turning Point”. This dramatic moment, which must be reinforced many times, brings us face to face with the reality of our lives, and we see how little we experience the wonder of where we are; how it robs us of of the sheer power and excitement of being alive. In addition, we become conscious of our potential to take much more powerful actions once we have seen how close our true self actually is.

None of this implies any unkindness on the the part of the world that raised us. The dramatic truth is that we are meant to be this way, although our birthright is to be greater. Mankind is unfinished, as the inner meaning of the Gospels (for example) shows. We are a greater seed dropped into a life. We have little control over the conditions of our birth – only over how we choose, once conscious, to react to it.

To gain the initial knowledge we need – in order to begin asking the right questions of the universe, a different seed – one of the right knowledge – has to fall into our lives. That seed must appear at the right moment for it to take root in ‘good soil’; but its message comes from outside life as we know it. No School can claim to be the inventor of that inner content, their role is to be worthy messengers.

 

The Silent Eye is in no way unique in putting forward this picture of our experience. We all learn from others that which strikes a chord in our depths and impels us to add our own language and experience to aid that greater purpose – the Work.

The great contribution that esoteric (spiritual) psychology has made to this journey is the discovery that elements of the personality, when mapped via the enneagram, as our mental and emotional viewpoints on the world, enable us to see, not only the shape of that which holds us back, but also the guided steps we should take to (gently) release ourselves from the habitual behaviour that holds us fast. In that way, we gain forward momentum and also open the gates for our emotions to become the agents of self-transformation.

All of this begins with a re-orientation; one that places us in a new relationship with the ‘now-point’ of our lives as it enters our field of perception. This ‘temple of the moment’ is fundamental in developing our ability to watch ourselves. Anyone who cannot watch themselves is unable to effect real change in their spiritual lives. In generating the ‘watcher’ within our consciousness, we begin the journey across the map of self which the enneagram provides.

Our workshops reinforce the basic teachings with living examples, played out via ritual drama in the safe and supportive space of a magical temple, and working with friends, new and old, who understand the rigours and the excitement of the journey.

The Silent Eye is eclectic. It has woven strong elements of the original Gurdjieffian teachings with the more modern use of the enneagram to unveil this personal journey within us. Magical techniques are constantly used to bring emotion to serve our real needs – not the needs of the personality.

What the School has done has mixed the threefold experience of the founders into the development of a unique approach to distance learning, accompanied by warm and nurturing supervision. In the Silent Eye School, the student, who becomes a Companion of the Way, is guided on a three year spiritual journey which takes place, in their own mind and emotions, as a living meditation, with extensions as exercises into our everyday lives.

This path is rigorous and demands much from the Companion. But the path is shared with others, and the way to the inner self has never been fluffy . . .

The first steps can change a life . . .

The Crossroads of Esoteric Language

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Sue, Stuart and I came together to form the Silent Eye from a variety of backgrounds. Among them Rosicrucian, Magical, Qabalistic, Hermetic, Gurdjieffian and Druidic. Symbolically, we met at a crossroads where the ancient meets the modern.

I have always regarded myself as, essentially, a modernist, though I have great respect for the past. To me, the purpose of the Silent Eye is to represent what are undoubtedly ancient truths in a modern language, and that is why the use of esoteric psychology is so central to what we try to do.

That concept – of language – is central to the way Mystery Schools have always sprung into existence – and faded away. There is nothing permanent about a real mystery school. Throughout history they have risen at a time when they could do some good, flourished or not, and then faded away as their own language or methods became dated and their message no longer speaks with as much life as it did when they were ‘young’.

My own route to here, through Rosicrucianism, Gurdjieff and now, esoteric psychology, comprises essentially modern threads. Sue and Stuart are both deeply involved with the history of both church and landscape, and we have shared a Qabalistic and magical path together. The form of Rosicrucian teaching in which I worked and served for many years was within AMORC, a modern packaging of concepts whose exoteric origin, at least, dates back to that eponymous period in the 17th Century. My deep and consuming studies of Gurdjieff’s legacy I viewed as being very modern in concept; and the esoteric psychologists of the past fifty years layered their findings onto the worldview created by Gurdjieff, even to the extent of using his enneagram to form a map of the journey of consciousness back towards its loving source.

Although I am the principle author of the Silent Eye’s distance learning programme, it has also been heavily influenced by the time when the three of us came together under the aegis of the Qabalistic and magical world. The use of ritual drama is central to our workshops. Some would call it psycho-drama, but to have touched the loving heart of true magical experience is to cherish and value it – and this informs everything we do, and gives a vital and very loving edge to how we construct the journey of the Companions, both in the workshops and the correspondence course.

Beyond and behind this is that period in history when the world changed – when the western world divided its time into two: the time of Jesus the Christ. Two thousand years ago, something very dramatic happened – the lifetime of a specially prepared adept was used to illustrate the potential of the human, dividing that potential into ordinary life and something called ‘heaven’. Any such teachings are subject to the inevitable trials of history, power and politics, and so, the only way we can get back to the spirit of those times, which were anything but peaceful, is to look, again, at the language.

That language is contained in the Gospels. They contain a single message – that men and women are born into organic life, with much of the animal driving their existence; but, that they contain a seed of something much greater, something that has to be worked on from within, and its growth reflected without, by the individual. Nature does not produce the finished human. It is our cross and our gift that we have to do that ourselves, by individual effort; but effort of a very special nature. All of this is contained in the living metaphor of Jesus’ lifetime and the language used to describe his journey.

Our Glastonbury talk on Thursday 4th December, will examine the legacy of that secret language. We will look at the need for that language to be secret and the way it has to be ‘sown’ into both a human and their lifetime in order for it to flower.

Along the way we will encounter the way in which the original meaning has been changed, for example, how Metanoia, now translated as ‘repentance’, has its roots in a meaning very different – one that signifies a ‘turning around’. We will look at the inner meaning of ‘Water’ and its relationship to ‘Wine”. These are just a few examples of the ground to be covered on that evening.

The talk will be interactive. We will not be using formal presentation techniques, but rather exploring together. We will, for example, begin the evening with the joint consideration of those qualities of ‘heaven’ and how they relate to a modern view of the way home.

Glastonbury Tor

Welcome!

We all seek the magic in life; that rich awareness that sees each moment in vivid colour against a backdrop of eternity. For each of us there is a path that can lead us to a greater understanding of ourselves and our place in the timeless universe of being.

The Silent Eye is a modern Mystery School that teaches one such path, combining ancient esoteric teachings with the methods of modern psychology to gently guide the student towards the  inherent magic of life.

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The Silent Eye was founded in 2012 to provide a unique path to self discovery and development using a combination of esoteric psychology and magical guided journeys. These components are not chosen at random, but have been carefully synthesised to suit the needs of the modern student of the Mysteries living in an age of great stress and world upheaval. They deliver a very liberating personal path, one that is imaginative, but not fanciful.

The approach is based upon a magical and psychological journey, and uses daily exercises through which we can mindfully examine our attitudes to life and how our vital energies are stolen by mechanical behaviour. Meditation is important, too and The Silent Eye aims to build a Temple of the Moment into the student’s everyday consciousness in addition to a contemplative approach.

The School offers a supervised correspondence course, as well as a variety of events and workshops. Coming to one of these is a great way to get to know us. You don’t have to be a member to attend, just sincere in your interest.

The three Directors of the School are long-standing and senior figures in the mystical and magical worlds, and have created this body of esoteric learning to suit the changing needs of the 21st century student, who seeks for a rapid path to a personal perspective that will empower him or her to seek out the deeper mysteries of their own wonderful beings.

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