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.

The perception of memory

I slowed to let the young lad on the bicycle pull out onto the roundabout. That looks like… I raised my hand to wave to my son’s friend and instantly realised my mistake. It might have been his son, but it certainly was not the boy I had known. It couldn’t be… he would be in his thirties now and this youngster was little more than a child. Even worse, he looked like my son’s best friend when we had first known him, almost twenty years ago, not as I had last seen him a couple of years ago, well over six foot tall and as broad as a tank.

Memory is a funny thing. I recalled a recent conversation where we had discussed how the images that we hold in our minds of people we know are not always accurate. Sometimes we picture them from a single moment in time, often the first time we met them. Sometimes we build up a composite picture, snapshots from across the years we have known them, all melded together and occasionally shifting from one angle to the next. Then again, we always look through the eyes of emotion, seeing a face that may reflect more about the true depth and nature of our feelings for that person than what they actually look like.

Memory and emotion are intimately linked. When we look back from the now, we see both events and people through the emotional eyes of the then. Our memory of events will inevitably be skewed, coloured by the emotions of that moment, rather than being the accurate record we think we hold. In many ways, that does not matter; what we remember is true… for us, as whatever we recall is what will have affected us as we moved through that moment and forward into the rest of our lives.

Some of those impressions will change us for the better, teaching us love, happiness, hope and understanding. They are gifts upon which we will build, little by little, for we are made of such fragments of memory, each one adding, as we grow, to the picture of who we will become. Some of them will leave a darker mark and a deeper scar, especially when we are very young, when we are not always equipped with the experience to see beyond the surface and simply react to the emotions.

Take, for example, the very small child who does something to upset his parents. He does not truly understand, only that he has upset them. He may feel he has let them down and disappointed them. His parents may simply be doing their best to teach the child or keep him safe… but the child cannot comprehend the adults’ motives. He only knows he has failed them…and that is what he feels. He feels it too when he knocks a glass of water over at school and the teacher is disappointed in him… That feeling is stored away as memory and becomes one of the most formative moments for him, though his parents may well have forgotten what was to them just a minor incident.

The child grows, always feeling that he can/has/will let his parents down. He does not necessarily remember the incident either, but its effects are carved on his heart. He tries hard, harder… so much so that he almost inevitably ‘fails’ to achieve his goals, in his own eyes at least, though to all others he seems to be doing well. That insecurity, that feeling of never being able to make his parents proud may go on to colour the rest of his life, actions and future relationships… and neither he, nor his parents, will ever know where it came from.

It is a tragedy that is played out in a hundred different forms, through almost all of our lives.

It is not always what we do that matters, but how it makes other people feel. It is that which imprints itself on their memory. Yet we are not responsible for how others interpret our words and actions, that responsibility lies solely with them. For ourselves, we can only act with consideration and thought, letting empathy be our guide. We will not always get it right… and if we did, we would learn nothing, but we can try.

But what to do about all those invisible scars that have formed and created fragile places in our hearts and minds? A trained therapist might take you safely back into the trauma of childhood dealing with the perceived events and the misconceptions that may have arisen. For most of us, that is probably a step too far and rather unnecessary… we are who we have become, based on our experience of life so far. It doesn’t really matter what or where the cause, what matters is to see the patterns that have formed and begin to address those that are having a negative impact on our lives and wellbeing.

One of the ways we begin that journey in the Silent Eye is to break down the human personality into ‘bite-sized’ pieces so that we can learn to understand them, relate to them… and see how, where and if they relate to our own lives.

We do not have to delve into the deep and murky memories that are buried beneath the weight of years. We do not have to reopen painful wounds. We can simply find the effects and work with them until we can see that the bars they have placed around us no longer hold us. We can learn to see them as gifts, for every experience adds to the richness and depth of our personalities and our possibilities of understanding both ourselves and each other. In this way we can free ourselves from old misunderstanding and, like a flower when the shadows of weeds are removed, grow to our full potential with a better knowledge of who we truly are.

 

Reflections

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‘Know thyself’… Pausanius tells us it was inscribed in the court before the temple of Apollo at Delphi. We are given to understand it is associated too with the Inner Temples in ancient Egypt. It is one of the first phrases we come across in esoteric studies and where else could we begin? It is not the easiest thing to look into the mirror of the soul and admit to oneself what one finds there. Even less to share that openly with others by dropping the social masks and simply being who we are.

I first learned the concept as a child from my grandfather, but it was one it took years to begin to truly understand and longer still to try and put into practice. As we grow through adolescence and youth our self-image constantly shifts, changing as it reflects the desire to become who we think we ought to be, the image we feel the world should see, the mirage of our desire to become something different, perhaps, from who we are.

I have a feeling that it is only later that we have the inner space to truly look into that mirror, and by that time the masks we wear are so firmly in place it is difficult to strip them away and see what lies beneath. Many of us find it difficult to admit our worse characteristics, our fragilities and weaknesses. Even more, perhaps, do we find it difficult to truly admit our good points, gifts and talents as human beings. Our society tends to call this pride or ego and we see that as something to be shunned. Yet why should we fail to recognise the good when we can, it seems, accept the flaws far more easily? We are complex creatures.

Of course, unless we know ourselves from all angles, understanding who we are, how we move in the world, what the impulses are behind our reactions and actions, we cannot even begin to make a conscious change. Without that knowledge the changes that occur naturally through time and experience are simply reactions. Yet there is a difference , too, between knowledge and understanding. A child may know that fire is hot and learn not to touch. A parent sees the danger of the invisible ‘fire’ in radiators, hot irons, cookers… and understands how to keep the child safe.

I want to learn, to know. To understand. Both inwardly and outwardly… my inner self and the life around me, for I feel the two to be inextricably linked. Life, of course, involves me in a very personal way, the ultimate intimacy. It demands that I take account of, and responsibility for, thought, word and deed… it demands my awareness and my active participation in my own conscience, my own being. And this awareness is not separate from the rest of my life, but permeates every part of it. It provides the matrix by which I can live with my eyes open, allowing me to begin to glimpse the pattern.

Yet I was reminded recently that there is more to the phrase than the two words so often quoted. It is said that in learning to know oneself one can begin, however dimly, to see God. Whatever Name we choose to give to the Divine, there is that small spark of Light, a memory of our origins, and perhaps a foreshadowing of our destination, burning brightly like a jewel in the soul. Perhaps we have to look beyond not only the masks society sees us wearing, but also beyond the complex contradictions of the human personality we assume, to see that spark of Light within.

Not only is there a need to understand the impulses and characteristics that move us through the world daily, wearing a familiar face, but there is, I think, a need to look deeper towards the inner mysteries of who we are. By turning inwards in silence, which may at first glance, seem a self-centred thing to do, perhaps we are actually opening ourselves to a reality wider, vaster, deeper than we may see elsewhere, and by looking within we open ourselves to the whole wonderful vista of manifestation?

Cold comfort

The bedroom was seriously cold… I had left the window open all day and all night and the temperature has struggled to get above freezing lately. I smiled… because that is exactly how I like it. I don’t care for a nice, warm bedroom…just a warm bed in which to snuggle and the electric blanket warms the bed nicely. I suppose it harks back to my childhood, ‘when I were a lass’ in Yorkshire.

Without wishing to sound like the famous sketch, life was very different then and although I saw it from a number of angles, the relative poverty of the north was stark then in comparison to life in the ‘soft south’.

When I was born, one set of grandparents lived in a big house where a housing estate has now taken the place of the croquet lawn and tennis courts, while the others had a cosy family home opposite the mill where Grandma worked at the looms. Regardless of the difference in social standing, neither home had any form of central heating but drew their warmth from coal fires. My mother and I moved into married quarters in the south while my father was stationed abroad. Life in the south was considerably warmer.

Visiting friends in the area, the child that I was found it fascinating that all the rooms were warm… all the time! And people had toilets downstairs as well as upstairs bathrooms! In later years, back in Yorkshire, I was to live in houses with neither heating nor hot water nor bathrooms… there were still many homes that shared a toilet at the end of the street or used the privy at the bottom of the garden.

My last bedroom as a girl was very cold in winter. I had to dress in layers for bed, cuddle a hot water bottle and often woke to icicles inside the windows. There is not a day goes by that I am not grateful for central heating and indoor toilets. Or hot showers, when I think back to one fateful winter in France when the water supply froze underground for six weeks and the icicle that grew up from the shower drain one night was nearly six feet tall.

I suppose that is why I prefer a cold bedroom these days… though not quite that cold! What you are accustomed to as a child unconsciously forms both lifelong habits and a measure against which the future is held. Warmth and a decent bathroom are still amongst my biggest priorities and luxury, for me, is being able to have a hot bath on demand…or choose a cold bedroom.

It is not just habits of living that are formed in childhood though, we form habits of perspective too. As children, we have little control over our environment and simply accept the world-according-to-grown-ups. Like it or not, even the most liberal-minded parent will unconsciously indoctrinate their children to some degree, seeking to arm them with the tools they deem necessary to operate within their social sphere, whatever that may be. In later years, we either continue to accept what we absorbed, or will question and rebel against it. Either way, that early conditioning plays an important part in who we become and how we view the world. The child’s perception of the world is the foundation upon which that of the adult is built.

It is widely known these days that a difficult or traumatic childhood will have an impact on adulthood. We don’t tend to think so much about how our ‘normality’ in childhood shapes us as adults. Sinichi Suzuki said that “children learn to smile from their parents”, but we also learn to judge and define our world from the same source. Outmoded beliefs and behaviours are passed down in this way, just as much as human values and moral codes. At some point, we are likely to catch ourselves doing or saying something that reminds us forcibly of those who raised us.

Whether we have chosen the paths of acceptance or emulation, or a more rebellious route, we are continuously and unconsciously reacting to the events, people and conditions of our early life. Many of our tastes, beliefs and opinions are defined by those years, as may be our ambitions, standards and dreams. Right down to the small things, we can feel the echoes in our own behaviour. From keeping the bedroom tidy, just in case the doctor calls… even though they no longer make house-calls… to whether we are frugal or spendthrift, keep the eggs in the fridge or at room temperature…or prefer cold bedrooms. The habits of behaviour are seeded early, and we rarely think to question where they originated.

It is an interesting exercise to take one or two of those habits and trace them back, trying to find their point of origin and how we have reacted to them. It is even more interesting to take the habits of thought and track them in the same way, especially as it is these that form a large part of the person we show to the world. Once we realise how they began, we may wonder why we continue to perpetuate them. We may even begin to ‘change our minds’, seeking to face ourselves and the world on our own terms, making conscious choices, acting instead of bowing to reaction.

For most of us, there is a moment during our teens when we realise that we wish we were free of parental control… yet as soon as we think we are, we recreate or rebel against the life they gave us. Understanding and accepting who we are and why we are who we are, does not mean we have to change everything, nor does it mean we can cast blame or responsibility on others. What it does is gives us a choice.

We can choose to smile when we see ourselves doing something exactly like our grandparents did when we were young, conscious of the connection to our heritage. We can choose to discard that opinion that was never really our own and cease to be ruled by it…especially when it was about who we are or who we could become. We can recognise why a cold bedroom feels right and yet we are free to turn on the heating. Who do we want to be? The choice, like our destiny, is ours to make.

Child’s play?

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Children’s Games by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

She orders him around unmercifully while he looks at her with utter adoration in his eyes.  If ordering does not work, she brings out the secret weapon…the smile, the cheeky glance from beneath her eyelashes. Very seldom does she resort to tears. But, at almost two years old, my granddaughter has all the fabled feminine wiles and knows just how to use them on her father. It is to my son’s credit that he manages to maintain discipline and say ‘no’ when he must, in spite of her entreaties and blandishments. It is one of the earliest lessons she will learn…we do not always get what we want, but will undoubtedly get what is needed, like it or not.

Watching her play with friends, you can already see the dynamics of adulthood begin to form in her interactions with others. You can see the first shoots of her own strength of character and begin to see how she will face the world when she is older. You can discern, too, the lessons she is being taught as she plays, learning the basis of the rules by which society is bound in order to live together in any kind of harmony.

It is through play that a child first learns about sharing, generosity and patience…and about letting go. Determination, the necessity to keep on trying till you get things right and how to read the intentions of others are also learned early. At not-quite-two, Hollie is old enough to understand games of ‘let’s pretend’ and serves you tea in empty cups. She sings, dances and laughs… but she is not yet old enough to understand being teased; her language and social skills have not yet reached far enough to allow her to tell the difference. That too will come as she continues to learn. The subtleties of expression and tone will slowly unfold, page by page, until understanding people becomes second nature and she will know the difference between the gentle teasing of affection and the barbs of self-interest.

Or so I hope… she is a gregarious young lady and grows secure in the love that surrounds her. That will not prevent her from meeting those whose motives are not so gentle. The teasing and the games will not always spring from love…there will be barbs, unkindness and jealousies. Especially if she has siblings. But that too is part of the learning process and, when learned early, allows a child to grow with enough discernment to tell the difference and sufficient tools to deal with whatever social situations may throw at them.

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Play seems to be something we just know how to do as youngsters. We may have to learn the various games, but the spirit of play is innate. You have only to watch young animals to realise that there must be an evolutionary benefit to play or it would have been discarded with other redundant behaviours. With our growing understanding of the mind we can understand how empathy, cooperation and compassion many be rooted in early games.

When Pieter Breughel painted ‘Children’s Games’ in the 16th century, the faces of the children were shown with expressions as serious as if they were adults going about their daily toil. The painting held a moral, a commonly held belief at the time that a child’s game is as important to the mind of God as anything an adult might do. More recently, science is recognising the importance of play, in adult lives too.

The necessity and the richness of experience gained through play is something we understand for children, but that we ourselves leave behind, more often than not, when we set about the serious business of adulthood. Play is seen as a pointless and purposeless waste of our time. Apart from those sports that attract so much money and attention, and which, by their competitive nature do not really qualify, play is often deemed unseemly for adults. Yet it is that very pointlessness that makes play a time out of time, a release from stress and relief from the pressures of adulthood, that can render it so valuable.

There is no hard and fast definition of the verb to play. The dictionaries describe rather than define it as ‘engaging in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose’. It is something that gives pleasure, attaches no real importance to a competitive element and is both flexible and voluntary. For adults it is also a time when the constraints of adulthood can be left behind, even when engaged in ostensibly adult activities. It may be difficult to define…but you know when you are doing it.

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The psychological and physical benefits of play for adults have been studied and are well documented. The spiritual benefits of play are not difficult to see. There is a well-known biblical reference to becoming ‘as a little child’ in order to enter heaven. The next verse suggests that those who adopt the humility of a child,  will reach a higher state than those who cannot do so. There is an innocence to child-like play that leaves behind the ego and allows is to be Fools…and enjoy the process. There is a real humility in that.

In an area of life where ‘know thyself’ is one of the first maxims we come across, play allows us to tease apart gently the strands of who we are, putting aside the acquired masks that we wear to face the world and finding access to the child within. This child-self the key to understanding how we have become who we are. there is little guile in a child and nowhere to hide from the clarity of their gaze. It is possible that this inner child is the real adult in our internal relationship with ourself and has a wisdom greater than our acquired knowledge.

The lessons of childhood do not have to remain there. Empathy, creativity, and an openness to the world can still come to us through play. The inner child is a part of us that will always have access to wonder and delight… and to that ‘lightness of being’ that is the result of both play and the spiritual journey.

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Hidden reflections

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Camera in hand, I was watching for the baby fish, but my attention was drawn to the little waterfall that tumbles into a corner of the pond, adding an extra dimension of sound to the garden. The water is closer, more insistent and attractive, capturing the attention and drawing it away from the busyness of the town and the noise of distant traffic. It is a tranquil spot and fish of all shapes and colours dart beneath my feet as I stand on the bridge.

It wasn’t until I got home and uploaded the pictures that I realised what I had captured in the ephemeral bubbles… reflections of me.

It wasn’t a deliberate shot, just a lucky one. The angle had been right and the sun glowing through the corner of the railings added its light to the image. Even so, looking at it on the screen, I couldn’t help thinking how this accidental image of the bubbles, each holding its  reflections from a slightly different angle, captures the essence of something we seldom really think about.

We cast reflections of ourselves into every situation and onto the screen of every life we touch. Each person sees us differently, through their own particular lens, yet there are multiple facets to the image they perceive… Not only their vision of us, but anything they may know of us through others as well as our own presentation of ourselves in that moment… all come together to form the person they will see when they look at us.

Just as we can never look at ourselves save in a mirrored surface, what we see is our reflection in their eyes and behaviour towards us and we react accordingly, warming to one person, helping another or walking away… all without considering that it is, in many ways, our own reflection with which we are engaging.

Not surprising, then, that the psychological phenomenon of projection, where we see our own unadmitted characteristics in others, holds up a mirror for us into which we prefer not to look too often or too deeply.

To make things even more complicated, that person looking at you is also projecting their own reflection, with all that carries… so they are seeing both themselves as they think they are… as they would like you to see them… all mixed up with the things they don’t want you to see, or even to admit to themselves… a multitude of mirrored reflections playing backwards and forwards through the infinity of a moment. And each one is seen from an angle that differs slightly… obscuring some details, revealing others…

It is no wonder human relationships are open to such confusion!

The complexity of this perpetual interplay is such that there is no quick fix solution. What we can do is look in that mirror and learn to know ourselves, exploring our being in such a way that there are no dark corners we dare not see, no patches of light too bright to gaze upon. Knowing ourselves means the whole self… not only an admission of our failings, but of our gifts and strengths also.

That way, what we see in another is not coloured by our shadows of denial and each person we meet is allowed to shine a little brighter … and may see a true reflection of their own light in our eyes.

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Fractured vision – the eye of the image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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