Are we there yet?… Sue Vincent

This week, I will be sharing again a little about the people behind the Silent Eye…

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My grandfather gave me his annotated copy of the Mystical Qabalah by Dion Fortune when I was fifteen. “This is the only magical book that you will ever need,” he told me. “But you’ll fill a good many bookshelves before you get there.” He was right. It was all in that first book; but learning is a spiral and you have to come back to the same point over and over again, bringing new knowledge and understanding each time before you can really see what lies in your hand.

I was born in Yorkshire into a family that was about as spiritually eclectic as you can get. The various members were Jewish / Buddhist / Methodist (but High Church for special occasions), with one grandfather who taught me very early about the Qabalistic Tree of Life, the other a Spiritualist minister and one grandmother a noted psychic, like her mother before her. I attended the Zion Baptist Sunday School with my Hindu and Moslem friends and that pretty much completed the picture. So, throughout my childhood, a lot of things were thrown into the melting pot.

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Everyone, it seemed, celebrated the convergences rather than the differences between their chosen paths and everything was treated as possible. I grew up simply accepting the spiritual journey, encouraged to find my own path forward, not encountering religious or spiritual prejudice until I was much older. There was never any question of there not being a greater reality, it simply was. So was the journey; that meant growing up in the understanding that you hold responsibility for every thought, word and action… not in fear of some celestial tally-keeper; you, your Self hold the scales… and when you look through the eyes of the soul, there is nowhere to hide… it is between your soul and the One.

In outward respects, life was perfectly normal, with me getting into as many scrapes, as much mischief and making at least as many mistakes as any other youngster. Little has changed there, then, except the age… There was nothing, as far as I knew, any different; my family was the same as any other, it was only in much later years I saw how incredibly lucky I had been to have that particular education; educing rather than dictating, letting me stub my toes and learn through experience how I could grow and what I could believe. Nothing was imposed, nothing dismissed with contempt or disbelief; ideas were greeted with an open mind and the acceptance of possibility. I was given a rich education in mythology, folklore and symbolism… and that too I simply accepted at the time as ‘normal’.

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I delved into ‘low magic’… divination, numerology and such through my teens… in fact, all the fragmentary systems you could ‘do’ rather than ‘be’, with the overconfident abandon and incomprehension of youth, while reading all I could find on the Tree of Life, the Qabalah and the magical path. Even now I marvel at the quality of the material available in my family at a time when such books were very hard to find. Then I went back to the Mystical Qabalah and read it again. This time, the dots began to join up. I put aside the ‘doing’, stopped playing with spirituality and started to learn.

For the next ten years, I studied alone, trying to apply the learning to my life. I learned as much from meditation and dreams as from waking. I moved to France, married a musician who had been raised a Catholic and was a member of AMORC, a Rosicrucian order; over the years I added some of their perspective to the store. My mother-in-law was a Martinist and from her I learned about esoteric Christianity. There was the intellectual accumulation of knowledge and a philosophical intent to put it all into practice, but knowing how, finding the keys, would only come with time and living.

In my late twenties, I had what I can only describe here as a life-changing experience that brought the reality of the inner world to vivid life for me. About that time too, I had planned on joining an esoteric school, feeling the need for structure and discipline as well as spiritual companionship, but was clearly shown I should wait, learning to live in the world first. A chapter in one of Dion Fortune’s books, The Training and Work of an Initiate, speaks of serving the Hearthfire; I read it, wept, and resolved to wait.

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We had moved back to England and, although the outer life revolved around the family, the inner life had become very intense too. It was a period of deep commitment, for want of a better phrase and the two separate halves of my life seemed to meld until I realised there was no separation. There never had been, but I had been too blind to see.

It was some fifteen years later when my sons were grown, that I decided once again to apply to a school. Browsing the internet, I read an address by the Director of Studies of the Servants of the Light, Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki. The article was called, “To Serve the Light” and in an echo of that day fifteen years earlier, I sat with tears streaming but this time felt I had come home. I commend that lecture to any seeker, no matter what Path you follow.

My years with the Servants of the Light were both a personal joy and a steep learning curve. Much of the theory I had already found in my own studies and meditations, but the discipline, structure and camaraderie were as new as the perspectives and techniques that bring the teachings to life. I felt the connection to others within the school, and to that greater family of those who serve the Light. I knew without a doubt I was in the right place at that time.

Many threads fan out from that moment. It was at a SOL gathering I first met Steve Tanham, albeit briefly. At that same gathering several things happened that would change the expected course of my life and I met a woman who became both a sister of the soul and a teacher who walked with me on a path she herself had taken long ago.

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In 2012 it became plain that my place was with the new school, the Silent Eye… and the rest, as they say, is history. But, of course, the journey continues.

“Are we there yet?”

Well, no. I don’t think we ever are. The longer you walk the path of the seeker, the more you see that there is to unfold, until one day you realise that ‘there’ was already ‘here’… waiting for you to open your eyes and heart. And then off you go again, exploring another curve of the spiral of life, armed with perhaps a little more knowledge, a little more understanding… just enough to highlight the wider horizon that is waiting to be Known.

Spirit y’all? – Stuart France

This week, I will be sharing again a little about the people behind the Silent Eye… this is Stuart’s journey…

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‘Our own journey is entirely imaginary: that is its strength.’

– Louis Ferdinand Celine.

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I grew up in a religiously tolerant family which knew a thing or two about love and faith. Nan left the Catholic Church to marry Gramps and their eldest son, Uncle Geoff, my mum’s little brother eventually rejoined the Catholic Church in order to marry Aunty Cath, which meant that when we went to spend holidays with Little Geoff and Janet and Mandy we went to their Church with them which was Catholic, and when Little Geoff, Janet and Mandy came to spend the holidays with us they came to our church which was Church of England. It didn’t seem odd to do this and it came as something of a shock to realise that in olden times people had lost their lives for less.

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Anyhow, I eventually grew suspicious of a Church which required me to stand and proclaim my belief in something that is seemingly physically impossible and so I ceased frequenting on Sun Day’s, although, I still liked to ‘rock up’ around Christmas time to sing Carols, and even at the height of my teens I could be found attending Midnight Mass of a Christmas Eve.

My Religious Knowledge teacher at senior school was a good sort, Mr Whalley by name. He taught that all religious systems essentially referred to the same ‘thing’ which he called Spirit, and he stressed the personal nature of the contact which could be enjoyed with this thing. I liked the stories too, and not just the Christian ones. I liked all the stories because it felt like they were trying to tell me something, if I would only listen… It wasn’t though an immediately obvious thing and it wasn’t historical either because it went beyond history, although I liked historical stories too. I would have liked to study Religious Knowledge at ‘O’ Level but the selections were not set up right, so I couldn’t.

I suppose, really, I came to spirituality through literature and philosophy which I studied to degree level. One shouldn’t really be putting pen to paper unless one has something communal and good to impart and philosophy, properly, is the ‘Love of Wisdom’.

The Spirit is infinitely wise…

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Knowing that, though, is a lot easier than living it… so, really, my spiritual education was only just beginning when I joined and studied with a series of Spiritual Schools. First, OBOD, The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, which teaches love for the Spirit of Nature, then, AMORC, The Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis, which teaches love for the Spirit of Mysticism, and finally, SOL, Servants of the Light which teaches love for the Spirit of Magic.

Can anyone conceive a well lived life without a love and reverence for the spirit of nature, and the inherent magic, and mystery of existence in some form or another?

I know I can’t.

I don’t think it is necessary to belong to a Spiritual School in order to be spiritual, quite the contrary, because life itself can be regarded as a school of the Spirit, which of course it is, but joining a Spiritual School can certainly help because what these schools really teach is a series of techniques which enable us to access our natural abilities in order to attune with the spiritual dimension of the world around us in a meaningful and productive way.

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Our School, the Silent Eye, in that respect, is no different from any of the others, we just have a different set of techniques and, perhaps, a slightly more modern approach.

‘The easiest way to approach spirituality is through stories, they are common to every tradition on earth and rather than demand belief all they ask is a willing suspension of disbelief…’
– The Initiate.

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…Y’all come back now… you hear?

Looking for answers…

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It wasn’t a dark and stormy night… this book that lies open on my desk begins with a rather less evocative phrase. More mundane  and far less atmospheric…though the writer who had penned them both was the same. I’ve never really seen what was wrong with that opening, though it has passed into the realms of ridicule as ‘purple prose’ and the Right Honorable Lord Lytton now has an anti-literary prize named after him, awarded for the worst opening phrase of a story. A tad unfair, I feel. His style was the product of a bygone era and a society that held different tastes close to its tightly corseted bosom.

This particular book, I haven’t read in a good many years, but as it is fairly obscure yet has been mentioned by three people in as many weeks, I thought I should rummage through the shelves and find my battered and dog-eared copy. I’ve always liked the work of Bulwer Lytton, a prolific novelist and playwright.  His style, I grant you, is heavy and sometimes ponderous… like many writers of his epoch, he will seldom use one word when five will do. His storytelling, however, is a different thing and he manages to evoke times long past and populate them with unexpected characters. Little known today, his ‘dark and stormy night’ is not the only phrase he has added to the language. His novels were hugely influential when they were first published. ‘Pelham‘ changed fashionable dress. Verdi, Wagner and others wrote operas based on his historical works. His friend, Charles Dickens, changed the ending of ‘Great Expectations‘ on his suggestion and Bram Stoker was inspired to write ‘Dracula‘ after reading Lytton’s ‘A Strange Story’, which was the first of his works that I read. The Hollow Earth theory was also popularised by Lytton in ‘The Coming Race’, published in 1861 and was credited with helping to launch the science fiction genre. 

I was barely fifteen when my grandfather gave me two of Lytton’s works. ‘The Last Days of Pompeii’ and ‘A Strange Story’. The books could not have been more different. One, a vividly portrayed piece of quasi-historical drama, the other a dark and unsettling tale, set in what seemed to be my own backyard. The locations were referred to only by their initials, but the town sounded remarkably like my own and the Abbey and the old house sounded like those at Kirkstall, Simply because of that, I ploughed through the heavy prose when most of my contemporaries were turning to Barbara Cartland for ‘historical’ fiction.

The tale tells of youth and ego that seeks to perpetuate itself through the fear of not-being, drawing on the life of others in true vampiric style, though without the blood. It is one of those stories where nothing happens… yet lives are changed as the characters act out their fate. The reader may be changed too, as questions begin to form in the nether regions of the mind and parallels are drawn with less lurid occurrences in daily life. I went on to read his ‘Zanoni’,  where a choice between immortality and humanity lifts the veil on many arcane themes; that book also brought questions and my grandfather’s library was a gold-mine.

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Dion Fortune, Robert Graves, Aleister Crowley and MacGregor Mathers were probably not average teen reading. Many of the books my grandfather gave me raised questions. Some gave me answers too, or better still, were signposts that showed me where to look to find my own. In that I was lucky; far luckier than I would realise for many years. At the time, I just assumed that when such questions arose, everyone would have someone with whom to discuss them. It was not until much later that I found that my situation was the exception rather than the norm. In those days, books on alternative approaches to spirituality were still rare and hard to find and, even today, many will have no-one with whom they can explore the deepest thoughts that arise within the hidden regions of the soul.

We all have questions. Many people still turn to books to explore their ideas and seek inspiration, but with the advent of the internet it has become even simpler to tap in a query and see what comes up. The problem is that there is just so much information out there…and most of it conflicting. From the strangest concepts to the harshest diatribes against them, the genuine seeker will find every possible shade of opinion, every argument for and against and every wild and wacky theory there is… and where do you start to sift through them?

Common sense is usually a good place to begin and filters out the worst offenders. Anything that promises the earth will probably not deliver. Especially if it says all you have to do is sit back and pay your hard earned cash for them to wave a magic wand that makes the world right. The wonderful and inspirational sites that tell you that all is right and beautiful have a point; I would agree with them in principle… but when you are stuck in confusion or a dark place in your life, that isn’t really all that helpful. Abstract ideas are all very well, but sometimes what you need is a stout rope… an idea of what you can do to climb out of the hole and there are many excellent schools, groups and systems out there who will throw that rope to you. But how do you know which one?

The best advice I ever read on how to find the school, organisation or system that would work for you came from Dion Fortune when she wrote that ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating’. She advised that the seeker look at those who are part of those systems … not those who have gone a little way and left for one reason or another, but those who have walked the path and stuck with it. Look and see whether those people have something that speaks to you, something you can trust.

The best advice I have ever heard, was simply to ‘ask the question’. Turn your attention to the quiet place within and listen to the prompting of the heart. The spiritual seeker has already knocked on the door and the wordless inner voice, that expression of the higher self, is waiting to answer.

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Derbyshire Delights…

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It was over 14 years ago now in March 2004 that I first sampled the delights of Derbyshire at a Mystical Weekend in the Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow.

In those days I was a relativley new member of a worldwide Mystical Order and the idea of a ‘Weekend Retreat’ amongst strangers was unfamiliar and rather daunting.

I recall a moment of panic on my way to this remote spot as the bus from Sheffield headed deeper and deeper into the Derbyshire wilds… ‘It’s in the middle of nowhere,’ I thought with mounting hysteria, ‘we could all be murdered in our sleep and no one would ever know…’ I can now smile at such momentary fears brought on no doubt by a teenage staple of Dennis Wheatley and H.P. Lovecraft but there is a legitimate question here for those with no experience of such matters.

‘What does one do on a Mystical Retreat?’

Well that depends of course on which particular school is running the retreat and what the particular brief or theme for the weekend is.

My first retreat was a heady mix of group and private meditations, and informative and engaging talks and presentations by members of the Order of which I was then part.

But that is to describe only the formal aspects of such events; there is usually between the scheduled programmes plenty of time to commune with fellow participants or if one prefers time enough, to simply be alone with nature in the peaceful surrounds of the centre.

…But really the best answer to such an enquiry is, ‘one needn’t do anything on a Mystical Retreat, it is far more effective to simply be… and see where it leads.’

The annual trips to Derbyshire became something of a pilgrimage for me and with continued presence my involvement in the formal running of such events grew…

…In 2011 and now under the aegis of a Magical School but again back at the Nightingale for a weekend retreat our lodge staged a four act dramatic ritual which focused on the search for the philosopher’s stone.

Very ‘Harry Potter’ and all rather grand sounding but really it is just a group of life-affirming people with common purpose exploring together the notion of that which is more than the sum of its parts.

And in 2013 and now as the inaugural event of The Silent Eye School of Consciousness, the four act drama had become five acts and a tradition had been put in place which we hope will continue long into the future…

The dramas are script led and no prior experience is assumed.
There is no audience because everybody participates so there is no pressure and no one to mind if a ‘mistake’ is made…

In the words of one recent attendee: ‘It’s beautiful, it’s fun, and it’s profound.’

No one has been murdered, of course, but a goodly number of folk have returned from our events with their sense of life purpose refreshed and renewed and their belief in the spirit released to soar…

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We hope you can join us in 2019 for, Lord of the Deep: The Quest for Immortality

A DRAMATIC RETELLING OF THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH

The Oldest written story known to man…
What spiritual treasures lie hidden in this, five thousand-year old, Epic?
What can this ancient civilisation teach us about the questions of existence?
Join us on this quest of a life-time, next April, to find out…

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‘Gilgamesh is among the greatest things that can ever happen to a person.’
– Rainer Maria Rilke.

We will be delighted to see you.

Fully catered weekend package, including room, meals and workshop: £235 – £260

Click here to download the Booking Form

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

Lord of the Deep: The quest for Immortality

26-28 April, 2019 – Great Hucklow, Derbyshire

WHAT’S UP DOC? Lines of communication IV…

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…’All colour had faded from the sky and although the big board by the gate creaked slightly in the night wind, there was no passer-by to read the sharp, hard letters that cut straight as black knives across its white surface.
They said…’

Bugs… (pause) CARROTS! (pause) Reads…

THIS IDEALLY SITUATED ESTATE
COMPRISING SIX ACRES
OF EXCELLENT BUILDING LAND
IS TO BE DEVELOPED
WITH HIGH CLASS MODERN RESIDENCES
BY SUTCH AND MARTIN, LIMITED
OF NEWBURY, BERKS

Cara… In the context of the story then, this notice spells doom for the rabbits and the warren…

Bugs… So, what’s going on? Why have we presented you with these cards?

Cara… A spanking, brand new pair of Bunny ears for anyone who can tell us?

(Interplay)

BugsIf no takers… Well, you are all now Rabbits anyway…Why?

Because you are in the same position in relation to the first inscription on the card as the rabbits in the story are to the second… (both Cara and Bugs elaborate on that position) So, to emphasise that position…

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Cara… In the darkness and warmth of the burrow Hazel suddenly woke, struggling and kicking with his back legs…

Bugs… It was Fiver, who was clambering over him, clawing and grabbing like a rabbit trying to climb a wire fence in panic.

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Cara… ‘Fiver! Fiver, wake up… It’s Hazel. You’ll hurt me in a moment. Wake up!
He held him down. Fiver struggled and woke.

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Bugs… “Oh, Hazel! I was dreaming. It was dreadful.
You were there.
We were sitting on water, going down a great, deep stream, and then I realised we were on a board, like that board in the field.
There were other rabbits there but when I looked down the board was made of bones and wires…
I was looking for you everywhere and trying to drag you out of a hole in the bank.
You said, “The Chief Rabbit must go alone, and you floated away down a dark tunnel of water.”

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Cara… Well, you’ve hurt my ribs, anyway.
Tunnel of water… What rubbish!
Can we go back to sleep now?

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Bugs… “Hazel – the danger, the bad thing. It hasn’t gone away.

It’s here – all round us.

Don’t tell me to forget about it and go to sleep.

We’ve got to get away before it’s too late.”

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Cararepeats… ‘The bad thing.

It hasn’t gone away.

It’s here… all around us…’

So, we ask again…

Is our script.

Our unknown script good or bad?

Repeats invocation…

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Bugs… Is it worthy or unworthy of ridicule?

If any Companions claimed to know at outset let them reveal, alternatively, Reveal…

This is a fragment of angelic language used by Dr John Dee.

It is part of an invocation…

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Cara… ‘I reign over you, saith the God of Justice.
ELEXARPEH
COMANANU
TABITOM.
Move therefore and show yourselves.
Appear unto us; open the mysteries of your Creation, the balance of
Righteousness and Truth.’

to be continued…

Above and beyond…

Over the past few years, the Silent Eye’s weekend workshops have covered many scenarios, from the gilded glories of ancient Egypt, to the medieval grandeur of the court of King Arthur. The themes and stories are no more than a vehicle through which we can explore facets of the human journey into awareness, just as the costumes and colour are no more than psychological window-dressing. By creating a visual illusion, we are fostering that ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ that allows a reader to invest themselves in a book, a film star immerse themselves in a role or our Companions to set aside their everyday self and explore deeper aspects of being.

Steve, Stuart and I go to some lengths with the costume in order to create that illusion. We would never expect the Companions to go to the expense of providing authentically detailed costumes. In fact, the requirement is simply for a symbolic shawl to mark the entry into another mindset and intent. Even so, every year, the Companions get creative and the illusion is complete.

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This year, we had a bit of a problem in that department. Stuart and I would be dead for most of the weekend. We would be the Ancestors; robed in black and, with veiled faces, we would haunt the shadows. Not much colour there, then. Steve would have a central role as Guide, but even that was not going to provide much ‘window-dressing’.

Normally the characters are familiar in some way… archetypes presented as Egyptian gods, Knights of the Round Table or something similar with which the Companions can identify. This year, there was only one named character and almost everyone was asked to wear plain white robes. Somehow, we needed to ‘set the scene’ with colour and life… and we had three Companions to whom we turned for that… the Shaman, the Lore Weaver and the Lore Spinner. Their roles would be ‘outside’ the circle, allowing them to act upon the single soul represented by the majority of the Companions and so they could be different and wear all the colours of life.

We didn’t ask for much specifically…we left it up to them… but somehow all three of them exceeded our wildest hopes. Running Elk was our Shaman. We had no idea how much of himself he would bring to the task, nor how deeply his presence would enrich what we had planned. We could not have known…he didn’t himself….and much of it simply unfolded as the weekend went along.   Running Elk is a Shaman, trained in the Zuni tradition and his own accounts of the weekend tell the story through his eyes. Even so, I would have given much to see his huge, dark-cloaked form shielding the temple Veil during the fourth ritual.

Alienora and Dean were our Lore Keepers… and their costumes were utter genius, adding all the colour and life that we needed. With Running Elk, they formed a triangle of Life and Light that could not be ignored and with our Shaman, they held the heartbeat of the temple.

Leaf and Flame

But we had another problem too. When Steve writes the workshops, Stuart and I have always added something extra, something a little different. Last year, Stuart had the helm and instead, we had the Foxes dance with flames and dragons. That was going to be a tough thing to follow. We turned to the Lore Keepers and asked them to tell a pair of interwoven stories on the Saturday evening. I have mentioned it before, but have not done justice to the sheer spectacle they provided.

Lore Keepers

Dressed in multi-coloured tatters, they were already whirling and spinning as we entered the room. It is impossible to capture in words the incredible energy the pair of them brought to the tale. For perhaps forty minutes, they never paused for breath. Taking one of the entwined stories each, they read and acted out the script while the other mimed, hammed, acted and clowned a silent counterpoint. There were highlights… Dean as a dog and a little old woman nearly brought the house down. Alienora’s dramatic death-fall landed her with a bang on the floor…and flat on her back, script to nose, she never missed a single beat, but continued declaiming. Ali’s aside, to ‘stop upstaging me’ when Dean had everyone in stitches with his antics… And yet, in spite or perhaps because of the comedic capers, the truly tragic tales they shared brought real tears as well as laughter. I do not have enough superlatives, but we are agreed that it was, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the best live, improvised performance art we have ever experienced.

Not only did we learn the tales of Giant Hulac and the massacre at Fin Cop without being traumatised by the horror of the stories, but we also got a genuine trip in a time machine, seeing and feeling how storytellers have taught through entertainment for millennia. It was a rare privilege.

These three, Shaman, Lore Weaver and Lore Spinner went above and beyond the call of both duty and friendship.

They were not alone though. Alethea, at only her second workshop with us, stepped up and embodied the central character with grace. Our technician had volunteered to help instead of taking a role. And when every person present brings their whole self to the moment, with intent and belief, that is when magic happens.

Flight of the Seer IX…

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Shortly after the ‘Leaf and Flame’ event in 2016, the outline for, The Feathered Seer, workshop took shape for us on the edge of an ancient necropolis overlooking Big Moor.

The seeing that day, be it courtesy of the seasonal sun light, or more esoteric manifestations, allowed us to work out one possible function of the Barbrook 1 stone circle.

And this ‘rudimentary ritual’ was replayed in original situ later that year for the group of Companions who attended our Living Land workshop, ‘Circles Beyond Time’, in September.

Naturally, it also formed the basis of R3 of The Feathered Seer and its working proved to be one of the most intense undertakings we have ever experienced.

What the ancients knew was that only the querent holds the answer to the question, but that the clues to those questions are everywhere played out in living experience.

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Exploring the Inner and the Outer…

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The symbolism employed by our forebears was both simple and profound.

Rock sculptures designating ‘living lands’, stand and face the horizon.

Rock sculptures designating ‘dead lands’, lie and face the sky.

The earthen monuments of the dead are linked by sky paths.

Wisdom is found within and only then utilised to shape those without, not vice versa.

Our modern cultures, it seems, still have an awful lot to learn.

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Sky-walking…

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Flight of the Seer VIII

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During our ‘Church Tapping’ days we acquired the rather dubious art of Bibliomancy, that is, taking it in turns to read at random from the pages of the bibles which, like as not, had been left open on the lectern of whichever church we happened to be tapping at the time.

It was, to say the least, uncanny how many times this particular ‘rite of divination’ threw up wholly appropriate, not to say eye opening revelations which later, invariably, we agreed we really needed to hear.

But I say dubious, because nowadays, the church authorities are none too keen on the ‘good book’ being used in this way?

Anyway, old habits die hard…

“…know ye not, that so many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptised into his death?

Therefore are we buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the Glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in the newness of life…”

So it was that in Bakewell Church on the Monday following the weekend of, The Feathered Seer, workshop this curious argument presented itself.

It is made, apparently, in Paul’s Epistle to The Romans…

“‘Newness… of… life…?’

Nope, no newness of life in the wake of this workshop.

You got that one all wrong.”

“Oh, really? I don’t think so…”

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