X heather weekend 058

‘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?

Shape-shifting (Part 1) – by Running Elk

This series of posts are based on the outline of an exploration session presented at The Silent Eye  (a modern mystery school) “The Feathered Seer” weekend in 2017. Whilst I have attempted to retain some of the flavour of the actual talk, the interactive elements of the exploration are absent, and since most of it was done “on  the hoof” it is not really a true reflection of the session. Many of the sections are expanded considerably from that presented on the day…


“Boy Mood 2” (found at

Not sure what I was thinking, really. It’s a massive topic, and whilst I did mention this during a previous exploration session, in 2016 on Spirit Animals, I somehow found myself agreeing to attempt the subject the following year.

April 2017 came far too quickly, and finding myself, the night before the session, scratching down a few notes on the back of a Corn Flake packet, was rather concerned that I simply didn’t have enough to fill the hour assigned.

I shouldn’t have worried. The elements of this post were barely covered, as the interactive elements went much deeper than I could ever have anticipated, and I found myself shoe-horning in elements of later parts in a vain attempt to give full coverage of the planned discussion points.


What is it about shape-shifting that is so hard? We are ALL masters of shape-shifting. We simply don’t recognise the shape-shifting that we do, every day of our lives. Indeed, it is such a powerful urge within us, that we simply cannot help ourselves.

Child’s Play
Copyright: Ni Qin / Getty Images

Of course, we are not nearly as good at it now, as adults, as we once were. As children, shape-shifting comes so naturally, that we never question the reality of it. That little guy on the right is NOT wearing goggles and a cape in order to “play” Superheroes. He is, for all intents and purposes, a fully fledged superhero; capable of feats of incredible strength, leaping buildings in a single bound, saving the planet at every turn.

Continue reading: Shape-shifting (Part 1) | Shamanic Paths


harvest being 2014 071I’ve been upsetting the spell-check facility on my computer a lot again lately. It doesn’t seem to take much some days. It has never been keen on the fact that I write quite a lot in French for a start. But it can handle that reluctantly, once it has had time to think about things for a minute or two. It simply sighs and switches dictionary. You can almost hear it grumbling under its breath as the fan kicks in.

It offers a minimal amount of protest for the odd bit of Latin. Perhaps it assumes I am being academic. I hate to disillusion it… and it doesn’t like to admit it doesn’t understand.

It has never been happy about some of the more arcane languages that creep in when I am writing on esoteric subjects. It has grudgingly opened the dictionary for me to add Hebrew words, and will permit me to include ancient Egyptian names just as long as they are written with an upper case letter. It has, of course, completely lost its temper on the odd occasion where I have transcribed Enochian, underlining whole paragraphs in violent red.

But the worst offender, as far as spell-check is concerned, is nothing so eldritch or profound. It is the dialect of my home. It seems to think I am being deliberately provocative, and underlines every word, space, punctuation mark and spelling with every virulent colour at its disposal. It completely withdraws the ‘add to dictionary’ facility in high dudgeon and persistently reinstates every coloured line as soon as I tell it to ‘ignore’. And let’s not even begin to explore its attitude to Yorkshire grammar…

It is, of course, well known that Yorkshire is ‘God’s Own County’. It says so on Wikipedia, so it must be true. It therefore follows that its language should be accorded a certain reverence. Perhaps spell-check is simply in awe? Even the ‘national’ anthem of Yorkshire is in dialect, for goodness sake!

Wheear ‘ast tha bin sin’ Ah saw thee, Ah saw thee?
On Ilkla Mooar baht ‘at….

So when I wrote Sword of Destiny, a magical fantasy, set in Yorkshire, it was of course obligatory for at least a little dialect to creep between its pages. To me, it is the sound of Home, of memory, love, laughter and people. It is fresh brewed tea, scones and the smell of warm bread. It sings to my heart.

Regional accents have a way of drawing us back to childhood, I think. They are, thankfully, now widely accepted in a way they were not when I was a young. The voice of the BBC has softened that acceptance as it has changed over the decades. Which is just as well really, as I do not have the modulated tones of a 1960’s announcer, but the accent of my home, and in April I have to stand with my Lancastrian co-directors (they can’t help that, you know…) and present the School to the world at our workshop, with an open soul and no pretence to be other than I am.

It is seldom ‘broad Yorkshire’ these days, of course. Time spent in the south in married quarters as a child, years in France and other places have altered it and left their mark. So have the various jobs and social strata through which I have moved. Life does that to us, doesn’t it? Time, place and experience leave a layer of accumulated difference upon us. It is easy to lose oneself beneath that accretion, in the same way as the golden sandstone of the north became darkened by industry.

I will never forget the revelation of the town hall in Leeds… a glorious piece of Victorian civic pride… when the scaffolding came down in 1972 and the black stone, now cleaned of the accumulated grime as if by magic, was unveiled in pale gold glory.

I look at myself in much the same way… though smaller and far less stately. A lifetime of experience has overlaid the essential me with so many traces and layers that have changed the outward appearance both physically and in other more subtle ways. Sometimes the changes stem from habit, sometimes they are reactions, almost self-defence. It would be easy to lose sight of the fact that this is just a veneer, a thin overlay, and that beneath those layers the essence is still there. It may have aged, and grown, there may be signs of erosion and a bit of wear and tear, but I comfort myself with the knowledge that in a building that would just add character, a sense of living history and presence.

I often wondered though, whether stripping back the layers to the essence of Self would let us see ourselves in a different light. Working with the Silent Eye has shown that it does. There is no magic wand, no spell to cast that can remove the layers that life has painted on our face or our character. Tet we can still erase them by learning to see through them to the core of being and  then we can learn to see ourselves all golden again too.