Tobias and the Angel: Grateful Dead…

William-Adolphe Bouguerea

*

… If a story is canonical in one tradition and uncanonical in another

it immediately raises two questions.

What makes it ‘canonical’ for one tradition?

What makes it ‘uncanonical’ for the other?

*

In this case it might have been supposed that it would have been more likely

to be canonical for the Hebrews, considering its age and subject matter?

Not so!

*

Many years ago when I and a fellow writer, and friend,

first became aware of Apocryphal Bible stories,

we got very excited about this tale when we heard about it,

especially in view of the fish connection.

We immediately procured a copy of said Apocrypha,

at no little expense, and looked at this story first,

fully expecting to be accosted with highly significant arcane knowledge.

But drew a blank!

*

And now?

Well now, I strongly suspect that there is highly significant arcane knowledge within it.

The trouble with arcane knowledge; it is very difficult,

if not impossible, to transmit in mundane terms.

An attempt, though, has to be at least made…

*

Perhaps the first clue to the importance of this story

is to realise that it is a Grateful Dead tale…

*

Before Tobit sends his son, Tobias, on the ‘errand’ there is a long introduction to the tale which establishes Tobit in, for wont of a better term, ‘righteousness’. He lives in Ninevah, a place which does not recognise his religion, and yet he continues to practice that religion despite persecution from the ‘local authorities’. As part of this practice he comes across a dead man who has been flung out into the street and his body left to rot. Tobit, an old man, single handedly buries the body and performs the funeral rites of his religion but then falls asleep by the side of the grave in exhaustion. As he sleeps, sparrows fly over him and their droppings land in his eyes so that when he wakes up, he is blind.

*

…At this stage it does not appear that the ‘dead’ were overly ‘grateful’.

But all good things come to those who wait.

It is at this point in the tale that Tobit, now having lost his sight,

and the means to a livelihood, decides to send out his son

on an errand to bring in what he is owed.

*

Now, although, ‘errand’ is an interesting enough term

for Tobias’ journey, in and of itself,

what if we were to deem it a ‘pilgrimage’, instead? …

*

Tobias and the Angel, Davide Ghirlandaio (David Bigordi) (Italian, Florence 1452–1525 Florence), Tempera and gold on wood

David Ghirlandaio  circ. 1479

Imagining

It was a weird night. Dreams that were more akin to nightmare bothered me until I woke, reaching for a comfort I failed to find as I slid out on the other side of sleep and the insistent clamouring of stories waiting to be told. I woke to the sun streaming in on the aching tension of muscles that seemed not to have relaxed and rested. I got up and walked the dog, and all the while the back of my mind was attempting to deal with the dreams that are supposed to be a processing of the day and of memory.

It is a strange thing, this ability of images to affect us. Whether it is the eternal cuteness of the kittens that pepper the internet that make us go Awww in spite of ourselves, the faded snapshot of a loved one, or an image called up in the mind, they have a very similar effect on our emotions to what we feel if confronted with the reality itself. Dreams linger with softness, nightmares cast shadows on the day and imagination paints a graphic novel of our lives that we revisit in memory.

A pleasant daydream or memory will leave you smiling, the face softened and relaxed, the heart lighter. The mechanisms of anxiety and fear also paint mental pictures. Not of the reality we know, but a cocktail of scenarios that might be and our bodies and emotions react accordingly. It can even change our physical perception so that the shadow on the wall or the face in the trees looks threateningly human as the adrenalin flows and the heart pumps harder.

Meditative practices create similar change; there are many types of meditation, some where the images are gently erased, some where they are built, explored and pondered. It is this latter type of guided journey we use in the Silent Eye. Recent studies have shown there can be an enduring physical effect from the practice of meditation on the brain, particularly the amygdala that regulates our response to emotion, leading to a greater emotional stability.

In a very real sense, these are examples of mind over matter. The mind itself can be the originator of a physical change, triggered by an emotional response that is directly linked to a mental image. We see it in action in our own lives every day in a thousand silent ways. We can see its effects illustrated in the lives of others too, where absolute confidence manifests as success, for example; in the sportsman with the will to win who visualises himself crossing the line, the businessman whose dream drives him forward, the artist whose vision materialises under his fingers in paint, marble, music or words.

It isn’t always that simple though when you are in the grip of depression, fear or anxiety. The mental images that hold our attention do not let us go that easily. ‘Positive thinking’ may be impossible, or just anathema when the day seems so bad that all you want to do is kick the metaphorical cat or curl up in a corner and hide… when all the mental images seem pathways into shadow.

Yet the techniques of creating these mental images have been marketed under many names, selling systems that go in search of happiness or material success, systems that purport to teach us something we already know how to do. Creating images… visualisation… daydreams… the key difference is the knack of the direction we give the images and the belief we place in the possibility of what we ‘imagine’. They obviously work for someone, says my cynical mind, some have made millions from selling these systems…

Many of the ‘new’ systems are akin to the creation of the magical persona, a technique taught for centuries, where a constructed personality is deliberately built with belief and intent, to enable one to act from the higher aspects of being. You could compare it, in some ways, to those gifted actors who become the role they play and make it believable, living the drama themselves rather than playing to an audience. And it works… it is no secret, nor should you be charged astronomical fees to learn how. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t-you’re right.”

With this in mind, I shall busily continue constructing my daydreams of being once more able to explore the hidden places of these isles. There is too much living still to do to waste time sitting at a desk thinking, ‘if only’… when ‘what if?’ seems a far better place to begin. If nothing else changes, I will, at least, smile.

Who wants to live forever?

december dawn 001 sue vincent (42)

Morning lights the east with liquid flame as the earth and I shrink into ourselves, frozen and pensive. Even so, with such beauty as this you almost wish you could live forever so the memory of it would never fade. The dog dismisses my philosophical mood and with her usual abandon, races across the field with every evidence of selective deafness. Ignoring both blandishment and command with her lopsided grin, she chases her breath in circles and greets the birds. Why, after all, would she want to come back to a nice, warm house and breakfast when there are moments like this to be had?

The sky changes, moment by moment, fierce flame and pastel softness vying for attention. It is incredibly boring for her to sit inside when there is a whole world out there to explore. Ani would far rather chase the morning than curl up by the fire. I, on the other hand, would happily go for the curling up today. It is cold and fingers struggle with the camera. Hibernation feels like a good option this morning.

Yet I can’t help thinking how much of life is spent in slumber already. Not just the necessary and healing luxury of sleep, where the realms of possibility unfurl over a landscape of dream; but the hours spent half awake, going through the motions of survival in our busy world, in submission to the systems that regulate our movement through the labyrinth of blind alleys and perceived opportunities that litter our days.

Even our bodies adjust their rhythm to the clockwork dance of time; hours devoured by hands that grasp each second as they turn in never-ending circles; seeking to define that illusive ‘now’ in which we are supposed to be and which is already the past before we are aware of its passing.

The flaming dawn ignites the horizon in a momentary blaze of splendour never to be repeated. For me, it is the immediacy of a ‘now’ that can never come again. Yet the sunrise I see is illuminated by light born far away and in the darkness of our night. The luminous glow that unfolds came into being over eight minutes ago at the centre of the solar system before I even left home. It’s now is my past. My now is my past too, over before it has been perceived… its separation from the present marked by the milliseconds required for neural transmission.

My cold-numbed mind is aware of a concept beyond words as I finally catch the laughing dog and head home in search of coffee. I am moving in what I see as a linear fashion through what I think of as time, yet it is such an elastic concept in our lives. I think about our perception of time and how it slows and speeds us through our days. How it flies in laughter or drags its heels through boredom and loneliness. The more new information the brain has to process, the slower time appears to pass for us… the more familiar the input we receive, the faster it seems to slip away.

The long, hot summers of childhood were filled with wonder, the shortening years of age pass in swift familiarity. Minds constantly learning with childlike abandon stay more alert than those content with the known… I dredge up the science I have read and conversations shared on those subjects and it seems that time itself, at least on a subjective level, is a perception; an elastic frame within which we order the chaos of experience.

Lurking around the freeze-dried edges of a warped imagination is the vague idea that here lies the key to immortality… the fabled elixir of eternal youth. If our days were filled with wonder and new learning, if our minds and bodies were alert to every scrap of information and attentive to experience, how slowly would our lives appear to run? Could we ‘stop time’ through our perceptions so that even a short life would feel like a long one? And is that eyes-wide-open awareness the secret of those of our elders who seem graced with the glow of inner joy that takes little account of physical age or bodily health?

I wouldn’t want immortality … wouldn’t even want eternal youth in the normal sense, but I would rather like to grow old with the wondering eyes of a child; with relish, not regret for the life I have been privileged to be a part of; something not mine but entrusted to me to do with the best I could. That kind of temporary immortality of perception I think I could handle.

Facing Fear With The Silent Eye, Part 9 – Heights ~ Helen Jones

Helen shares the final part of her journey with the Silent Eye in Derbyshire:

I recently attended a workshop with The Silent Eye about Facing Our Fears, an extraordinary weekend spent among the hills and grey stone villages of the Peak District. It’s taken me a little while, as it usually does, to process everything that happened. Once again there was history and mystery, good company and tasty food, old friends greeted and new friends made. And, as always, revelations.This is part nine of my account, parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven  and eight can be found here…

 

I couldn’t get to sleep until very late Saturday night, despite being exhausted – for some reason I found it difficult to relax and, when I did, tapping noises ensued which kept me from sleeping. I finally called out ‘For god’s sake be quiet and let me get some sleep!’ The next thing I knew, my alarm was going off…

Sunday morning dawned grey and drizzly, the glorious weather having disappeared overnight. It wasn’t cold, though, and the rain, though not ideal, was more of a soft mist than anything else. Which was good, as the morning’s plans involved us being outside. We headed into the green once more, grey stone villages softened by rain, hillsides blurred by soft clouds.

Continue reading at Helen Jones’ Blog

Rites of Passage: Last rites III

We walked on, the mood had changed with the meditation; all of us quietly aware that there was to be something more. The broad, well-trodden path continued to wind its way through the valley, but we took instead the narrow track that climbs towards Peter’s Rock. It is odd, but we have observed so many times that few people look up at the rock as they pass beneath it. The great dome of stone is a looming presence and yet eyes seem to slide off it as if it is not there at all in their reality.

There is a place on the path, marked by a fallen stone, where the atmosphere seems to deepen. Whatever you carry there with you, or whatever you feel from the site, it is at this point that most feel the change.

At the top of the path is a bowl in the land, almost a natural amphitheatre filled with the rubble of crumbling stone. It is here that we paused and, in meditation, placed ourselves within the Web of Light.

Leaving the companions in the care of the Guide to make their personal dedications, the ‘Hermit’ and the ‘Star’ take up their positions on small, rocky ledges overhanging the drop below. Each companion will walk that path alone with the Guide, to face their fears and answer what is asked.

The Hermit stands alone on the peak, one part of his journey accomplished. In his right hand he holds a star-lit Lamp that illuminates his next few steps and shines a light for others to follow. In his left hand he holds a Staff, symbol of both pilgrim and master and of the inner voice that guides. When hearts and hands are raised to the Light, the Light descends to meet them.

Beyond him, on the farthest ledge, is the Star. Poised between two worlds, she is polarity in equilibrium and offers her blessing for the next steps of the journey. To those who ask, wisdom is given.

What passes in such moments as these is not for us to share; only those who were there can choose whether they wish to share their story…or to keep it in their hearts.

As we gathered again at the entrance to the bowl, the mood had changed once again. Each of us had faced something and each overcome something personal. Aware that some fear heights and others have physical problems that would make it unsafe, we had not asked our companions to climb Peter’s Rock, but now we offered them the opportunity, and all who could took it. For some, that was another and very real triumph over fear.

And with that, the official part of the weekend was done. It remained only to descend and to close down the sphere of Light, sending Light and healing out along the lines of the Web.

But we did have one last place that we wanted to share…a very earthy place, perfect for grounding, and, incidentally, one of the strangest places in Derbyshire…

Rites of Passage: Last rites II

We began our walk by once again drawing a sphere of Light around our party. As we walked along Cressbrook Dale, we were careful not to colour any impressions our companions might pick up about the place. We shared a little history and geology, but it was not until we stopped by the mouth of a small cave that we began to speak of its ‘alternative’ history. Even so, it seemed that they were already tasting the atmosphere for themselves and their reactions could be read on their faces, from what looked like disgust through to delight.

The cave is a low, two-pronged shaft at the base of a cliff. It is an uncomfortable crawl to get inside, as years of fallen stones line the passageways that disappear into the darkness; we would not ask them to enter.

Instead, we gathered at the mouth of the cave for a guided journey, a type of meditative visualisation, similar to those we use as part of the Silent Eye’s correspondence course. This one, part of a longer story, was not so much written as glimpsed as we had worked with the landscape here over the years.

Our companions closed their eyes and, as a low chant echoed softly through the cavern, began their journey, following the words in imagination, entering into a time and a place beyond time… what they saw is theirs to keep or to share as they choose. Join us in that journey…

‘…The walls of the tiny cave close about you.

The drums reverberate through the rock.

The fire of sacred herbs is kindled before the narrow opening and smoke fills your lungs.

The flickering shadows dance on the walls and you are lost once more in vision.

The drums slow to a steady beat; your breathing is slower too… your heartbeat echoes the drums, slower… slower… Yet it beats faster than the heart of the land. Feel its rhythm in your bones as life ebbs and flesh melts into the earth.

‘As your body disintegrates… dust to dust, water to water, flame to flame… your soul soars, higher than life, deeper than death, faster than time.

All things are yours for the knowing, nothing is yours for the taking…nor would you if you could.

There is freedom in this.

The wandering mind rests, light as a mayfly, on the world you have known, seeing with new eyes, as parents watch children as they squabble in the dirt.

You sigh; the last breath leaves, and you are still…’

‘The pale gold of dawn touches your face.

You can feel the dew damp grass beneath your nakedness and hear the chanting, soft in the morning, entwined with the song of birds.

They chafe your hands and feet, washing the pale, cold skin. You watch, detached, apart… distant, yet present.

You are aware of curiosity, watching the body whose spark of life has fled, yet which lives still.

They sit you on the hide, one behind, two besides, chanting softly and marking your face with their fingertips, stroking your skin with the black feathers, passing the smoke before your face.

A cup is lifted to your lips the bitter liquid forced into your mouth… you choke…

… as you meet the eyes of the Old One, you swallow, and the world explodes…’

 ‘Smoke hangs in the hollow before the rock, the Place of the Dreaming.

The air is heavy, the fires not for warmth.

All day they have drummed.

All day they have chanted.

All day you have sat, rigid in the smoke that swirls and roils in your vision; great beasts and creatures populate your sight.

Death in life and life in death.

Yet now, once more, they bring you back.

This is the third night.

The last…or the first.

Your eyes are clear, looking up through the pall to the faces of man and beast, god and spirit carved by the Goddess herself in the rock.

Their eyes stare unseeing, seeing all.

As darkness falls the dance of flame gives them life, leering or smiling… the rectus of fear or the faces of desire.

You know not.

You know only what must be done.

A circle of torches spirals around the Place of Dreaming.

They have come.

For a birth…or a death.

There is only that. It is all you have left to give. You will not pass that ring of flame unchanged. You can only climb the pathway. You cannot run from yourself. Not now. Not anymore. You have seen too much. Your mind is clear, your body weak but renewed as you walk the spiral to the base of the rock; naked and nameless still.’

‘They stand away and you are alone. One step… two….

You approach the channel that leads up to the mound atop the pinnacle of rock.

You can see the smoke rising through the chimney… the sacred fire is kindled; smoke white against the dusk.

Fear grips your gut, a hand clenching in your entrails. Each step an aeon, each footfall touches terror.

In silence you battle the warding. You have earned the right to pass.

You climb, naked still, all that you are has been stripped from you… all thought… you simply are…

Up through the narrow crevice, up and right onto the rock… only silent swirling below, ringed with flame.

And then up once more, feet touching the grass of the mound, pushing through terror, wanting to flee. you sit, cross legged to wait. Knowing what is to come…

…Knowing… nothing…

…Fear remains, your only companion, whispering in the night. You see it… know it… taste it on your lips.

The torches are extinguished; the flames cold.

There is only the silence and the fear and the smell of smoke.

Smoke from a sacred flame… herbs and woods known to the few… to the old ones… gate of vision or funeral pyre.

If you fail, they will burn your body, scattering your ashes to the winds.

You will be lost forever.

Nameless.

You will not fail.’

Writings from the Temple III ~ Briony

Briony, who attended her first workshop with the Silent Eye at Lord of the Deep in April, first shared her thoughts with us a little while ago and continued earlier this week. Here she shares a little more of what came to her after the event.

Feminam
‘It is As it is’
The Mystery of the Feminine
You came like a thief in the night, unbeckoned, unwanted. You came with the Truth of your desire, the creator, urged by your Intention, fuelled by Primordia. You changed me. My Unknowingness, my darkness, my mystery became your resting place, your knowledge. I was wounded, changed forever, the unjudging welcoming the Judgement. I gave my passivity, my dormancy away like petals in the breeze, floating through Time and Space. The prostration was complete. I Am Changed. The darkness swells with the burgeoning Light. I shelter from it’s aching brightness. I cover it with the veils of the Eternal Feminam. There it lies, growing in knowing, changing my mystery. I become the
Cosmic Egg, the Unknowing and Knowing combined in the Eternal Dance of Light and Dark.
I Love You
Masculum
I entered, such bewilderment. The agony of innocence, the ecstasy of sense. How am I to fulfil my vow, my promise? How do I bring knowing to unknowing, the knowledge of Death in the Instance of Birth?
Agony and ecstasy are the same, pain and joy, love and hate, force and inertia, attraction and repulsion.
Living the Thought, speaking the Word. The Light blinds, the Darkness envelopes. Both shock our Non-being into Being.
I am that I am

Writings from the Temple II ~ Briony

Briony, who attended her first workshop with the Silent Eye at Lord of the Deep in April, shared her thoughts with us a little while ago. Here she shares the second part of what came to her after the event.

Fire and Ice, fire and ice. Ice in Fire, Fire in Ice. Melting without transforming, dousing without subduing.

Can these forces live in harmony? Knowledge encased, creates the decay of Time, eroding away the fabric of lost worlds. Civilisations stilled, bound by the potent desire to endure, to immortalise.

We watched the Accession. We listened to the cries of torment, of victory, of the vanquished.

We acted.

The Golem was created, born of Earth, filled with Divine Fire. Such beauty, such harmony! Trust incarnate, knowing no fear, living each solar cycle, each lunar cycle, each planetary movement, obeyed, trusted.

KA incarnate, AMMA flows with you, around you. My child be blessed! The Golem lives, forged in the womb of Earth, suckled by her beasts, given life by the astral fire of the Divine. Born of Earth, innocent of the Descent, no diadem of thorns crowns his brow, he lives, he breathes, the purity of life evidenced as untarnished love.

She came, her mystery entered his consciousness, he was awakened. KAMA IABBA. And so it began.

He knew himself, herself, they danced, she unveiled her mysteries, he learned her magic. The fire flowed with the water. The Child of Earth became Man.

Perfect peace

The sun had shone on a perfect day, buzzing with the sound of summer. The air was full of small noises… the distant squeals and laughter of children playing, insects busily going about their job, music carried on the breeze, the tearing of grass beyond the garden fence where the cattle munch their way through the lush green field and the constant song of birds. It was one of those days where you could read the season from its soundtrack, even here in the village.

Much later, I sat outside while the dog dozed in the cool night air and there was silence. It wasn’t just quiet … there was no breeze to rustle the leaves on the trees, no wisps of speech from late-night television wafting through open windows…not even the usual muted roar of the occasional car on the main road. With the door closed behind me to keep the moths safely outside, the quiet whirrs and hums of appliances could no longer be heard. The silence was complete.

I love the night… I always have. As a girl, in a more innocent world, I loved to walk long after dark, feeling the change in the city streets as people closed their doors and curtains, withdrawing their life, gathering it in to the centre of hearth and home. It was never silent, but there was a quieting of human presence… a strange, psychic ‘space’ and peace in the empty streets. I would watch the stars… at least, those that could compete with the sulphurous glow of the city… and I would dream.

It was, perhaps, an odd way for a young teenager to spend her evenings, but somehow there was a sense of security in that silent solitude. It was the one time in my day when I felt I could be no more and no less than me. There was no parental expectation, no teenage self-image to create or maintain for peers, no awkward self-consciousness, just a consciousness of Self as I set my mind free to wander. It was, I suppose, my introduction to the kind of walking meditation I would learn in later years.

But this evening was different. Deliberately becoming consciousness of the body is a technique often used in meditation. It encourages awareness of the here and now. But this was not the same; it was not deliberate at all, but a moment that arose spontaneously and brought with it a sense of peace and wonder all of its own.

There was a stillness to the night that is rare… a perfect pause. The absence of any kind of noise only seemed to enhance the vibrancy of the life around and within me. The only ‘sounds’ came from my own body and they were ‘heard’ only within. Observing and following my attention as it seemed to dance deeper, I was aware first of the constant whine of the tinnitus, a false sound that is only exacerbated by silence. I became conscious of each breath, of the blood in my veins and the beating of my heart, as I ‘listened’ to the silent rhythm of my body’s life and knew it for a tiny part of something vast and beautiful… just one small note in a great symphony.

There was a clarity to the moment, knowing that the body we inhabit is not who we are, that the mysterious thing we call life may animate, but exists beyond, the physical machine. That the life I think of as my own is simply a drop in a great well from which all life is drawn and in which we all share, from the warm, summer grass to the snuffling hedgehog, from the moths drawn irresistibly to the light behind the curtains to the dog snoring at my feet.

I thought about the scientific premise, so easily observed, that energy is never lost… it simply changes form or state when it reaches an apparent end.  As summer blossoms, the energy of the sun is captured and forms flowers. With summer past its zenith, the blooms fade , revealing their burgeoning fruits and seeds while the petals decay and disappear, becoming one with the earth from which they arose, the source of next year’s flowers.

Will the energy that is ‘me’ one day do the same? Not just the physical form returning to its component parts, but that invisible something we call life? My own belief is that it does, returning to its source as fuel for future lives, and, in the silence, I wondered whether what I have borrowed from the well will be returned depleted, enriched…or simply in its original state? And yet, I thought, did  an answer really matter? Any borrowed gift must always be respected and returned  with care.

Perhaps darkness is the time for unanswerable questions. The dog yawned and shifted. I felt closer to her than ever, feeling the shared bond of life as I reached down to bury my hands in her fur.