A Song with Sue Vincent (2) – from the eyes of another

Sue and Stuart moved forward from the start of the Silent Eye to become a formidable writing team, beginning with their book, The Initiate, published in September 2013.

(Above: a very dynamic combination – Sue Vincent and Stuart France, photographed in 2014. You can find a list of their prolific writings at France and Vincent.

In this extract, Sue describes the 2013 ritual birth of the Silent Eye, but through the eyes of an ancient female priestess she felt she knew, psychically. This figure – later named ‘Bratha’, was to be an often present figure in her later writings, and in the workshop “The Feathered Seer’ that she and Stuart created in 2016.

——-

There was smoke again, and flames, but this time they were for her alone. The fire had claimed her and images rose and fell within the orange glow.

She gave herself to the moment, seeing with inner eyes a strange scene unfolding.

Far below, it seemed, a golden vortex drew her, sending up motes of light like the ash from the burning wood, rising into the night. She followed their trail in vision to the centre of the maelstrom of power whirling deosil, an island of Light in the darkness…

A sacred space…

The golden robed figure sat veiled and alone in the centre of a strange symbol. It reminded her of a great, winged bird, its wings wrapped around the seated priestess. At her feet a golden chalice held a single flame, while around her invisible gold flowed in a river of power.

The figure was immobile as a statue, her robes catching the light of the flickering flame, only her breathing, slow and steady, made her seem alive. A man approached through the base of the winged symbol, a great Eye on his breast. He sat before the silent figure, taking her hands and speaking words unheard into the night. The golden one bowed her head in acknowledgement and he took up his place to her right, one hand outstretched on her shoulder.

There was a new shift in the swirling vortex as they waited in silence. She could sense the streams of colour spiralling around the enthroned Priest and the Lady. They could not see her. They saw nothing but the Purpose they served.

Another joined them, a younger energy flowed in as he too sat before the priestess. He took the hands in a silence that sang to the morning, bowing over them and placing a kiss on each. Three pairs of eyes, shining with Love… He took his place on her left and rested his hand on her shoulder.

They were an arrow, she the point, they her strength and source of flight. Another three added to the symbol traced on the ground around them. They waited and the power grew. Three strands now entwined in the vortex.

Others came, men and women in strange garb, one by one. Hesitant, awed by what they felt as they entered the sacred circle. In turn they stood in silent offering before she who held the moment, giving of themselves to what stood before them… The One that was Three.

The priestess in gold held each pair of eyes, accepting their gifts with Love and silence, bowing her head to each in thanks and blessing. They took their seats to either side, forming great wings of life around the three.

She did not understand, but she recognised.

When all had entered, she too, invisible and beyond time, entered the circle, stepping across the worlds, it seemed. She too offered to the Mother and the eyes that met hers were her own. There was a shift, a dizzying moment, when she felt herself seeing through both pairs of eyes and looking into her-self across millennia.

She joined the Vigil and wore silence.

After a time the priestess stood, taking up the light in the cup, placing a cloak of white fur about her shoulders. Holding the power and wrapped in silence she led the way into the pre-dawn light, her companions following in silent procession. It seemed to the watcher that they walked within a globe of golden light.

The temple building was strange to her eyes, but not as strange as the sleeping landscape into which the priestess led them. Tall huts of stone, square and angular beside a hard, unnatural path, disconnected from earth. Shiny chariots with black wheels lined the path. She felt sick with shock, yet curious about this strange world.

They saw no others as they walked, climbing the path towards the tree-line. The silence was broken by the bleating of a new lamb. It must be spring, she thought. The lamb watched, meeting their eyes and bleated again, three times in all. The companions shared smiling glances. They understood this. It meant something to them.

They turned to the left between trees and were walking in dew-drenched grass, sparkling with rainbows and diamond droplets, climbing the hill. She felt better on the grass, the earth touching her feet. It felt like home.

Up they climbed, beyond a tree to a small plateau in the hillside. A board of black and white squares held bread and the cup was placed there on the ground. The golden one and the priest of the Eye stood facing the coming dawn, a pale glow on the horizon heralding its birth. The Man-Child stood behind them, with their companions arced at his back.

She watched as priest and priestess raised their arms in unison, greeting the sunrise. This she understood. Her own priests greeted the dawn thus. As the sun rose, and with their hands still raised, they turned to each other, becoming an arch, gate of the morning, through which the first rays of the sun could touch the company.

Thus they stood as the Man-child crossed his hands on his breast and bowed. Then he dared to pass through into the Light. As he did so, a strange sound rang out, a sound chanted by the two who were the gateway…

The gathered silence finally split and broken by a two-fold word of power… A mingling of energies that she could see…

Birds sang and a hawk flew from the rising of the sun, spreading its wings over those below in benediction. This too they understood.

Each then passed in turn through the gateway, to that strange chant. Each spoke words she could not understand into the morning. The first were anointed with fragrant oil. Some were not, yet all gave themselves to the Light. She could see it in their faces, read it in their hearts as they stepped forward in joy.

She too passed through that gateway invisible and silent, feeling the change, joining them across time and space, knowing somehow that neither existed, only the moment in which she stood, the reality in which she was.

Dream or vision, it mattered not.

Here, now, she was.

The arc had shifted to stand in the sun. Now facing the priest and priestess, behind the man-child…

Something new was born into the world, a beacon of Light and she felt herself part of it.

The priest carried bread to the companions, each taking a small piece and breaking the fast of a new dawn. The priestess carried the cup, sharing the blood red contents with each. Then the two shared also, with each other and with the earth.

For a moment she shared their joy as the ritual ended. They were smiling, laughing and embracing each other, the release of power at the birthing leaving them light as feathers. And light as a feather she felt herself begin to drift back to her flames in the darkness.

As the vision faded into embers, the ground hard beneath her, the wind cold beneath the stars, she held out her hands over the dying flames and sent her own blessing upon that bright company. In whatever realm or world they moved whatever time or place, what they had wrought in the dawn light was sacred. She did not understand, but she knew and recognised her kin…


If you would like to read the story of the Song of the Troubadour, as given in the workshop, Sue Vincent helped to turn the workbook for the event into an Amazon book, available in paperback and Kindle formats. See below.

(Above: The Song of the Troubadour book and script is available on Amazon, priced at £5.99. Click the image


ISBN-13: 978-1910478035)

©Stephen Tanham, 2021.

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a modern yet mystical journey through the forest of personality to the sunrise of Being. 


If you would like to read the story of the Song of the Troubadour, as given in the workshop, Sue Vincent helped to turn the workbook for the event into an Amazon book, available in paperback and Kindle formats. See below.

©Stephen Tanham, 2021.

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a modern yet mystical journey through the forest of personality to the sunrise of Being. 

A Song with Sue Vincent – the birth of the Silent Eye

In the near darkness, the woman’s gentle right hand came down on my shoulder from behind. It was the signal that she was ready, that we could begin either the bravest or the stupidest thing we’d ever attempted.

(With the giant enneagram lovingly ‘taped’ onto the carpet of the Nightingale Centre, the cast of ‘The Song of the Troubadour’ begins the Silent Eye’s opening workshop)

It was April 2013. Sue Vincent and I were about to sing the opening of a temple ritual drama. Sitting on a small stool in front of her, I took a breath and let my fingers rest on the nylon strings of the Spanish guitar…

We were on our own, as Troubadours had often been, in history, conveying their truths as songs.

Around us in the half-light, lit only by a few electric candles and one small real flame in a glass lantern, people were pretending to be asleep, their heads nodded downwards, The hoods of their robes were pulled up, monk-wise, into a universal symbol of withdrawal from the everyday.

Their sleep was symbolic of a shift in consciousness: the essence of what the Silent Eye was going to try to achieve over the weekend.

The workshop was to mark and celebrate the launch of the new School. Many of those present were from other esoteric organisations. All had come to wish us well and to celebrate the birth of something spiritually new.

(Above: Sue’s artistic skill allowed her to create variants of our enneagram for specific roles – in this case, a painted image of the soul)

Within the ‘sleeping circle’ was Stuart France, the third Director, who was to play the role of a mysterious ‘child’ protected from dark forces by the two Troubadours, and, eventually – having reconciled their differences – the whole cast.

It was no time to mess up those precious guitar chords. I strummed the strings into life. The gentle but tones filled the large room in the Nightingale Centre with a soft and haunting sound. You could feel the intake of breath around the circle. Then our two voices rose, in harmony in the darkness as Sue and I sang the Song of the Troubadour; something we had written for the workshop, but never performed in public, though Sue’s ‘learning by repetition’ technique, practised while looking after her son, Nick, caused him to create a rap version, just so he could play it back to her with equal frequency…

(Above – Sue Vincent, taking a break. Ever mischievous…)

Beginnings are powerful things… Looking back, the coming together of Sue Vincent, Stuart France and myself within the Silent Eye was hardly an accident.

We had known each other previously through the Servants of the Light (SOL) – Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki’s celebrated school of the Western Mystery Tradition. I had joined SOL in 2006 and stayed seven years, helping to computerise the ageing administration and membership systems. Sue and I had met there, but not known each other well.

Prior to our time at SOL, Stuart and I had been long-term officers within the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC.

For the three of us, our participation in these organisations had given us a rich perspective on the teaching of practical mysticism. In particular, Dolores had taught all of us that the use of drama, played out with the sacred in mind, could be a powerful tool on many levels.

In my own case, I had deeply enjoyed every one of these journeys into different organisations, gaining in knowledge and confidence with each move. I was not in any way unhappy with any of them, but I felt there was another, and more ‘direct’ way of going about it. I had studied the work of Gurdjieff in some detail, and a group of us had piloted a novel ‘magical’ approach to the use of his nine-pointed figure: the enneagram.

(Above: the final version of the Silent Eye’s enneagram, a figure that combines enneagram theory and personal, mystical practice

The enneagram had been created to show how nature’s processes flow and reset themselves, much as the seasons do, but generalised in a deeper way. A group of psychologists in California had merged a deep theory of the arising of personality with the use of the enneagram to make visible our deeper natures… eventually knocking on the door of the personal ‘soul’.

That became my trigger for establishing the Silent Eye, a school of consciousness that would combine this use of the enneagram with our ‘magical’ training of the mind, heart and instincts. In 2012, I left SOL to to this, hoping to keep the wide circle of friends I had made, there.

Sue Vincent had been helping me become a Facebook user. She joined me shortly afterwards, in the soon to be Silent Eye, though we had not discussed it prior to my leaving SOL. My wife and I hosted a party for the creation of the new school at our newly-finished house in Kendal. Everyone enjoyed the evening and wanted to stay over. A small army of sleeping bags were deployed.

The day after, Sue Vincent (in her own words) kidnapped Stuart France, and the two of them spent the day driving around her native Yorkshire and talking about the potential of the Silent Eye. I’d already made the offer for him to join us. The day cemented their friendship, which was later to develop into much more, plus a most productive writing team.

Towards the end of 2012, Stuart confirmed he would join us. In April 2013, we launched the Silent Eye with the ‘Song of the Troubadour’ workshop, viewed by all attending as a success… and a new thread in the teaching of practical esoteric knowledge in a modern world.

The Song of the Troubadour was the story of a group of travellers trapped by a snowstorm in a remote monastery, high in a range of mountains between two lands. The Keepers of the monastery gently engineer inter-personal conditions that bring each traveller face to face with their own inner natures. The workshop pioneered the Silent Eye’s use of the teaching enneagram as a mystical tool for dramatic, ritual movement. To our knowledge, no-one else in the world uses this combination.

(Above: the creation and management of an event like ‘The Song of the Troubadour’ is a complex fusion of movement and position. Everything in such a temple signifies an aspect of the human being)

The Troubadours sang their song. The workshop was a warm success and became the blueprint for another six years of spring events. Some of these will be discussed in the next post.


If you would like to read the story of the Song of the Troubadour, as given in the workshop, Sue Vincent helped to turn the workbook for the event into an Amazon book, available in paperback and Kindle formats. See below.

(Above: The Song of the Troubadour book and script is available on Amazon, priced at £5.99. Click the image


ISBN-13: 978-1910478035)

©Stephen Tanham, 2021.

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a modern yet mystical journey through the forest of personality to the sunrise of Being. 

Behind the scenes…

It is an odd thing to put on a workshop where ritual and drama are mixed. Odd, but old… theatre has its roots in the sacred drama of ancient times. Even the rituals of the Church have a theatrical element, blending light, song, the glamour of embroidered vestments and the fragrance of incense and oil. These things combine to capture the imagination and emotions, lifting the heart and mind above the humdrum cares of the world and turning them towards the greater Light of the spirit.

None of these dramatic elements are strictly necessary. Turning the mind and heart towards the divine, whether in prayer, adoration or meditation, needs no company. The spiritual journey is ultimately one we must take alone…and yet, we may have company along the way.

It is perfectly possible to access the spiritual realms without any help at all, just as it is perfectly possible to climb a mountain in stiletto heels, but both can be very much simpler, and more pleasurable, when we are properly equipped and in good company.

When any group of people come together with a common cause, they create a unique energy that can accomplish far more, and far more quickly, than an individual alone. When that group brings the focus of that energy to bear upon a shared intent, magic happens.

 

The Silent Eye workshops are designed to create a moment out of time where that shared intent can be made manifest. To allow mind, heart and imagination to access that moment, we use stories, light and colour, but whether or not we succeed in creating that sacred space depends entirely upon the participation and engagement of our Companions.

And each year, old friends and new attendees alike, throw themselves into the moment.

The dramatic tales that are woven serve to illustrate aspects of the human psyche that, through play, may be explored. Every year we stress that neither acting ability nor costumes are a requirement for attendance at our workshops… and yet our Companions pull out the stops to add that ‘something extra’ to the weekend. The characterisation and the costumes themselves, like the stories we weave, help set the scene and in turn direct the intent and attention towards a higher realm.

This year our characters were drawn from the Elizabethan era, and every presence was strong, embodying their character in their own unique way. The space in which we work is watched over by the tall figure of our Guardian, a strong and protective presence at the door who had come over from Europe to be with us. Another Companion from Europe played our astrologer, Lady Arabella Santiago. We had a quicksilver Marlowe, and a serene and dignified John Gerard, to whom special thanks are due to the two ladies who agreed to take on demanding masculine roles. Alienora and Dean were, as always, magnificent and unnerving in their roles as Life and Death.

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, came from the States and with her came the mysterious of Dr Dee, the dashing Sir Walter Raleigh and the mystical beauty of Lady Rab’ya. The villain of the piece, and a victim of his own ambition and misunderstanding, was Lord Essex, admirably portrayed by Russell. Mistress Jane Dee, played by a mischievous Yorkshire lass who is a priestess of Avalon, was angelic… and an enigmatic Lady in White held the silence and the visions of the company. And it would be remiss not to mention our Bess of Hardwick and our Blanche Parry, who graced the chequered floor with a stately dance of their own devising, adding yet another layer of reality to the moment.

But it is not all about the drama. There are the explorations… presentations and periods of serious study where we examine and share perspectives on spiritual concepts… even if some of us choose to do so wearing rabbit masks pulled from a top hat. This year, we were privileged to have an expert speak to us on the Chain of Being… and give us a lesson in Court etiquette too. ‘Serious’ need not be tedious.

There is the dawn ritual, which I missed this year as I was holding the Temple ready to receive the symbol of Light. There is the annual Triad ritual, which reaffirms the roots of the School, and leads into the ritual for the new Initiates… which is incredibly moving and always leaves me, and others, in tears at the beauty of the moment.

And, perhaps most magical of all, there is time to talk and laugh, catch up with old friends, cement new friendships and enjoy the green of the budding spring landscape.

When Steve founded the School and drafted Stuart and I to work with him, I do not think any of us knew what to expect. It was an adventure to which we were called and one that we knew would be hard work and demand much of all of us. I am grateful beyond measure to be a part of this adventure, to have learned so much, still be learning so much… and be able to share these moments with friends and companions on the journey.

With our workshop weekends over the past six years, we have journeyed in imagination from the most ancient past to a space-age future, spanning aeons of time in the timeless space of the soul… and I would not choose to be anywhere else but here and now, and part of the Silent Eye.

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The Magical Roundabout

Magical Roundabout

I remember the moment, a few years ago, when Stuart – one of my co-directors of the Silent Eye – said to me: “And that’s it, vanished in an instant: all that work about to be packed up, filed away and forgotten…”

He was referring to the hour at the end of our annual workshop during which we tear down the props, pack the period (or futuristic) costumes and collect up any spare workbooks, each one the better part of two hundred pages of lovingly crafted mystical theatre…

Around us is a scattering of people who don’t want to go home… Old friends, returned for their yearly round of camaraderie, fun and some deeply moving psychodrama, are standing in the residual warmth of a living thing which, like a vessel, has held and nurtured us all for the weekend. New friends, wondering what just happened…

I hate the word ‘psychodrama’ but that’s what it is. Hitchcock has a lot to answer for… ‘psych’ because the weekend is a process that works on ‘the self’, involving everyone in a play – a scripted five-act drama that starts off slow and ends with a rush that is all too real. It’s not drugs or alcohol that fuels this, it’s the largely forgotten state of ‘egregore’ of a group of people ‘playing’ at something with spiritual intentions whose success they are committed to.

We play via scripts and, often, costumes based on the characters enacted. No-one is expected to remember their lines over the five acts of the play. But watch any one of our players reading theirs and you’ll see that person giving total dedication to being the best they can be.

They may be a medieval knight, a soothsayer, a priestess. They may be a jester, a demigod or even a Queen. They might even be a cyborg from the future, struggling to become human, and challenging all our preconceptions in the process.

Sounds serious stuff? Yes, but beneath this is a strong and incredibly supportive layer of fun. A very good pub is next door to our conference venue: the lovely Nightingale Centre in this idyllic part of the Derbyshire hills. We are not averse to a glass of wine or beer to help wind down in the evenings, and the included meals in the venue are very good, indeed – and all this for less than three hundred pounds, per person, inclusive…

We don’t do it to make money, as the annual tax return would demonstrate. We do it because it reflects the best of the various ‘Schools of the Soul’ in which we were brought to a more inclusive state of consciousness. Over the five short years of our existence we have made it our own, and created our own teaching styles, along the way developing some leading-edge approaches to distance learning.

We are not gurus – we don’t believe in them. We are just ordinary folk who enjoy teaching a deeper approach to life… and ‘playing’ in this magical and creative fashion.

This year, 20-22 April, on that final Sunday afternoon, we will be standing among the torn down bits of electronics, cables, fabric, giant chessboard and well-thumbed scripts. Stuart may well be standing there as the last box gets packed into the car and ask, in his customary fashion, ‘Well, was it all worth it?’

He’ll be smiling his ‘it’s not really a question’ smile, and we’ll both chuckle. Oh yes, it will indeed have been worth it!

———–

For more information on this and future Silent Eye workshops click here or contact us at rivingtide@gmail.com

©Stephen Tanham.

The Last Post?

Gawain's last post

We are now only two days away from the Silent Eye’s 2016 workshop, Leaf and Flame, organised by my two co-directors of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness Stuart France and Sue Vincent.

I have the dubious honour of having the largest vehicle. Tomorrow, I will spend five hours or so loading the major fixtures needed to create the Temple of the Mysteries that we use to stage our magical dramas. On Friday morning, very early, I will collect the single passenger needed to fill up the one seat not taken up by the fittings, and we will journey to the lovely village of Great Hucklow, and the wonderful Nightingale Centre, home of the last three of the Silent Eye’s annual workshops.

This year’s Leaf and Flame event tells the Arthurian story of Sir Gawain and his doomed quest to protect King Arthur from the consequences of accepting the Green Knight’s beheading challenge. Essentially, the Green Knight, riding into Camelot on New Year’s Day, challenges any of the Knights present to chop off his head; as long as he may do the same a year from then. Sensing extreme trickery, Gawain persuades King Arthur that he should not accept the challenge, but let it fall to himself (Gawain) instead.

We may assume that Gawain was suspicious of the actions of the green giant, but did not want to expose his beloved King to the dark forces involved. Sure enough, having chopped the head from the otherwise peaceful invader, Gawain awakens to a scenario of horror as the Green Knight picks up his severed head and rides out, stating that he’ll see his failed executioner in a year’s time, at a place called the Green Chapel, for the return blow – a blow that Gawain knows he does not have the magic to survive.

And so the scene is set for a mysterious series of adventures, culminating in a frozen and nearly dead Sir Gawain, in honourable search for the Green Chapel to surrender his life, arriving at an unknown castle and being taken in by the Lord and Lady who run it. They thus save his life and assure him that he has time, before paying his grisly debt, to recover amidst their generous hospitality, as the mysterious Green Chapel is nearby.

In return for this rescue, the Lord proposes a game: that, on each of three days’ hunting that follow, he will give to Gawain everything he wins. In return Gawain is to give to him everything that he receives, during his recovery in the warmth of the castle. So far so good, but when the Lord has left to hunt, the following morning, the Lady of the castle steals into Gawain’s bedchamber and attempts to seduce him… There follows a verbal fencing match where Gawain, decidedly under-dressed under his bed covers, is kept prisoner by the Lady while she works her seductive mischief. The original 14th century text is cleverly composed to show how the Lady changes strategies several times to try to outwit Gawain, who clings to his Knightly principles in what he senses is a losing game…

For three days, this twin metaphor of hunting and seduction is played out, with Gawain finally succumbing either to a magical token (the Lady’s garter) that may just help him survive his immanent beheading at the hands of the nearby Green Knight; or to sex with the lovely seductress. The interpretation relies very much on your point of view of the mores of the medieval times. Sex and Death were common themes, particularly in those tales that derive, as does the story of Gawain, from older Celtic traditions, where plain-speaking was the norm.

A similar historical eye is needed for the details of the Lord’s grisly hunting scenes, which otherwise might seem unnecessarily bloodthirsty…The original story was written about a time not long after the Norman invasion, where a strict code of hunting rewards were part of the hierarchy of the controlling elite.

I will not finish the formal story, as Leaf and Flame is not exactly sticking to the original plot, instead, as I wrote to a friend, earlier:

“In the hands of Stuart and Sue, The Leaf and Flame story of Sir Gawain becomes a sophisticated tale of the different ‘selves’ of the human; from the ‘lower’ and animalistic levels (and, below that, the foundation of survival, itself) to the assumed higher and intellectual levels. In the ‘middle’ we have the powerhouse that is the emotional ‘self’. The three ‘levels’ are not necessarily to be seen as stacked vertically…nor in the order given above..

The five act mystical drama follows the initial beheading of The Green Knight (who does not die, but rides off with his head under his arm) to the subsequent trials of Sir Gawain, who volunteered to enter this cursed action to save the honour of King Arthur. In the 14th century original, Gawain is ‘nicked’ on the neck rather than beheaded, following a partly successful seduction by the wife of a noble related to the Green Knight. Along the way, Leaf and Flame weaves in the story of Lady Ragnell, a woman cursed to be ugly to her suitors until one breaks the spell, thus freeing her to be what she is…

The greater story is that of the impossibility of divorcing the different elements of the ‘Whole Human’ whose nature has to be realised, in the words of Sue and Stuart, as “Fully human and fully divine”. The workshop is a cryptic journey through all these levels and how they operate within the life of, in this case, one victim, played by at least two people – Sir Gawain and his alter egos. Of his survival or not, I cannot speak, since my parters are keeping me in ignorance! I can only say that I sense some horror ahead; and that they are not necessarily keeping to the original story!”

I am, as you may have guessed, playing the part of Sir Gawain… it was not my idea, but my active acceptance of the doom ahead (whatever that turns out to be–and I really do not know the important details) needs to be a fitting tribute to their wonderful efforts. Whatever my ‘loathly end’ turns out to be, it will be followed by one of the most spectacular outside fire-dances, in the form of a performance by the mysterious Langsett Fox Dancers, whose dramatic performance will light up the night, though I probably won’t be there to see it, so to speak…

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I believe I have an appointment with a grisly end and this may well be my last post…

Can micro-surgery stick heads back on, yet?

Normal service will be resumed, hopefully, next week…