Growing emotional…

It is the end of a long day; one of those days when many small things have seemed to go wrong and a few bigger things cast dark shadows on your horizon. You are tired…not the pleasant kind of snuggle-up-in-bed-with-a-book tired either, but the kind that begins to question and ask ‘why does it have to be like this?’

It comes to most of us at some point; that emotional bone-weariness. Chances are, you are too tired to even begin looking for answers and past thinking about them if you fell over them. But you are going to find things that look like answers wandering through your mind just the same.

Under stress, they will probably be the wrong ones. Anxiety and fatigue cloud thinking, and what may appear to be a perfectly logical train of thought can begin from a single skewed idea, from a slight misapprehension or misunderstanding. Pursue them and you could end up very far from the truth and casting blame in all the wrong directions, even, perhaps, where there is no blame at all. Life just throws things our way sometimes.

Why does it have to be that way? The most likely answer is that this is a path we have chosen for ourselves. Not, perhaps, with any conscious volition, but through the gradual shaping of our worlds over a lifetime, allowing it to become what it is today. Some events may be beyond our control; there may be no choice in whatever it is we are facing at any given moment. But how we react to it is a choice and one we may have been unconsciously making for a long time.

Our very earliest interactions with the world around us begin to shape how we will react throughout our lives. The nurture or lack of it that we receive as we grow, the people in our lives, our circumstances, all combine with the raw materials of who we might become to make us who we are. Our reactions to any given event are born from this accumulated and integrated input of experience. Our character and the way we walk through life devolves and evolves from the life we have lived so far and therefore we shape many facets of our own lives in what has been called a mechanical fashion.

That is a cold way of expressing it. We could equally and simply say that our reactions are determined by who we have become. It may sound like a negative assessment, yet it is not necessarily so. Reactions that lash out at the world in hurt or anger stem from here, but it is also from here that the means to express the generous impulse is born; the act of kindness and empathy, the outstretched arms… We all know someone who is, or perhaps hope we are, that person who instinctively reaches out to others when they are hurt or in need. What is that if not reaction?

 

For those who seek to understand a little more of how they themselves have come into being there are many systems, beliefs and paths available. Within the Silent Eye we use the enneagram, placing upon it archetypal figures that express the basic ways in which we function… the chief impellers of our choices. These are not cold caricatures…they cannot be, for all we do stems from emotion. Whatever is behind our public face, whether we are creatures of laughter and tears or intellectually focussed, emotion is the prime mover at the root of all we are.

Imagine working backwards from the very tip of a branch, retracing the intersections from the finest twig, back to the bough and eventually to the heartwood of the tree. The deeper we consider what moves us to be who we are, the fewer possibilities we are left with. The closer we get to the source, the more I am convinced that even from a purely psychological standpoint, love can be seen as the root of all we are. Whether we know it or lack it, feel it or feel its absence and a yearning towards it, whether we feel it must be earned or deserved, or run from it in fear of the demands it might make… whether we clothe it as a need for admiration and respect… even whether or not we feel love for ourselves…Whichever way you look at it, love seems to be the central fact of our existence.

From a spiritual perspective, many have never doubted that this is so. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once wrote, “The truth is, indeed, that love is the threshold of another universe.” When you see that the Source of all Being, and the source of our being as one and the same, it changes the way you see the world, yourself and your fellow man… and leads you towards a threshold of understanding that surpasses knowledge. And perhaps it is here we will find our answers.

An Alchemical Moment ~ Jordis Fasheh

Jordis Fasheh, a friend and Companion of the School, tells how she found the Silent Eye at a pivotal point in her personal journey. At the moment when the Silent Eye officially came into being, Jordis was the first to step forward and join us…

Jordis as Nephthys, Land of the Exiles, 2014

How it came to be that I joined The Silent Eye, A Modern Mystery School.

It all started when I was ten years old. A child in search of something greater than herself. If I had read an Autobiography of a Yogi at that time things may have turned out differently. But I ran away from home one day, snuck on the subway and rode to the end of the line. Not knowing what it was I was searching for, when I disembarked from the train, the first thing I asked was, “where is the nearest Church.”

If I knew anything, it was that I had to find my voice. I spoke with God often but the weight of the outside world was over powering and I didn’t have the strength nor means to fight it. I became overly compliant and quiet and needed desperately to free myself.

A kind priest took me in and brought me to the Nuns. They fed me a warm tuna sandwich and asked how it came to be that I alighted upon their steps. While I tried to come up with some sort of tale, the priest brought me to the sanctuary and lit a candle.

We sat for a while and I shared that I ran away from home. He then asked if I knew where home was. I didn’t have an answer.

Finally, I said I could show him where I lived and he took me back to my family.

Several tumultuous years passed and my parents did the best they could but I left again at 16 to wonder on a path trying to find my way home.

One day my cousin Sylvia gave me a book written by Carlos Castaneda, “The Journey to Ixtlan,” which changed the course of my life in a positive way.

I read and studied all of his books. I then met a group of explorers who also studied Casteneda. They studied shamanism as well and one summer we met real shamans from Mexico City and we studied with them too.

Again, my life turned, I was becoming more aware and decided to become a paramedic as a way of service. I could probably write a book about those five years that contained a lifetime of experiences.

I studied everything I could get my hands on, every world religion; Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and most philosophers.

During those years, I met two spiritual mentors that were Gnostic Christian. I became enchanted by their knowledge and their mystical practices. They introduced me to ritual theatre and opened up the world of symbolism to me. All of my studies aligned, and it was a huge turning point for me.

It was then that I came across Carl Jung’s “Mysterium Coniunctionis.” While I probably didn’t know a fraction of what he was talking about, I did know that there was truth in its interior and that an alchemical union was what would bridge the separation between me and my soul.

However, and I may have mentioned before that I have two very real sides to my personality. One the pragmatist and doer and the other the creative artist and dreamer.

Well, unlike my mentors, I had to work and earn money to survive. In my mind, a starving artist route would not a heroine make. So I dove into my work during the week and let my spirt explore on the weekends.

However, these conditions did nothing to help bridge the gap. I continued to feel separate and could often hear Bono from U2, belting, “I still haven’t found what I am looking for!”

I think most artists and people that feel, feel deeply and go through ebbs and tides and churning emotions. Not always fun, eh?

In my forties I dove deeper into mystical studies and embarked on several years of healing old wounds and making amends with my family.

Much of the healing work occurred during mystical retreats and playing characters that hit chords on a deep symbolic level.

One day, my mentors asked if I would like to join them in England to participate in a ritual weekend. The theme was “Alchemical Marriage,” and it was there that I met Steve Tanham, Sue Vincent and Stuart France.

Every fiber in my being stood up on end and the kundalini fired from head to toe. “This was it,” I knew it in my core.

 

Meeting Steve, Sue and Stu that weekend was just what the spiritual doctor ordered. They were loving, generous teachers who knew exactly what they were introducing to the world with the birthing of “The Silent Eye, A Modern Mystery School.”

Steve shared about his vision and how essential it is to bridge spiritual work with psychology. He explained that many people who follow a spiritual path often overlook psychological underpinnings that halt their progress to unity and letting go of separation.

I knew that well, as my undergraduate degree was in developmental psychology and wrote a thesis on introducing spiritual practices with psychotherapy.

Additionally, I have seen the phenomenon over and over in myself and in others. It is so prevalent, it has been labelled, “spiritual by pass.” Kind of like, “let’s ignore the elephant in the room and pretend we are one with God.” While we carry on and continue to feel separated from source, we continue to do hurtful things to the ones we love without understanding why. We practice service and kindness yet still feel empty inside.

As Steve spoke, I became more and more intrigued and eagerly joined all of the rituals and meditations during the weekend.

Early one morning, Stuart led a baptism ritual and after thorough preparation, we all knelt one by one as Stuart blessed us with oil and lifted our hearts in blessing. I felt cleansed and purified. Everything was as it is in perfection.

The following year, I attended the official ‘Birthing’ of the School at the Song of the Troubadour weekend. We all sauntered across the road and up a hill to conduct the ritual in the brisk cool air. We were greeted by a small lamb and were delighted as he sprang forth on the tall grass to guide us up the hill. It was around Easter weekend and the symbolism wasn’t lost on any of us. It felt great being greeted by spirit and welcomed by the land.

In another grand ritual Sue, Steve and Stu opened a gateway for the first students to go through. Of course, I was the first to jump up, enter the gateway and declare my intentions.

By the end of the weekend, I signed up for the first degree lessons.

While for me the study has taken longer than prescribed, it is all in good time. As we do work with the inner, our outer often transforms to facilitate a more unified way of being and living.

For me that meant moving a few times, changing jobs, loved ones passing and taking time to correct and adjust.

However, I just completed my second degree studies and have embarked on the third degree this past month.

The first two degrees were geared toward understanding the personality’s mechanisms and the subjects of object relations and polarities.

As I begin the third degree, I am fully present to what is, and completely aligned with spirit. I no longer feel separate, no longer alone, and am ready to engage with real spiritual work in the world.

The best I can describe it is my soul is driving the bus now. Not the other way around. While the personality has its strengths, the soul’s inner wisdom is far superior to anything my mind’s constructs can come up with.

It is a place of trust so pure and true and it took a great deal of work to get to this place of letting go at that level.

Now alive and awake in being, my soul is free to dance….For instance, I close my eyes, look within and am either riding a big wave, or dancing with the stars. The energy is freed up to play with joy.

What may come?

While the personality does not know, it has enough sense at this point to get out of the way.

And with a deep breath I take a wondrous dive into full being.

While transformation cannot be expressed fully in words as it exists on multiple levels, I can try by saying;

A drummer understands the sound of the universe’s heart beat.

A swimmer knows a wave’s zone.

A dancer in flight knows wind molecules,

My soul pirouettes with the divine and I am home.

I could not have gotten here without “The Silent Eye’s,” Founder Steve Tanham and Directors Sue Vincent and Stuart France. Lovely, accomplished, and generous souls.

Steve is my supervisor, a brilliant teacher and visionary. He is always patient and guides with his gentle and loving spirit. He sees through where one is stuck and gives insightful counsel to help you see for yourself.

The teachings blend rational science with ancient spiritual understanding. Steve, Sue and Stu are all very accomplished and knowledgeable yet being with them is as easy as can be. There is no pretence what so ever. However, there is a whole lot of love!

I will miss being with them this April for the Lord of the Deep workshop, as well as all of the companions. Unfortunately, I had lower back surgery this year and not quite healed. While I will not physically be with them in the Derbyshire Hills, I am always with them in heart and soul.


Read more of Jordis’ work and learn more about her at  Jordy’s Streamings


Would you like to know more?

For details of the School and our methods, how to join our Correspondence Course, or to find out more about our Workshops and Events please explore our website or email The Silent Eye at rivingtide@gmail.com

The gift of memory

One of the things we take away from our weekend workshops are the memories. Faces, places, people, conversations and realisations, all combine to create a kaleidoscope of intangible souvenirs that find their own place in the hierarchy of memory. We may share an adventure, but the memories are unique for each of us and it would only be by combining all of them that a true picture of the weekend would even begin to emerge. We each bring our own perspective to the experience, and what will seem unimportant to one may be awe-inspiring to another. Some of what we experience will seem so mundane that it fades into the background, barely registering its presence in our minds, some moments will make such an impression that they remain fresh and evergreen for the rest of our lives.

Memories are more important than we consciously realise most of the time. They form the foundation of who we are and, in many ways, define who we become. Our loves and dislikes, our dreams and even our most illogical-seeming fears all have a basis in memory and, when it is lost, through illness, age or accident, we lose much of the person we have always felt ourselves to be, as well as the person others knew.

It is not that the memories have been erased… they have simply been filed away and the key to unlocking them lost. This is something I have come to understand in a far more conscious way since my son’s brain injury…  all the details are still there, but he cannot access them unless he is given the right key. That may be something very simple and seemingly unrelated… and yet it can unleash a flood of memory and the chains of association reveal layer upon layer of recollection.

At our Northumberland weekend, I was given a birthday gift that did the same for me. The ceramic art reminded me of the Moorcroft pottery that I love with its colours and textures… which in turn took me back to running my own antiques stall, working with my mother and learning the trade, a day looking in awe at the glorious Moorcroft shop in Windsor with a friend… and the tiny plate I was given months later. It opened up a vast chain of details I had forgotten from my children’s childhood… a vintage fox fur with which two small boys chased each other around grandma’s shop, tea and buttered scones as Mum and I talked and taught the boys to play chess in the storeroom…and then back to my own childhood, playing in the toy shop that my mother managed and being fed sweets by Mrs Brown who owned both toy shop and sweet shop with her husband. The memories flowed…

The subject was bound to take me back… to a time and place when the world was opening its doors to me and I lived in a state of wonder and adventure. Paris… walking the wet pavements after dark, feeling my heart skip a beat every time the dome of the Sacré-Cœur came into view, talking until the small hours with the artists who were my friends in Montmartre… a time when the emotional rollercoaster of youth rode every high and low with untrammelled enthusiasm in a place I loved with all my heart.

There was something else too. The gift had been chosen because it would remind me, and that gesture of thought and friendship conjures its own memories, from first encounter to the birth of the Silent Eye and beyond… with all the faces and places in between… until past meets present and the future begins to reveal its paths at our feet, where yet more memories will be made.

Memory adds depth and richness to our lives and anything that sparks our innate ability to revisit a moment time through its good offices is a gift beyond price. Yet, we cannot and should not live in the past… even if we retrace our footsteps, seeking out places and people we once knew, the present and the past will never be the same, for we ourselves have changed, and hopefully, grown, often because of that moment in time to which thought and memory may carry us. We may never return, but the past lives in us and adds the colour and texture of its story to our own.

Principles of Fire (6) A Tribe of Two

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“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Rumi

Jalaluddin Rumi was a 12th century Sufi mystic, whose approach to the ‘real’ was remarkably modern. This should not surprise us. Anything spiritually true will have that immediate and familiar ring about it – the sense of a homecoming, something ‘just there’ beneath the surface of our consciousness.

The Sufi mystics knew that there is no need to use an ornate symbolic system to describe the psychologically-real in the human being. Most of the systems that do use ornate symbolism were created, in times of religious persecution, to enable teaching in secret. Today, there is a danger that they become the tools of egoic gurus who use them to veil the truth, rather than light a path to it. This is not always the case, but is a hazard for those new to any path, who might not know the difference.

In the previous post, we examined how the primary behaviour of the egoic self is to react. Rumi’s quote, above, is directly related to this. Distilled, his words describe a self that has built a shell around its essence – something that dwells in ‘love’. Love was intrinsic to the language of the Sufis: the seeker becomes besotted – intoxicated – with the discovered presence of what seems like another being inside themselves. Only much later do we see that we are the reflection of it and not the other way round…

The power of the shell that blocks out the interior love from our true Self is the power of reaction; the world ‘painted on our eyeballs’. The egoic, worldly self must constantly identify with reaction to life in order to maintain its illusory position at ‘the centre’. In the words of the Buddhists: there are two ways of looking at clouds passing; the first is to say “I see clouds passing”, the second is to say “Clouds are passing – there is consciousness of this.”

Nothing is lost in this, save the grip of the egoic self.  Clouds are still passing; but, in the second example there is an implied, deeper relationship between the one who was the observer and the thing observed. One of them has vanished – making the world whole, again.

Our world is one of relationship. Our bodies are instruments for receiving the electro-magnetic signals that give notice of change to consciousness. The world is our relationship to everything within it – in particular, other people in our life. In part three of this series we spoke about ‘projection’; an unconscious externalising of what ‘we are’ as though projected onto a screen. When we fall in love, we see the other as the object of our adoration, but, really, we are projecting a very beautiful and inner part of ourselves onto the perfect screen of a sympathetic person. This does not diminish love; far from it. The love felt from the other person shows us the power of love to shine an other-wordly ‘light’ into our lives. When we project on someone else in this way, we are bypassing the rigid egoic shell that keeps us imprisoned in this world of reaction. Because this intense feeling is seen in the person of another, we are free to observe it without our internal ‘commentary’ – a process that would reduce it to a regurgitation of our own egoic story.

When we look at a tree, we immediately get that voice in our head that names the tree, and we begin commenting on the nature, condition, habitat and a thousand other descriptions of ‘this beautiful, living thing in front of us’. As soon as that internal dialogue – based entirely on our history – begins, we have lost the moment of beingness with the tree. It doesn’t need to be a tree. An orange, apple, painting or a thousand other things could work just as well. As an exercise, gaze round for a few minutes each day and watch how quickly the internal jabbering switches on. Then try to ignore it, as though dismissing an unruly child… hold that feeling, that brief moment of being free to see things as they are, and without fear of losing the defensive commentary.

If we do not observe ourselves well, our world will be full of that confusion, projected outwards. If we know ourselves well, we can, day by day, draw into that knowing a certainty that our role is to ‘be with’ the world. This state of being happens in stages and needs to be accompanied by a systematic journey around our selves, beginning at the egoic level. Surprisingly, this is not a chore. it is an exciting adventure, with a considerable degree of humour and emotion along the way. Above all, from the first minute, it feels a lot more real than what was happening before…

With each bit of the defensive barrier taken down, more of the real – more of Rumi’s love – will come through. We do not need to invent, nor even visualise it. Its nature is to be; we need only let it in. It was there long before ‘we’ were.

To be continued.

©️Stephen Tanham


Other parts of this series:

Part One,   Part Two,   Part Three,   Part Four,  Part Five,


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics

Principles of Fire (5) A Tribe of One

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They who set out to discover the twin meanings of the word ‘self’ must walk a certain path. The route to the deeper, real self lies only in the journey through the everyday self. Without this study – and its consequent effects – there can be no personal transformation.

We have to learn to look at ourselves with intensity if we are to begin to glimpse the false edges of what we take ourselves to be. There are many forces at work to guide and help us. This is not a journey that is taken alone. To paraphrase the ancient Kabbalists: The universe is awake to an awakening Adam. Our birthright is the state of full and inclusive consciousness, free from the accumulation of the personal past. What prevents this state of living is the power of that past…

The ordinary, everyday self is characterised by one word: reaction. To begin to examine ourselves, we begin by studying – with intensity – how we react. We react to pain, or the threat of pain, even though it is not present. We react to pleasure and the possibility of pleasure. Between these two poles our lives are strung out like a historical washing line. On this line are familiar garments, comfortable resting points in good or bad times; places we can reside and be at home with the history of reaction contained within. Many, such as those generated in our early months, are unconscious and very powerful. They can be positive (love) or negative (paralysing fear). With the latter, if seen in the light of adult discrimination they would lose their power; but to ‘sit with them’ is truly work and better accompanied.

Some reactions are more subtle. It is hard to think in an original way. Typically, each of us belongs to a kind of ‘tribe’, where the core values of that group of people are shared among thousands, if not millions, of other members. When we belong to a tribe we don’t need to think originally, indeed it is often dangerous to do so. We risk drawing attention to ourselves, and the ultimate sanction against such behaviour is to be ejected from the tribe. Finding ourselves alone is a dreadful thing. Some people fear that more than anything else in their world.

When we begin to watch ourselves on a daily basis, the very act of self-watching begins the generation of a different ‘space’ inside us. This new, differently-aware space is what brings the early results that can be so heartening to those beginning the Work. This new space is not part of the historic egoic structure of our lives, since its very existence is to watch and study how that structure operates and has formed. The techniques that begin the creation of this space are analogous to a person realising that, from the perspective of consciousness, the world is actually projected on to their eyeballs – like a movie – with no gap between the event and the reaction to that event. The egoic self is what reacts, instantly, to this projected world. The vast majority of such reactions are pre-programmed by the personal life history; in other words, they are not truly alive…

The five senses bring us the shape and behaviour of the world around us. Patterns in our personal history tell us, immediately, if there is danger in the encroaching environment, whether physical or psychological. At the most intimate level, these patterns reveal threats to our physical existence – that which threatens the body. We do not need to process the logic of a burn from a red-hot object; the automated mechanisms from our early childhood react for us. But there was a time when we had to learn it…

Beyond that, we have patterns of emotional recognition, which are largely automatic, too, but in a different way. I can bat away the approach of a wasp in Autumn, but I can’t do the same with a bad feeling; I have to think originally about its possible origins – including searching within ‘my self’. I might not want the effort of doing that. Instead, I could reach for an alcoholic drink or switch on a movie, allowing the bad feeling to pass. Sadly, avoidance teaches nothing, whereas a naked inquiry into the newly formed internal state can teach us a lot.

Beyond the emotions is the power of the intellect: that which learns by reason. This is the slowest of all; yet allows us to form patterns that deal with very deep and often complex concepts, such as how and why people lie to others and to themselves. Reason is clever, allowing us to out-think the life-forms that came before us; using the intellectual jewel of ‘what if’. And yet reason is wholly a thing of the brain, and so is conditioned by the entirety of our personal history.

These three ‘space helmets’ – each one inside the other, like the famous Russian Dolls – are the glass through which we see the world. But our conditioned consciousness does not look at the world, it looks, instead, at the movie being shown on the glass bubbles in which we live. Our egoic consciousness is nothing more than the sum total of our personal reactions to the movies… But, it’s worse: there is nothing inside those three helmets, except the history of themselves and the historic washing line of fear and pleasure.

The riddle of this is the story of our real existence – and our wonderful potential as fully conscious creatures, connected, in microcosm, with everything.

To be continued…

©️Stephen Tanham


Other parts of this series:

Part One,   Part Two,   Part Three,   Part Four,


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics

Principles of Fire (4) Essence and Reunion

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Continued from Part One of this topic

In previous posts, we have seen that how we view and interact with the world is conditioned by how our egoic self has developed; from oneness with Mother in the womb, through birth as an independent entity, to the reactive adult whose life mirrors that of a suit of armour, grown, protectively, over the real and eternally-new Self.

We have referred to that inner being as Child of Light, and indicated that there is a method behind this image. But this is not the use of a psychological technique of regression to childhood. It is a fully conscious method that explores the level of self, but carries the hard-won adult discrimination with us.

This ‘adult’ capability allows us to examine the binding power of those early reactions to the world and see them in a way that acknowledges that they were ‘shocks’ to a young being which led to conditioning. This can seem contradictory: we began by praising the truth and rightness of the essence – our very real core – and showing the limitations of the personality – that suit of armour which has no real centre… save the real Self, which it sees as a threat to its control and so disavows. In truth we need them both. We should not underestimate either the power of the ego to resist, nor the determination of the inner child to live its life as an empowered centre of being. We can chose to avoid the struggle and live an egoic life, but, once glimpsed that would be to abandon something beautiful and uniquely ‘us’ in a way the ego can never be.

We need the wisdom and practicality of the personality, the egoic self, to function in the world. If we are to be mystical seekers, or even teachers, we need to be able to open the way to the essence, the true self, and empower it to use the channels of expression developed in that long journey to adulthood.

So, what is the method that combines these? All spiritual paths do this in one way or another. The value of the modern ‘mystery school’ is that it can hasten the person’s development because it is able to use, at least partially, the language of psychology – in particular esoteric psychology – and that reduces the need for much of the former trappings of spiritual teaching.

So, where does this leave us? If we are minded to follow a path that utilises modern knowledge we have only a few choices. This is not to say that traditional ‘ancient’ wisdom does not exist; it does; but finding a true and non-exploitative source is not easy. The findings of psychology have opened the doors to new passageways to the experience of the personal essence, yet psychology has other concerns than the spiritual.

The ancient schools of the soul knew how difficult it was to find paths to the soul from the outer armour of the egoic self. Often, the aspirant would have to renounce all worldly interests and live a humble life until the ego was depleted, and the real being could be glimpsed beneath the rust. This still exists. Many of the paths into Buddhism, for example, require such an approach.

In the West, we are steeped in busy and industrious lives. We are unlikely to be attracted by a process of renunciation of that nature. Is it possible, in such a society, to live ‘in the world’ and yet not be of it?

A controversial philosopher of the early 20th century thought so. His name was Gurdjieff. He developed a western-facing route to the personal essence that, if followed with discipline, enabled people to become aware of layers of their respective ‘selves’ in a short period of time. The route from there to real knowledge of the inner self – the essence – was a more detailed study, but that secondary journey was fortified by a glimpse of the real in the early stages of the Work. This method required no ‘guru’ to trigger the initial success, just some good companions along the way.

Gurdjieff rose to prominence before the emerging knowledge of psychology became widely known. His methods were adopted and adapted by those who believed that an esoteric form of psychology was of great value to the nature of the materialistic ‘West’. Of particular interest to these people was the potential for one of Gurdjieff’s teaching aids to be used within this wider context.

Enneagram Sunrise

The enneagram, illustrated above, is a mysterious figure consisting of nine points arranged around a circle. The Silent Eye’s own version (above) also has a central triangle and a core. Gurdjieff claimed to have inherited the original symbol from a mysterious school he encountered on one of his many early journeys. He said it was a fragment of an unknown teaching whose use could reveal certain keys about how things happened in the world – particularly for those systems – human or industrial – whose nature was cyclic. You can read more about the enneagram here.

The Silent Eye is deeply indebted to those who took the enneagram and mapped it onto the patterns that were emerging in the study of egoic behaviour (see below). These patterns formed a nine-sided figure that mapped perfectly onto the Gurdjieff enneagram. Gurdjieff died in 1949, and did not live to see this development of his work. In his later teachings, he did say that it would fall to others to extend the use of this fascinating glyph.

Within a few years, the new groups had consolidated their knowledge, providing the world with a map of the outer layers of the egoic self, but one with a vital difference…

The enneagram developed by the esoteric psychologists linked the outer faces of the figure with the inner qualities of the personal essence – the very qualities that were and are our hidden, original nature. For the first time there came into existence a map that could chart the individual soul’s psychological growth from conception to the adult egoic self.

A map of the outward journey to egoic self is one thing. The return journey – which needs to be guided – is another. The outer layer represents a linked set of qualities, such as fear, deceit and flattery, which have been reversed from their original state in the perfect but vulnerable new-born. By experiencing the outer qualities in a Gurdjieff- derived way, we come to see the thinness of their existence, and to glimpse the pristine attributes that still lie beneath.

There are several schools that use this knowledge. Each one uses it in their own way. Within our own method, the enneagram map is used to chart an internal journey across three linked landscapes. The first, as you might expect, is a desert, where the individual Companion finds themselves stumbling upon a remote arena, and witnessing the end of a mysterious confrontation between the crowd and a ruler whose loyalties seem distant…

Mystery is important…. It is no accident that ‘schools of the soul’ that teach these paths to the personal inner state have always been called ‘mystery schools’, for they taught the mysteries of human existence: physical, psychological and spiritual. Each age of mankind finds new ways of telling this story. The age of esoteric psychology builds on what came before, but offers new, personal and exciting ways to enrich our lives and relationships; and to discover the origin of what is truly real within ourselves.

The journey requires an open mind and heart. It also requires dedication, but that is learned and practiced in the gentle introduction of the first three months of study. Beyond that, it becomes a habit to seek the personal Essence each day, and their is no greater delight in life than that dedication. We think that our busy lives, our cars, buses, trains, families, jobs and children are a hindrance to what calls to us from within.

Nothing could be further from the truth…

The physical and psychological conditions of our age are mirrored in the depth of help that lies just below our surface. The power with which we react in normal life can become a slingshot to that layer of real Self that lies within us. Our egoic natures are not negative, they are simply pointed the wrong way. The suit of armour needs a living body inside it, and then it may find that its metal skin is too thick, after all. Within these new methods, our busy worlds provide the perfect ‘temple’ in which the real self can, gently, emerge to claim its life. All it takes is that first step.

References to key teachers in other schools who have helped develop the spiritual enneagram:

Claudio Naranjo,

Oscar Ichazo,

Almass

©️Stephen Tanham


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics

 

Principles of Fire (3) Essence and Origin

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Part One

It is unusual to be able to say definite things in the teaching of spirituality, and yet, with essence, we can…

We can say three definite things: that Essence is our life; and that everything that is not essence is reaction and the history of reaction. We can also say, as did the ancient alchemists, that essence is not an idea, not a creation of the mind, not a thing to be imagined and created, but a physical pre-existing thing with substance. The alchemists, with their gift for hiding things under our own noses, described this ‘stone of the wise’ as ‘hidden in plain sight’.

You may never have heard of the word essence in the context of spirituality. Its use was an attempt by practical mystics of the last century to resolve the profusion of ideas surrounding the real meaning of the word ‘soul’. The word soul is used all the time, and we may already have an idea as to what it is. We think of something as ‘soulful’ when it touches us at a depth beyond the usual reaction. We think of our lives as, perhaps, a journey towards our own soul. We may consider that our soul will survive the death of our body, and travel through some afterlife. Or you may not… You may love the idea of a very exact definition of something that has been described as the centre of our real existence.

The ancients, who gave us the name soul, did not have the benefit of what we now call psychology – the study of the self. In this context, the self is the intense feeling of ‘me’ that is the centre of what we feel and do. The self feels pleasure – running towards it – and is frightened of pain, from which it retreats. The body feels pleasure and pain, but, beyond automatic responses, such as being burned, it is the self, rather than the body, that has control of how we react. We can force ourselves to feel pain, we can force ourselves to indulge in excessive pleasures, we can direct ourselves towards the good. For some reason, the forces of nature and evolution have placed an engine of determination at the supposed summit of our physical and psychological being.

Ultimately, and of the deepest significance, we can choose what we do… and, with guidance, how we react.

This engine of reaction and determination was viewed, in ancient times, as inseparable from the soul–the supposedly deeper and better part of us. Religion is aimed at the soul, and, like alchemy, the separation of the base response from the finer response is considered to be under its jurisdiction.

And then, in the early years of the last century, a man named Sigmund Freud began to scientifically study how this self – this engine of reaction and determination – is formed in the human childhood. His work is now considered to be slanted too much towards the effects of sex, but, despite this, he gave us a rich and accurate vocabulary of the real divisions of the self. Other psychologists followed, like Carl Gustav Jung, who held wider views of the layers of conscious and unconscious motivation in the human – us. There were many more, and this article has to be brief.

Someone touched by the spark of the mystical life seeks to deepen that relationship with the real, seeing that their ordinary perceptions, passed on by society and education, are really descriptions of morality and normality, not the fire of that which lifts the heart and mind, bestowing on it the certainty of a higher and self-evident set of truths.

For the mystical path, Freud’s insights remain of great use, though no claim is made that he was mystical in his outlook. Carl Jung was far more spiritual in his approach, but saw spirituality as the extension of the life we know. Freud established that there were three parts of the human engine of self: the ego, the superego, and the id.

The id is the ‘animal side’ of our natures. It is a storehouse of vast energies – many of which we suppress out of fear or misunderstanding. Much of what the id does has been pushed from our consciousness. We therefore name its domain the subconscious, and this refusal to come to terms with its potential results in great suffering in our idealised lives. Society does not like the id. It is an untamed expression of what is within us…

The Superego is the idealised self – an ongoing image of perfection that we can never reach. It nags at our lives and can never be pacified until we recognise its real nature. It often takes the inner form of an authority figure from our own past, such as our mother or father. Its presence within our lives is very active. It is the opponent of real spirituality, though the zealot often delights in its merciless company.

The ego is the bit in the middle; the ‘me’, the personality that tries to hold the whole thing together, attempting to mediate and keep the ship afloat. The ego is what we usually present to the world, but the inner picture of ourselves includes the doubts, wild energies and fears of our real inner state – which encompasses the other, hidden sides of the self.

Esoteric psychology has taken this picture much deeper. Where psychology is concerned with stabilising the personality and ensuring the ego serves society, esoteric psychology recognises that the spiritual is already part of our lives… in fact is the deepest part; beyond the reach and power of the ordinary self, though suppressed in the sense that the egoic self is established as a false king or queen in our lives. To understand the perspective of esoteric psychology, we need to understand our own origin

Within the womb, we share our lives with Mother, in what is sometimes called the merged state. We are not conscious of our separateness from Mother. What she feels or fears, we do, too. Because we have no sense of self, we come to externalise our consciousness and reactions into the ‘sea and sky’ of our mother. This forms the deepest of patterns that will determine how we interact with our future world – and with other people in that world.

We can speculate all we like about the nature of time in the universe. They will remain ideas. What is real for us is that our time began when our pre-infant consciousness in the womb began to register that things detected by what we would later know as our senses changed.

When we are born, the shock of separation from this merged state is profound, but Mother is still with us. Our mouth becomes the link to her goodness and her gentle hands and body warmth compensate for the oneness that we have lost. But this state cannot last. When we were merged, her desires were ours. Now, born as an independent creature, our needs and desires are our own, and, increasingly, they are not met in the same way as before. This forces us to a second ‘birth’–one in which the self, as described above, is born. Fighting to get back to a merged state, it forms itself, in the first few years of life, into the engine of reaction and determination described above. The result is that the perfect newborn nature, full of qualities like joy, love and a sense of its own intrinsic value, becomes submerged beneath a suit of armour that the self builds for protection from ‘life’.

Our personality develops very quickly after that. Unsettled yet empowered by the id, besieged by the nagging superego, the self that is <insert your name> staggers into the world…

For some, the walls of the self become a container that they are no longer prepared to tolerate. They feel that their own depths contain a very beautiful, if unattended child of light. The journey to that begins when they notice certain patterns in the mental and emotional ‘sky’ of their lives. These patterns may at first seem negative, but investigation reveals that they are capable of functioning as signposts back to a personal world in which the original child of light can be restored at the centre of our lives, protected by the now mature warrior of the self.

There’s just one problem. The warrior of the worldly self, the ego, has no intention of surrendering its castle… in which it has installed itself as King or Queen.

But the Child of Light is real. She is the essence of the being. And, alongside the maturity of the outer warrior, her strength is ready to take on the negative world of the self and break down its false walls.

In Part Two, we will consider the steps we need to take if we are to embark on this journey of the discovery and crowning of the true Self.

©️Stephen Tanham


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics

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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Fit for purpose

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I’ve been watching the fish again. The aquarium is next to my desk and where I would once stare into space, waiting for inspiration, I now watch the fish and find my mind swimming with them. Just as the fish can move up and down as easily as forward and back, a mind moves in more dimensions than mere surface thoughts, tracing patterns from apparently unconnected threads.

I keep daydreaming about a new home for them. The monster plecostomus is getting so big now that it will soon be a necessity… either in a bigger tank or with another fish-lover. And as I’m quite fond of the strange, prehistoric-looking creature who watches me through the glass with more intelligence than you would expect from a fish, I know which solution I would prefer. Oddly enough, the tank I would like, though it is much bigger and much more spacious for the fish, would also take up far less floor space in my little room. Getting the perfect form for both our needs would make it fit… perfectly.

Mind you, if and when I manage to find a new tank, it isn’t just a case of swapping them over. Little did I know when I adopted the fish that I would have to gain a knowledge of the nitrogen cycle, the chemical components of water, before and after fish, and an acceptance that I have to actively encourage the breeding of bacteria to maintain the tank’s health. That goes against every housewifely instinct. And it takes time, work and patience. Yet, in order to be fit for purpose, it has to fit the needs of that purpose, not my preconceptions.trees-fish-dog-009

For some reason, that idea called to mind a passage from Dion Fortune’s Moon Magic, one of the best works of magical fiction ever written, in my opinion, giving a glimpse behind the veil that has always shrouded ritual magic. The passage I was thinking of tells of when Lilith, a priestess of Isis, enters her new home and sees the moonlight streaming in through the windows. She realises that she is ‘on her contacts’. The author explains that many people feel that they must invoke the goddess first, then build the temple, but that, in fact, it must be the other way round; the temple must be prepared and the deity will indwell it when the time is right.

It has always made sense to me, that passage. You would not attempt to drink wine without some kind of vessel to contain it. You could use a paper cup or a crystal goblet, or even drink straight from the bottle…the appearance of the vessel matters little, only its fitness for purpose determines whether or not it can be used. You may think the wine more beautiful in the goblet, but that is only because both outer and inner forms combine to create something that is neither one nor the other, but has become more than the sum of its parts.

trees-fish-dog-020Either way, the vessel has to come before the wine is poured. Just like a new fish tank has to be cycled before the fish can call it home. Any cutting of corners, and the wine will be spilled and lost… or the fish will sicken and die.

It is the same thing with a lot of the modern spiritual practices, especially those that are for sale.  They promise the earth and their adherents raise their eyes to whatever version of heaven they are taught to see. They read the book or take the short course and are told that they have only to call upon the divine and it will come. And then they are disappointed when it doesn’t.

You have to make the vessel before the wine is poured…and we ourselves are the vessel that must be fit for purpose. We do not have to be sparkling crystal goblets… we can be rough cups of clay and still hold the light. How much we can hold depends on how deep the cup may be and how wide its brim… but that is up to us. The vessel we craft is never finished… we are always works in progress.