Gyre, Gimble and Ancient Egypt

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

She gyred and gimbled down the steep slope of the hillside; full of music, laughter and the generally infectious good will that is the core of Ali – she of the golden heart, and one of the heroines of the River of the Sun, the Silent Eye’s 2015 main workshop in the lovely hills of Derbyshire.

Quite why Ali picked this poem (Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carroll) I’ll never know, but, as she bounced, singing playfully, down the steep, green meadow and back towards the Nightingale Centre, it became one of those iconic and wonderful moments, when any trace of pomposity would meet a ruthless evisceration from the moment, from the ‘now’ . . .

Her utterly human humour was a wonderful contrast to the fifteen minutes of chanting a greeting to the dawn that we had just carried out in the fine early morning that ushered in the Saturday of the weekend event. The chant, a pseudo-Egyptian creation that we had crafted and layered over a dimly remembered melody from a French folk song about the ancient cathedrals of ancient Paris, had rung out over the hillside towards a dawn that stubbornly moved itself along the line of its expected appearance and appeared only during our descent – no doubt summoned by Ali’s Jabberwocky and not our Egyptian chant with accompanying text from the Hymn of Akhenaten.

And that is the most perfect cameo I can think of to express the success of the Silent Eye’s third such workshop and our second birthday – duly celebrated at the end of the weekend with a gorgeous cake baked by one of my fellow Directors of the School, Sue Vincent.

The contrast between planned ‘perfection’ and the reality of mischievous manifestation was at the heart of what rescued the River of the Sun from the annals of what would have been groaning oblivion, as those present hurried to bury the memories in gestures of goodwill and personal reassurances.

The River of the Sun took a year to conceive and three months of solid writing to bring to readiness; but then disaster struck in the last week, with four people having to drop out with health-related issues. Even two of those present turned up full of the horrible flu bug that seems intent on incapacitating much of Britain. One of them, David, was new to the whole thing, and had heroically accepted the central role of Rameses the Great for which he had done months of preparation.

The surviving cast, of what should have been twenty-two members, were to fill the roles of either the ‘royal family’ – Rameses II, his senior military command, Obion, and a mysterious and elderly Mage named Menascare; the Temple Vessels of the Gods: Sekhmet, Hathor, Khonsu, Tefnut, Ptah, Thoth and Ma’at; or the fearsome Talatat, the military elite guard of Rameses under its commander, Obion.  The island temple on the Nile was lead by the High Priestess of Mut and her brother the High Priest, who had recently adopted a promising young orphan, Amkhren, and his ‘bent old grandmother’ nicknamed Snefer, who was his sole surviving relative.

But seventeen people do not equate to twenty-plus parts, even when a bit of last-minute whittling of the 150 pages of script had eliminated two of the Talatat, ridding the temple of the practitioners of the dark specialisms of inquisition and vengeance, part of the enneagram’s ‘outer leaves’ of the darker side of humanity.

They must have seen the despair in my eyes as we began the workshop with apologies for the decimation of our expected acting population and our inability to carry out the five rather vivid ritual dramas that formed the backbone of the event.

Dead in the water?  Not on your Nellie . . . not with the magical edge of the esoteric fraternity present. Within seconds of expressing my sadness, regret and (at Sue’s timely prompting) our condolences for those who had been struck down with the vicious bug, two experienced volunteers had stood up to offer to be heroes.  One was Ali, the aforementioned singer of ‘nonsense’ verse; the other was an old friend and senior figure in another esoteric School with whom several of us had shared many years of magical past – Dean.

For the Friday evening and on through Saturday and Sunday morning, the two of them battled the logistics, angular distance and the perils of the twin Wheels of Egyptian time – eternity and recurrence, as they skilfully played out multiple roles to hold together the coherence of the script.

Amkhren, now seven years older and about to be initiated into the priesthood, was duly petrified by the arrival of the river-borne war party of the young Rameses, travelling up the Nile for one last hunting mission and eager to drop in, unannounced, on the temple he suspected of harbouring one of the last pockets of support for the religion of now-erased Akhenaten, the self-styled Son of the Sun.

The scene was set for a confrontation of unequal forces as the gentle Temple Vessels battled with the cruel onslaught of the King-in-Rising and the military prowess of his elite guard – now played by a red-haired dervish (Ali)  who could disappear into one of the time wheels on the perimeter of the enneagram-shaped temple only to reappear, a heartbeat later, as a different warrior with changed voice and persona at the other side of the temple . . . It should have been funny, but it wasn’t – it was brilliant!  In like fashion, Dean, brandishing what must have been the heaviest replica sword we have ever sourced, darted and dashed through the internals of the enneagram of humanity and rounded up the missing and the fallen, re-animating them with spirit and vigour.

With considerable emotion, Amkhren repaid his mentors by charming and impressing the young Rameses; so much so that the King-in-Rising’s final act was to steal him to be be a royal priest in the family palace. The devious Menascare, the mage who turned out to be more sympathetic to the recent past than his new ruler liked, was led away to his death by the triumphant Obion, again with sword and, by now, well exercised arm muscles . . . The temple was not only spared, but given new royal patronage, and Rameses (brilliantly played by David, Sheila’s son) declared himself happy with the unconventional worship of the Divine Feminine.

During the third of the three ‘theory talks’ which always accompany the ritual dramas, I thanked those present for rescuing our workshop. The success had come, not from the play, but from the magnificent souls who had animated it.  We were talking at the time about the Silent Eye’s use of the Djed Pillar and the Scarab. Ali’s character – the bent Snefer, was in the process of being elevated, with royal approval, to the Lady Scarab, in a twist of events, which were, in many ways, the reverse of those events which had brought us to the edge of disaster.

I was told later that, at that moment, the ‘presence’ in the room changed and I went off-script for a period of about ten minutes to talk about our approach to Being in a quite different way than before. I cannot remember all of it – I was truly ‘streaming’ something from another place; but I came back to normal consciousness and realised what had happened. There was no loss of continuity, but the content had gone into a gentle overdrive . . . truly a magical moment, made possible by the goodwill of all those present and my dawning realisation that the intellectually dominated approach to taking all the risks out of an endeavour like this is entirely secondary to the Spirit’s ability to mould and fashion the moment for its purposes.

We had people present who were new to us and also the return of many old friends. The Sunday morning saw the emotional content peak with Sue and Stuart’s Rite of the Seers, during which we were all led off, in threes, by the Vessel of Sekhmet, to come face to face with a living Ankh, marked out in another room in lights on the floor, with a projected picture of the Cosmos on the wall beyond. We returned with scrolls of Egyptian wisdom upon which to meditate in the main temple.

But my moment of the weekend remains that of watching Ali-Snefer-the Lady Scarab, lovely Slithy Tove that she is, bouncing down her green hillside, in the full power of her glorious and heart-warming humanity. The Nightingale Centre nestles at the foot of a Derbyshire edge that hosts a gliding and paraponting school. As Sunday’s glorious sun warmed the day, the air was full of people with wings or para-wings riding down and up on their thermal gradients above us. It struck me that we might need a new word for the way Ali could descend the green slopes below, chanting her ‘nonsense’ poem. I propose Jabberwalking . . . any offers?

Thank you to all.  I believe you enjoyed our annual rite of the spring.  We wish those stricken with the ‘flu a speedy recovery.  Out target for next year is thirty to thirty-five people, so, if you’re interested in the 2016 event, the Foliate Man, which will cast the Arthurian legend of the Green Man and Gawain in the language of the magical enneagram, please contact us by email at rivingtide@gmail.com or via the website below.

All images and text ©International copyright, The Silent Eye School of Consciousness, 2015.

                                                

Contact details and an outline description of the Silent Eye School are on the other pages of this blog and via the website at www.thesilenteye.co.uk

The Prisoner in the Tower

Prisoner in the Tower

The theme of the ‘Prisoner in the Tower’ has been on my mind a lot recently – well, ever since Stuart and Sue asked if I would create a three-part poem in the style of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol‘ for one of their forthcoming books.

I’m a big fan of Wilde’s comedic writing, but have to confess that I had never read this, his last book, which is considered to be his masterpiece. Having received a rather lovely edition of it as part of a set of Christmas gifts from my co-directors of the Silent Eye School, I read it, and winced at the depth of understated feeling in the writing, as Wilde himself (and not one of his characters) lives through the execution of a fellow prisoner, and the whole gaol is silenced in passing companionship. I realised that this assignment was deliberate on the part of the ‘terrible twins’ as my co-directors have styled themselves on numerous occasions; and that the task was therefore going to be an exacting one.

I would not have undertaken this unless I felt it would be interpreted as a serious work, albeit it with a bit of necessary and ironic humour – but only a bit . . . To write it I had to put myself into the position of being incarcerated in a gaol in a small town in Derbyshire, where I had ended up the fall guy for a shared and heinous local crime. Ben, as he is known in the books, for reasons I have recently decoded, is therefore left to rot, as the terrible twins scamper off around the ancient landscapes.

The justice meted out to the poor man (Ben not Wilde), guilty or not, is in keeping with the turn of the century setting of the Ballad of Reading Gaol, where so much depended on one’s behaviour and relationship with the gaoler . . .

For more, you’ll have to read Sue and Stuart’s Doomsday books. Which, I guarantee, will be worth it. Apparently I get, sorry – Ben gets arrested for his assault on the community in the book Doomsday, Scions of Albion, and doesn’t get freed for some time thereafter . . . so food parcels would be appreciated, and of course, being a prisoner, I won’t be able to sign any of the Silent Eye’s cheques . . . You will, of course, need to read the series to know what’s really going on . . .

Doomsday Stu and Sue coverWhich brings me to my second and wider topic – The Prisoner in the Tower. In Stuart and Sue’s Book, Ben is incarcerated in an old and rotting gaol, but the idea of a prisoner in the tower is a more fundamental and esoteric image in the way the Silent Eye uses the enneagram to map the outer layers of a personality structure we all share.

The image of the man in the tower corresponds with point five on the enneagram, illustrated above. Technically, the man in the tower (unlike poor Ben, okay, I’ll stop milking it . . . ) is free to come and go, but chooses to lock him/herself away from the world, because it is less painful to ‘spy’ on that world and accumulate power through knowledge.

This, like all the enneagram types, is shared by us all, though it may  or may not be our dominant one. This archetypal image is one of the School’s creations, and belongs to a set of nine we have constructed to help the Companions take the first steps to what will become deep, spiritual awareness of how their personalities/egos grew in the way they did – reacting to Life, becoming identified with it, and therefore losing sight of our spiritual origins.

These are not simply negative things. One of the triumphs of modern esoteric psychology is the way it has shown that such outer traits, which the Desert Fathers referred to as ‘vices’ (in this case avarice) are capable of being powerful start-points for our journey back – our spiritual journey home, unlocking along the way what Rumi referred to as ‘the barriers you have erected to love‘.

SE15 reduced temple schema (2)

The third recent occurrence, and quite independent of the other two, is the rather more sinister tower built on the orders of Rameses II near to the island of what history will come to know as Philae at the start of his reign. Don’t go looking in the history books for this – the whole thing is a construct created for the Silent Eye’s April Workshop, The River of the Sun, whose Ritual Dramas centre around the clash between hazard, power and spiritual light in the year in which ‘Rameses the Great’ came to power.

He took over the kingdom from his  father, Seti I, an enigmatic figure whose name shows he was “Beloved of Set (Seth)”. That latter attribution is unusual, too. Why would an Egyptian King choose to be linked to the archetype of the figure who constantly battled Horus (the traditional patron of Egyptian Kings) and slew his father, Osiris? This puzzle is one we will work though during the Explorations which accompany the Ritual Dramas in the weekend workshop.

SE15 Ra Montage smaller

In our story, Rameses’ tower is specially built for a dark purpose – one which emphasises the absolute control he felt he had to exercise in an era still scarred by the memory of the invasion and occupation by the Hyksos Kings followed shortly thereafter by the religious revolution of the ‘heretic’ Pharaoh Akhenaten, the self-styled ‘Son of the Sun’.

The image of the tower holds a fascination for the human mind. Like the Saxon crosses, so deeply observed by Stuart and Sue in their blogged journeys and books, the tower reaches to ‘heaven’. For the Egyptians, the idea of reaching upwards, first with pyramids and later with towers and pillars, was a means of the ‘builder’ gaining entry into the desired world of eternity, that recurring and cyclic state of time in which Ra, the Sun god, travelled on his ‘boat of a million years’ between the daytime world and the dark underworld.

Towers can be both enlightening and dangerous places, especially when our heroes or heroines are captive within them. They reveal the landscape below, but separate us from it. A bit like the perspective of the ego. To work, the tower needs to be built of stone . . . the hidden word for a certain type of truth in the Bible. Perhaps Ben is safer in Bakewell Gaol, after all . . .

The January Man

Jan15 stone wall

“December man looks through the snow to let eleven brothers know . . . that they’re all a little older.”

December is, finally, gone. There is a weariness about January. The comfort and festivities with which we brace ourselves against the oncoming winter have lost their potency – and, thankfully, their habitual power to affect our errant waistlines, for which we now have to atone . . . The tree and glitter are put away, and the howling and cold winds remind us that the spring is yet far away.

“The January man he goes around in woollen coat and boots of leather,” continues Christy Moore, singing on the music machine in the corner of the living room. It was recorded live at the eponymous Vicar Street in Dublin, and is one of our favourite albums, though it has not been played for a year or two.

Humming the tune, I look out on a garden turned to thin greens and muddy browns, and wonder, as I always do in the pale light of the year’s first month, about the sheer effort we have to make to transform this rather empty time of year into the purposeful soil that will bring a rich harvest of time well spent as the sun’s daytime arc overcomes the darkness and tips the fourfold scales of the seasons into the spring.

Aside from the usual family commitments, this time of year comprises the final three months before the Silent Eye’s Spring Workshop. This is our main annual event, held in April, which takes place in the lovely Derbyshire village of Great Hucklow. More than anything else, these weekend events define what the three of us – Sue, Stuart and myself – have both been and what we have become.

Been, because the elements of discussions, shared explorations and ritual drama are a very precise synthesis of where we came from, and what we learned from our past work, spanning many decades. We always honour those traditions in which we learned our craft. Although different, they gave us that breadth of experience which now constitutes the core of the Silent Eye School.

Become, because any attempt to establish a modern mystery school inevitably draws you into an alchemy – both personal and shared – in which you cannot be in the mix of the act of creation unless you are prepared to be changed by it – a sentiment pioneered by Carl Jung.

This year’s workshop, the River of the Sun, is based on a fictional but very spiritual tale, whose context is the real history of the period three generations after the death of the enigmatic ‘heretical’ pharaoh Akhenaten. The creation of such a workshop requires that we let go of last year’s model and reach deep for something new, something which will carry the spirit of the times. The importance of the ‘now’ and its creative flow, was one of the lessons brought home to us during our year-long series of talks given in Glastonbury in the twelve months just finished.

The actual effort to write the workshop – usually running to 150 pages of workbook scripts, plus five talks which reinforce the backbone of the School’s teaching – fills most of what will be the next three months. Five key elements of how the soul evolves will be illustrated by the ritual dramas. These reflect real life, in that certain characters are set up as adversaries. For this year’s plot, the enigmatic figure of Menascare, chief mage and spymaster to the incoming young pharaoh, Rameses II, represents the physical power which intercepts the initiatic life of the Isis temple on the Nile island of Philae. The chief priestess and priest of Isis are suspected of harbouring an inner thread of a different teaching, hidden and protected within the traditional worship of the goddess.

Staring out at the cold and sodden garden, I wonder at the process that will take us from here to there. In practice, we can only begin it. We bring the seed of an idea and plant it into the dark soil of January, trusting that the magic of the winter will nurture it within that subconscious land of Persephone. There, we find the most wonderful of processes at work. The seed of the first set of ideas produces a harvest of a second generation; this is examined and re-planted back in the soil of February.

“February man still shakes the snow from off his clothes and blows his hands,” continues Christy Moore.

The hands are indeed the key, as furious fingers home in on ideas that thaw from the raw stuff of potential, becoming fixed on the pages of the growing scripts.

“The man of March he sees the spring and wonders what the year will bring; and hopes for better weather.”

The process is repeated, producing a crop that is the nearly finished offering, towards the end of March, subject to the fine tuning that ensures that everyone attending has a (scripted) role that they will play for the whole weekend. Thus, their own, growing subjective experience becomes part of the unique alchemical mix.

The man of March has another role. He must make a judgement regarding the point at which the crop will be harvested, the ideas set down on the page, allowing time only for the final tuning and fitting to the confirmed attendees.

River of Sun small banner

“through April rain the man goes down to watch the birds come in to share the summer.”

To share the summer, indeed – or at least the spring. The final group of people arrive in the tiny village of Great Hucklow, where the venue – the Nightingale Centre – is a two minute walk from the Queen Anne, a pub with a warm open fire and warmer welcome. If new, they are made very welcome; and introduced to those sharing the event. Any nerves give way to relaxation and enjoyment as the Silent Eye’s traditional welcoming spirit pervades the gathering.

The Friday night formal beginning to the weekend sees the introduction of each of the characters, as the fast boat of Rameses, carrying Menascare and a phalanx of elite soldiers, glides through the dark night to force an arrogant interruption to the Isis temple space in which the initiation of a young and very special priest is taking place . . .

By Saturday morning, everyone is living their roles, and the magic unfolds. Gone are the walls of the Nightingale Centre, replaced by the living presence of ancient Egypt, as the birds of the spirit emerge from the inner and judge the framework fitting for their purposes . . .

. . . becoming present.

With a sigh that lasts three months, I am back in the now where all this exists in potential, only. I look out at the sodden soil of the garden . . . But something has changed – there is a heartbeat, albeit a slow one, in the depths of that dark earth.

In the deep of winter and in the hearts and minds of the January ‘men’, something new has begun to germinate . . .

                                        ——————————————————–

For anyone interested in what it’s like to be at a Silent Eye workshop, the book “The Land of the Exiles“, available in Kindle or Paperback format, will give a good idea of what to expect from the April event.  We look forward to making you very welcome.

Silent Eye modern masterAA