Leaf and Flame: The Foliate Man #2

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“…where strange things, strife and sadness,

at whiles in the land did fare,

and each other grief and gladness

of fast have followed there…”

– J.R.R Tolkien

#2 Hart to Heart

…“In which the Ladies of the Round rediscover the Tale of Blessed Bran, Merlin and the Lady re-convene the Assembly of the Wondrous Head, King Arthur and his Knights go hunting and Gawain enters the Enchanted Forest in pursuit of the hart and stumbles upon another ‘Death-Pact’ the solution to which lies in the discovery of the correct answer to an elusive riddle.”…

The eyes have been dotted, the tees have been crossed, to all intents and purposes the ‘donkey work’ of writing the five dramas for next year’s April Workshop: Leaf and Flame- The Foliate Man has been done. There will undoubtedly be minor changes between now and then, there always are and these are usually flagged up in the communal read throughs which will take place at our three remaining monthly meetings.

There is still an awful lot of work to be done in terms of music, props, costuming and the presentations which are used throughout to properly set the tone and theme for the weekend…

But more importantly what we really need now is… people!

So, what are you waiting for?

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 Weekend of 22-24 April, 2016.

Great Hucklow, Derbyshire Dales. England.

Click the image for further details of this weekend workshop with the Silent Eye

and a special appearance by Mister Fox.

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Harvest of Being 2015: Ilkley Moor…

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XXIV THE LION’S SHARE

“Tell me,” said Joshua, “why is that
person carrying a lamb to the city ?”

Judas Thomas said, “so that he may kill it and eat it.”

Joshua said, “whoever has come to know the world has
discovered a carcass, and whoever has discovered a
carcass, of that person the world is not worthy.

Damn the soul that depends on the flesh.
Damn the flesh that depends on the soul.

How miserable is the body that depends on these two ?

Together they are like a dog in a cattle manger,
where neither the dog nor the cattle can eat hay.

During the days when you eat what is dead you make
it alive, but when you are in the light, where the dead are
not alive and the living will not die, what will you do ?

If the body came into being because of the spirit then
it is a marvel: if the spirit came into being because
of the body then it is a marvel of marvels; I marvel
that such great wealth dwells in so much poverty.

Cursed be the man who eats a lion
that the lion becomes human.

Blessed be the lion that eats a man
when the lion becomes human.”

The Living One

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Harvest of Being 2015: Ilkley Moor…

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III A BAPTISM OF FIRE

Joshua said, “Judas Thomas, while you are still
in the world, attend to the questions of your heart,
and it shall be revealed to you: who you are,
why you exist, and how you will come to be.”

“Who are you to say these things to me ?” Said Judas Thomas.

Joshua said, “you do not know who I am from what I say to you ?
Then you have disregarded the living one who is in your presence.

You are like a fruit picker who loves the fruit but hates the tree.

I am the light that is over all things,
I am all: from me all has come forth,
and to me all has reached.

Split a piece of wood…
I am there.
Lift up a block of stone…
I am there also.

I shall give you what no eye has
seen, what no ear has heard,
and what no hand has touched,
for the thing that I shall give you
has not arisen from the human heart.

I have thrown fire upon the world, and
look… I am watching it until it blazes.

Whoever is near me is near the fire.
Whoever is far from me is far from the kingdom.”

-The Living One

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Sowing seeds

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“The spiritual journey is simple, beautiful and full of Love.” Perfectly true, but taken out of context it doesn’t actually tell you all that much, does it? Not really. Like so many of the quotes out there on the internet, usually displayed against the background of a sunset, dove or some other visual symbol of serenity, it simply drops a seed into the mind and allows it to grow … or not, as the case may be.

On Thursday we will be giving the last talk of the year in Glastonbury. Our subject this time is Esoteric Christianity and to illustrate the concepts we will use the example of parables. The Sower and the Seed is a well-known story, easily understood in symbolic terms, though there are many deeper elements involved in the imagery than may at first appear. Re-reading the passage I fell to thinking about how ideas are seeded and more specifically about those beautifully presented inspirational quotes that abound across all the platforms of social media.

Such phrases, thoughts and quotes may come from the heart and be personal glimpses of understanding offered in all simplicity and with no other motive than to bring hope or share beauty. Many come from the writings of recognised spiritual teachers, from ancient texts or those to whom the world has attributed the mantle of wisdom. They carry with them the aura of authority; these people knew something, had attained something to which, perhaps, we aspire.

Sometimes they worry me.

Not so much on their own, but as a symptom of a disconnected spirituality that seems to be scattering fragments of light like glitter. And yet…

The proliferation of such illustrated quotes shows how deeply ingrained is our need for understanding, but as most offer little in the way of practical instruction, they carry a certain risk of misinterpretation. They may make the whole spiritual journey seem like sweetness and light; something so otherworldly and ethereal, in fact, that it seems impossible that it should be integrated within the harshness of ‘real’ life. For me ‘real life’ is a spiritual journey, and like any voyage it can be hard, painful, exhausting and confusing. It takes effort, will, and commitment to get from one end of it to the other. But what about the journey itself? Even a straight race where the winner is determined at the finish line, can only be won by what happens between the starting block and the tape. It makes little sense to me to think that there is a goal only at the end… to real-ise the divine within, however we define It, and to live it daily seems, to me, a better option.

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These inspirational quotes may also silently and quite unintentionally imply that those of us who have not yet attained such mystical mastery have way too far to go to be able to reach spiritual enlightenment. Perhaps we have, but believing in ourselves can be hard enough in the mundane world; I am not sure that questioning our worthiness to progress is helpful. I wonder if these wonderful phrases sometimes make the goal seem too distant and unattainable. A goal which is, in my opinion, not far away at the end of some lofty quest, but already within us, waiting quietly to be known.

This seeding of ideas and phrases without context is a traditional technique that can have enormous value as a meditation. Usually, however, when such a technique is used, it is within the framework of a predetermined belief system. This is where schools such as the Silent Eye and other spiritual systems have their place in what is always and ultimately a personal journey by providing structure, background and point of reference … a jumping off place from which to begin and a whole set of symbolic signposts by which the seeker can navigate.

We all have our own belief set. None of us are without some kind of framework, whether it is pan-, poly- or monotheistic, atheist or agnostic or any shade in between… we have our own personal context which is the ground into which such random seeds fall and we interpret them against that backdrop, dismissing them or shaping our understanding of them in a way that fits with the other pieces of our personal puzzle. There is, however, always the possibility of misinterpretation or missing the true depth of such phrases, simply because we lack context. It may only take a single phrase, rightly understood, to change our view of the world and our concept of our place within it. Yet we have to see it clearly in order for it to be able to have an effect.

And yet, we all use quotes, even inspirational ones. And there is value to them. Why struggle or use a paragraph to explain what someone else phrased perfectly in a few words? They may be the very first burgeoning fragment of light that awakens the seeds awareness, perfect illustrations of a point we have to share.

“…is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: 32 which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree…” Matthew13:31

A clear draught

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I came across an old photo quite by chance, putting things away in the loft. It set me off thinking, as such things do. In the picture my late partner is holding a coffee cup… You can’t see it, but I know precisely what it looked like all those years ago. White with a blue rim and dots, with three tiny flowers, red, yellow and blue.

I remember it because it meant something. Not in itself, of course, but because of circumstance. When he died I had just made his morning coffee. There was a moment when it was all ‘over’, when the ambulance men had left and I waited for the undertaker, and I picked up the cup, still bearing the last traces of warmth, and I finally wept.

I used that cup for a long time afterwards… just me… even when it was chipped and the handle dangerously cracked. I used it till I didn’t need to… then it went in the cupboard. It stayed there until I didn’t need it to be there anymore. It took a while.

Why? Because it had held more than coffee for me and it had become a symbol of something more than its physical form.

As I drove into town, I got to thinking…

We can be picky about cups and glasses, those vessels which seem to epitomise that which they hold. Champagne… a rarity, of course… I like to drink from a flute, red wine from a deep bellied glass. Tea must come in a china cup with a saucer… or a big mug filled with a deep mahogany brew.  Coffee, to be fair, can be administered through an IV drip for all I care… but my preference is for the tiny cups of espresso.

There is a reason beyond habit for these things. Champagne really does taste better in a flute… honestly, there have been scientific analyses done to prove it… something to do with the way the gas bubbles collect in the glass. The same for red wine, though more to do with the warmth of the hand that holds the bowl. Tea ? Let’s not go there… I’m a Yorkshire lass… it isn’t up for discussion.

I do wonder though if the vessel holds expectation just as much as liquid. We see the shining silver and porcelain of a tea-room and expect good tea… A tiny cup and a pavement café in Paris are synonymous with that certain je ne sais quoi. The misted surface of a cold glass of beer simply invites thoughts of a hot summer’s day… We see and expect even before we taste.

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Yet, if we are thirsty, truly thirsty, do we care about the vessel that holds the water? The vessel merely contains, so that what is held within may be moved from source to lip, it gives the water shape… may even seem to colour it… but what lies within the vessel is still water.  Do we need crystal glasses or fashionable plastic bottles? A cracked mug, a paper cup, our hands… or even, perhaps especially, just plunging our face into a mountain stream  and drinking from the earth. All will serve, for it is not the vessel that counts, but what it holds. To those whose thirst is urgent and visceral even a muddied puddle holds salvation.

In many of the Sufi poems we ourselves are likened to vessels shaped by the Hand of the Potter. It does not matter if, as Khayyam wrote, the Hand shook in the making, nor if  the vessel has been chipped and cracked by usage. It matters little if it thinks itself fit for champagne, comfortable enough for tea, or as holy as a chalice… it is filled with what is needed to quench the thirst of the one who drinks. The pot has no say in the matter. It is filled by another Hand.

When we are seeking the clear water of inner truth we can find it in many unexpected and unlikely places and the expectations we have for the vessel may not reflect what it holds. The draught in the chalice may be wine or bitter herbs, the clay bowl hold pure water, we cannot know until we raise it to our lips and taste what lies within.

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