Derbyshire is beautiful as summer comes to the moors. Every road is bordered with wildflowers… swathes of lacy cow parsley and meadowsweet and drifts of yellow loosestrife make the blue of cranesbill almost luminous. Here and there, deep purple thistles and lavender pools of wild thyme add yet another colour to a palette that begins to light the brown sea of heather that will soon paint the hills.
It was just a shame about the weather. Torrential rain waited until we stopped the car and seemed determined to prevent us getting to work on the September workshop, but somehow, we managed to dodge the deluge. In the clear spaces between showers, we were able to visit several of the sites we will be including in the weekend and decide how best to use them.
The process is a curious one, as we let the land itself suggest how to proceed, learning its stories, history and legends, before fitting them to the ideas we wish to share. This time, we will be looking at how an emotion such as fear, which is usually seen as a negative feeling, can give birth to some of the most selfless and beautiful human actions… and how, in our own lives, we might find a key to turn such darkness into light.
With the stories of the land, both historical and legendary, the ancient places we visited over the weekend opened a window into the human heart and soul, allowing us a small glimpse of the grandeur that waits within the shadows that can touch us all throughout our lives. Join us in Derbyshire this September to learn more…
The Silent Eye hosts a number of events each year, from our annual Weekend Workshop in Derbyshire to our informal ‘Living Land’ and ‘Walk and Talk’ gatherings. All events are open to non-members and Companions of the School and they are a great way to meet like-minded people, explore the ideas we share and spend time with fellow travellers.
The weekends are informal, no previous knowledge or experience is required. We ask only that you bring your own presence and thoughts to the moment…
Rites of Passage: Seeing beyond Fear Tideswell, Derbyshire,
Friday 13th – Sunday 15th September 2019
We are all afraid of something.
There are the fears of the everyday world, from arachnophobia to a fear of the dark, and the deeper fears of the personality, that play upon the mind and heart. What purpose might such fears serve, beyond protecting us from potentially harmful situations? How have our ancestors addressed such fears across the centuries? Can we learn from the past a way to see beyond our fears to a future lit by serenity and hope?
Join us on Friday the thirteenth of September, 2019, in the ancient landscape of Derbyshire as we explore how to lay our personal gremlins to rest. Based in the landscape around Tideswell, Bakewell and beyond, this weekend will entail some relatively easy walking on moorland paths.
The weekend runs from Friday afternoon to early Sunday afternoon, and costs £50 per person. Meals and accomodation are not included and should be booked separately by all attendees. Meals are often taken together at a convenient pub or cafe.
For further details or to reserve your place: email@example.com
The Keys of Heaven
Whitby, North Yorkshire,
December 6th- 8th, 2019
It is the year AD 664. The coastal town of Whitby and its Abbey, under the control of the abbess who became St Hilda, are the setting for a Christian Synod – a court of doctrine established, on the face of it, to unify how priests cut their religious tonsure and what should be the correct basis of the calculation of Easter.
Trivial things? Perhaps to our distant eyes; but the Synod of 664 had a brutal undertone: its decision would determine a single Christianity for Britain – and would condemn the alternative to a slow but inevitable death.
An outstanding scholar, Bishop Cedd, later St Cedd, had been raised and trained on Lindisfarne, yet his role as ‘facilitator’ could not afford to display bias. Torn in mind, faith and kin, the man who became St Cedd walked a treacherous path within the Synod that was to change everyone’s lives.
It is a story reminiscent of one of Shakespeare’s play, full of character, mystery and treachery; one in which the cleverness of argument came to supplant the lore of the land and the local history of the interwoven Christ.
The weekend runs from Friday afternoon to early Sunday afternoon, and costs £50 per person. Meals and accomodation are not included and should be booked separately by all attendees. meals are often taken together at a convenient pub or cafe.
For further details or to reserve your place: firstname.lastname@example.org
Where Beauty Sleeps
Great Hucklow, Derbyshire, 17-19 April, 2020
The Silent Eye Annual Workshop…
There is a lot more to fairytales than the wide eyed child understands, especially in the older versions. The archetypes we meet in these old stories echo many aspects of the human condition and the journey of the soul.
We are born into a magical world, where our childhood is peopled with wonders. We are given gifts and talents yet our soul is held within the body, like the princess in the castle. As we grow to adulthood the magic fades…or more precisely, our awareness of it fades. Like the princess, we fall asleep, lost to the song of the soul as the ‘curse’ takes hold. Alive but slumbering, waiting…
Join us next April to explore the hidden beauty of fairytales… and awaken the beauty that sleeps within.
Shadows dance in the firelight. A hand, warm upon cold stone, where many other hands have rested. The breath of the shaman, blowing ochre, staining the wall at this moment of passage. Rite of recognition within the tribe. Kinship and continuity indelibly inscribed upon the body of earth
The restaurant is quiet now, many of the tables are empty. Sunset gilds the weathered stone of the window frames and casts ghosts of a beautiful day across the table, igniting the ruby heart of the half empty glasses. The woman tapping away at the little keyboard glances at her companion. There is an expression of deep concentration, emotions flitting across the unguarded face… She smiles. He is lost in the story, seeing it played out on the screen of imagination, reading from the heart, feeling the joy and grief of the characters. The book in his hands is a dream made concrete, the ephemeral made real. Her dream, his reality. From the back cover her own face smiles back.
An old story plays out in images on the flickering screen, acted to perfection by movie stars, long dead perhaps, but here, forever, captured in an unending moment. The story may have no basis in reality… or perhaps it does…but the grief of she who weeps for her son is that of every mother’s tears. Alone in the dark, tears course unstoppable…rivulets of pain and compassion… from cheek, to throat, to breast… back to the heart that watches, a mother’s heart who knows that grief. The acted emotion evoking a response, a mirror, in the reality that observes the fantasy.
Faded photographs, a tapestry of images… instants in time captured by the lens and brought back to life by the sight of the heart. Memories carry presence from the now to the then as eyes read the story of the past. The emotions are not then, but now.
Paint rushes across canvas, swirling and curling like dust-devils in the heat of summer. You can feel it beating down on the unprotected head. Energy flows in every line and curve…passion made visible, calling to something deep within your being
The music begins and you are lost in images born of sound and emotion, carried upon wings of imagination shared across centuries, heart to heart with unspoken words….
School dinners. It is not the same smell… but so close you are instantly transported back to childhood, feeling once more all the small details of that moment, recalling the taste of a favourite sweet, perhaps, or the comfort of a touch. For a scintilla of conscious time you are a child again.
You will have noticed a bit of a theme going on here… images, brought to consciousness through the senses and evoking emotions that are not images or memories in themselves, but, here and present now. Many spiritual paths over the ages have advocated a leaving behind of the things of the flesh, divorcing ourselves from the senses and focussing our attention firmly upon the higher and ethereal realms of spirit. I cannot, nor I think, can anyone say with any certitude, except that of personal conviction, whether this is the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to go about things. There are and have been mystics of all faiths and paths that have embraced this concept with their whole being and who have come to a personal enlightenment. There are others who have embraced the world and all it offers and who have also reached that level of spiritual beauty.
For me, personally, and for the Silent Eye, we have chosen the latter path…or perhaps it is closer to the truth to say it has embraced us. The idea of turning away from the world, for me, implies a separation from the Divine, by whatever name we choose to call It. The world in which we live, the bodies we inhabit, the creatures, great and small, with which we share this planet… our home… to me are all expressions of the One.
Even as a child the idea that we should turn from ourselves… away from how we were made, the tools we were given with which to experience the world… seemed odd. Though I was raised in a rather unusual family with wide ranging religious and spiritual beliefs, I live in a nominally Christian country, went to Sunday School and learned from the Bible. It says, quite clearly, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Genesis 1:27. KJV. In fact, in the same phrase, the point is hammered home thrice.
Now, the Sunday School child, with the child’s simplistic viewpoint, could not quite grasp how, on the one hand, we were being taught that God was omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent… yet had obviously got it all wrong, because we had to be ashamed of our bodies and their functions, deny human emotions and senses and try to become perfect. Surely, I thought, if God had created us in His image… like a mirror… we were already perfect in His eyes?
Ah, said the Sunday School teacher, smiling beatifically… but there was the Fall… the expulsion from Eden…sin….
Hmm… thought the child, rapidly learning to keep quiet… but didn’t God create the Tree, the Apple and the Serpent too? Maybe He knew what He was doing? Maybe, they too were part of His plan, His perfection?
Decades passed, symbolism and abstract thought were engaged upon and explored, beliefs changing and evolving as life added to the store of knowledge and understanding…yet this idea always stuck, unshakeably, in my mind.
Maybe, just maybe, the things of this earth were meant to be experienced and learned from? And perhaps the senses we use to move blindly and often blandly through life were the gateway to a deeper understanding? And when I realised that it is through the senses that we touch the deepest emotions that began to make sense.
There is a difference between being a slave to the senses and using them… the same difference perhaps between using opiates for medical purposes and for the recreational escapism that ends in addiction. The one offers release from pain, the other dependency.
There is no guarantee that the reality any of us sees is the same as that seen through another’s eyes. We all see the sky is blue… but how can we tell if what I see as the colour I call blue is the same as the colour you see? We agree, by consensus, that it is blue.. and can replicate our own version of blue in other things… but who is to say my ‘blue’ is not actually your ‘green’… just called by the same name? Our perception of the world is unique and personal, but we have a consensual language with which to share experience.
Perhaps the only area where we can touch each other’s reality at a deep level of true understanding… where we can communicate heart to heart, wordlessly and in all simplicity… is through the emotions… and our emotions are accessed through the senses. Think about that; without the physical senses we could not feel… indeed, most of the language of emotion describes sensation… we feel, are touched, we hurt….
There is another phrase from the Bible that also stuck, “…a sword shall pierce through your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:35
Emotions are universal, timeless and understood by all. Once experienced they are part of us and we recognise them in ourselves and in others. Empathy, not sympathy. Compassion answers grief, eyes meet in joy, tenderness meets need… a wordless understanding that transcends all other forms of communication. Who among us that has experienced the heart-piercing sword of loss cannot feel it in another? The thoughts of many hearts, indeed, become clear when we allow ourselves to listen to our own.
Maybe just being human can bring us closer to each other than we realise…across time and space, across all political and geographical divides, leaving an imprint of emotion that others can understand, miles and millennia apart.
The Unicorn is an iconic spiritual symbol in the British Isles and particularly in Scotland. We will use the power of the elements and spirit of the unicorn to create your own Silent Unicorn within, culminating at the old hidden seminary at Scalan in the remote Braes of Glenlivet.