Leaf and Flame – Trust and honour

From Leaf and Flame – 2016…

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The Saturday night ritual drama saw Gawain taken to meet his fate. The Green Knight waited in the Green Chapel to return the blow traded so long ago… and Gawain’s own actions left the outcome in doubt. How can he survive a beheading? Only by bringing all his being to a single point and acting through the higher heart…

It is in this melding of body, mind and heart in perfect balance that freedom is found. It is in the relinquishing of the unquiet ego that knots the mind, shuns the perfection of the body and sears the heart with sentimentality, that the true and higher Self can take its rightful place in beauty.

To Gawain, blind by torment and guilt, the true nature of his Hunters remained hidden. The calls and whispers of the animals were a threat… the perception of ego is often clouded by fear. He could not see that they came in love and in compassion, bringing their encouragement and the gift of their presence.

He could not see that the tortuous paths upon which we are led fulfil not desire but need. Nor could he know that, in laying his head upon the block… in surrendering self to Self… he could pass beyond the veil of death and return with the Grail… Sometimes, there is only Trust….

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Photos by Morgana West and Chris Hutchison

Spirit-Born…

Tarot Card – The Magician: A conduit of forces

From High to Low

*

‘Love under will shall be the whole of the law…’

***

The wind blows where it will…

You hear its sound but know not

Whence it came or whither it goes…

Likewise, those born of the Spirit.

John: 3.8

 

***

‘The Hero’s Journey’


Photograph – courtesy, the estate of Sue Vincent

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‘…For three days Gwythyr-the-Bright journeyed

in the gullet of the Black Salmon of the Lake of Light.’

– Crucible of the Sun

*

In his book, ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’,  Joseph Campbell used knowledge of philosophy and psychology to describe how many human myths share a common fundamental structure, which he called the Monomyth.

What does the Mono-Myth describe?

What relevance does it have to seekers of light in the 21st Century?

How are the Ancient Sacred Sites of all lands linked to these questions?

And what techniques can we bring to bear when departing the ordinary world and embarking on adventures in the sacred realms of the Supernatural Order?

Join the Silent Eye on this magical landscape workshop in the Cumbrian Hills of the Lake District, UK which takes place over the weekend of  May 6th-8th, 2022.

Click below to
Download our Events Booking Form – pdf

For further details or to reserve your place: rivingtide@gmail.com

One name…

Tarot Card – The Lovers: ‘open up and get out of the way.’

*

‘Leaf and flame hath but one name’

*

Yva followed on Abadam’s heels, “O Abadam,”

she cried, “you have walked in the garden in the

east, where every precious stone was your covering.

             *

You were a sealer of the sum, whose works and trappings were

prepared, and set all about you, on the day you were created.

*

You were a guardian of the Holy-Mountain,

anointed in the shadow of the Sacred-Tree.

*

You were perfect in wisdom and filled with beauty,

and you walked with the Spirit amidst the stones-of-fire.

*

Yet, for me, you have relinquished all of this.

I will come with you, wherever you may go.”…

*

THE LIVING ONE

Caravan to Cairns

Stuart France

Two young men, a road trip across the Australian Outback, strange encounters in isolated settlements… and a book that will change one of them forever.

From the harsh heat of the dusty road to the cool of the Temple, two stories… one immediate, one timeless… intertwine to illuminate each other.

Many scholars believe that the Gospel of Thomas preserves a glimpse into the oral tradition of the Essenes. The book is a collection of sayings, parables and dialogues attributed to Jesus. In this unique interpretation author and essayist, Stuart France brings the oral tradition to life, retelling the Gospel in his own words, in the way it may have been told around the hearth-fires of our fore-fathers.

Accompanied by in-depth comments which draw upon the Mystery School Tradition, The Living One provides a new window on an age-old story.

“… fascinating and unique …”  Amazon review

Available in Paperback Amazon UK & Amazon.com

and for Kindle Amazon UK & Amazon.com

*

SEE: January Zoom Cyber Room…

No photo description available.
***
Having considered the physical, psychological and spiritual structures of the human being,
we now examine how these interact with our ability to ACT…
Not something that should be taken for granted!
***
The teaching:
Open up…
Get out of the way…
Follow the magic…
***
The meeting was divided into two parts:
Part 1: Action of the level of the Personality
Part 2: Action at the level of Self
Steve began by introducing Part 1 and comparing the life of a tree with that of a human. We discussed the lifecycle of a tree from seed to full-grown, mature tree, reflecting the cycle of life for all beings on Earth, touching on the idea of the necessity for immense quantities of seeds to overcome the degree of chance that affects a tree’s ability to mature. Elements that affect this growth include environment and individual differences. All trees need light, soil, and water and their growth is in two directions – roots into the ground and trunk/canopy into the sky towards the Sun. Once the ‘baby stage’ has passed, saplings need to be flexible and adaptable to the environment and other trees in order to survive. The collective consciousness of trees uses environmental factors to ‘travel’ farther afield. Once matured, the ‘adult’ tree is still connected to the ground and its origins which began in the seed. These are natural laws that flow through the beingness of the tree – does this include consciousness of any kind?
Trees have a different timetable than humans – they are pre-programmed into action but do not seem to have free will or self-awareness, but appear more reactive than proactive. Is this true? In comparison, humans can conceived of a higher awareness and sense of self.
Stuart continued with Part 2 asking what we can do with the Self. He suggested that the process included ‘opening up and then getting out of the way’ which dissolves the ego to the Higher and creates a channel for energies to express themselves through the individual. When we respond in kind to the ‘magic presented, we are acting from the Higher Will of the Planetary Being; High Magic, therefore, is the Will of the Planetary Being or Magician.
This evolved into a discussion about Magic as a conscious transformation of Will, an inner oblation to connect with the Divine, and a ‘connection’ with something ‘else’. Each of these involve a change in consciousness and/or a change in reality – are these the same?
From here, ensued a discussion of Higher states, how to reach them and how to describe, including being fully immersed in the moment of Now and remaining, at the same time, 100% oneself.
Describing this state can be challenging and demands that all the senses being tuned in, adapting itself well to be described through poetry and, perhaps, song. This is the state from which we would like to act.
Robert’s words closed the meeting: ‘The Divine is just waiting for us to open and then the Divine acts through us. It starts small and grows with experience. This shift begins with opening up’.
Recorder, Caroline Ormerod
***

A spiritual ostrich

Isis oil effect sm
The ‘selfie’ that… really isn’t

There was an idea that has had me playing around with a digital painting programme. It also got me thinking. So, last night I toyed with an image from the last annual workshop that shows me in the ritual role of Isis. I ran it through on an ‘oil painting’ setting, then added a soft filtered bronze lighting effect over it.

Of course, the resulting image isn’t ‘me’. Not by any stretch of the imagination!

I don’t, more’s the pity, get to wander around in gorgeous robes and high headdresses every day… I’m more a leggings and comfort woman. Nor do I wear heavy Egyptian make-up as a rule. The clothes and draperies change the shape of the face, the state of mind changes the expression and the make-up brush can do strange and wondrous things. Add to that the painting effect that smooths things out a bit, including…apparently…the nose, a soft focus through which the world seldom sees me and a bit of dramatic coloured lighting … And the results?

Well… if that’s me then I’m an ostrich!

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Yet, although the image is no more than an illusion, it began as a captured reality… it began with a photo of me; a quick picture taken long before dawn one Sunday morning last April, when the day was almost unborn and hours had been spent in solitary meditation preparing for the day. Even the original snap didn’t look like ‘me’ and yet the woman in the image wore my features, looked out through my eyes… eyes my own hands had gilded and painted with kohl just moments before.

It seems rather strange that in an odd sort of way I have come full circle with this image.

The aim of the ritual workshops that we run is to create an illusion and make it reality, not the other way round like the picture, yet in both cases the results can hold a beauty that was not present before.

The rituals we craft for those who attend our workshops take a spiritual idea and weave it into a story. This tale is then played out within the reality of a sacred space. In many respects it is a bit of ‘sympathetic magic’. In just the same way that the shamans of old painted animals upon the walls of deep caverns to ensure the presence of game on the plains, so we ritualise the human experience and play it out from a spiritual perspective in terms the psyche can understand. The aim is to reach for the emotional and spiritual connection to this deep level of understanding… to seed awareness into consciousness… allowing the surface barriers of logic to be breached.

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It isn’t mere playacting because the intent is focused on the spiritual journey shared by the companions. The resulting learning experience can be very powerful and such ritual weekends evoke deeply emotional responses from those who attend… and it is here that the real magic happens. Within each of us; for the ritualised experience shared in the temple space must be taken out into the world and applied to life; it must be lived.

It is not enough to merely attend any spiritual event and think that by our presence we have done enough, any more than it is enough to take up the attitude of prayer before an altar while mentally going over the shopping list. The opening of the self within the temple, where the experience is emotive and touches the roots of being is only part of the story. It is little more than a seed planted in the life of earth.

No matter how deeply we feel those moments, no matter how vivid the experience, it serves no purpose if it is discarded with the robes or left in the dark closet of memory with the script. It is never enough to pay lip service to a spiritual ideal, nor, by simply playing them out in ritual form can they ever change our lives. What is born in the sacred spaces has to be taken out into the world. The inner reality of what we learn there has to be allowed to put out shoots into our own lives, growing up through our own characters and flowering as a personal understanding that changes the way we can be in the world. And that is where the beauty lies.

Otherwise here too we risk being ostriches… or peacocks whose glorious feathers hide little more than a chicken beneath them.

So in some ways perhaps it is fitting that the photo holds more beauty than I will ever see in the mirror of my days; a reminder that when  the seeds sown by Working with the School take root, they may, if tended, flower into a beauty unseen by the eye, but known by the heart.

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A Jewel in the Crown…

Tarot Card – The Hermit: In a high place, which may well be interior,

holds aloft a light.

*

‘…And it makes me wonder…’

Stairway to Heaven

*

PROJECTION OF GOLD
In truth, it is certain and without doubt that whatever is above tends toward that which is below and whatever is below tends toward that which is above for the accomplishment of the One Perfected Thing.
As all things are discovered by one, alone through contemplation so all things are born from this one, alone by permutation: its Father is the Sun, its Mother is the Moon, the Wind bears it in its Belly, the Earth nurtures it in its Heart; Power of all powers it contains the subtle and penetrates the solid and is the progenitor of all wonder in the world yet its efficacy is only perfected through embodiment.
In order that the little world may be re-created in the image of the great world the Spirit must be separated from the Body gradually by the regulated heat of a gentle flame: it rises to heaven from earth and falls back to earth from heaven and thus it acquires the inferior and superior powers for the glory of the whole world and the dissipation of all darkness…
This is the Way of Perfection…
I alone transmit this threefold wisdom which is why I am called The Thrice Raised Hermes.

– The Emerald Tablet

*2 ‘Stone of the Wise’

The Lion’s share…

Tarot Card – Strength: An unarmed,

feminine character closes the mouth of the Lion.

*

… ‘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

*

Samson went down to Timinah, in Philistine.

On approaching the vineyards there a full grown lion came roaring at him.

Samson tore the lion asunder with his bare hands.

Then he went down and noticed a girl amongst the women,

they talked, and she pleased him.

When he returned to his homeland he said to his mother and father,

“There is a woman of the Philistines whom I would like as my wife.”

*

So, Samson went down to Timinah the following year,

with his mother and father, to marry the woman.

On again passing through the vineyard there

Samson saw the carcass of the lion he had slain before.

In the skeleton of the lion a swarm of bees had a hive, and had made honey.

Samson scooped up some of the honey into his palms,

then he and his mother and father ate the honey as they went along.

*

So they went down to meet the woman, and as was customary,

Samson held a wedding feast for the woman’s kinsfolk.

Thirty companions there were attending the wedding feast

but Samson could not afford the bride-price for the woman.

“Let me set you a riddle,” he said to the wedding guests,

“if you can solve the riddle during the seven days of our wedding feast,

I shall give you thirty linen tunics and thirty sets of clothing but if not

then that number of garments shall be due to me.”

“We shall hear your riddle,” said the wedding guests of the woman of Philistine.

*

“Out of the eater,

came something to eat.

Out of the strong,

came something sweet.”

*

For three days the wedding guests

were unable to fathom Samson’s riddle.

On the fourth day they said to Samson’s wife, “Coax your husband

and provide us with the answer to his riddle,

else we shall put you and your father’s household to the fire,

have we been invited here to be impoverished?”

*

Then Samson’s wife wept before him saying, “You do not love me,

you have asked my countrymen a riddle without telling me the answer.”

“I haven’t even told my mother and father,” said Samson.

During the rest of the feast Samson’s wife continued to inveigle him with her tears

until on the seventh day he told her because of her constant nagging.

She explained the riddle to her kinsmen and at the close of the seventh day

they taunted Samson with the answer, “What is stronger than a lion?

What is sweeter than honey?”

“Had you not plowed with my heifer

you would not have solved my riddle,” said Samson.

*

Then Samson went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of its men.

He stripped them and gave their clothing to his wife’s kinsmen as her bride-price.

Then he left in rage for his mother and father’s house…

 

 

 

 

 

Curried garlic

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I recoiled as I opened the door. There had, quite apparently, been garlic the night before. Lots of garlic. Evidently in curry. And there can be few things worse than second-hand garlic, except, perhaps, walking, all unsuspecting, into a small, hermetically sealed room where the stuff has been exuded from every pore overnight. My tormentor laughed at the groans that escaped me, in spite of my attempts to hold my breath, as I beat a hasty retreat after diving for the window and throwing it wide open. I wasn’t going back till the miasma had cleared.

Those who say that garlic is good for you have evidently never encountered the phenomenon of the exudation of the stuff overnight. It may indeed have many health benefits, including as an antibacterial. Certainly nothing, even as virulent as a virus, could have survived in that room.

He, of course, had enjoyed the meal and was so habituated to the gradual garlic infestation of his environs that he was unaware of it. I had detected vague precursors to the pollution of his airspace as soon as I had opened the front door to let myself in, of course; but the sheer scale and venomous stench of the stuff was overpowering. Especially so early in the morning. Though I was fairly glad I’d only gulped down a coffee before the taxi arrived to take me to his home. Breakfast and I would otherwise have undoubtedly parted company.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like garlic. Properly used as a condiment it is rather like salt…barely noticeable; enhancing, rather than adding, flavour in a dish. As an ingredient, it adds a wonderful freshness and distinctive character. As a curried-morning-after-the-night-before, it is, however, vile.

The stench, for I cannot call it by a lesser name, holds memories for me. Vague wafts of the Parisian Metro at rush hour, coupled with its own distinctive smell of sulphur, as if the underground train runs through the bowels of Hell instead of beneath the steps of heaven. The doctor whose face was, for hours, inches from mine as he stitched it back together again. The desperation of mint and fresh parsley when a first date came immediately after a garlic and green bean salad… I have memories of garlic. And those that sprang to mind, elicited from the depths, were, it has to be said, none of them good.

My tormentor, however, having thoroughly enjoyed the meal the night before, was blithely unconscious of the effects of his allium indulgence. Until those effects were made abundantly apparent by my reactions to the olfactory assault. His hilarity was not, however, consummate with own state of mind and body by this point, as said body went into flight mode and headed for the open door…

A little garlic, I can cope with. It is easy to simply ignore and you become so accustomed to it, in small quantities, that you soon barely notice its presence. It becomes part of the atmosphere. It is easy too, to fail to notice another person’s memorial garlic, when you have shared the platter with them, or eaten a similar one of your own creation. One’s own level of exudation, however, remains often undetected.

I could, however, see an analogy in that as I breathed the fresh, clean air on his doorstep; wondering how often we can all create situations whose chain-reactions ripple through the lives of those around us, while we ourselves remain unconscious, like the toxic exhalation of curried garlic previously enjoyed… until something snaps, bends or breaks… and metaphorical fresh air is not always so easy to find. We do what we do, without malice, without any intention of causing potential harm or indeed discomfort to others, yet we cannot always foresee the effects of our behaviour until it becomes a cause of regret.

Rather like eating too much curried garlic.

Eye of the beholder

the-toilet-of-venus-peter-paul-rubens
The Toilet of Venus, Rubens c.1614

“…item, two lips indifferent red; item, two grey eyes, with lids to them; item, one neck, one chin, and so forth.”

Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare

Let’s be clear… fashions change, in beauty as in all else. Many of the celebrated beauties of history would not cut the mustard by today’s standards. Cleopatra had a big nose. Emma Hamilton, mistress of Lord Nelson, was fat by the time they met. And Rubens’ Venus had cellulite. The list could go on. These women, accounted great beauties in their day, to modern eyes may lack that certain something we are almost indoctrinated to seek. Was it just fashion that gave them their place in history? Or was there more to these women? Charm, grace, laughter and intellect; or did they exude that sensuality that attracts regardless of face?

I was speaking with a woman today, very beautiful to my eyes. Just a chance acquaintance, but so much of her story was poured out in that brief meeting … a tragic one… and all rooted in a simple fact; she felt worthless unless she could feel beautiful. It made me angry and set me thinking about my own journey to being comfortable in my skin. Both men and women are too often made to feel they must live up to an aesthetic ideal, yet what really matters is what is under the skin.

I never felt beautiful. I was born several centuries too late to ever be the life model for a painting of Venus. I feel I would have liked Rubens.

Looking back now at old photos, I was a pretty child at that age when, as a child you really do not notice or care about such things. I was a ‘girlie’ girl, with pale curls and the big brown eyes I now love in my younger son. Though he has always had far more eyelashes than any man should lay claim to…

As a teenager I could ape, but lacked, the confidence of my peers. I never felt I matched up. There was no envy, no sour grapes… it was just the way things were and I admired my friends, envying only their confidence. I stopped growing upwards around the five foot mark and rounded out. The pale curls became an un-tameable mop of mousey brown. The nose, broken by this stage already, had become a family joke; kindly meant, but leaving uncomfortable bruises on the fragile surface of the fledgling woman. The legs were decent, but the ankles not quite as fine as my mother’s… nor the wrists… nor the cheekbones… or the dratted nose. And comparison was inevitable… we looked very much alike.

My mother had lovely hair, rich auburn… and better skin too. My teenage acne had me evicted from the doctor’s waiting room one day. “You can’t bring her in here with measles!” the receptionist had said. Which did wonders for my flagging self-confidence, as you can imagine! Yet the weird thing was, I never lacked a boyfriend back then. It certainly wasn’t beauty that attracted them… I made my own guess at the cause and did my confidence even less good.

I could always see beauty in others and have tried to find ways to have them see in themselves what I could see. Bodies are incredible machines, sculpted by a master in every conceivable shape, size and hue. I have never yet seen a face I find ugly or physically repulsive, only expressions … calculated nastiness, venomous hatred and coldness… have ever seemed ugly. People can be unattractive that way. But most are not. Most have similar issues of self-image to my own and, no matter what you say or do, few can accept their own beauty as it is in the eyes of another. Even my own sons will not accept what is mirrored in my eyes… I am ‘just Mum’… my opinion therefore counts for nothing.

Eventually, I was a wife, and could look in the mirror and acknowledge that the reflection was okay… not beautiful, not by any standard I knew. But okay, and that was good enough. The eyes were nice. The nose wasn’t too bad really and could have been worse. The lips a perfect shape. Even the skin was reasonable at last. Confidence began to build… till a drunk driver rearranged the face a fair bit and it was back to square one through the years it took for the scarring to settle.

That taught me a lot. Youth defines itself often by its appearance, but faces do not define who we are. To ourselves, we are more than just a face. To others, we are more than just a face… and if we are not, then perhaps the problem lies within them, not our appearance. It taught me too that if I looked at myself and saw only the scars, that is all others would be able to see too. If I allowed the scars to be at the forefront of my vision of myself, I would see myself only as a tragedy. And so would others.

But you grow up. Priorities shift. There would be jobs and perhaps children. You did your best with what you had, accepting the self-image, flawed or not. It becomes a habit. Years and a few extra curves will change everything anyway.

Confidence came from other things than face or figure. There were more important things than feeling yourself to be beautiful. Seeing a new life changing your waistline to whale shaped, holding your newborn babe and falling into those eyes… closing the eyes of a loved one for that final time. I did not feel beautiful, but I knew that in such moments I was living within beauty.

Nowadays, I look in the mirror as rarely as possible. Not for fear of what I will see, but because I have better things to do with my life than worry too much about my appearance. There is nothing I could do that is going to make me fit the accepted ideal of tall, slender and youthful beauty. Other than perhaps a strict diet and fitness regime, being voluntarily stretched on some torturer’s rack and wholesale plastic surgery… not to mention a trip back a couple of decades in a time machine…

It doesn’t matter. The face that looks back at me is my own. It carries my experience, my joys and sorrows, old worry tracks my brow and laughter draws stars around my eyes. Our youthful perception of ourselves lacks depth. We see and judge ourselves on our surfaces, the sometimes brittle, sometimes bright reflection of our own image thrown back at us by the world like those fleeting glimpses in shop windows. We lack the experience to see deep enough to go beyond the outer shell and, we were to find a way in, there would still be a void the years had yet to fill.

When we are young we learn from others how to evaluate our world. It is all we have to live by until we can replace their teaching with knowledge of our own. It is easy to become stuck with those acquired filters; the habits that cloud our vision and our understanding with patterns that should have been discarded as obsolete and replaced with the rich texture of experience.

To my own eyes my features still seem coarse… but I know that I judge them by a standard learned long ago. To the cold steel of my only tape measure, my figure is not what it was. But it’s not that bad either. The hair is more unruly than ever and starting to be streaked with white. Which is fine. I have lived in this body for a good while now and done a lot with it. It’s entitled to fray a bit round the edges. I have lived, laughed, wept and more than anything, I have loved and been loved.

Looking back at old photographs, it is as if I am looking at someone I do not know. Were I to have met her, I would undoubtedly have told that young woman she was beautiful. She wouldn’t have believed me; she would have thought I was simply being kind. She would have had to learn to look out through my eyes… and her eyes were still too young and too caught by the vision of beauty she saw in others.

Today, those eyes see things rather differently. Although I can admire the aesthetics of youth, the people I would call truly beautiful are those who have lived a little longer. I see their lives in their eyes, their laughter and tears written in the map of their face, the confidence of experience and the wisdom of having learned from it… and an indefinable light within them that shines with a timeless and ageless beauty. And for myself? I live on the most beautiful planet imaginable, surrounded by wonders. I am part of the marvellous dance of creation that links every atom, every creature, each rock and wave. Why should I need to see a superficial beauty in the mirror when I can feel myself part of such living beauty?

There are too many tragedies happening quietly around us, from eating disorders, to self harm. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, they say. It isn’t so much about how others see us, but how we are allowed, and able to see ourselves.