I am at an interesting stage in the writing of the Silent Eye’s April workshop. We are not up to production, yet. This early stage is about taking the initial ideas and coalescing them into a workable set of five dramas based on sacred temple principles. Each person attending the workshop plays a part; and the core themes are explored by (scripted) acting, forum discussions and personal exploration in the quiet of the lovely Derbyshire landscape.
One of my favourite themes, and one which always features in these workshops, is the notion of hazard. Our lives are full of hazard and yet we view it as a curse rather than a blessing. My eyes were opened to the constructive power of hazard many years ago, when I came across the works of John Bennett, one of the principle students of both Gurdjieff and Ouspensky in the middle years of the last century. Bennett spent the last twenty years of his life attempting to re-write the language in which the the ‘4th Way’ was couched. He said he did this as much for himself as for those who would follow, believing that time had moved on and that it was vital to encapsulate the vital essence of what Gurdjieff taught in a language that could be used for explanation with ‘modern’ people, from scientists to psychologists, but especially to the everyday women and men prepared to invest a little time in knowing why and how they had a large part to play in the creative flow of the universe and how the gates to that were opened by how they reacted to true hazard.
I was considering this, again, as I often do in January as the mental and emotional engine that powers the workshops needs to be cold-started. At the same time, I came across the use of the Greek word Ozymandias, the classical name for Rameses II, a figure that features in our workshop as the very driver of the ‘hazard’ that the participants need to live through.
The reference reminded me of the poem by the same name by Percy Shelley. I once learned this by heart for a presentation I was giving. The words are:
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
The style is elegant and clever; the message bitterly ironic. The narration moves from the initial use of “I” to the body of the text, which is a description of a vast ruin, told by another traveller ‘from an antique land’. The “I” only comes in, again, at the end, to remark on the ‘lone and level’ fate which befalls all of us at the merciless hands of time.
Should we seek to endure? We have a finite body for a reason: we were meant to live and ‘die’. Ours is to ‘seize the day’ and make of it what we can; but, on a higher level, we have the potential to become what we can be; to find ourselves at the centre of a very different world where the universe unfolds around us and for us – as we live for it. It is human nature to clings to things. Rameses proclaims his greatness, and indeed he is viewed as one of the mightiest Kings of Egypt – the term Pharaoh was only introduced much later in Egyptian history. But the legacy of Rameses is stone, whereas the legacy of others has been to pass on a teachings, which, if written in such a way that it acts like a seed in the right ‘soil’, never dies.
It is controversial, but one such candidate for teachings that transcend was the figure of Akhenaten, who lived several generations before Ozymandias. Few ‘stones’ remain from his heretical reign, having been scattered by those who came after and hated his legacy, but in that time he changed Egypt, taking thousands of years of ‘mummified’ history and tradition, and throwing them into a melting pot of pure hazard, stealing in the process the very core of religion and making of it an invisible and ever-living principle called the Aten, the Sun behind the Sun. Much is made of his so-called monotheism, little is said about the much more vital principle of a living spirit that cannot be reduced to form . . .
Akhenaten does not feature in our workshop; but the spirit of that challenge does. It is for each of those attending to see whether this chord of constructive hazard is one that can be struck in their own souls . . .