Their meetings are necessarily brief… seldom no more than a coffee, a momentary pause between the demands of life and work… but for John and Alexandra time matters less than the connection they share…
“It’s about where you put the “I”, isn’t it?” I asked John, as he sat down, late with latté, and smiled, apologetically, at me.
“Where is the “I’ now?” he asked, smiling over the hot coffee he was trying to sip, to catch up with mine.
“That’s what I’m wrestling with,” I responded, trying not to lose the thread that I had carefully assembled in the past week, parts of which were trying to sneak away in the face of the lovable but infuriating man who might just help me unravel it…
Why Nine Deadly Sins, when the world speaks of only seven?
When John and Alexandra meet for coffee, a challenge is issued that will take Alexandra on a strange journey into the depths of the human psyche.
These coffee-break encounters bring to life the mysteries of the spiritual enneagram as explored by the Silent Eye, a modern Mystery school.
Steve is an ex-software entrepreneur who left the corporate IT world behind in 2011 to concentrate on his first love – the teaching of the mystical life. He is one of the founding directors of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, which uses an evolutionary version of the enneagram to identify the lenses of perception that obscure the world of the real and the spiritual.
Born into a Rosicrucian family in Bolton, Lancashire, in 1954, Steve grew up surrounded by mystical discussion and fascinating but often peculiar grown-ups. In adult life, and alongside a career in IT, he was an active Rosicrucian Officer for AMORC in the North of England. There followed seven years of service with the Servants of the Light – Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki’s Qabalistic school of modern magic, culminating in the entry to SOL’s highest grade – the House of the Amethyst.
Steve’s fellow director of the Silent Eye is Stuart France. In 2013, he published his first book, “The Song of the Troubadour” based on the teachings and ritual dramas of the Silent Eye’s 2013 launch and Workshop in Derbyshire. In July 2014 he published his second work, “The Land of the Exiles” – a combination of esoteric psychology and drama that formed the backbone of the 2014 Silent Eye workshop in the Derbyshire Hills. Both books are available on Amazon and Kindle. In November 2015, he published Ben’s Bits – The Ballad of Bakewell Gaol, a bitter-sweet graphical novel of a man imprisoned in a Victorian gaol for the relocation of a sacred monument. The book is written in the style of Oscar Wilde’s Ballad of Reading Gaol, said to be his greatest work.
Steve believes in light-heartedness and humour as much as spirituality – seeing the two as intrinsically linked. He publishes a regular blog where irony, humour and occasional insights may be found.
As a schoolboy, struggling with mathematics, the name Pythagoras struck terror in me. I remember staring at the hated formula below and thinking I’d never get it…
In non-gobbledegook, the equation reads: (a squared equals b squared plus c squared). I can hear the teacher’s voice now, confident that everyone would find it intuitive!
Outside, the summer was passing, yet there we were in a hot classroom with dry as dust letters that could also be numbers… And not just that – not that the numbers themselves weren’t bad enough – we had to ‘square’ them as well! What sort of torture was that?
The language of mathematics eventually became a friend, but not before I had to talk myself down from the night-terrors of squares and equations. So, as a prelude to creating some unusual and powerful breathing to go with last weeks’ ‘elements’ exercise, let me share some of the insights about the inner work of Pythagoras, one of the greatest scientist/philosophers the world has ever known.
Years after that childhood terror, and as competent with maths as needed for a career in computing, I came across the diagram below, and realised there was a much better way to teach this stuff…especially if you had a philosophical leaning and wanted to understand the inner meaning of all numbers – of the key to the very idea of quantity, itself.
The Greeks were wonderfully literal in their descriptions. They knew that when you multiplied a number by itself, in this case, ‘a squared’, it also described the AREA marked out by two lines of equal length (the boxes above), set against each other at a ‘right angle’; for example, boxa, above, times itself, or a-squared. That square would have an internal space – an area – of one line length times the other. In this case, they are both the same number, so the result is that number multiplied by itself – or turned into a SQUARE.
If you contemplate the properties of the above diagram, you can see the clear linking of the square and the right-angled triangle.
Pythagoras was fascinated by triangles, seeing that many things in nature had two different aspects that were resolved by a third connecting them. In this way, the world moved forward, harmoniously. His most famous triangle is below.
The elements are as follows:
1. It has three sides, and three angles, hence it is a ‘tri-angle’. Ignore the large numbers in the diagram, for now. Their significance will emerge, later.
2. Two of the sides join in a special angle of 90 degrees. This is the same angle as that within a square, in fact, it is the only angle in a square. A square is a very special figure, as we shall see, later. The little square figure indicates that this triangle’s core angle is 90 degrees, otherwise known as a Right Angle.
3. There are three sides to this triangle. The longest side is always opposite the square figure that indicates the Right Angle. The longest side opposite the Right Angle is called the Hypotenuse, which originally meant ‘that which stretches under”.
4. Something that ‘stretches under’ or ‘runs beneath’, like a root on a plant, is a foundation that supports the rest of the structure. In the case of the right-angled triangle, the Hypotenuse of the triangle – that which unites everything, is reflected from the square sign opposite. Neither can exist without the other. The square sign – the right angle – has no dimensions. It is a fixed ‘understanding’ of squareness that is the basis of a unique relationship between two lines. The square is found throughout the universe. Most of the time it is invisible.
5. The square is also the basis of the dimensions of physics and mathematics. A point has no dimensions, just a theoretical position. The line has one dimension, which is length, this is the first use of numbers and direction. The parts of the line have to maintain a consistent direction or it’s not a straight line. ‘Straightness’ becomes foundational, like our square, in everything that follows. Straightness is an extension of Square as an underlying principle.
6. Beyond the straight line, which could go on forever and get dull, there is a need for creation to become more sophisticated in its unfolding of ‘form’. The combination of a square angle (90 deg) and another straight line defines the next dimension, that of an area, generally known as a ‘surface’. The surface is continuous across two dimensions, it’s no longer just a line, and it has an area, whose dimensions are the multiple of each line. A triangle is a surface, the simplest of surfaces, and in its architecture we can see all the principles of creation, plus one more: the two extensions from the original point, created by the ‘square’ or right-angle are ‘resolved’ or ‘made useful’ by the hypotenuse, that which stretches under, or joins, connects, unites, limits.
The process of the creation of form, on which all else in our material world is based, is therefore seen to contain an ongoing inner process, the reflection from the origin (the original square) to the limit of the extensions, in the form of the link between the original invisible square as right-angle and the largest side of the triangle.
In next week’s post, we will continue this foray into the mind and work of Pythagoras, and the further implications of his work. Before closing, however, it’s interesting to reconsider the most famous of the Pythagorean triangles, below, in the light of the above and the following questions:
Q1: can you locate the origin, the primary square, the first length, the second length and that which ‘stretches beneath’, linking the whole creation back to the origin?
Q2: Can you translate the Pythagorean equation below into its ‘action’ in the world, in line with the ‘creation story’ above?
(As a side note, a triangle, explained in this way, has sometimes been compared to the symbol of the Bow of the Archer…)
In the closing post of this ‘Intention’ series, we will consolidate the answers to the above into a single breathing exercise to add to the journey of the elements in Part 2.
That the birds were there first means little to Ani. It is, as far as she is concerned, her garden and she decides who gets to play in it. Apart from the stray babies, those she makes an exception for and will even call the cavalry to their rescue. There is no malice in her vociferous warnings to the feathered fiends who invade her space. In fact, she grins all the time she is chasing them off.
The cat next door, on the other hand, stalks them silently, moving a whisker at a time, closing in for that final, fatal pounce.
Me, on the other hand, I like birds. I love to hear them herald the morning as I wake, the first light washing the bedroom in pale colour. I love to watch them darting around the garden, or soaring in the blue above. They are creatures of grace and beauty who carry music within and rise above the landscape, seeing it with eyes other than my own. In quiet moments imagination lends me their wings and I can rise with them to greet the dawn.
The three of us watch the same sparrow on the fence from completely different viewpoints, with different emotions and imperatives fuelling our actions. I suppose we are simply following the dictates of our own species and nature. Yet these are neither inevitable nor unchangeable. There are many cats that never chase a bird. There are probably few dogs who warn them off quite so joyfully. And as a human being, I could simply ignore them, see them as a source of food or raw materials, or even through the eyes of myth and legend.
The three of us are not so very different after all. It is a personality shaped by instinct and experience that impels our individual reactions to the birds every day. Ani sees them as both invaders to be warned away and playthings with which she can have fun. The cat I don’t know personally… for some reason, Ani refuses that acquaintance… so I cannot say whether it is the thrill of the chase, or a quest for dinner that drives it. For me it is many things. Memories of being taught their names and stories as a child, the simple love of their beauty and the knowledge of the thread of life that binds us, associations that run deeper than the surface, perhaps.
I remember my grandfather explaining a picture in a book to me, when I was very young, where the heart was weighed against the feather of truth. There is more to that than the simple lightness, for Horus, the Divine Child of the Egyptian faith, was depicted as a hawk and truth was a goddess with a feather in her hair. The Egyptians, indeed, had many birds associated with divinity, from the Benu bird, a symbol of rebirth, to the protective vulture goddess Nekhbet. Odin had his ravens, a story brought to life for me on a first visit to the Tower of London, observing their curiosity and intellect in action. Christianity has the Dove and the Pelican. Symbolism, folklore and fairytales are littered with feathers.
Experience shapes us in ways we often cannot see. The innate nature can be overridden by learned behaviours, habits and acquired reactions that may seem obvious to those looking on, but to which we ourselves are blind until something throws them into sharp relief. These habits can be both positive and negative, overcoming inner battles or seeing us lost in a sea of fears. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.
But we do not have to be a slave to our reactions, there is always that poised instant when we stand at the crossroads of choice and can break the cycle if we so will it and, to paraphrase the famous quotation, be the change we wish to see in ourselves.
Who are we, why are we here, what is the Purpose of all this… and what do we do with it?
We have questions…we all do.
We seek a path through life that allows us to find our own answers, a path that makes sense of the universe and our place within it. A path that takes us beyond the bounds imposed by our three dimensional reality and the daily necessity through which we move towards a ‘something’ we sense may lie just beyond our vision. We may not know what that ‘something’ is, but we know enough to realise there are gaps in our knowledge and in our understanding …and we begin to wonder.
Ultimately, it is said, that whatever belief, faith or reasoning calls us the path we choose must be walked alone. Yet how do we define ‘alone’? Conscience, that intangible presence, is a guide and constant companion we are all familiar with. What is its source? The conditioning of our upbringing and culture can explain the majority, but occasionally we simply ‘know’ in a way that seems to go beyond what we have learned. Perhaps there is a deeper level of being than we are aware of on a daily basis?
There may come a time when we reach a turning point, a moment when we become conscious of a need to set our feet actively on a path that leads towards a greater awareness. There are many such paths to choose from and no one is better than another; all are right for those who choose to walk them with a whole heart. Like spokes on a wheel, they may begin at different points and take different directions, but the goal, that central point, is the same. All paths, spiritual, humanist or religious seek a spark of inner Light, and whether we think of that as Spirit, Divinity or simply as the highest aspects of human consciousness, our quest must begin in the same place… within ourselves.
Helen shares the final part of her journey with the Silent Eye in Derbyshire:
I recently attended a workshop with The Silent Eye about Facing Our Fears, an extraordinary weekend spent among the hills and grey stone villages of the Peak District. It’s taken me a little while, as it usually does, to process everything that happened. Once again there was history and mystery, good company and tasty food, old friends greeted and new friends made. And, as always, revelations.This is part nine of my account, parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven and eight can be found here…
I couldn’t get to sleep until very late Saturday night, despite being exhausted – for some reason I found it difficult to relax and, when I did, tapping noises ensued which kept me from sleeping. I finally called out ‘For god’s sake be quiet and let me get some sleep!’ The next thing I knew, my alarm was going off…
Sunday morning dawned grey and drizzly, the glorious weather having disappeared overnight. It wasn’t cold, though, and the rain, though not ideal, was more of a soft mist than anything else. Which was good, as the morning’s plans involved us being outside. We headed into the green once more, grey stone villages softened by rain, hillsides blurred by soft clouds.
Helen continues her journey through the sacred sites of Derbyshire…
I recently attended a workshop with The Silent Eye about Facing Our Fears, an extraordinary weekend spent among the hills and grey stone villages of the Peak District. It’s taken me a little while, as it usually does, to process everything that happened. Once again there was history and mystery, good company and tasty food, old friends greeted and new friends made. And, as always, revelations.This is part six of my account, parts one, two, three, four and five can be found here…
As you pass between the gateposts leading onto Stanton Moor, there is a feeling of entering another world. Perhaps it’s the Cork Stone, a great stone guardian whose sphinx-like profile has monitored the path for millennia, or the old quarry marks, now overgrown. Or perhaps it’s the many cairns hidden amongst the heather, silent indicators that this is a land of the dead.
Humans have been using this place for thousands of years, which is why Stanton Moor is a place of national importance and, as such, is protected. Prominent signage advises visitors to leave no rubbish, make no marks and, something that became important as we journeyed further into the landscape, keep their dogs on a lead at all times.
Helen continues her journey through Derbyshire with the Silent Eye:
I recently attended a workshop with The Silent Eye about Facing Our Fears, an extraordinary weekend spent among the hills and grey stone villages of the Peak District. It’s taken me a little while, as it usually does, to process everything that happened. Once again there was history and mystery, good company and tasty food, old friends greeted and new friends made. And, as always, revelations.This is part five of my account, parts one, two, three and four can be found here…
We left Tideswell and headed into the hills. The sun was shining, the temperature warm enough for just a light jacket – not exactly the kind of weather one associates with fear. However, so far we had faced pestilence, death, and the idea of losing everyone you hold dear to be left alone in a changed world. Quite intense for the first afternoon! I started to get the inkling that this weekend would be about challenging myself internally, as well as externally…
Fear is something that is both universal, and specific to the individual. There are fears that hearken back to our ancestral roots – the fear of being vulnerable, cast out, or killed by some predator. Then there are fears that are more personal – some people suffer from claustrophobia, whereas others dislike large open spaces. Some people are scared of heights, others of spiders – it really depends on the individual. There are modern fears – nuclear war, gender-based violence, terrorism – and age-old ones such as poverty, bankruptcy, homelessness. Fear is unique to each individual, and yet is something we all share. Our next destination was a place where people were tested against an ancient fear, yet where the same tradition is still observed to this day.
Helen Jones, author of Journey to Ambeth, begins her account of her weekend with The Silent Eye in Derbyshire…
I recently attended a workshop, with The Silent Eye, about Facing Our Fears, an extraordinary weekend spent among the hills and grey stone villages of the Peak District. It’s taken me a little while, as it usually does, to process everything that happened. Once again there was history and mystery, good company and tasty food, old friends greeted and new friends made. And, as always, revelations.This is part one of my account…
My journey began on Friday 13th, amid the hustle and bustle of St Pancras station, my train waiting beneath the great arcing span of glass. Perhaps it was the day – I’d given myself plenty of time to get there, yet still found myself rushing at the last moment, a wrong turn taken meaning I had to run the length of the station to get to my platform. But I made it on board and settled in for a pleasant journey through London and out into the green, past the dreaming spires of St Albans and further north, buildings of golden brick changing to red, then to grey stone.
This weekend was to be given over to fear, so I reflected on what that could mean as we headed north.
Willow continues sharing her journey with the recent Lord of the Deep weekend:
After we had returned from ancient Sumeria that Saturday night we all, everyone of us, got changed and fought the biblical weather the thankfully short distance up the hill to the local pub.
We all deserved a break, I was there, just behind the lense. The cosy warmth in the bar was matched by the warmth of these beautiful people who had been traveling along the same path with me. This was every bit as important as a learning curve as the entire workshop itself. Different but just as important.