Questions of ‘relativity’…

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Einstein as a child

“… so I thought I’d ask ‘Google’.”

“Which is why you phoned me?”

“Precisely. You know everything and you’re quicker than the internet.”

Oh gawd…”

“What do you know about relativity?”

“ Erm… E=mc2?”

“Yeah, that.”

“What exactly do you want to know…?”

***

The conversation is typical of those my son and I have been having half a dozen times a day lately. The phone will ring and we will talk for an hour or so at a time. The subjects he has called to discuss, or that have come up over his morning cuppa, have been as diverse as astrophysics, optics, Chaos theory and quantum mechanics. And that’s without psychology, cats, comparative spirituality and the correct way to make tea.

Quite why he thinks that someone who left school at sixteen should be omniscient, I do not know, though it tickles me that my son should apparently, and mistakenly, think it is so. I recall a time, not so very long ago, when, in common with most youngsters, he believed I knew nothing about anything (apart from baking and helping with school homework).  Parents don’t, do they? Not in the eyes of teenagers. Parents are behind the times, out of touch and so old they are almost obsolete.

Very young children, on the other hand, think their grown-ups know everything. They trust what they are told, having no reason to question their ‘source of all wisdom’… until they reach an age when they do begin to question. Changes in the developing brain set teenagers to exploring. They need to find their own identity, their own ideas and ideals.  They compare what they know to what they perceive… which may not always be an accurate vision of the world… and build their ideals accordingly.

Finding that their parents are human and fallible is a shock to the system. Parents are inevitably seen as passé in their outlook, speech, dress and musical tastes, belonging as they do, to a previous (and thus embarrassing) generation. They obviously know nothing of the world their children know… and as the child begins to forge its own path, he strides out alone. It is only with the onset of their own hard-earned maturity that he begins to wonder if his elders might not have known a thing or two after all and the dynamics of their relationship changes once again.

Like it or not, we’ve all been children, teenagers and gone through the whole growing up process. Not only did we, in our own way, experience those various stages of change, we also became adults, and our relationship with early parental authority changed too. We still carry it with us, though, as the superego…the internal ‘authority figure’ that is a composite creation to which we are all subject. It is an inner voice that holds the moral compass and which tells us all the ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’…beside which we are still as children and against which we still rebel.

The odd thing was that answering my son’s queries on subjects about which I know nothing, I realised that I was wrong… I knew stuff. The huge gaps in knowledge were, as the conversation progressed, filled in by experience, common sense, and a fragmentary understanding gleaned from years of curiosity.

I was reminded that there is another part of the self that knows little but understands much… another inner voice, that answers when it is asked. It answers from a place where factual knowledge holds no sway, beyond understanding… a place of wisdom. Like children, we often prefer to make our own mistakes, rather than asking for help… or we don’t listen…  and like children, when we do ask, and learn to listen, that quiet voice can guide us home.

Comprehension

Back in school, in French classes, we used to be given ‘comprehension tests’ for our homework. Doubtless the same exercises are used the world over, though not necessarily by that name. ‘Comprehension’ involved reading a passage written in French, after which you would be expected to answer questions based upon what you had read and understood. Many hated ‘comprehension’, and there would be an audible groan from the class as the teacher set the task.

I loved it. It was, as far as homework was concerned, a ‘freebie’. It had not taken long to work out that the answer was almost entirely contained within the question. As long as you had the basic vocabulary to understand the passage itself, it needed only the most rudimentary understanding of the way that particular language worked to be able to regurgitate the question itself as an answer with the odd detail from the passage thrown in.

There was no need for really understanding though, not at all.  The clues were all there. Once you had worked out how to re-present the question, the answers wrote themselves. It always seemed a little pointless to me, as a good mark was based more on rephrasing something you were being told, rather than actually understanding French. But as I liked French and was pretty good at it, I had usually finished the comprehension homework before the class was dismissed and could look forward to both a good mark and a free evening.

We had comprehension tests in English classes too. Given that we already understood the language and how it worked, the requirements were a little bit different and not quite so easy to whizz through. The questions would not simply ask you to restate what you had read, they required you to think about it instead, drawing unwritten conclusions and interpretations. Quite often, there could be no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer as the response had to be subjective. Even so, the information from which your conclusions would be drawn was always included in the text, in obvious or subtle form.

These ‘comprehension tests’ were never, to my mind, a real measure of understanding, but were rather testing  knowledge.  All it needed was that you paid attention as you were reading and the answers were never far to seek. A good grade could be gained by simple regurgitation in French, and basic extrapolation in English.

During the recent Solstice of the Moon workshop, Running Elk taught us much about the ancient landscape and its people and every so often he would laughingly refer to the group having ‘done its homework’.  None was set, but at any workshop there is an expectation that those who attend will absorb what is being shared…and hopefully, go away and work with it, thinking it through and drawing their own conclusions. It is in this way that we can all learn from each other as we share ideas and possibilities.

With something as ancient as stone circles and as mysterious as the minds of those who built them, there are seldom definitive answers to any question, but there are a few incontrovertible facts known about both the sites and their builders, which, with a little attention, would offer a smattering of knowledge.

As with the French ‘comprehension’, you could just rephrase and re-present those facts. Attention… whether by observing, reading or listening… is the first requirement for learning anything, but the acquisition of knowledge alone does not bring understanding.  Before you can truly begin to comprehend the meaning of that knowledge, you have to think it through, work with it, interpret the bald facts and see where thought may lead. That is the second step on the three-fold path to understanding.

Once you have formed that interpretation or drawn your conclusion, it must be tested through application. Any theory must work in practice… and even in the abstract learning of everyday life, it is only when we apply what we know to our own lives that we see the true depth of what we know. It is  through experience that we begin to understand.

With the ancient places there are a few known facts and very many theories. Sometimes even the ‘facts’ are proved to have been wrong as new knowledge is added to the store. Some theories are plausible, some less so, but all must ‘work’ with the sites themselves to be given any hope of credence. Within our own lives, there are things we know… and many hopes, dreams and possibilities. Until we carry them into our days…apply them, test and live them…they cannot become what they must become before understanding can be born.

Within the Silent Eye we encourage our Companions to accept nothing without question. On the spiritual path there are seldom definitive answers… by its very nature, those answers must be found by each one of us. Each seeker must take the knowledge they glean through honed attention, interpret and work with it, apply and test it within their own lives until they themselves reach understanding. When we do so, knowledge can grow into more than understanding… it becomes a living truth.

On the horizon…

I always look forward to September. It is one of the most  beautiful times of year in Britain. The days are usually mild and often beautiful, the last of the heather lingers as summer slides into autumn…a perfect moment for a wander in the landscape…and what better way to spend my birthday than with friends in the ancient and sacred places that I love?

The very first September event that we ran was the Harvest of Being in Ilkley, up on the moors that I have loved since childhood. There is nowhere else on earth that I would rather have been at that moment. It was a small informal affair, just as we like to keep these events; no crowds, just a few friends exploring the landscape and sharing our different perspectives on the spiritual journey that is mirrored by that taken by our feet. The following September we returned to Ilkley and our company had grown a little. Last autumn was the Circles Beyond Time event in Derbyshire, where we shared the landscape in which we work with an ever-growing, but still intimate group.

Since that first weekend we have travelled through England and Wales, exploring ancient sites, old churches, modern wonders and wild places… but we have not yet shared an event in Scotland, a land I love.

That is about to change. In September, we head north to the Don Valley in Aberdeenshire with a very old friend. I have known Running Elk for a decade or so and have, on occasion, been able to wander briefly in his company. It is always a revelation to learn his perspective on the ancient sites and a joy to share his enthusiasm. So this year, more than ever, I am looking forward to September.

Join us, if you can, exploring some very special places…

Inverurie, Scotland
15th-17th September 2017

2The gently undulating and fertile landscape between the foothills of the Grampian Mountains and the North Sea proved an attractive place to settle for the early Neolithic peoples colonising the furthest reaches of the British Isles. Nowhere else contains a greater concentration of late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age remains; from the earliest recorded flint mines, through numerous burial mounds and cairns, to the highest density of stone circles in the country.

Yet, there is a mystery. Unique to the area, with the exception of a few examples in the South West of Ireland, the circles of the region are exclusively of the “recumbent” type; a form largely intended for monitoring the “solstices” of the moon, more 3-copycommonly referred to as the lunar standstill, with specific interest in the major lunar standstill which occurs in an 18.5 year cycle.

Join us in the heartland of the Picts, for a weekend of discovery and exploration of the enigmatic astronomical sites created by their Neolithic forefathers, and the equally enigmatic rock art they themselves left behind.

4-copyThe event will consist of three days exploration of local sites in and around the market town of Inverurie, in the beautiful Don valley, Aberdeenshire.

The weekend is informal, no previous knowledge or experience is required. We ask only that you bring your own presence and thoughts to the moment.

Workshop costs £50 per person. Accommodation and meals are not included and bed and breakfast/hotel in Inverurie should be booked separately by all attendees. Lunch and dinner are usually shared meals.

Click below to

Download our Events Booking Form – pdf

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


Phantoms of the past…

When I met her, I thought her no more than a dream of the landscape, born of the mists and the magic. Imagination. Fantasy. Perhaps she is. Perhaps I delude myself with my listening. Perhaps my tears have fallen for a will-o-the-wisp. Who can say?

Do I believe in ghosts? The dead have better things to do with their lives than linger here in longing, clinging to a world they cannot touch and wishes they cannot hold. Do we call them back with our desire? Are we children tugging at their apron strings as they move forwards through the layers of existence, passing through otherworlds we try to glimpse in our fear and curiosity, in our inability to let them lie?

The Old Ones honoured their dead, giving them a place of peace by the hearthfire or laying them in the womb of earth to be reborn to a new life. The ancestors were invited in and those who lived carried the stories of those who were gone. Why grieve when there is no goodbye, only a farewell? Our sterile deaths, hidden behind closed doors and commercially sanitised, do not permit us such familiarity. I saw her death in all its raw beauty; saw her bones cleaned to white and marked with love.

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Yet there are tales of those who return, those whose Work is unfinished and who wait, outside of time, for completion. Is she such a one? Is hers a life that might have, should have, could have been? Or is she the spirit of the land itself, whispering and teaching, opening me to wonder?

I do not care what she might have been in a reality bounded by science and experiment. I care only for the vivid life that has touched mine and opened my eyes to a past forgotten. Perhaps she is no more than a waking dream. Or a deeper part of myself rising to the surface and clothed in her form. It matters little. Such as she is, she has touched heart and mind, bringing me to wonder as I learn from a wisdom deeper than my own.

For a long time she was nameless. I first saw her vision fly with the red feathered kites as the great birds soared above a sacred landscape. I have seen her, life on life, passing the ages of Man; some almost-living memory that waited and watched, until she could complete her Work. For a long time I knew her only as the Feathered Seer.

Now I know her name.

The Feathered Seer.

The Silent Eye Annual Workshop, April 2017

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“In a time before memory…
when the land was yet young and Albion unborn,
I dreamed the stars of a time yet to be.
I dreamed your becoming.
…I see you.
I called and you have come.
The time is now.”

Join us as we journey back beyond recorded history to a time known only in dreams and a place that still casts its shadow in stone upon our landscape. It is a time of peace and bright learning, a time when wisdom flourishes in the sacred colleges and a young Seer is nearing the end of her training. They came with sword and spear, raveners of the land, seeking to pervert and destroy the Keepers of Wisdom. Torches in the night… a world forever changed…

All are welcome. No special knowledge is required and you do not have to be a Companion of the Silent Eye to attend. These events are held so that people from all traditions may come together, share laughter and explore together what it eans to live a spiritual life in today’s busy world.

In the tradition of the Mystery Schools of old, we will each play our part in a series of fully scripted ritual dramas. The script will be read, it does not need to be memorised, nor is there any need to be able to act. Each person will carry a single role throughout the weekend. These ritual dramas are a psychological device through which we can explore spiritual concepts in a way that makes them come alive. The dramatic stories speak to the subconscious through the emotions; all of those who accompany us on this journey through time and imagination will find something unique and personal to carry out into the world and enhance their own lives.

Dates: Weekend of 21-23 April 2017

Location: Great Hucklow, Derbyshire Dales. England.

Accommodation is provided full board at the Nightingale Centre with inclusive prices for the weekend: £245 – £265 per person.

Click the link to download a pdf Booking Form for The Feathered Seer and reserve your place

For any queries please email: rivingtide@gmail.com