#ShortWrytz : Leaves of Winter

There’s a new park in Kendal. It nestles beneath the Fellside district. It’s an old part of the town that climbs to become one of the first fells on the way to Lake Windermere. The meeting of Lakeland fell and level park is dramatic and beautiful.

The centre of the park is circular, and filled with ornamental grasses, surrounded by shrubs.

Cold and frost are not always easy to photograph. But when there is a bright, morning sun climbing over the horizon something magical can happen…

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

The Flickering Present…

(Above: Castlerigg Stone Circle, Cumbria… and the mysterious ‘green flame’)

I’ve taken a lot of photographs during the past ten years, but none of them like the one above. Shot at Castlerigg Stone Circle, near Keswick, in December 2018, it depicts what I’ve called the ‘green flame’.

The photo was part of a set taken during the ‘Full Circle’ Silent Eye weekend. Sue and Stuart had created the weekend and were doing the detailed write ups, so I just filed the photos away without really looking at them. Recently, I was searching for a photo of Castlerigg to use on a blog, when I came across this… and just stared.

First reactions. It reminds me of ‘Kirlian’ photography, where subtle electromagnetic fields around living things are photographed using special cameras. But this is a stone circle, not a living thing.

Castlerigg – one of the oldest stone circles in Europe – is a place of intense ‘spiritual’ focus, and has been so for thousands of years. The presence of the ‘green flames’ would immediately be seized on as evidence of the paranormal by some… I’m open to its vital connections, but I prefer to remain objective about what else it might be…

Many photographs taken in bright sunlight contain chromatic aberrations. These range from mists or fogs, through shadows that look like ghosts, to single or multiple ‘orbs’ that fill part or all of the image with bright and colourful spheres. There are many more types of photographic interference.

(Above: The Hypostyle Hall of columns at Karnak, Egypt. Image Wikipedia, Licence Public Domain)

Years ago, in the hypostyle hall in the Karnak temples of Egypt, I took a shot with a flash in total darkness. When I looked later at the image, it was filled with the most gloriously coloured ‘orbs’ arranged in the space of the columned temple in a 3D progression. The photo is long lost to a system crash on my old PC, but I remember it well. At the time, I dismissed it as a pleasing set of orbs.

But when I saw the above photo from Castlerigg, I began to consider alternatives…

At first glance, the photo is so convincing that you wonder if it’s been manipulated in a computer application such as Adobe’s Photoshop. The green flames rising from the winter ground follow the basal contours of all the stones they appear to touch; even changing intensity from a white to green as they leave the earth and touch the stones. I can assure anyone reading this that the photo is completely unretouched, apart from my addition of the copyright to this low-resolution copy.

The green flames are transparent. They vary in ‘density’ and this allows us to see the stones and other features behind them. If I’d had the skills to do this in Photoshop, I’d be proud of the results…

Let’s consider the other side of the argument: that they are a satisfying chromatic aberration. The first thing to note is the position of the sun. It’s almost opposite the camera. It could be argued that this gives the potential for a mysterious accident of the light. But, in years of deliberately seeking this kind of filter to create background images, I’ve never seen any such ‘effect’ appear to wrap itself around a set of objects.

The green flame seems to be active with the leftmost of the two portal stones – and the small stone on the ground next to it. The portal stones are the entrance to the circle and the place of alignment with the midwinter sunset. The honouring of the shortest day and longest night was a celebration of the initiation of journey towards the light, rather than away from it, as at the summer solstice. It was a time of profound importance to the ancient priests.

(Above: Sue Vincent’s photo, from the December 2018 Workshop, shows (bottom centre) the location of the portal stones which were aligned with the winter solstice.

I’ve gazed at the green flame photo for a long time. When I first started to do this it suggested itself as a good illustration of a pet theory of mine: that of the flickering present.

Imagine that each of us is a lighthouse, and our beams of light rotate, not to be seen by ships at sea, but to light up a landscape that is our world. Our brains assemble the flickering images and create something apparently seamless – our lives – from what is seen. Things that are dangerous or very beautiful require us to spend time studying the landscape so that we can spot their patterns in the future.

The speed of rotation of our lighthouse and the brightness of our light determine how well we can see the ‘reality’ of our existence – our ‘out there’. Certain phenomena are rarely seen and appear to be in the ‘wrong’ place in our world. We may call these ‘psychic phenomena’ and they may be frightening – the unknown often is, especially when we are taught fear of it by our elders or forebears. But such things may simply ‘be there’, but not often seen in our beams of light.

If the green flame is real, then I may just have got lucky with the microsecond timing of pressing the shutter, aided by the brightness of the sun opposite us in the sky. Certainly, I did not see the green flame at the time of taking the photograph. The green flame may be there all the time… or it may be present at periods of high energy related to its original use, during the Stone Age.

Or it may be an illusion, happily fitting into the contours of the stones in question.

Castlerigg is around 5,000 years old and is one of Britain’s earliest stone circles. Its 38 stones, some as high as three metres, have seen a lot of solstices… Whatever is in the photo, it’s in good company…

[For more information on the Silent Eye’s ‘landscape weekends’, click here]

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

#ShortWritz: End of the Road

The A66 road connects east and west across northern England and runs through some of the highest parts of the Pennine Hills. Notorious for its severe winter winds that topple heavy wagons, it’s also very beautiful.

Here, at its western end, this fast road soars across the glacial landscape, up and down like a bird of prey, before dropping us onto a scene of such scale that the breath is taken away… no matter how many times you’ve seen it, before.

Ahead to the right are the Lake District peaks of Blencathra and, beyond, Skiddaw.

As if respecting our fragility in the face of such size, the highway finally curls left, spinning us gently into Keswick, where hobbits love, and the cafes are plentiful… with fish and chips if you’ve fled the dragon-vastness into hunger.

Castlerigg, whose origins are lost in time…

In a thousand different ways, you can be born again at the end of this ferocious road. On the hillside to the left of where this photo was taken lies the stone circle of Castlerigg, ancient beyond measure and watching…

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

Virgin of the Ridge…

From Stuart…

The Silent Eye

*

…Come together in this countryside, where so much has lately gone undone,

Come armed with wisdom and intelligence, together we shall utter the words of truth,

which heaven’s saints are wont to hear and they will come down amongst us…

*

…We are now clambering back into Wen’s low slung car. “I have much higher hopes of the next one.”

“Which is?”

“The Virgin of the Ridge… Twelfth-century construction or earlier… presence of wall paintings…”

“Sounds promising. The presence of wall paintings seems to be particularly germane, don’t you think?”

If the church sounded promising, it looks even more so when we catch our first glimpse of it, when cresting a rise in what appears to be the forested heart of the whole area.

The Virgin of the Grove perhaps… and on closer inspection, it does indeed stand upon an idyllic spot, another raised mound surrounded by trees and…

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Horseman in the Mist

The town of Cassel, near Lille in Northern France, is shrouded in mist – the same mist that had accompanied our first ever visit to the World War One cemeteries of Vimy and Notre Dame de Lorette.

(Above: The town of Cassel in the populous Nord region of Northern France)

Six of us are slotted, snugly, into the mid-size people carrier bouncing at speed into the centre of Cassel. Behind us are a variety of warm coats that are going to keep us alive when we get out of the car. It’s freezing out there… and misty. It’s a biting cold that has followed us throughout our trip.

It’s all very French…

(Above: The market square in Cassel. It’s so cold that taking photographs is painful..).

Christophe beats another driver to the one remaining free spot in the market square of Cassel and steps out, smiling at the cold. He slides on his thin coat. He’s our resident ‘action man’; a runner, swimmer and cyclist. The day before, he insisted on taking us to a long beach in northern Calais so that we could walk one of the family’s dogs… and he could swim in the sea… In mid-mid January, for heaven’s sake…

That brief cameo is amusing but doesn’t do him justice. He’s very intelligent and full of warmth. He’s a man of immense hospitality. Three years ago I didn’t know he existed. My wife, Bernie, discovered his family through the online Ancestry website. We had known the French side of the family existed, as my great uncle Stephen stayed in France after surviving the WW1… including the Battle of the Somme, whose site is only a few miles away. Christophe is his grandson.

Stephen married a French girl – the daughter of a baker in St Omer. They trained him up as (in their own words) ‘a kind of baker from Bolton‘, and he and his new wife prospered and had four children. We’ve visited Stephen and Adrienne’s grave. It was quite a moment.

Christophe is their grandson… and my second cousin. For over eighty years the two branches of the family were lost to each other. I’m hoping to write a book on the story and the amazing stroke of luck that led to the discovery of their existence.

(Above: location of Cassel. Source Wikipedia)

Christophe and his mother, Mado, have brought us to Cassel as part of a day’s touring to show us some of their favourite towns in this part of France. The department of Nord lies in the far north of France, It was formed from the western halves of the historical areas of Flanders and Hainault, and the Bishopric of Cambrai. The nearest city is Lille -where the other branch of our long-lost family lives. The French Flemish dialect of Dutch is still spoken here, side by side with modern French.

The first thing to say about Cassel is that it’s a town on a hill – Mont Cassel. This is a flat part of France. At 176 metres above sea level, Mont Cassel towers over the surrounding countryside. Its peak offers a vantage point from which you can see all of the surrounding landscape… If the prevailing weather is not freezing fog as it was during our visit.

The main rock of the hill is limestone, capped with a harder outer layer of iron-bearing rock. This geological layering has made it an ideal base for military and social fortifications throughout its long history.

The hill was occupied during the late Iron Age by the Menapii, a dominant Belgic tribe who made their hill fort the capital of a vast territory extending from Calais to the Rhine. The Menapii fought against Julius Caesar, but the Roman governor of Gaul, Carrinas, subsequently quelled their rebellion, and the Menapii culture and territory were absorbed into the Roman Empire. The modern town takes its name from the Roman settlement, not the later middle ages fortification shown in the historic map, below:

(Above: a painting from a 1641 edition of Flandria Illustrata showing the ‘peak on a peak’ on which the medieval castle stood. Flandria Illustrata was a description of the main towns and villages of the former country of Flanders. Little remains of the castle.
(Above: The start of a very strange hill…)

But, first, Christophe wants to show us a different face of the hill in Cassel. The summit and its fortifications have long been re-purposed, and Christophe points us up a steep, cobbled path with some very strange concrete ornaments.

(Above: the Alpin Stairs – considered a Bel Époque masterpiece in its day)

From the information board:

“The Alpin Stairs are a vestige of ‘rock-work’ architecture, typical of the end of the 19th century, like those at Buttes Chaqumont in Paris.

These pseudo-rustic architectural compositions imitate mineral or vegetable elements like stone or wood.’

(Above: Another visitor postcard from the turn of the century)

I stare at the concrete forms. They are old and dirty; and it’s necessary to see beyond that facade to get to the spirit of their origin. The visitor board goes on to say that they were designed for two purposes: ‘to reflect nature and to remind visitors of the ‘atmosphere of the mountains’. In that latter sentiment, I can suddenly see what they meant… and with that comes a memory of another artist and architect of the time of the Art Nouveau movement – Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

(Above: Glasgow’s own Charles Rennie Mackintosh had similar goals – to reflect the forms of nature)

At the top of the Alpin Stairs we come into the Jardin des Mont du Recollets (Garden of Remembrance). Normally, it provides expansive views over the plains of Flanders and, on a very clear day, the North Sea, but not today…

(Above: from the elevated gardens, the view would have been spectacular…)

Historically, it was said that from Mont Cassel you could see five kingdoms: France, Belgium, Holland, England … and Heaven. We smile, ruefully and turn to examine the beautiful gardens.

(Above: The Ornamental part of Cassel’s Garden of Remembrance)

Beyond the geometric beds, the pathway winds round a beautiful set of willow trees, frosted with the freezing fog. At this point the fog begins to add great beauty to the place..

(Above: the freezing fog adds great beauty to the gardens)

The Kasteel Meulen is a real ‘Castle Windmill’ situated on the highest point of Mont Cassel on the site of the former castle. The original windmill, constructed here in the 16th century, burned down in 1911. It was replaced in 1947 by an 18th century windmill that was moved from nearby Arneke. The mill works and is still open to the public during the summer.

(Above: the Castle Windmill is a functioning mill, open to the public in the high season)

The garden also hosts an equestrian statue of Marshal Foch and the Monument of the three battles. Marshal Foch was the Supreme Allied Commander during WW1 and Cassel served as his headquarters between October 1914 and May 1915.

(Above: the dramatic statue of Marshal Foch, the Supreme Allied Commander during WW1)

He moved his headquarters to Cassel to take advantage of its strategic position near the northern end of the Western Front.

From 1916-1918, Cassel was the headquarters the British Army under Sir Hubert Plumer. The town avoided major damage during the war, though it came under occasional shelling when the Germans advanced to within 18 kilometres during the Battle of Lys in April 1918, shortly before the end of the war.

(Above: We leave quietly. The gardens have cast their beautiful spell – even in the cold fog…)

We leave the Remembrance Gardens quietly. They are a place of great beauty and contemplation. We may never be back and it feels good to have spent time here…

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

#NightMoves : Sodium Stroll, Wimereux

Like most bloggers, I enjoy writing. I also enjoy taking photographs – as many as my long-suffering wife, Bernie, can tolerate, on our travels.

One of my favourite styles of photography is black and white – particularly the high-contrast ‘Noir’ mode offered by modern cameras. I recently suppressed the urge to upgrade my ageing Apple laptop in favour of spending the money on a new iPhone II pro, the one with the three lenses, aimed at the more serious snapper… It is always with me, as it masquerades as a phone, too…

(Above: quiet street, elegant houses, Wimereux)

For the second year in a row, we travelled to northern France in January. It’s a touch masochistic, as the weather around the Pas de Calais region is nothing short of freezing at that time of year. But we enjoy catching up with our French relatives and the coldness of the climate is matched by the familial warmth and hospitality.

The French family is split between Calais and Lille. We enjoy both, but, last year, on an escorted trip up the coast, we discovered the Belle Époque seaside town of Wimereux, only thirty minutes from Calais. With no time to stop – our beloved French matriarch was cooking the family’s Sunday lunch! – we looked longingly at the beautiful streets and houses as we were driven past..

(Above: the confident and playful sprit of the Belle Epoque is evident in its art… Source Wikkipedia, Public Domain)

So, this time, between the visit to Lille, on the Belgian border, and the return to Calais, we booked a two night stay in what turned out to be a lovely B&B in the heart of Wimereux, within walking distance of the promenade and the shops. Visits to relatives can be intense, so the chance to unwind and just stroll was very welcome… We resolved that the car would stay where it was – parked right outside the B&B – and we would spend the two days walking… and, in my case, taking photographs to celebrate such a beautiful place.

(Above: quieter than the street, the ticking of a cooling engine. Its daily duties over…)

The town was established during France’s ‘second empire’; a term that refers to the period of Napoleon III (1808-1873), who, seeking to emulate his illustrious forebears, changed France radically, centring the country on Paris and creating a sophisticated national rail network.

(Above: once part of the SNCF station buildings, this beautiful example is now apartments)

The train brought well-heeled visitors to Wimereux, resulting in a vibrant seaside town full of houses and other buildings in the sophisticated ‘end of century’ style. The town is proud of its heritage and looks after its historic buildings. Wimereux was originally a place of secondary residence for wealthy families from Lille and Paris, but has now become a residential suburb of Boulogne-Sur-Mer. It is visibly international, and attracts Britons and Belgians, many of whom have settled permanently.

(Above: a matrix of well-defined lines; for the photographer, a lattice of contrasts)

The secondary title of this blog: Sodium Stroll, refers to the fact that all these photos were taking late at night under winter street lighting, which we used to call ‘sodium lamps’ – a reference to the metal used to give the yellow-muted light they provide. For my purposes, this light is ideal for capturing ‘mood’.

Mood is what I’m after, here…

Walking in the monochrome dark like this invites whimsy and reflection. The captions to the photos reflect that.

(Above: emerging from a side street onto the promenade, we find other late-night strollers walking, talking quietly, and reflecting)

It’s bitter on the promenade, but most people we encounter take the time to stop and share the moment… We are all drawn by a certain something in this darkness.

(Above: you can’t help wondering who lives beyond this fine doorway… and what stories those old doors hold from the past)

The cold is becoming bitter. We decide to return to our B&B in a final circuit of streets.

(Above: the last shot from the promenade, and my favourite of the whole set)

Along the way, I notice the ‘sodium light’ is throwing an effective and humorous shadow along the white walls. It’s an ideal end to the whimsy. One of my Facebook friends has dubbed this my ‘Harry Lime’ shot…. A reference to the 1949 ‘Noir’ film, The Third Man.

It was a very cold night… and, yes, that is my hat, made in Paris and bought in Lille.

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

#Shortwritz: liquid sunset

Arnside

Sometimes you just get lucky. This is the mouth of the estuary at Arnside, Cumbria, where two of the abundant local rivers flow out into Morecambe Bay.

During the previous half hour, and further upstream, I had taken several shots on the tiny beach where we sometimes walk Tess, our Collie dog–and finish the day with the excellent local fish and chips.. With the light fading, we were turning the car around here in the tiny harbour, when the sky suddenly exploded with orange liquid.

I stopped the car and literally ran back to this, the best vantage spot, and took about twenty variants till the moment passed and night encroached…

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

Voices in the Mist (2)

(Above: The Canadian WW1 monument at Vimy Ridge as it first appears from the car park)

Continued from Part One.

From a distance it looks too stark to be a monument. The eye is, initially, disappointed as the form makes its modernistic impact. Both the height of the pylons and the width of the base ( a massive 6,000 tonnes of steel-reinforced concrete) look devoid of detail… but this is an illusion, for the Canadian National Monument on Vimy Ridge is designed to have many faces; some of them literal, others spoken of in bare symmetry.

The icy mist had continued to haunt us. Our last-minute dash to see Vimy before heading for Calais was a gamble. The damp and misty air made it almost impossible to hold the camera, making the fingers numb after only a few seconds of exposure.

But, if anything, the weather was perfectly aligned with the emotional goals of Canadian architect and sculptor Walter Seymour Allward (1876-1955), who, in 1921 won a competition set up by the Canadian government to create a national monument commemorating its soldiers killed in the First World War. His winning design became the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, established on the peak of Vimy Ridge – the site of one of WW1’s most horrific battles.

Walter Allward said the idea for the monument came to him in a dream:

“I turned my eyes and found myself looking down on an avenue of poplars… I have tried to show this in the monument to Canada’s fallen, what we owed them and will forever owe them.”

Walter Allward
(Above: The mourning mother figure looks down at her empty womb)

As you draw closer along the path that appears to be the entrance, two figures stand out from the base of the shining stone (6,000 tonnes of the purest limestone, quarried from a disused Roman mine in what is now Croatia). The first is a mother figure, naked from the waist up and looking down at her empty womb. The symbolism of her forlorn breasts stabs at the heart; it warns you that this monument is not for the faint-hearted, and marks the place where thousands of young Canadian soldiers died storming the ridge against the well-armed German army.

(Above: The father figure’s fingers are clenched in anguish and impotence…)

To the right along the base of the monument is the father figure, also half-naked and seated in anguish with his left hand clenched in anguish along the skin of his thigh; his right hand supporting the organ of thought and regret – his head.

The sheer poignancy of these two figures brings home the central story of the monument, which is one of time and events. We were not at the front of the sculptures but at the back. But there are no signs to say so… The visitor centre was closed for maintenance, so only exploration and understanding would bring that knowledge.

And, suddenly, you realise you are not only in story but a process of consciousness…

The two grieving figures represent the sorrow and mourning that comes after the deaths of the young men of their nation on an unprecedented scale. Though compelling, it is desperately sad… and immediately changes your consciousness. From here on across the monument, you are going backwards in time and events, in order to see what led to such loss.

Our eyes were beginning to grasp the design. There are figures high on the pylons at the front and in the rear of the central twin-structure. They represent Peace and Justice, Knowledge and Truth. We would only come to understand them in the context of what lay on the other side of the pylons…

(Above: The figures of, left, Peace and Knowledge; and right, Justice and Truth)

Beyond the vast base of the monument is the edge of Vimy Ridge; the downward slope is the site of most of the battle. A story was opening up before us, told in classical figures worked with beauty and precision in shining limestone – each one carved by Walter Allward in situ, even those at the top of the near-100ft pylons!

I looked up and wondered, given the state of my fingers here at ground level, how cold it was up there… That sense of having gone beyond and into the unknown must have been one of Allward’s main intentions. It’s beautiful and chilling at the same time; and speaks of the power of youth to go where it is guided – in this case into into the hell of war and isolation found at the top of those towers… the place of death in the wall of bullets from the German machine guns. But that is telling the story on the physical and not the moral level.

(Above: the first view of what was now revealed as the front of the monument. The wide-angle lens masks the height of the pylons – nearly 100 feet
(Above: for a brief moment, as you cross the stone floor of the upper level’s terrace, there is only the far wall and the slope of Vimy Ridge below)

Inscribed on the far wall of the terrace is: ‘The Canadian Corps on 9th April 1917 with four divisions in line on a front of four miles attacked and captured this ridge’

Having understood the physical layout of the whole monument, we realised that we could not penetrate the symbolism further without descending to the lowest level and looking back from the perspective of the ridge being ‘attacked’ by the Canadian Army and defended by the German forces.

(Above: the whole of the newly revealed ‘front’ of the Vimy memorial flows down the slope and is dominated by the solitary figure in the middle)

Knowing what was on the opposite face, we could now appreciate the whole of the monument. Visually, we were ‘advancing’ from below – just as the four divisions of Canadian soldiers did, as told in the words of the visitor plaque:

“After two unsuccessful Allied attempts to dislodge the Germans from this heavily fortified height, the four Canadian divisions, fighting together for the first time, seized the ridge on 12 April 1917 after four days of intense fighting. Meticulous preparation, the use of advanced technology, teamwork and the sacrifice of thousand of Canadian lives produced this remarkable result, It was an important turning point for Canada in the war.”

(Above: As you approach from below, the solitary female figure of ‘Canada’ looks down in sorrow at the slaughter taking place beneath her gaze…)

The single, central figure is revealed to be that of ‘Canada’. She gazes down Vimy Ridge, moved beyond words… but unmoving. Directly beneath her, at the base of the tall wall, is a tomb.

(Above: the figures of ‘Sympathy of Canadians for the Helpless’)

To the right of the downward-gazing figure of ‘Canada’ are the multiple figures of ‘Sympathy of Canadians for the Helpless’. It’s a beautifully carved sculpture and leads the eye to the twin pylons above – representing higher principles and forces at work in the human consciousness. This is an important point – the whole of the monument is about the human mind and heart, and their capacity for greatness or war – the ultimate failure of humanity’s communication and learning.

(Above: The full set of figures of the ‘Sympathy of Canadians for the Helpless’ sculpture

The basal wall is massive and runs the whole width of the monument. On the left of its face is an enigmatic piece known as “Breaking of the Sword’.

(Above: the full length of the basal wall, with the ‘Breaking of the Sword’ sculpture in the leftmost position)

Beyond the guardian figure of ‘Canada’ the upper level can be gained by either set of stone steps. We returned to this and faced the complete set of figures on the twin pylons.

(Above: The full suite of sculptures on the Front (downward) face)

The middle two figures, between the bases of the pylons, are ‘Sacrifice’ and ‘The ‘Torch Bearer’. Both stare upwards into the heights of the cold sky… The demands of society and civilisation will carry a high price…

(Above: The top of the pylons on the Front (down-ridge) face)

The figures here are curious. They are listed as (left) ‘Faith’ and ‘Hope’, but my eyes saw three ‘headless’ figures on the left (see photo) They may have been weather-damaged and in the process of restoration, but I definitely see three!. The figures on the top of the right pylon are listed as ‘Honour’ (top) and ‘Charity’.

Together, these are the focus of the figures of the Torch Bearer and Sacrifice – the very centre of the monument. These two are the ‘centre of the pillars’ – spiritually significant on any level. They tell the story of the whole of mankind, embarked on a near-impossible struggle between the inheritance of the animal nature–and its evolutionary ladder back to matter, and the inner flame of the divine; that which fights entropy by creating its own gradients.

The one quality I found to be unreferenced was ‘Will’. But then, I looked again and could see how Walter Allward had created the perfect tableau, one which took all his own willpower, but left the final ‘stone’ to the future observer. Only in our own hearts and minds will we find the inner will to gaze upwards, with the Torch Bearer and the Sacrifice our witnesses, and seek the peace that encompasses all differences.

I think Walter Allward, and, hopefully Canada, might echo that…

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

The Echo Cafe…

‘Nighthawks’ by American artist Edward Hopper, Wikipedia Public Domain (link)

It would have been difficult to foresee the full social effects of the internet. It is now apparent that our lives have been changed, forever, in ways that are simultaneously warped and wonderful.

Being socially and politically aware was difficult enough in a pre-online world. In this new, ‘wired’ age, where perceived connections of opinion are shared across social media, the intersection of money, politics and psychological manipulation has created an entirely new ‘world’ in which groups of people live immersed in opinion which they believe to be shared by the majority of that world.

To my mind, a powerful way of visualising this is as a cafe, where we may drop in at any time of the world’s day and night. It never closes, though we may experience peak response determined by the physical location (otherwise irrelevant) of our fellow customers. The cafe does not charge entry, and its drinks and meals are free, too… It’s very popular, especially with younger people – though specific groups of oldsters are catching on, fast.

The cafe is styled to appeal to us. It may be subtle and muted or vividly angry The really great thing is that the cafe’s owners have just the same taste in texture, colour and how information is displayed as we do!

The cafe has eye-catching posters that challenge legality, or use advanced digital techniques to show famous people speaking – or, more likely, shouting, angrily. Most impressively, the posters know who is looking at them and seem to focus on their watchers very carefully, getting pleasure from knowing the highs and lows of attention paid. This is great, because each time we go in for a coffee or a burger the electronic posters get more and more interesting – sometimes anticipating that subtle opinion towards which we were edging – prompted by our mates, of course.

Soon, with a few visits, we get a real feeling of warmth and belonging when we enter this cafe. An increasing number of our new friends come to sit with us to sip the delicious coffee, with its many exotic syrups. The food is cooked exactly as we like it, and the general decor keeps being updated in a way that makes us feel entirely at home.

One of the great things about our cafe is that it doesn’t argue with us. At home, or back in the dull world of work, we are struck by how stupid other people are; how they don’t feel this rush of emotion and righteous anger when the self-evident truths shown in the cafe posters are updated on our entry into its warm interior.

It’s the Echo Cafe, of course. And a frightening number of voting-age adults eat and drink there. We all live there in some fashion, unless we have become digital monks and eschew the cafe’s delights, altogether. It’s the most powerful cafe in history, and shadowy billionaires pay vast sums to tailor the fabulous posters on its walls.

The problem with the Echo Cafe is that it only shows us what we already ‘like’… There is no plurality of opinion, because we do not want our posters clogged up with the musing of idiots. By signing up to groups, we can immediately add hundreds of new friends to our dining and coffee sessions. In a way, it’s a new kind of village – but one in which the population is millions, possibly billions.

The Echo Cafe is deadly because it’s taking our very real leisure time (upstairs in our den, say) and joining us with great numbers of people who think exactly as we do. A humans, we grew into adulthood by facing up to the challenges of working with people who thought very differently than us. Some of them were just losers. Others turned out to be profoundly intelligent and knew the side-roads we had to learn to navigate before we could join the highway, safely.

We didn’t learn much from those that thought as we did. But those that didn’t changed our lives, not our comics.

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.