Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee – Part Thirteen

Alexandra arrived to find her coffee waiting on the table; together with an old silver coin.

“It’s a half-crown,” I said, in response to her puzzled look. “You may never have seen one, before?”

“I have. My grandfather had some; and what am I supposed to do with it?” she asked, in reply.

“Why, you spin it, of course!” I was being irritating, but it was for a purpose, besides, I am not old enough to be her grandfather.

“One coin, two faces – okay, technically a head and a tail? So,” she paused to take a breath. “What am I choosing between?”

“Much better,” I was ready to drop the curmudgeon. “Between a dance around the clock or a hexawaltz!”

“A what!?”

“I just made it up –  a hexawaltz . . .”

She sat down, looked at me as though she could throw something, then decided to sip her coffee. “See reaction forming, stand back, creating inner space. Let reaction play itself out in imagination . . . smile, instead.”  She beamed at me.

“Dammit, that was far too good,” I admitted, taking some of my own coffee.

“And now the choice–as my reward, professor . . .”

“I’m not your professor, but the choice is between walking the perimeter of the enneagram or dancing the hexaflow – either way we will cover the full circle of nine stations – as I promised, and in a bit more detail this time.”

“Now that I know about the wave and the context of where the Nine came from?”

I nodded. “Now that you know all that.”  I flicked the coin into the air above our table. “Call it!”

“Heads!” she had blurted it out before she realised that there was no outcome associated with the choice she had made. I let the half-crown fall into my palm and slapped it, opposite side down on the upper side of my left hand.

“So which way are we going to do it?” she said. “Since the coin is, clearly, irrelevant!”

“Awww, and I was having such a good time!” I said.

“I know you were – that’s why I spoiled your fun!”

“Ouch!” I said. “Bested by my favourite legal mind, again . . .” I revealed the snake on the trick coin and sat there grinning and insufferable. She chuckled into her coffee.

Alexandra muttered into the froth, “Bastard . . .”

“Not entirely,” I defended my stance. “There is method in the professor’s madness, and probability is an important issue in the greater picture of the enneagram.”

“Snake, then . . .” She sat back, crossing one elegant leg over the other and waited. “I’m waiting . . .”

“Round the clock, then,” I began. “We could start anywhere, but remember that everything in the enneagram, viewed as a clock face of process, progresses from Zero to One to Three to Nine.”

“Zero? You never mentioned zero before!”

She was right. I nodded, smiling. “Zero really occupies the same spot as Nine, and marks the initiation of something for which Nine is its completion – It’s similar to how Ten works in our decimal system, yet contains the One from which it began – we don’t start counting at zero do we? And yet, mathematically, it’s there; but of rather a different nature from One”

“Okay,” she said, leaning forwards. “So a raw Zero state gets processed ‘around the clock’ of the enneagram to end up as the Nine at the end of the cycle.”

“Exactly so–in nine stages, just like a spiral.”

That idea took hold immediately. “Oh, that’s good, so, it’s really three-dimensional, but, because we can only see it from above, we just see it returning to Nine, as though Nine were unchanged and just the point of starting again.”

“Whereas–?” I prompted.

“Whereas, really, in any process, the Nine represents what you would call an alchemical completion of a cycle . . .”


“Thank you.” She smiled. “I do listen . . .sometimes.” She chuckled, again. “When I’m not wanting to throw coffee at you!”

It was my turn to sit back and drink my coffee. “And you have to go, now, but before you do, I can tell you the exciting news that there are people living around the enneagram!”

There was mirth in her eyes. “Shock, horror–people, no less! Squatters, possibly!”

Her laughter was infectious. I joined in the mirth. “Yes, people; and, sadly, their presence there has nothing at all to do with the working out of process in the general sense that Gurdjieff taught us . . .”


“It’s complex; but beautiful. And it deserves a full answer or you won’t get the elegant sense of it all – but there are two systems of human development alive and well in this beautiful glyph and they co-exist very well . . .”

Ten minutes later, I helped her onto the train. She leaned down to give me the customary Monday hug and peck on the cheek.

“Such fun,” she said, as the carriage doors whooshed shut.


Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.

All images and text ©International copyright, The Silent Eye School of Consciousness, 2015.


Contact details and an outline description of the Silent Eye School are on the other pages of this blog and via the website at

Stowford’s and office chairs

As the group of us in the Silent Eye have drunk many a pint of Stowfords cider, I couldn’t resist reblogging this from Sue Vincent.

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

stowford's cider

I’ve still got two Stowford’s just sat in the fridge,
And I know that you’re thinking that that’s sacrilege
But I seldom drink alcohol when I’m alone
And as Ani’s teetotal, I’m all on my own.

I’ll save them, I thought, for a nice sunny day
When the garden gets done, or I’ve been out to play
Taking Ani out into the fields for a run…
I’ll be hot and bothered, and then I’ll have one.

But of course I forget, as I am quite unused
And the habit of such luxury is reduced –
To have Stowford’s at home, well that’s really quite new,
So you’d think I’d be up for imbibing a few.

As a gift, I must say, that their welcome was sure
And the knowledge I do not have weeks to endure
Before getting a pint of that cool, golden liquor…!
I could not have accepted…

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Five minutes

Sue’s photos make it look so easy – but photographing birds is anything but!

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

a 006

It is amazing what you can see in the space of a few minutes if you are looking. I’d taken the camera with me this morning. I usually do, of course, but hadn’t for a few days. I was probably being a bit protective of it. There had been a minor accident with a glass of wine and two days of utter panic as it whirred, buzzed and groaned while the screen fogged and the picture blurred. That was it, I thought. Ruined. But no… as it dried, slowly, it came back to normal and I heaved a huge sigh of relief.

a 034

Since then, it has stayed safely at home a little more than usual, what with all the rain, but after all, a camera is of no use unless it is in your hand, so this morning, that’s where it was. I took it through into my son’s bedroom…

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Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee – Part Twelve

Alexandra was calmer and much more introspective when we met the following Monday morning.

“So, we’re going to look at things from the unified perspective of what we have called ‘the Wave’?” she said.

“Yes,” I replied, taking the new drawing, from my pocket and unfolding it next to the two fresh lattes. “Examine this and tell me what you see . . .” She studied it carefully. I had arranged for it to be printed on silk so that she would treasure it.

The barrister’s mind missed nothing. “The inner triangle is a different colour,” she said. “And the hexa-thingy and the triangle have both been marked with arrows.”

“Precisely. There are really two sequences shown in this diagram, the one made up by the sides of the triangle goes back on itself in three moves; the other follows a more complex pattern that looks a bit like a jewel.” I took a sip of my hot coffee. It scalded my lips and I winced in pain.

She chortled at my discomfort, but not cruelly. “A bit like the fear reactions generated by our coming-into-the-world?” she said, still chuckling.

“Exactly so . . .” I smiled ruefully at my haste. “In our enneagram model, that would now have created a learned reaction which would stay with the developing person, forming a foundation layer on which other, more complex reactions would be layered, but, though primitive, that foundation layer would be very powerful.”

“In the brain?” she asked.

“Absolutely in the brain,” I replied. “Much of what is considered mystical actually takes place in the brain – though that is not to say that there isn’t, alongside that, the truly spiritual.”

I watched her trace the sides of the triangle from station nine to six to three; and then back to nine again. “And you said that this first move–” she re-traced Nine to Six. “Was a basic move away from our true nature – that which is really spiritual in us?”

I loved it when she used her own logic in this way, though it held a trap, since the temptation would always be to use the brain rather than what lay beyond. It was so hard for someone very clever setting out on a spiritual path to consider that the brain – the ordinary mind – was incapable of even conceiving of the spiritual life beyond the brain patterns of reaction and personality.

She continued, “So at Six we learn fear and the patterns begin to form that will become the us that the world knows, but there is something much more alive buried beneath that?”

“Yes,” I said. But we don’t get that to start with–in fact most of us don’t get it, ever . . .”

She traced a finger from Six to Three. “So we go this way, instead?”

I smiled. It was a rewarding experience to teach one so eager and so quick-thinking. “Yes, we take our fear and our hurt and go deeper into the world, creating an island of personality at Three which allows us to get some strength and stability in the world – in our world. But its satisfaction is short lived, because we cut ourselves off from the true flow and energy in life.”

“But it’s not entirely a negative thing?”

“Not at all–it’s an essential thing. Without it we could never have the strength nor the discrimination to look back on the basic layers of fear and begin to dissolve their power.”

She looked me in the eyes; her own were beautiful hazel orbs radiating her initial grasp of the significance of all this. “This is not a trivial journey, is it?” she said, very wistfully.

“No,” I answered. “But it’s the only one that’s real. As Jung said, ‘you can construct all the beings of light you like, but until you tackle your own depths, you will never make any real spiritual progress’.”

She was silent for a long time. Eventually, she said, “But you would say that there’s so much beauty ‘down there’ that it’s all worth it?”

“Yes,” I said. “There’s so much beauty ‘down there’ that it will make you cry with delight; make you feel that, as the Sufi’s always said, the Beloved has returned to your life . . .”

We sat in silence for a long time, thereafter, and then I drove her to the station. With a gentle peck on the cheek she left for her other world, one increasingly encroached on by her developing spiritual awareness . . . the journey was going well.


Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.

All images and text ©International copyright, The Silent Eye School of Consciousness, 2015.


Contact details and an outline description of the Silent Eye School are on the other pages of this blog and via the website at

The Warrior in the Headless Mask

In a fundamental shift from the ‘Tanham’ era at the helm of the Silent Eye’s annual workshops in Derbyshire, next year’s event, 22-24 April, 2016 marks a new departure on two fronts: we are taking the now well-practiced enneagram temple format into the Arthurian Mysteries, something that may never have been done before and which may see Mr Gurdjieff’s ghost coming after me for its just deserts with mutterings about ‘abuse of imagination’ and a few other choice sentiments; and secondly, we (read: they) are to set the five-act ritual drama, and supporting meditations and outdoor gatherings around the combined stories of Sir Gawain, the Green Knight and Lady Ragnell, with the possibility of a little fire-dancing as well.

By way of an appeal from the dock, I would point out that, with total reverence for the elegance and power of the Gurdjieff System of personal exploration, we have stayed as true as possible to the core model, yet appear to have successfully integrated it with the Western Mystery approach in using many of the elements of a traditional magical temple. Our approach to a modern temple design is integrated within a sacred space containing the Silent Eye’s own variant of the enneagram and set of two encompassing rings which represent the realms of Being and Becoming. Finally, all this is set within a compass square which brings in the traditional East, West, South and North, and their alchemical associations.

I used the word ‘they‘ above because, in the tradition of these things, and now being the junior ‘creative’ partner, I actually know very little of what will transpire on the weekend of the 22-24 April next year. It has become a tradition – established by me, apparently, to keep the other two in our ‘Triad’ in state of general ignorance until very close to the event. This year, Sue and Stuart are running things; ostensibly to ‘give me a break’. Hmmmm . . .

This means that, although I will be constructing some of the supporting parts of the weekend, the only thing I know is that I will be playing the part of Sir Gawain in the five-act ritual dramas . . .

Now Gawain is an interesting character. I’ve played him before in a wonderful SOL workshop in Tintagel, the traditional site of ancient Arthurian Camelot. But there is something much more risky about playing in the variant of the Gawain tales that ‘les enfants terribles’ have in mind. At this point I need to explain something of the dynamics of the three of us. The other two in our creative threesome, Sue and Stuart, spend a lot of time writing and plotting together. It’s a general sport of theirs that anytime they can generate panic in my gentle soul, they do so . . .

The stories of King Arthur, Sir Gawain, The Green Knight and his wife, and Lady Ragnell form a different cycle to the better-known Arthurian tales and probably originate from an earlier era. Both stories involve the carrying out, or the threat of, decapitation; which in Stuart and Sue’s rendering, will have a much deeper meaning than mere execution.
The story of the Green Knight sees him ride on horseback into Arthur’s New Year feast and issue a challenge. One of the knights can cut off his head as long as the same knight is prepared to seek out his castle in a year’s time, and present himself for the same fate. Never having seen a beheaded man live to fight another encounter, Sir Gawain puts himself forward to defend Arthur’s honour, and duly beheads the rude and outrageous ingrate, using the Green Knight’s own axe . . . only to find that the challenger can function perfectly well without his head; after which the dismembered head, itself, reminds Gawain of his fate, a year from then, and leaves the court, carried by its body – still on horseback.
The general theme of the ‘headless’ or beheaded man is one of the major threads in the research done by Stuart and Sue in their cycle of books begun with “The Initiate” and continued into their recent books. Many of the executed figures (some of them quite humble) which they have encountered in the religious history of Britain have been killed in this way – too many for it to be just a simple form of putting to death. Some of the fruits of their research will be seen in the workshop and in the way this theme is integrated into our temple settings.  The general subtext is ‘The Foliate Man” – the strange, green figure with foliage growing abundantly out of his mouth. The overall meaning of this will be explored in the context of all our lives and our relationship to Nature and the world – our world – around us.
I have been told that I may rely on the plot being true to the myths – well ‘most of the time’, hinting that there may be some variation on minor details, such as the final location of Gawain’s head at the conclusion of his exacting encounter with the Green Knight and his Lady Wife.  I’m sure I can count on the rendering of Gawain’s near-death travels to reach that fateful castle as he journeys through the snow and ice in search of a place whose location is unknown to him.
Gawain is a key figure in both the stories of the Green Knight and of Lady Ragnell, it will be interesting to see how my character’s twin destinies are woven by the terrible twins. I may as well smile my way to the start of next April. Last week, my delightful, if challenging, partners in crime presented me with an early birthday present in the form of a rather tasty pocket watch crafted with the image of the Foliate Man. The card which accompanied it was a representation of the historic scene involving the classical figure of ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’ – you can do your own translation!

At the bottom of the card is written: “The clock is ticking . . . .”  Sometimes, it’s not easy being the founder . . . sigh.

My Playground

From one of my favourite bloggers – James Elkington

Walking with a Smacked Pentax

This is one of the solitary paths which winds it’s way over Rombalds moor, looking towards Asquith and Blubberhouses moor in the distance.  I have walked these old moors for 50 years and I still get blown away being up here. Still so much to discover. This is my playground 🙂

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Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee – Part Eleven

The sand was wet under our bare feet. Alexandra insisted on taking my hand and leading me into the shallow waves that lapped at the muddy beach. With her rolled-up suit trousers and my similarly shortened jeans, we must have looked quite a pair.

I looked at her and laughed, “You’re doing this because I mentioned waves?”

“I’m doing this because whatever you’ve done, it’s connected with something young in me and brought out a sense of abandon and adventure!”

In truth, I was now the one who was unprepared. “And the train to London?” I asked.

“I’ve disappeared,” she chortled.

“Disappeared . . .  as in without trace?”


“They’ll worry!” I added, wondering why I was obsessing about her bold actions.

“They’ll be frantic!”

She began to laugh hysterically, then bent down to scoop some sea water into her cupped hands, which she proceeded to hurl at my head in an arc of salty spray. In slow motion, I watched it come towards me, my perception of the wonder of it keyed by the sheer energy of her actions, which had pushed me into that special state of heightened attention. Stilling the body’s reactions, I let the essential smile light my face as the shower of liquid diamonds kissed my skin in a million tiny explosions and turned my eyes to look at her.

“What–?” she said, a second later. “What was that?” Her hands were still in front of her, dripping. She had been fully conscious of what had just happened.

“Well, you did it” I replied softly. “What do you think happened?”

“You kind of slowed down time!”

“Or perhaps stepped into the heart of time might be better?”

“Yes,” she said, “Something like that.”

“It’s always there,” I continued. “It just requires your full acceptance of the moment – the now . . . When that is done there is no time . . . just the wave, which is undistorted reality.”

“And how do we give our acceptance to the real like that?”

In reply, I picked up a old stick, a salty remnant washed onto the beach by the powerful tides of the estuary. I used it to draw out a rough enneagram.

“To give our acceptance to the now, we have to cast off all the baggage that comes with the outer layers of the Nine.”

“How–” she began, but I interrupted her.

“To do that, we have to work through them and seen how each one gives the world a perceptual and emotional tint; how the real, loving and objective world which is always present, is tainted in seeing by what our fears and reactions have taught us”

She stopped all other movements, gazing at the stick, which I was walking around the circle of the Nine, station by station. Something else in the potent now around us was calling. I turned to look along the beach, then called her over, pointing along the shore, with the sandy end of the stick. “The boat – look!”

The sailing boat lay on its side near the water line. It was still serviceable, but old and battered. “That’s a bit like what life does to us all,” I said. “We learn to sail the waters of life in a certain way, conditioned by the shape and size of our own little boat, which is formed by our reactions to life – our own shell.”

“And separate ourselves from life’s depths in the process?”

It was my turn to smile – her response had been magnificent. I nodded and said, “Yes, but the wave always adjusts the moment, the now, so that each second contains the power to give us what we most need, what we began to lose at station Nine here–” I stabbed the end of the stick into the upper point of the enneagram, watching her wince with the power of the gesture.

“When we were afraid of its awesomeness?” she asked, meekly.

I shook my head, making sure the gesture was gentle. “When we turned our back on our own true nature . . . because it hurt too much to remember what true life was like in the face of the storm that swept us out to sea . . .”

She was silent for the rest of the next hour. She was still silent as I put her on the London train, trying to brush off the last of the sand from the pin-strip fabric of her trousers.

“We can begin next time,” I said, giving her a peck on the cheek as I passed her the last of the black bags.


“Begin considering each of the Nine from the unified perspective of the wave.”

Oh brave new world . . . I’d like that,” she said, gently; waving and smiling like a little girl as the door beeped and closed, and the long snake of elegant metal left the station to begin its three hour journey. The memory of the expression of innocence on her face stayed with me for the next few hours – it was a very happy sight . . .


Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.

All images and text ©International copyright, The Silent Eye School of Consciousness, 2015.


Contact details and an outline description of the Silent Eye School are on the other pages of this blog and via the website at

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee – Part Ten

“Tell me about the ‘wave’?” Alexandra asked, excitedly. “I get the idea of the now, though I think that’s something we all take for granted; but the wave sounds like something to be discovered, something fundamental to existence . . .”

I sipped my coffee and looked back into those excited, bright eyes, and considered how to fill her with the sense of joy that the idea of the wave always generated in me.

I began slowly, almost hesitantly, “The wave is the substance of the now; just like the soul has been called by some the substance of consciousness.”  I watched as she absorbed this challenging concept. Both these ideas were seldom comprehensible to the beginner, and yet, in what the Buddhists called ‘Beginners Mind’, lay the simplicity of comprehension that could make great leaps through not being bogged down by the weight of accumulated thinking. To the Buddhists beginners mind was not something belonging solely to the beginner, but a state to be sought by all of us.

She sat back and drank some of her coffee. Her brilliant mind was working hard at this. Eventually, she said, “So this wave, which is the now, radiates from the centre – in this case the centre of the enneagram, giving us this moment in time, presumably, in which we can choose to live . . .?”

“We have no choice but to live on the wave, there is nothing else. The choice is whether we give it the attention it deserves and stop worrying about the phantom constructs of the process of thought.”  It was as direct as I could make it. I could see her reeling slightly from the mental force behind it.

She was gentle in her reply, sensing that these concepts were at the heart of what she found fascinating about our whole direction of investigation. “I can see that in our circle of the enneagram the wave originates from the centre and radiates outwards . . .” She paused, then, “But how does this relate to the character types we have been discussing on the outer rim, the Nine on the perimeter of the circle?”

It was an excellent question. Now, I had to reach into the now, my wave, and see what lay there, what could be taken at its most potent and used, with gratitude, to put more light onto the subject. Suddenly, it was in front of me – a perfect analogy for Alexandra’s vast and educated mind.

“The whole of the inside of the enneagram’s circle is a sea,” I said, leaning forward. “Around the outside are nine islands. Parts of this sea are calm and parts of it – the outer regions – are stormy. Life sweeps us from the centre, on our own wave, to the extremities; and the journey makes us fearful and changes us.”

She sipped her coffee, draining the cup, then smiled at me in a very beautiful way. “Full fathom five my father lies . . .” She winked, enjoying the allusion to The Tempest.

She had found the trail which had been in my mind seconds ago. “Perfect!” I beamed back at her. So, now, shipwrecked on a foreign island you meet–?”

She was close to giggling, again, with the excitement of real discovery. “Ummm . . . a wise old man named Prospero, his daughter, Miranda, and a beast of a man called Calaban.”

She was great. The barrister’s mind had retrieved the context, swiftly – doing what minds do best. I added more encouragement, “This is not specific to the enneagram, of course, but here you have a set of human characters which represent what we might call the ‘levels’ or centres of our lives: Prospero, the wise but impotent old man, who we could rightly say might represent the intellect; Miranda, his daughter who could be both heart and soul; and finally Calaban, the very potent but unregenerate ‘savage’ who is the very essence of instinct, appetite and human energy!”

“But these are not the ‘types’ we drew around the enneagram’s circle?” she asked, certain of her ground.

“No,” I responded, nodding my approval. “These are what we might call the vertical elements of each; the Nine are something entirely different – and each of them has the three levels, or centres in which their humanity – in all its vulnerability – is focussed.”

“A whole cast of players . . . ” she said, softly, speaking to the inner stage she had just discovered.

“Yes . . . and all unique to the wave that washed us ashore, that continues to wash us ashore, to the land of exile of our outer facing lives!”

She stood up. I looked at my watch and reached to get my raincoat – it was raining hard outside; not unusual for a Monday in May.

“No! Stay!” Her hand came down softly on my shoulder. “I need another coffee. You need to stay here and tell me more,” she grinned. “In return for yours . . .”

“But your train?” I laughed at her departing back.

“To hell with the train!” she laughed, her heeled feet dancing across the cafe’s wooden floor as she made her way to the counter.


Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.

All images and text ©International copyright, The Silent Eye School of Consciousness, 2015.


Contact details and an outline description of the Silent Eye School are on the other pages of this blog and via the website at