An iceberg universe

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Image by Uwe Kils Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Image by Uwe Kils

Fat little fingers hold up the toy as she peers at her reflection, laughing at herself. That she is, at just fifteen months old, very self-aware is evident in the way she plays with her own and her family’s reflections in the big, night-darkened windows. It is evident too in her naming of people and creatures, differentiating them from herself and recognising their unique individuality. She has already learned who to turn to at any given moment to have her needs and desires met and twists her father round her tiny finger with no more than a smile. She knows her own mind, there is a real and distinct personality and a playful sense of humour developing and showing in her offering and withholding of kisses and objects… and in the very definite ‘no’ with which she has established both her right and her…

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Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 50 – Snakes Down Below


Water Snake HydraFlatAA

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 50 – Snakes Down Below


“Scary stuff!” said John, smiling at my carefully planned opening. I carried on using my twisting hand and wrist to greet him, as though both were parts of a snake.

“Okay…enough,” I said, feeling my wrist muscles start to ache, “And I know I’m eight of them short…”

“Need some hydration?” he asked, with a cheeky grin, passing me my latté.

I broke into a laugh at the play on words. “Funnier that it should have been,” I chuckled.

“So…” said John, wringing his hands in mock delight. “Tell me about the Hydra and what part it played in the spiritual education of Heracles.”

“Well, then…” I sipped my hot coffee, savouring Rose’s skills with the old Italian machine which chuntered in the corner near the entrance to the kitchen. “It’s quite a simple one: Heracles has to locate a nine-headed snake monster–the Hydra–and kill it… more killing…”

“Perhaps ‘slay’ might be better?”

“Slightly different meaning?” I queried. “More righteous, perhaps, less gratuitous?”

John nodded. “I think so. Less like cold-blooded or drunken murder?”

“Yes, that’s good…” I drank some more coffee and decided that ‘slaying’ felt better.

“And there are nine heads to the beast, so you’re on home ground?”

It was obvious what he meant–the Greeks’ choice of nine ‘heads’ mapped perfectly onto the enneagrams of personality. But the enneagram hadn’t been around back then, though a nine-sided figure called the enneagon was a known form.

“Is it that simple?” I asked.

“I think we are entitled to take that short cut.” he replied. “As serious students of the nine divisions of the human personality, we get a free ride on this one… Know any more Greek nines that might help us justify that stance?”

“Just the Nine Muses,” I said. “Inspiration for most of the creative activities, from poetry to song to dance to astronomy…”

“One for a different day, then,” John said, “But it all adds up to the fact that the Greek philosophers believed that there were nine facets, over many dimensions, to the human soul…” He drank some of his coffee, looking pensive. “So, where did he find the Hydra?”

“In a swamp,” I said; then realised my mistake as I noticed his smile. “In the lowest part of the psychic anatomy of himself…”

John inclined his head in agreement, “Much better,” he said, “and did he just stumble over the creature?”

I thought about that, seeing through the myth with the help of his prompting. “No, he had to send flaming arrows into the swamp to get the Hydra to reveal itself!” The imagery was suddenly startling, “So he had to shine light–consciousness down into the depths of his being…”

“Very good. And did the Hyrdra put up a fight?”

I thought about the image of Heracles wrestling a losing battle with the Hydra. “A hell of a fight… Every time Heracles cut off one of the heads, another two grew in its place.”

“Like attacking a weed that’s ready to drop its seeds!”

“Just like that,” I smiled. “And he only won the battle when he remembered some paradoxical advice that he should ‘kneel to grow’. “

“He knelt before the Hydra?” said John, looking horrified.

“Only so that he could pull the thing up by its roots, instead of attacking its weedy blossoms,” I said, flippantly.

“So he won by taking it from its source of energy?” asked John.

“Yes, by holding it up to the light – or fire in some versions – the heads died and the creature that was the Hydra perished; or rather; became a single immortal head that Heracles buried deep in the mud, in case he ever needed it…”

“And what would he use it for?” asked John, leaning forward.

“To use its vast energy in a ‘sober’ manner.” I said, replaying the dominant image from our last week’s conversation.

He smiled at me with warmth. “I’d say we could move on to slay something else now, wouldn’t you?”

(Image – composite by author. Underlying image of water snake from Wikipedia, used under Creative Commons licence:


Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.

The stream

The Silent Eye

river (3)

While I would much rather contemplate the swirling waters of a river and watch the birds take their morning bath, there is nothing much to do in an urban traffic jam except people-watch. The stream of humanity, though, offers its own gifts. From the children making their way to school, those who walk quietly and those up to obvious mischief, to the old man with the elderly collie, both hobbling arthritically in the chill morning air, or the young mother pushing the next generation in a hi-tech contraption that makes your car feel like a museum piece, there is always something to see and a train of thought to follow.

This morning, it was a young woman who caught my eye. She would, undoubtedly, have caught eyes other than my own. She was very conscious of that too… hair, make-up, dress…even the way she was walking, completely conscious of herself…

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Circles beyond time

The Silent Eye

heather 2015 derbyshire, higger tor, beeley circle, edensor, bak 045

An ancient landscape, shrouded in mystery… strewn with stones and the last of the summer heather…scattered with sites of ancient sanctity.

Stone circles… an enigmatic fortress rising from the bracken like a ship to carry mind and imagination back beyond the veiling mists.

Time becomes fluid, marked in shadows cast by standing stones. Stories carved in millstone grit by ancient hands come to life beneath the racing clouds… and all around is beauty.

Derbyshire 1

Join us in September as the seasons turn once more to walk forgotten pathways across the moors to circles  lost in the bracken. Learn of the dreams of a mysterious  Seer, a lifetime echoed in stone and whispered through time as we explore the sacred landscape of Derbyshire. In the solitude of the moors, the voices of the past seem to reach through the land and touch your heart, finding there a continuous thread of light that…

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Still Vermin

Vermin seagulls


Still Vermin

I am just like you

But hungry

My stomach longs

For days of food

A taste that through

My numbing mind

I sometimes still remember

I am just like you

But dirty

My oily, spotted flesh

Smells rank and damp

From days afloat

With no warm breeze to sing to me

Just the icy spray from salted sea

I am just like you

But cold

My garments, insufficient

On the day I left, with hope,

Now cling like a thing

To which you would attach

The label of derision

I am just like you

But childless

From my frozen hands

The locks of young blonde hair

Were torn by those whose

Eyes could look no more

On frothing foam

I am just like you

But simpler

You do not know

What it is like

To live within a hungry hole

And shelter from the light

That gives the hunter sight

I am just like you

But weaponless

We fled from guns

From guns that in the mind

Protect and guard your kind

And bombs that split and thus divide

Their rending of the limbs by which we hide

And in the end

I am not enough like you.

And till my dirty words can touch your heart

As though my pain were yours

You can never be just like me

And, homeless, cold, and out there

I will forever be

Still vermin


©Copyright Stephen Tanham 2016

River of the Sun, chapter 16 – Old Friends, New Dangers


SE15 Montage Final

River of the Sun, chapter 16 – Old Friends, New Dangers

“Forgive me, high priest,” said Menascare. “Times have changed and we live in a dangerous age!  Had Rameses – or anyone else here, known that we were friends of old, the situation could have moved beyond my control!”

Sitting on the curved chair in his chamber, Anzety massaged the back of his head. The blinding headache that Menascare’s carefully delivered blow had induced was still taking its toll.

“We were hardly friends, Menascare. You were my least favourite teacher in that far-away temple, I was terrified of you. We called you the ‘Eye of the Cobra’. Did you ever know that?”

“Yes,” said the elder man, smiling ruefully. “thank you for that. The name grew in the fertile soil of the royal palace and is used today when I am not listening–and increasingly, when I am…  Nevertheless, you learned from my teaching, while others did not…”

Anzety shifted in his seat edgily, and not because of the pain in his head. “I have barely had time to think since the Royal assault on us! This situation is getting more complex every hour!  Am I to take it that things are not well between you and the King-in-Rising?”

“I have been Rameses’ mentor for more years than I wish to remember… I thought I had passed to him some of the moderation of my years, but there is missing in him a foundation of kindness, a basic trust of the rest of his world.  It is a trait that his father feared also. I worry for those in his way! His father was Seti: Man of Set – Beloved of Ptah!  Imagine a life lived with the spirit of wildness dominating your soul, but shared with the God who gave the heart a tongue and a pen!”

Anzety stood and tried to stretch some of the tension from his frame. “But, my sister and I do not act against the King-in-Rising.  We have merely adapted the old ways and merged them with a rebirth in the worship of the divine feminine. Our goal is to show that all such Goddesses are aspects of the One – aspects of the original Isis, mother of Horus, herself.  We believe that the right new rituals will release great powers of healing into the Black Land.”

Menascare reached for his wine and drained the glass. He didn’t often resort to the grape, but this was no ordinary circumstance.

“And that is a noble goal, high priest. But Rameses fears the new.  He loves it only when he is the source of it!  Take care, for you are both in great danger. The Heretic King still casts a long shadow, and Rameses explodes with rage if anything brings that dark time to mind… His father may be fired from kinder clay, but his venom for the self styled ‘Son of the Sun’ is as acute as that of Rameses.”

Despite the fact that the temple was in the middle of a cycle of initiation, Anzety poured them both some more of the rich, red wine. Temple protocol had been cast aside, and not by them… “The Talatat scare me enough!” he said.

“The Talatat!” Mensacare spat the words. “Those bricks of harsh uniformity. But you heard Rameses’ words, no doubt?” Menascare looked up at the ceiling, cursing quietly.

“That you were their creator?  I could not believe that. I assumed they were forged by Rameses himself?”

“No,” replied Menascare. “They were my creation. I engineered their minds to show how dangerously fanatical the pursuit of pure knowledge could be. I trained them in the inner ways of the mind so they could provide us with a living tableau of the outer parts of ourselves.”

The older man suddenly looked very sad. He hung his head and sighed, before continuing, “But Rameses became fascinated with their ‘purity of purpose’.  Together with Obion, he warped them so that they emerged a fearful machine.” Menascare drank deeply from his glass. “Beware them, Anzety – they are not like others; the edges of their ruthlessness have never been found…”

The high priest registered the deep lines on the face of his former teacher and decided to move the subject on.

“What will the King do now?” he asked.

“I dread to think – but I had better go and find out – assuming he is not sharing his bedchamber with your sister!”

“I think she will have skilfully avoided that…but the price may be high.  Anyway, shouldn’t you be guarding someone young with a sore neck?”

“It was time to show our King-in-Rising that there are limits to my obedience! Storming your temple was his idea and the bile still sits in my throat.” He coughed and shook his head. “In truth, your young priest lies on the temple floor getting the rest he needs. Besides, Rameses will not be checking him – he’s too busy with your sister!”

“But Obion might,” said Anzety. “From what I’ve seen, he is no friend of yours!”

“That is certainly true,” Menascare smiled. “But then, he only seeks friendship with the King – something he will never have!  Besides,” he chuckled. “He sleeps the sleep of the druggedhe will need his rest, too!”

Anzety looked at the older man and wondered about the resourcefulness needed to last this long under the eyes of a tyrant like the young ruler…

Menascare looked up from studying his hands; still thinking deeply. “Your young priest-to-be is a brave soul, too. I expected him to weep under the royal pressure, but he remained calm and resolute. He will make a good priest…”

“We hope he will be more than that…” Anzety risked much in saying it, but felt the time was right. But the look the other returned him carried a warning.

“Then you walk a very dangerous path, Anzety – one I would be a fool to be party to!”

“We are not devious,” said the high priest, trying to recover lost ground.” “we simply want to protect the glory of Egypt’s soul at a time of strife.”

“Egypt thrives on strife!  Did the Kingdoms not roll on through the Wheel of Neheh despite the many catastrophes in between?”

The Eye of the Cobra finished his wine and stood to go.

“Beware the price, Anzety, beware the price…”

With that, he left…


Index to previous chapters:

Chapter One – Gifts From the River

Chapter Two – An Agony of Sunset

Chapter Three – The Dark Waters

Chapter Four – Touching the Sky

Chapter Five – The Fire Within

Chapter Six – The Wide Waters

Chapter Seven – The Crystal Air

Chapter Eight – The Unchosen Darkness

Chapter Nine – The Priestess Calls

Chapter Ten – Darkness at the Door

Chapter Eleven – Inundation

Chapter Twelve – Above and Below

Chapter Thirteen – The Binding Voices

Chapter Fourteen – The Flood

Chapter Fifteen – The Intimacy of Enemies


Introduction to River of the Sun

In April 2015 a group of people gathered in the Derbyshire hills to enact the Silent Eye’s annual Mystery Play, entitled, The River of the Sun. The five-act mystical drama formed the backbone of that Spring weekend, and told the fictional story of a clash of ego and divinity set in an Isis-worshipping temple located on an island in the Nile, during the the fascinating period of the 19th dynasty, the time of Rameses the Great.

The 18th and 19th dynasties were a period of deep upheaval for ancient Egypt. The reign of the ‘Heretic King’, Akhenaten saw Egypt’s religious structure torn apart, as the revolutionary Pharaoh became what Wallis Budge called the ‘world’s first monotheist’; re-fashioning the power of the many Gods with one supreme entity – the visible sun disc, the Aten, for which Akhenaten, alone, was the high priest. Many have pointed to the failure of the ‘herectic’ Pharaoh’s politics, but few have doubted the sincerity of his religious vision. He will, forever, remain an enigma.

Whatever the nobility of his goal, the actions he took were ruthless, and included the shutting down of the annual deity festivals which were the sole point of ritualistic contact between the ordinary people of Egypt and their locally-worshipped gods. In addition, Akhenaten paid little attention to the domestic and military affairs of Egypt, allowing the country’s enemies to encroach on its borders, greatly weakening Egypt’s power at that critical time for the region.

After Akhenaten’s brief reign, culminating in the Pharaoh’s mysterious death, shadowy military forces took control of Egypt, instigating the 19th dynasty in the persons of Rameses I and, soon thereafter, Seti I, whose throne name derives from the god Set – often considered the ‘evil one’ because of his slaying of his brother, Osiris.

Seti I is judged by modern historians as having been one of the greatest-ever pharaohs, yet his importance in the 19th dynasty was eclipsed by the actions of his second son, the brilliant Rameses II, whose long reign of over sixty years included much self-promotion and the alteration of Egypt’s recent history. Both Seti and Rameses II (Rameses the Great) were passionate about the evisceration of the last traces of Akhenaten’s ‘chaos’, as they saw it.

But, although, by the 19th dynasty, the the ‘Son of the Sun’ was long dead and the buildings of his embryonic and doomed city of Tel-al-Armana were reduced to rubble, something of that time remained in the Egyptian consciousness. A new kind of connection between Pharaoh and God had been established, one which elevated mankind, if only in the being of the Pharaoh, to be someone who ‘talked with God’. It was, at the very least, a bold experiment and, though the world would have to wait until the 19th century to re-discover the ‘erased’ pharaoh, the philosophical waves of that period rippled out and dramatically affected the way the incoming 19th dynasty had to repair the worship of the Gods, uniting the people of Egypt under a trinity of Amun-Ra, Khonsu and Mut.

Our fictional story is a tale of politics, friendships, mind and faith. It is set against an historically accurate background, and at a time when Rameses was due to take the throne from the dying Seti .

Returning to Thebes in his swift warship, crewed by his fearsome Talatat mind-warriors, Rameses decides to mount a surprise night-time raid on the island-based Isis temple which has prospered under the sponsoring reign of his father. Rameses suspects that the inner teachings conducted by the revered High Priestess and Priest conceal views that relate to the thoughts of the heretic Pharaoh, Akhenaten. He plans to insert himself and his warriors of the mind into the islands’s Spring rites as the high priest and priestess begin a cycle of initiation for a chosen apprentice priest who has proved himself worthy of special advancement.

The resulting clash draws everyone, including the young Pharaoh-in-Rising, into a spiralling situation where each is forced to confront their own fears as well as living out the roles which life has allocated them. River of the Sun is the story of a spiritual and political encounter from which none emerge unchanged, including the man who will shortly be Pharaoh, the mighty Rameses II, whose secret name for himself is ‘the unchosen’.

Through the eyes and minds of those surrounding the chosen priest and the ‘unchosen’ Pharaoh, the River of the Sun takes us on a tense and compelling journey to the heart of power and its eternal struggle with truth.

The chapters of the book will be serialised in this blog. The finished work is planned to be available in paperback and Kindle in the Spring of 2016.


River of the Sun, serialised here, and its associated images, are the intellectual property of Stephen Tanham and is ©Copyright material.

Ben’s Bit, part twelve – Cold Governance

Ben's shower2

Ben’s Bit, part twelve – Cold Governance

There’s something about the door that terrifies me. I suspect that it’s still unlocked. But I won’t try it to see. To try it would risk some fragile things.  If it were locked and I had maintained my belief that Roger Sylvester, my new gaoler, being a good man, had left it open as a rebellious gesture against a system that had incarcerated a fellow good man, then something gentle and precious would be dashed against the old stone walls of Bakewell Gaol.

If it were not locked, then I would have doubted my picture of the new and honest man…

So, I don’t try it… I just look at it from the bed across my cell.

I must have drifted off. I am brought back to consciousness by the arrival of my new gaoler, so I can’t say whether he has unlocked the door or not. When I look up, sleepily, he is standing over me and smiling, dressed in a tracksuit, with a stopwatch on a lanyard around his neck.

“Good to rest, Ben,” he says, genuinely. “But not too much – exercise time!”

It’s said in a quasi military tone – navy induced, no doubt, and I realise that the comfort of having a fellow human being for a gaoler is to be tainted by the fact that he’s probably an exercise nut. He escorts me through the old corridors of the largely empty gaol and out into the central quadrangle which forms an exercise yard. “Can’t beat regular exercise, Ben, for lifting the spirits.” he says as we enter the yard with its lines of lichen streaked dripping red brick.

For the next forty-five minutes he ‘joins’ me in a suggested series of short sprints, push-ups, sit-ups and squat thrusts. He’s hardly breaking sweat, but I’m perspiring profusely. By the end of our exercise period, I’m wet through and gasping for breath.

“Give it time, Ben,” he laughs, “you’ll be amazed what a daily work-out like this can do for you!”

‘Daily’ my mind screams. I’ve moved from a decaying psychopath to a fitness nazi!

Grateful that it’s over, but acknowledging that I actually do feel better, I follow Roger Sylvester through the corridors, and am delighted when he turns towards the shower block. I’m glad for the opportunity, as being clean has always been very important to me. He opens the heavy painted creme door with the old, frosted glass panels, and nods me in.

“You should find everything you need in there,” he smiles. “Including a new ‘uniform'” he half snarls the word, sympathetic to the effect that such de-humanising objects can have on someone in my position. “I can only bend so many rules, Ben, you know that…But I’ll give you some privacy.”

I nod, grateful that he’s prepared to bend any rules, and enter the shower room, peeling off my sweat-streaked overalls.

The sanitised room is cold. Its Victorian black and white tiles forbidding and stark. But the hot water that follows is a refreshing delight and I have no complaints… not till the flow stops, suddenly, and I look around for the cause…

The Governor is standing by the far wall, his hands on the master stopcock. He’s smiling like a prize fighter would, who, standing over a knocked-down opponent, senses victory in the other’s disorientation.

I’m standing in a shower room and not lying on a canvas boxing ring. But it feels the same. I’m immobilised under an open bank of shower heads, naked and dripping. The cold of the cell is invading my former shroud of steam…and there’s literally nothing between my skin and the man I fear even more than Dr Grey.

He pulls over a battered wooden stool and sits, halfway between the stop-cock and me. “Thought we might need a chat, Ben.” he says casually, as though all this is quite normal for a Friday morning.

It’s a casual, black suit he’s selected for the occasion, with a matching black polo neck. “Like it, Ben?” he asks, fingering the cuffs. “Couldn’t help noticing how you admired my suit when we last met.” he smiles, cruelly. “Bet you have a few nice suits at home?” It’s a cruel reminder of a past that now seems impossibly distant, as well he knows.

“Ben,” he says, shaking his head as though he needs to clear his mind. “we need to clear up one or two bits and pieces…” I feel like covering myself with my hands, in case my bits are the ones he wants to clear up, but I don’t. I’ve learned about fear and how much of its paralysing force is in the mind, long before it’s in the body.

He looks over my body, taking his time. It’s a pale shadow of his triangular muscularity, with its well-tanned surface and perfect poise. But, grateful for small mercies, I can see there is no sexual element to his visual invasion. He’s just curious as to how fit I might be.

“I’m glad you take such a close interest in those in your care.” I drag out the word ‘care’ into a sneer.

“Now that’s what I’m talking about, Ben,” he says slapping his well-dressed thigh. “Gets us nowhere, that sort of attitude!”

Before I can think up something clever that a naked man in a shower might say as a riposte, he continues.

“Why’d you do it, Ben? The three of you–” His eyes have finished with the strip search and he’s content to bring his eagle orbs to look into mine. “Just mischief…? did you get drunk and decide it would be a wheeze?” He shakes his head. “Nope, it wasn’t like that, was it, Ben?” he stands up and strides to the raised edge of the shower platform. “There’s something deeper going on here, and we think you’re all part of something bigger – much bigger!” He raises one arm in what looks like preparation for a blow, but then diverts it to scratch the back of his neck. I decide not to ask who this ‘we’ might be.

I flinch, anyway…and then a miracle happens. Through the crook of the Governor’s elbow I see Roger Sylvester enter the shower room, carrying an extra towel. His relaxed gait and calm smile freezes as he glimpses the scene before him.

“What the hell’s going on here?” he shouts.

The Governor purses his lips and nods, realising his little exploration has come to an end. But he seems un-phased by his subordinate’s intrusion. “Just having a little chat, Roger, that’s all.”

“Little chats like this are likely to be misinterpreted,” says my gaoler, icily.

The Governor turns. “Oh, I don’t expect there’ll be any mis-interpretation between you and me, Roger. Despite any misgivings we might have once had about the past…”

I have no idea what that means. But it seems that Roger and the Governor have history, and, from the Governor’s confident stride as he leaves the chequered room, he has no doubt that he can command the gaoler’s obedience, if he needs to coerce.

But the prematurely grey-haired man walking calmly across the shower room floor does not look like he’s about to be intimidated by his superior, regardless of any history.

“Sorry, Ben,” he says, “That was way out of line…”

“No harm done,” I say, gratefully accepting a warm towel and wishing I were sure the words represented the truth.

“Trouble is,” says Roger. “The bastard still thinks he’s in sub-Saharan Africa…”

———————————————————–< to be continued-

Ben’s Bit is a continuing first-person narrative of the character created by Stuart France and Sue Vincent, which may bear some relation to the author of this story, Steve Tanham, their fellow director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness.  In their book, Scions of Albion, Ben is arrested for his overly enthusiastic part in a mad escapade, and the other two are nowhere to be seen . . .  For more, enjoy their Doomsday series of books, and the new series (Lands of Exile) whose first volume, But ‘n’ Ben is now available in Kindle and Paperback. Click here for details.

Index to Ben’s Bits:

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven,

Sue Vincent describes her and Stuart’s perspective on Ben’s imprisonment: Part One, Part Two

The Doomsday Series of books by Stuart France and Sue Vincent

The Silent Eye School of Consciousness – a modern mystery school.

Other books by Steve Tanham.

Silent Eye modern masterAA

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 49 – The Questions of Balance


Heracles with Libra scales

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 49 – The Questions of Balance


“I can see you’re brimming with ideas,” said John, looking at me slyly, over the rim of his coffee cup. “But perhaps you’ve not connected them all?”

He was right. But I sensed an uncertainty in him, too, about the myth of the boar. As though it still held much that he hadn’t been able to fathom.  This made me feel better, so I launched into the well-filled, but unconnected islands of meaning I had been able to glean.

“Well, firstly, the whole myth is to do with balance.”

He nodded. “Safe ground, I think… and Libra is most definitely about balance, justice being a result of seeing things from that state…”

“An inner state – she’s blindfold..” I breathed out some of the tension. It annoyed me when I got screwed up about something so trivial… but was it? Were these things of myth not the very terrain of our inner lives?

“Heracles loses one kind of balance – he gets drunk in Pholus’ cave,” I said. “Intoxicated might be a better word, I’ve no idea why…”

“An abuse… a poisoning of the natural faculties?” John offered. “or an loosing of the ordinary consciousness, and the opening of an inner state? You could justify both but remember that the wine was a gift to the Centaurs from Dionysus…”

I nodded, “And yet certain symbols are repeated in the myths, which suggest a common, inner meaning, possibly depending on the context?”

“Yes, definitely,” he said

Growing in momentum, if not confidence, I continued, “And yet wine–and the vineyards that produce it, are revered as spiritual symbols, too?”

“They are, indeed,” he smiled. “So much so, that the red wine is directly equated with the very blood of Christ by the church…” He paused, reflecting. “…and the inner meaning of wine is a higher form of understanding–higher than stone or water which came lower in its scale, so to speak…”

“But this wine causes him to kill two of his most loyal companions – the Centaurs!”

“Who are?” asked John, leaning  forward as he did when we were narrowing in on something important.

“Who are half men and half horse.”

“And we’ve met horses before, have we not?”

“Oh yes,” I said seeing a chink of light in the cave ahead… or was it an oncoming train…”The wild mares, which Heracles had to tame… symbols of uncontrolled thoughts, as I recall?”

“Yes,” said John. “So we can assume that Centaurs, who we will meet again, have a significance in their upper and lower arrangements?”

“In many ways the perfect outer form,” I whispered. “I often wish I could have the stamina of a horse to carry me around the weary streets of London…”

“And in a sense you do, with your wonderful legal mind – the product of all its training and discipline?”

I thought about that. And the Centaurs were a good force in the land of Heracles, and he had killed them because he had become intoxicated with something he craved – the lower form of wine. I continued to give voice to my thoughts, lost in an internal reverie, “And this wine was meant to be drunk only by the Centaurs, when together, in a form of communion!”

“Which, presumably, lifted them, as good communion does, to a higher place within themselves–and collectively.”

I felt a rush of love for the Centaurs, and looked forward to a future reunion with them. They seemed to be wise beings, perhaps more limited than Heracles in potential, though not in pub behaviour…”

He smiled. “They’ve always had a place in my heart, too.”

“It’s a battle for balance, then,” I said, getting enthusiastic. “fought in two arenas – the place where the wrong wine can intoxicate to the point of killing friends who are the epitome of balance; and the high ground where the only way to catch the unregenerate animal is with artifice – the right use of the mind…”

“And Heracles triumphs?” asked John.

“Well, yes…” I responded, sensing that I had the inner grasp of the thing, if not the right words to describe it. “…by humour as much as anything else. He drives the exhausted animal down the mountain and amuses all below with the spectacle.” I sipped the last of my coffee, lost in my thoughts. “Perhaps he turns it into a parody by making it human-like, while showing that it can never be so…”

“It could even be a visual apology to the Centaurs,” John said, “showing a man atop the wild beast of the boar – a lesson learned?”

He watched me cross the last few feet of my mental process.

“He triumphs by being human, within which, by the grace of something very high, all things are forgiven, once wisdom is grasped…” I fell silent.

“Sometimes, you astonish me…” said John, ordering two celebration coffees from a smiling Rose, who, strangely, was just passing our table.

(Image – composite by author. Underlying monochrome image of Libra figure:


Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.

Evening on the Moors

Walking with a Smacked Pentax

This was taken a couple of years ago. It had been snowing constantly for a couple of days, but the afternoon turned bright but very cold.

I took the bus to the village of Menston where I used to live, then up Moor Lane and onto one of the ancient trackways over the moors. This was the view looking towards Hawkesworth moor at late afternoon (it’s worth seeing it big – just click on it).

Twenty minutes later it was dusk, and I stumbled off the moors in almost pitch blackness, but for a big bright Hunters moon illuminating the paths. I slipped on my backside more than once, but eventually managed to make it to Ben Ryhdding where I caught a bus home.

The whole of the moors were perfectly still and quiet – you only get this after a big snow fall – it is the same whether on the moors or the city. The snow…

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Beheading the Rose – The Mystery of St Valentine

Sue’s beautiful rendering of the St. Valentine story…

The Silent Eye


In a plastic bucket beside the counter sat a dozen roses, each one individually wrapped, slightly faded, but with their heads held firmly erect in the stiff plastic. Each one would doubtless be bought and, given their garage location probably as an afterthought, along with the milk and petrol, and taken home to a loved one as a token. For many, that would be the extent of their expression of devotion for another year. For many recipients, it would mean the world. It was a sad sight.

On the 14th of February, across the western world, florists, jewellers and chocolatiers make a commercial killing as lovers and hopeful romantics celebrate St Valentine’s Day. Few of us are immune from interest in this date. Some pay court and show their hearts to a loved one, some stand firmly in the camp that sees the celebration simply as a money-making scam, while…

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