Gilgamesh descending (1)

Julius Caesar, speaking after winning an important battle in Asia Minor, is quoted as saying ‘I came, I saw, I conquered…’

The same cannot be said for Gilgamesh the King – one of Julius Caesar’s mighty empire-building forebears, who ruled the land of Sumer from the city of Uruk in the southernmost region of Mesopotamia. The story of King Gilgamesh may or may not be based upon fact. Its importance to our lives – and probably survival – is due to it being an unusual kind of story: one that contains the power to initiate inner change in the human mind and heart.

The epic of Gilgamesh was written down in fragments, beginning 2,500 years ago. It is a mysterious tale, and was seen as ideal for adaptation to the Silent Eye’s purposes by the writing team of Stuart France and Sue Vincent (France and Vincent).

Planes, trains and automobiles. Friday, April 26th finally arrives and an excited group assembles at the Nightingale Centre in the tiny village of Great Hucklow – a gem within the Derbyshire hills. Stuart had chosen the epic of Gilgamesh two years prior as the basis for the 2019 Silent Eye workshop. A great deal of work had been put in by he and Sue to bring it to life. Now, we were costumed, breathing deeply, silent and lined up for entry into what would become our emotional and spiritual home for the next two and a half days…. The word ‘intense’ is appropriate, but not sufficient.

Where Caesar enjoyed conquest, the Silent Eye’s retelling of the story of Gilgamesh begins with failure – the failure of the King to persuade his former lover to sleep with him. She is Shamhat – the magical and sexually skilled high-priestess of Uruk; Uruk the city of gold and tall walls, rebuilt by the purposeful hands of the King, himself – rebuilt so that what is within can be safe… The children sleep safely in their beds, but…

Within a mystical play of this nature, the key words always have meanings beyond their obvious ones…. both must fit the story and, ultimately, carry us through into a new perspective. When that transformation is done within a group understanding, the voyage across the emotional ocean is to a new reality.

One reading of the original texts of the legend of Gilgamesh will show that the modern world did not invent graphic sex. The potency of sexual force was known and deeply explored by that ancient society – as it was across so much of the ancient world in a time before the censoring authority of Christianity began to bend the original meaning of the word ‘evil’. The cost of this crushing of the predominantly feminine power was that we lost the living presence of the divine feminine and our priestesses – and the world was a poorer and less compassionate place.

Shamhat was the priestess of that ancient place – and, allegorically, would call upon her sexual force within the play to great effect. But, she begins our story by denying it to Gilgamesh, an act that demonstrates to those present that there is something very wrong with their iconic relationship…

Gilgamesh has laboured hard to make Uruk safe.

But, in Stuart’s words laid before us in the script, the children of Uruk are not entirely safe… They ‘cry themselves to sleep at night’. Their vulnerability is not sexual, though; it is of the soul.

Their mighty king has conquered all, beginning with restoring his own place to the throne, lost after the premature death of his great father – a man he barely knew.

Gilgamesh can and does have everything he needs, including his pick of the first night of lovemaking with every bride on her wedding night. In our own, Norman-derived history we know it as the ‘droit de seigneur’; and it was an enduring statement of the abuse of feudal male power for thousands of years after Gilgamesh strode the walls of Uruk in his lonely anguish.

This man, this king, has nothing to fear. The whole world bows before him… except Shamhat, who thus becomes the ‘thing’ he wants the most.

This was the backdrop for Silent Eye’s annual workshop: Lord of the Deep. Possibly the most intense three days I have ever lived through – and not by choice. Despite many attempts on my part (and Stuart’s, once he realised I was serious) to find another to take it on, I ended up playing the role of this doomed king. Gilgamesh is descending in the title of this series of blogs – borrowed from its use in astrology – because his life is about to descend into a private hell on earth.

Those familiar with the spiritual and psychological work done in a ‘temple of the mysteries’ will know the intensity that builds, as each stage of the working is brought from idea to breath to reality.

Gilgamesh, mighty and all-powerful ruler of the fabled city of Uruk was angry. The children were not sleeping peacefully in their beds, and the forces of chaos were about to (metaphorically) clash with the quiet peace of that Derbyshire village. To enter into these workings is to be changed… there is no escaping that result.

It had begun… and none of us really knew where it was going to end. A script is only a part of what actually happens on these occasions. It was not a question of being surrounded by ill-wishers – quite the opposite. It was a matter of knowing what lay ahead as the emotional journey began. I would need those friends around me, even though Gilgamesh the character appeared to have few of them.

When you undertake such a role, you have to give yourself over to it; letting its nature emerge and giving it a real home. Effectively, each player becomes a vessel for the inner story. Once that inner story is begun there is no let up – not if you want to do justice to the transformative nature of the weekend.

So, now – reliving that Friday – we shift to the living present… and pick up the bound scripts or digital tablets within which the two-hundred pages of our immediate future are inscribed. There begins music that pulls at the heart, then the courtiers pass the palace Guardian and file into the temple room behind their revered King Gilgamesh. A breath; a final glance at the opening words. Gilgamesh is angry… I breathe even more deeply; I have no idea why this emotion is so intense. But his existential lava flows into my own soul the minute I begin speaking… and my voice changes, all by itself.

Run, children, run.

©Stephen Tanham

Header image by Sue Vincent, copyright the Silent Eye.

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.

21 Replies to “Gilgamesh descending (1)”

        1. Yes, these things have a different power to the normal human experience. We find it time after time – and its carries the greatest responsibility of organisation… but what a joy to get it right! X

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  1. I learned and changed so much in my thinking as I too became part of this incredible life-changing event. I had read another version of Gilgamesh before, but it was not the original version that was used in this. I did not understand when I began the necessity of the mind and spirit being attuned and in balance within the one.

    Even the Gods displayed their human side, with errors in their own belief systems and using the powers they were given erroneously. There was an imbalance in the world, and quite possibly in the entire universe since one part is connected with the total and an integral part of its functioning.

    There was an imbalance of the feminine within the two men – Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Neither ever quite attained their need to be balanced within as we all do. The feminine part of us needs to be balanced with the masculine, and without that essential part of our being, we are not able to function fully correctly. And even the other Gods who were involved with bringing Enkidu into Gilgamesh’s world were not fully balanced. Humankind was created physically from the coming together of the masculine and the feminine, but if it is not nurtured within our spirits, one part or the other can become lost. The Chinese Yin and Yang symbolizes balance and harmony, and the opposite forces of nature. The symbol has two colors, White and Black which symbolize nature’s balance of forces such as Good and Evil, Up and Down, Light and Dark, Male and Female, Life and Death, etc; basically the Yin/Yang symbol represents the Positive and Negative forces in the Universe.

    If we think about it, if just one planet in this universe were to go off-course in its path, what kind of disaster might occur? The same situation has plagued the earth with both Gods and men through the life of the world as we know and understand it.

    So yes, this was the story too of the search for immortality, and why we are continually in a war of the soul of the heart and the mind. Thank you all so much for this event. I was so appreciative of being able to be a part of it all from a distance.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Anne. You and Jordis were very much a part of the ‘Sunday morning’ where we mark and honour the passage through the teaching portals, as well as having our annual ceremony of ‘renewal’ for the Silent Eye School. Balance is everything – but not a static balance. The resistance to change creates much of the pain we feel. Gilgamesh had to learn that, and, even then the Gods played with him, teasing out his old and aggressive responses until literally nothing was left. Only then did they play their card of divine mystery and humour combined, and raised him up to be a true King of the Spirit as well as ruler in the flesh.
      The Companions who were able to be with us were simply magnificent. As each one rose to the challenge of diminished numbers due to illness, they also changed, as the collective spirit of the occasion took hold and guided us. It was a weekend for heroes, but also one that gave great space for creativity on all our parts…
      You were there….
      Steve x

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      1. Thank you so much, Steve. I appreciated being a part of it more than anyone can imagine. This course has provided so much in my life that is a value. For the first time in my life, despite many challenges that we all have in this life, I feel very much at peace and able to deal with anything that happens without any pain or resistance. And I think that I have also been able to talk to others to encourage them in this life as well. In all the testing I have done, I am mostly The Physician of the nine personas that we all have inside us. I have always been drawn to serve others in the community, and to teach, and encourage. It is my joy in this lifetime. Through being a volunteer in life and always working to serve others, I have healed a major part of my own self and the course is doing all the rest to put me into balance with the universe. This course is challenging and really exciting to cause me to think on a great many things that I have not thought about for many years, and that is good too. Thank you one and all for all the wonderful things you do for those of us in the school.

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        1. Thank you, Anne. The course is challenging. It must be so to bring about any kind of personal transformation, as you said. It means so much to Sue, Stuart and me to hear people say that it has been a positive things for them xx

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    1. We did something quite extraordinary, Jan – and all felt and knew it. But it was the group’s ‘living energy’ that produced the ‘Gilgamesh’. I just held it steady… and it was a privilege to do so, and have it seen in that way. What may not have been seen was the emotional space that supported the character, enabling the full emotion to manifest. x

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, Jan. And we are just vessels for the energy emanating from such workings. The ego must be kept at bay. But with the ‘assumption’ of the role of Gilgamesh the very vessel that is receiving the ‘other’ light from above (a different dimension) must also crumble as it transmits it to the receiving circle who give it manifestation. The cross-currents are complex, to say the least! 😉 x

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