And as I watch Gilgamesh ascend towards the vast cliff-edge from which his life must fall, I wonder about the origin of the ‘play’ in human consciousness. The plot already contains characters – one of whom is dominant. They have their ‘I’s’ when invested with a player, an actor, who gives the ancient words new life. These I’s are as garments, waiting to be stepped into. If they are well-written, as Lord of the Deep was, they will be coherent and real, provoking a response of reality – merging the actor with the ‘I’ of the part she or he plays…
Precisely because of this ‘gift from the gods’, this human ability to ‘become’ someone else, we have both playing (as children, for example) and drama. When that drama is deliberately infused with a seed which will take root in the consciousness of the player, then we have a mystery play. A ritual drama sets the mystery play within a space which, through repeated use for the ‘good’ in the human soul, has a power of its own.
I am calm, now. Watching Gilgamesh and his new twin consolidate their shared kingdom. Each day, Gilgamesh teaches Enkidu something new, or shows him more of the glories he has inherited as the twin of this greatest-ever king.
Gilgamesh has never been happier. Even the agony of Shamhat has retreated into the shadows of his sun-filled life. Uruk is even mightier than it was. But the children are quiet, for four ears listen for their approval… though two of them are listening differently.
A spirit whose happiness relies upon doing – upon conquest – is never still. Its food is more of the same. But only ‘the different’ will make Gilgamesh free… and different is thin food to the ego.
He, Gilgamesh, is somewhere else… revelling with Enkidu, perhaps.
We have entered the temple for the third act of the Lord of the Deep and there is an emotional difference in this space. For a character that is determinedly engineering his own descent into hell, there is a lot of sympathy radiating from the other players…
In a moment of shock, I realise that it is not directed at Gilgamesh, but me. And, with that revelation comes clarity of origin.
These lovely people are supporting me, not the character Gilgamesh.
The minds in the room know that a part must be acted, and that we are all amateurs in this endeavour. The hearts in the room see a friend, and their seeing contains a growing awareness of the inner aloneness of the king’s descent. These beautiful souls are holding me, knowing that there is nothing I or they can do to alter the doom that lies ahead. It must be endured and brought to life, fully, or the purpose of the Lord of the Deep workshop will not be fulfilled: the clever workings of the egoic self will not be laid bare for us all to see and be transformed by.
It is a situation I have never been in before. I have acted other roles since our first such workshop in 2013. I have written several of these productions. But never before have we enacted a story which so totally encapsulated the struggle of the human spirit against the reactive power of what has come to enshroud it…
I do not want these dear souls to go soft on Gilgamesh. In the scale of such teaching stories he is a self-destructive monster. The symbolic dawn – enigmatic though it is- will only come at the end of his descent.
And yet, in the radiance of that love, there is a moment when I would not be here, halfway down that dark slope. The most powerful learning is done alone… or it feels that way, till we look back….
Ironically, Gilgamesh is happy. His relationship with the no-longer wild man, Enkidu, has blossomed into the love of brother for brother. Beyond that, even – for they could be twins. They appear to think and feel the same way, but I know what Gilgamesh does not: that Enkidu is not a gift for the king; he is a token of despair. To realise that, all Gilgamesh has to do is carry on being him-self…
The King calls. I must attend him, or the intensity will diminish. There appear to be three of us, now… which makes me wonder who ‘I’ really am…
Other parts in this series:
This narrative is a personal journey through that ritual drama in the persona of Gilgamesh.
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.