I remember listening to T. S. Eliot reading his poem The Four Quartets for the first time. The words held me spellbound:
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
My wife and I had first travelled to Inverness four years ago, we came by rail, en-route to Orkney. A long journey, but we love trains; and being away without the car has a certain ironic freedom…
We stopped at Inverness to change trains for our final destination of the port of Scrabster, the Orkney service harbour of the nearby town of Thurso. Sadly, we only had time for a quick lunch and a walk around the immediate area by the station. I remember looking down the stone-lined street that led deeper into the town and to the river Ness, and wondering what lay there. Then it was time to go, and we got back on the train, replete from lunch, and slept most of the way along the northern coast of the Moray Firth.
Yesterday, we returned to begin the Silent Eye’s first workshop of 2020; the rest having been cancelled due to Covid restrictions. Our party was much reduced, but we decided it was important to honour our earlier commitment and press ahead, mindful of the necessary restrictions.
From our B&B, Bernie and I were able to walk down some stone steps and see the centre of the town for the first time. It’s a beautiful place, and the setting along the river gives it a remarkable grace and peace. Our small party duly arrived and we decided that a quick pizza was in order for dinner – given the lateness of the hour.
Two hours later, we waved goodnight to our companions, and turned to climb the long flights of stone steps back to the ‘plateau’ of streets in which our dwelling was located. Just then, I caught sight of the railway station, and realised that I was now standing in the very place where my eyes had come to rest on the previous trip. Suddenly there was a ‘linking of worlds’, a perfect joining up of events seen from different perspectives but centred on the same point – in this case, me, the observer, gazing out from the railway station.
Despite the apparent simplicity, the moment had a profound impact, with the street seeming to spin in both directions as I aligned memory with present in a wonderful fulfilment of that past moment.
“Through the unknown, remembered gate”
It got me thinking that there are many parallels of this kind of synchronicity in our lives. My second of inner growth in comprehension mirrors how we feel when, travelling in search of personal growth and understanding, we find ourselves looking back on events of a previous time, yet now see them from what we can only describe as a higher perspective. The marriage of past and present knits the outer world of our experience into more perfect garment, and the intensity tells us that though this may be symbolic, what it represents, spiritually, is much more than what is seen.
Eliot’s poem continues:
“When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.”
His words are richer, now. And I know that this observer has grown, through many perspectives on the same thing, to understand that pause between the two waves…
©Stephen Tanham, 2020
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness.