In the near darkness, the woman’s right hand came gently down on my shoulder from behind. It was the signal that she was ready, that we could begin either the bravest or the stupidest thing we’d ever attempted.
It was April 2013. Sue Vincent and I were about to sing the opening of a temple ritual drama. Sitting on a small stool in front of her, I took a breath and let my fingers rest on the nylon strings of the Spanish guitar…
We were on our own, as Troubadours had often been, in history, conveying their truths as songs.
Around us in the half-light, lit only by a few electric candles and one small real flame in a glass lantern, around thirty people were pretending to be asleep, their heads nodded downwards, The hoods of their robes were pulled up, monk-wise, into a universal symbol of withdrawal from the everyday.
Their sleep was symbolic of a shift in consciousness: the essence of what the Silent Eye was going to try to achieve over the weekend.
The workshop was to mark and celebrate the launch of the new School. Many of those present were from other esoteric organisations. All had come to wish us well and to celebrate the birth of something spiritually new.
Within the ‘sleeping circle’ was Stuart France, the third Director, who was to play the role of a mysterious ‘child’ protected from dark forces by the two Troubadours, and, eventually – having reconciled their differences – the whole cast.
It was no time to mess up those precious guitar chords. I strummed the strings into life. The gentle tones filled the large room in the Nightingale Centre with a soft and haunting sound. You could feel the intake of breath around the circle. Then our two voices rose, in harmony in the darkness as Sue and I sang the Song of the Troubadour; something we had written for the workshop, but never performed in public, though Sue’s ‘learning by repetition’ technique, practised while looking after her son, Nick, caused him to create a rap version, just so he could torment her with equal frequency…
Beginnings are powerful things… Looking back, the coming together of Sue Vincent, Stuart France and myself within the Silent Eye was hardly an accident.
We had known each other previously through the Servants of the Light (SOL) – Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki’s celebrated school of the Western Mystery Tradition. I had joined SOL in 2006 and stayed seven years, helping to computerise the ageing administration and membership systems. Sue and I had met there, but not known each other well.
Prior to our time at SOL, Stuart and I had been long-term officers within the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC.
For the three of us, our participation in these organisations had given us a rich perspective on the teaching of practical mysticism. In particular, Dolores had taught all of us that the use of drama, played out with the sacred in mind, could be a powerful tool on many levels.
In my own case, I had deeply enjoyed every one of these journeys into different organisations, gaining in knowledge and confidence with each move. I was not in any way unhappy with any of them, but I felt there was another, and more ‘direct’ way of going about it. I had studied the work of Gurdjieff in some detail, and a group of us had piloted a novel ‘magical’ approach to the use of his nine-pointed figure: the enneagram.
The enneagram had been created to show how nature’s processes flow and reset themselves, much as the seasons do, but generalised in a deeper way. A group of psychologists in California had merged a deep theory of the arising of personality with the use of the enneagram to make visible our deeper natures… eventually knocking on the door of the personal ‘soul’.
That became my trigger for establishing the Silent Eye, a school of consciousness that would combine this use of the enneagram with our ‘magical’ training of the mind, heart and instincts. In 2012, I left SOL to to this, hoping to keep the wide circle of friends I had made, there.
Sue Vincent had been helping me become a Facebook user. She joined me shortly afterwards, in the soon to be Silent Eye, though we had not discussed it prior to my leaving SOL. My wife and I hosted a party for the creation of the new school at our newly-finished house in Kendal. Everyone enjoyed the evening and wanted to stay over. A small army of sleeping bags were deployed.
The day after, Sue Vincent (in her own words) kidnapped Stuart France, and the two of them spent the day driving around her native Yorkshire and talking about the potential of the Silent Eye. I’d already made the offer for him to join us. The day cemented their friendship, which was later to develop into much more, plus a most productive writing team.
Towards the end of 2012, Stuart confirmed he would join us. In April 2013, we launched the Silent Eye with the ‘Song of the Troubadour’ workshop, viewed by all attending as a success…and new thread in the teaching of practical esoteric knowledge in a modern world.
The Song of the Troubadour was the story of a group of travellers trapped by a snowstorm in a remote monastery, high in a range of mountains between two lands. The Keepers of the monastery gently engineer inter-personal conditions that bring each traveller face to face with their own inner natures. The workshop pioneered the Silent Eye’s use of the teaching enneagram as a mystical tool for dramatic, ritual movement. To our knowledge, no-one else in the world uses this combination.
The Troubadours’ sang their song. The workshop was a warm success and became the blueprint for another six years of spring events. Some of these will be discussed in the next post.
If you would like to read the story of the Song of the Troubadour, as given in the workshop, Sue Vincent helped to turn the workbook for the event into an Amazon book, available in paperback and Kindle formats. See below.
©Stephen Tanham, 2021.
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a modern yet mystical journey through the forest of personality to the sunrise of Being.