(Above: Not Derbyshire, but the new home of our Silent Eye weekends)

I was looking through some photographs from various trips we had taken, when prepping Silent Eye weekends. The beautiful hills of Derbyshire were a home for our monthly get-togethers, largely because they gave a sensible meeting-point for journeys from home that began in Buckinghamshire, South Yorkshire and Cumbria.

The opening shot is the only one of this post that is not Derbyshire. Tess is looking down from Loughrigg Fell, here in the Lakes. It was taken during one of our exploratory hikes to get the timings right for the forthcoming ‘Water-Circle+Cross’ weekend on 19-21 May, 2023.

The reminiscing got me thinking about how much of our investigations into human nature – our own included – revolved around the experience and effects of fear. This is not said in a negative way: our focus was the elimination of fear by preventing it being an unknown.

We are not the first to propose this. The great modern philosopher Krishnamurti made it a cornerstone of his teachings, though he made you work for an understanding of what he taught…

Built into us as the primary (conscious) survival mechanism, fear can become corrosive in our lives if we let it live front and centre in our consciousness. In order to protect us, its voice is preeminent; but that authority can be challenged, understood and reacted to differently. The trick is to make its working conscious…and anticipated; then we have a choice as to how to act. Even in extreme cases.

(Above: Sue Vincent at the end of one of our Derbyshire weekends. Taken September 2019)

Sue Vincent had used this as one of her central themes. One of her favourite motifs was the idea of ancient tribes using that fear – and overcoming it – as a rite of passage to a higher state of consciousness; a voluntary process that created a true priest from an ordinary life. It’s a similar story of initiation within many cultures around the world.

(A panorama shot reveals the dramatic sweep of the Cresswell valley)

Such moments are usually pivotal in the lifetime. Each of us has their own direction, and presence with what is the heart of our lives and existence. That ‘contact’ is deeply personal and powerful. But it has to be found in a way that reinforces how powerfully personal it is … and has always been. In much of Sue’s fictional writing on the subject, the person involved may have been groomed for the role, but nonetheless is facing the unknown.

Many of Sue’s experiences of the later decade in her life were in the hills and dales of Derbyshire, where she and Stuart used their precious free weekends to explore potential sites for Silent Eye landscape workshops.

(A mysterious hill near Wardlow)

On one of these journeys through Derbyshire, they identified a mysterious hill near Wardlow, at the northern end of the beautiful valley of Cressbrook Dale, which links the village of Wardlow Mires with the dramatically located Monsal Head.

(Above: the other end of the Cresswell Valley trail – the beautiful Monsal Head and its famous railway viaduct)

The top of the encountered ‘sinister rock’ could be approached via a narrow and hostile gully which runs across its spine. Sue said she felt physically sick as she climbed this, and was unable to haul herself over the final ledge of stone and onto the summit.

Stuart had stayed to support her, so neither had made the small plateau at its peak – and the presumed spectacular view down the valley. They reported that the upper surface appeared to slope, so its safety was called into question.

(Above: seen from below, the summit looked sheer and foreboding. But there was a gully running through the middle of the rock – but only for the sure-footed or foolish…)

On one of our monthly meet-ups in Derbyshire, they took me to the hill so I could feel its energies. It did feel ominous, and we had heard that it had a troubled history. Its real name was Peter’s Stone – biblical, one assumes, but it also had a local name: ‘Gibbet Rock‘.

A little research revealed the full story.

(Above: The gully. A tricky ascent over sharp rocks)

Anthony Lingard was a labourer from nearby Tideswell. In 1815, just after his 21st birthday, he was convicted for the murder of Hannah Oliver, the Toll Keeper at Wardlow Mires, allegedly so he could steal her red boots.

The full story, assembled over many years by local historians, is slightly different. Lingard was a poor labourer whose girlfriend was pregnant. He knew that the Toll Keeper would have money on the premises. Whether by design or intent, he did murder Hannah Oliver. Fleeing the scene, he noticed her red boots and took them.

Lingard was caught, then tried and hanged at Derby Jail in 1815. The crime had so appalled local people that they petitioned for his body to be brought back to be hung in a gibbet from St Peter’s stone – which then became ‘Gibbet Rock’. His remains were left hanging in the gibbet so that the incarcerated skeleton would be a warning to others. It is thought this was last known ‘gibbet hanging’ in England.

No-one seems to know how long the remains hung there…

(Above: the gruesome gibbet: a form-fitting set of metal hoops, rings and chains that enveloped the entire body. The headpiece had a strong suspension link from which the entire device could be suspended)

Enough to put anyone off…

It’s a popular tale amongst Derbyshire’s professional story-tellers, apparently. Pint of beer in hand, they regale visitors with a lurid tale of Hannah’s death at the hands of a man intent on stealing her red shoes. Not quite how it happened, but a better front page for the red-top.

On my visit to Gibbet Rock, the hill commanded a wonderful view down the valley, and, to me, was calling out for a fuller exploration. Legends often grow up around such places, but their ultimate purpose is not always what it seems.

Sue and Stuart were happy for me to make the final ascent on behalf of the group. I scanned the rock. There was an obvious route involving some stable hand-holds. Many others had been this way. Less than a minute later, I clambered onto the plateau at the summit.

To be met with beauty…

(From the top of Gibbet Rock (Peter’s Stone) the scene below is one of complete beauty. Not shown in this photo is the carpet of wild flowers that were interwoven with the grasses at the place where you hauled yourself up from the gully. The peak did slope downwards, but it was a gentler incline than it appeared from below and quite safe – though I wouldn’t have wanted to linger at the edge)

Sue later drew on the location for her writing.

Is there a moral to the tale? No single sentiment, for sure… Sue’s fear was real. Stuart’s care for her was paramount. My propensity to ‘give it a try’ is well recorded…

The key to why all this is important is Sue’s belief that there existed – now and throughout history – a psychological process that produced ‘priests of the spirit’, and that the landscape contained certain locations that were propitious to this. She was certain that Peter’s Stone (Gibbet Rock) was one such.

This process always revolves around the individual’s triumph over fear. But it is not an ordinary tale of courage. What happens to the priest of the spirit, the shaman, or any other true hero, is a change of perception brought about by the intensity of the experience … and the courageous heart.

I have written, before, of the way our mind treats all external things as ‘objects’ and how this is hard-wired into our use of language: ‘I do this to that’.

It was and is our belief that all fear can be seen as an ‘object’ if its instinctive power is removed or reduced. When the hostile ‘it’ is seen as part of our-selves we can choose our reaction – or not to react at all. Sue believed this ‘presence’ with fear was at the heart of such ancient rituals, to which she was a modern empath.

Her sharing of that fear, she felt, was honouring those who had passed this way… on their way to greatness.

The three of us had always worked closely together. Here was a good example: Sue experiencing an empathetic dimension; Stuart, as ever, steadfast in support of her… and me… free to climb. And in that climb discovering a ‘new world’ – the beauty and otherworldly symmetry of the vista.

I doubt any of us saw the totality of that in the moment. My companions eagerly wanted to know what it was like ‘up there’. But the threefold nature of the action and the events that became its ‘container’ will linger long in the memory.

My extensive library of images from those times is proving to be quite a treasure-trove. If these blog-revisits are popular, I will look at doing a regular series of photo-driven ‘retrospectives’.

There is a postscript to the story. We were able to incorporate this landscape into one of our weekends. We used a lower-level plateau for the final ceremonial events but all were invited to take the tricky climb to the summit. Only one did – Briony Stott, a regular visitor and supporter of our events, whose Shamanic Healing practice is not far away from us in Penrith.

The smile on her face as she, too, experienced the Gibbet Rock summit was a delight, as the photo shows…

(Above: Briony – Shamanic teacher and healer)

To finish the weekend, we walked back to Wardlow Mires, and the not-always-open Three Stags’ Heads… a mysterious place serving the strongest ales in Derbyshire.

It was open, and we had a wonderful parting lunch. During this, we learned that the building had been the Toll Office, the place where Hannah Oliver was murdered in the grim events of 1815.

May they all rest in peace.

(Above: Hannah Oliver’s workplace – the old Toll Office – is now an iconic pub, serving some of the strongest ale in the county…)
And one of the best puddings, I’ve ever eaten. The beer was Stuart’s. I was driving…

©Stephen Tanham 2023

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.

http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog

6 Comments on “Fear No Object

  1. A wonderful post. Photographs can be such an inspiration as they spark memories and ideas. The tie-in with the tollbooth murder, the rock and the pub is fascinating. (I mention a gibbet in my Amanda in France book.)

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: