Death of a salesman

We need to understand death and not fear it

In a few short weeks it will be September. We (the Silent Eye) have been invited to speak at the Unitarian Society of Psychical Studies annual conference at the Nightingale Centre in Derbyshire.

We use this lovely place for our main annual event in April each year. We had our official ‘birth’ there in 2013. It is a very special place to us, and so we were delighted to be asked to be one of this year’s speakers. The Unitarians are an open-minded church and for their annual Psychical Research event they wanted to have someone give them an ‘esoteric view’ on their key topic… which is Life after Death.

The lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow, Derbyshire

It’s useful to spend some time establishing our own thoughts on this – and hence this blog. The Silent Eye does not have specific ‘death teachings’, but that’s only because each person needs to approach what should be life’s most spiritual event for themselves. Throughout our folk-history, tales have been told that it is only possible to accompany a dying person ‘so far down that valley’. After that, we must journey alone…

To have a clear mind on death, we need to hold a number of perspectives, and then try to synthesise them. They include the question of what life is, and how its is organised – biologically and psychologically. Then there is the very real idea of the self and the notion of the Self – the higher ‘self’, built during life by what the Buddhism calls ‘right action’, and driven by impulses that are not purely biological. This latter consideration brings with it the idea of the falling away of the boundaries of the body, but the potential of the retention of the essence of a person, albeit without the ability to ‘do’ any longer – at least in the world of the physical.

One thing is certain: to begin to understand death, we must have a deep understanding of life. They are often referred to as opposite sides of the same coin, but, as with many sayings, the over-familiarity of the metaphor takes away what should a trigger to a depth of thought. If death is the twin of life but different, then what’s the difference?

The most precious attributes I possess are my living vitality and my sense of self. The body is a precious gift from all the life that has gone before me on the living Earth. My body is made up of cells, each of which carries in its DNA the organic wisdom – or success story – of what has worked before. I am therefore the inheritor of literally billions of years of ‘what works’, passed through to me by the ones who loved me the most, by a planet which, in my beliefs, also has a composite intelligence and whose life is part of the Sun’s life, as a member of the solar system – the balancing ‘negative’ to the solar positive.

My immediate experience of life is that of my body, but layered over by my self. I’m likely to be far more concerned with the fact that I’ve just cut my face shaving, than with the inheritance of billions of years of biological continuation. I shouldn’t be, but that’s the truth. The self has inherited a complex response network, centred in the brain, that behaves as though the organic mechanisms are there for its entitled continuance and shouldn’t bother it – while it gets on with drinking that favourite red wine with a well cooked steak for dinner…

The self has likes and dislikes. Some of them are linked to survival and are very strong – like the reaction to being burned as a child, which drives my future relationship to flame or heat. This goes beyond preference (French mustard or not with my steak) and into the ‘keep me alive and healthy’ mechanisms. Only when the flow of my normal day is interrupted by, say, the arrival of the knowledge that I have a serious disease, do I begin to expand my sense of self to include all the worlds that are ‘me’. That’s not strictly true, of course. I can seek that expansion any time I want… but I’ll have to work; to put effort into something that is not normally part of my reward system.

In doing that, I might be considered to be ‘growing my soul’, my highest nature. There is a sense of permanence about what is produced when we invest in a higher purpose like this. That feeling of inner growth stays with us, like a the learning of a new language. Our organic nature has not changed, but our sense of self – of Self, possibly – has grown.

Religions are someone else’s idea of spirituality. The only one that should really matter to ‘me’ is my own, because my own will become my truth of dying, whether I like it or not… and most of us try to avoid that for as long as possible, because dying appears to be the end of everything we love, struggles and all.

Religions can create caring communities and have great value if seen like this; but they can also be prisons of someone else’s values. At the same time, the moral values of the west have seldom been under as much threat as they are at present, and we can clearly see how the ‘good’ is being tested in the face of a chaos driven by out of control egoic behaviour.

Wisdom is a hard thing to define, but essential for civilisation; and civilisation is our only hope of working in truth with our beautiful planet.

What am ‘I’, then?

‘I’ am a unique collection of cells made up, literally of the stuff of exploded suns from billions of years ago. In many important ways, my life as a ‘bubble’ seems to mirror that of the smallest cells of which I am composed, and which learned to work together to form what is now my body, hundreds of thousands of years ago.

There is a mirror of learning between the objective (the physics, chemistry, biology and what demonstrably is) and the evolving self – singularly and in society – civilisation. This process of learning is based upon a separation. I live within an ‘in-here’, believing that I am separate from the ‘out-there’. This experienced and very real division is necessary for me to strengthen a self that can describe and hold the essence of its relationship with what is my world. This living description is of great value – and not just to myself.

Many years ago as a Rosicrucian student, I read this sentiment: “Some would say that, in the reverse of what is normally believed, a person is an island of death in a sea of life.” I didn’t understand it at the time, but now, finally, I do… And what it means is the secret to the the end of all fear.

Some of the most powerful truths of what we are have come to us from the civilisation that gave us Yoga – as both inner and outer disciplines. ‘Discipline’ is important, for we must work to find and then strengthen what we ‘are’ – truly and not with self-illusion. The word ‘yoga’ means union.

The Silent Eye’s enneagram is used as map of the journey from personality to soul, or expressed more accurately, from self to Self

In our own system of self-discovery the Silent Eye uses certain archetypes, found within a map of our lives called the Enneagram (above). Each person has a different map. Once these are discovered within us, they become friends on an inner journey; gradually revealing their deeper natures and showing us the keys to our own being. Over time, one of these will become a dominant figure, revealing our own driving characteristics, positive and negative.

In my own case, I am (to give it a self-deprecating title) the ‘salesman‘ of this inner pattern of the egoic self. I’m lots of other things, too, but that remains the pattern of my egoic nature, my personality… and this, with some of the dross burned away, has formed the toolset with which I now work to teach the directed evolution of the life-balance of outer and inner living. Each of us has this dominant (but different in each case) set of characteristics. Its refinement is empowering and involves a deep contact with the individual soul whose outer layers it is…

The system known as Yoga has also given the western world many gifts. A good example is the secret of looking at breathing differently. Put simply, each breath is a mirror of the whole of life. We take into our ‘selves’ what is not us. Breath belongs to a collective life that excludes none. When we breathe in, it lends itself and its life-sustaining force to this bubble of individualised life that is us. For that to be so, there must be a great importance – to Nature – about what happens inside that bubble, that ‘in-here’. The harvest of the higher, non-organic things inside that bubble is the justification of the great cost to Nature of sustaining that individual life…

At death, the individual life inside the bubble drops away, opening to the magnificence of the All-Being. There may still be important divisions in that realm, but they will not work as the brain works. The brain is gone, as is our personal memory. Reasoning from cause to effect is gone. Time will be a different thing. The Universe is Life and does what it wills, creating the new now, eternally, in a realm where everything is interlinked. Fear will be a distant and fading memory… but joy won’t.

I have resisted personal ‘pictures’ of what happens at death. But, in writing this, a great sense of both belonging and humour arose in me… and with it a picture. I must speak symbolically, and in the language of one of my favourite life-affirming cultures: ancient Egypt.

At my death, an Isis-like figure will undress me, discarding the layers of my physicality, like used bandages. Possibly with a bit of help , she will open my eyes and turn me to face the great father of the deep who will smile and ask me if I have a heavy or a light heart. If my heart is light with the joy of the life lived, he will ask me to tell him about my life, so that he may add my story to his vast collection of how the Creation looks from within. After that, there will only be his voice, with the dancing and eternal presence of my song as an added part of what he is… But the salesman’s story will have made a small but important difference… As will yours.

©Copyright Stephen Tanham

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.

Being here…

Sphinx and pyramid Overlay Blog masterAA

We were lined up against a stone wall – a very old stone wall. Forty ‘mystical pilgrims’ stood in the intense humidity of the entrance chamber to the Great Pyramid, dressed in simple robes; robes that had been used earlier in the day for a ritual baptism in the ancient inland waters of Lake Moeris.

Lake Moeris is linked to the water-based initiations of the ancient priests of Egypt – as were many of the temples along the Nile. Water washes – the outer symbolism is obvious; the inner one not so much. Mystically, to ‘come alive’ in the present – which is the goal of true mysticism, we have to ‘die’ to our present state. The cares, the fixations, the emotional reactions, all of the baggage that we cling to because it defines our ‘self’, has to be let go of in a some special way.

A taste of Being is the result – if those carrying out the initiation are good at their job. Water is also an ancient symbol for truth, and contrasts with Stone, which is lower, fixed or literal truth; and wine, which is the highest form of truth.

With each transition from stone (fixed) to water (fluid) to wine (water ‘finished’ by man) we ascend in understanding – the nature of the alchemists’ gold. There is no wall that divides deeply understood physical truth from spiritual truth. The difference is the degree to which we find it to be personal… and with that experience comes the removal of doubt, the silencing of the nagging intellectual mind; the voice that says: this can’t be true… Well, it is; and there is a knowing beyond logic.

Initiation has always provided a portal to that deeper understanding. It is method particularly suited to the western mind – a mind so proud of the intellect (and rightly so) but so ignorant of the ‘easy depths’ of the spiritual touch. We like stories; most civilisations do. Myths and legends form the backbone of what is passed down to future generations. ‘Giants’ may be real giants or they may be heroes ‘giant in being’. It depends on the context – and so much gets borrowed and re-written by those whose eyes have not been opened to another way of seeing things.

Back to the wall filled with robed mystical pilgrims. It was 2005, a frightening twelve years ago. We were at the end of a two-week trip aimed at the spiritual discovery of Egypt. I was a field officer in another organisation, one of two I greatly admire to this day. My website bio is here, for anyone who wants to look deeper. Our journey had begun far in the south of Egypt, near Aswan. We followed the mighty Nile on a lovely boat that took us as far as Luxor, stopping at the major temples on the way.

We were delighted to relax by the Red Sea for two nights, then flew to Cairo. Two days later, having seen the sights, we were granted the rare privilege of being permitted night-time access to the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid. We were to have our own symbolic initiation, carried out by the head of the organisation – who had flown to Egypt, specially, to do this…

I should have known, then… should have read the importance of that action.

The constraint was that we had only one hour to carry this out, so every minute counted. Pressed up against that wall, I was given a lighted torch to carry and placed at the head of a group of fellow pilgrims. Our sandals slapped on the old stone as we marched down the main access tunnel to locate the narrow ascending passageway, then the steep ascent of the Grand Gallery – a huge space in its own right that links the upper chambers of the pyramid to the main access tunnel and the passage down to the so-called Queen’s Chamber.

At the end of the Grand Gallery lies a short passage that leads to the doorway into the Kings Chamber. We stopped in front of it for a short mediation; and to catch our breath. The Guardian of the threshold stepped aside, and the party entered this most special of places…

It is at this point that you get a feeling of where you are: on the edge of Cairo, in the Nile’s northern delta, located at an interior point about half way up the enormous mass of the Great Pyramid.

The King’s Chamber is a huge room, but plain. Very little is known of how it might once have looked. The air is hot and humid. I would imagine those with any breathing issues are advised not to enter. Two shafts run tangentially to the exterior walls of the pyramid, so there is fresh air of sorts; but it’s not plentiful. There is no stepping outside. This is it: the highest and most purposeful place in the ancient stone structure.

Apart from the forty pilgrims the only other decoration is the large granite sarcophagus at the far end of the chamber. This is damaged in one corner, but still functional. The head of our organisation was standing next to it. I will never forget his words – indeed, they are the reason for this short piece – because they were the most important thing I learned that day, and they could have been said anywhere…

“Do not question your readiness or worthiness to be here. The act of being here is the verification that your soul is ready for what this moment contains…”

The simplest of sentiments, yet one that conveys an entirely different way of looking at the world. It took me a decade to understand the depths of what he had said; but whenever I encounter another kiss of the wonderful now, I go back to that moment and thank him… and the ‘fates’ that led me to have that revelation in that very special place.

Author’s note: we were not allowed cameras inside the Great Pyramid, so the montage above comprises one of my exterior photographs of it plus another of the interior of the temple at Abu Simbel.


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham.

 

River of the Sun, chapter 20 – The Waters of Thought

River of Sun logo

 

River of the Sun, chapter 20 – The Waters of Thought

It was a very specific power and Lord Menascare had never experienced its like, before.

If not stopped, time had certainly been changed. No longer was there a uniform flow of things happening in a concerned – unconcerned way. Instead, the unfolding events were made into a running sequence, where the running was to the next important thing, where that flow slowed down so that every aspect of it could be examined in detail; taking as long as one desired…

Without moving his head, he could see and feel everything that Neferaset was involved with. To a lesser extent he could do the same with the thoughts and actions of Anzety, but suspected that was due to the power of the high priestess, flowing into her brother, rather than the high priest’s own…

It was like a liquid, dancing. A liquid current centred on Neferaset…

Obion was speaking, he had no idea of what was really going on around him at this level of awareness. Neferaset was talking very slowly to him, stating that, if he was to support her, as the King-in-Rising had ordered, then she needed control of the Talatat’s movements in the temple. Menascare could feel the distaste on the soldier’s breath; but, sensing little threat, the commander of the Talatat let his elite troops be marched around three circuits of the temple, ‘building the fire’ as the rejuvenated high priestess named it…

Now the flow of time compressed itself– like a discarnate mind listening to the the thoughts of the young priest-to-be, as Neferaset spoke.

“Amkhen, we have prepared this temple for you, but now you must be ready to sacrifice everything you have, everything you are, to the nature of your elevation to chosen priest of this temple. You know that there are pressures here, beyond anything that could reasonably be asked of you. We, in our turn will do what we can to support your journey to the full moon. Are you ready for this?”

Menascare forced himself to turn his head to look at the young man, though there was no need: he could hear and feel the apprentice priest’s every thought.

Neferaset held the attention of Amkhren. Fixing him, with her eyes, as a cobra would its prey. But this was no death strike; this was the heart of life protecting life… For the first time, Mensacare saw it in its wholeness.

Time was alive… and it moved like a serpent, just as his Goddess did… full of dread intent and focus, able to sift everything related to a single string of consciousness. To not know this was to be in the path of events, good or ill, as they tumbled from the sky. To be aware of this – and more, if you were of Neferaset’s calibre, was to have power over what the high priests called the blow of happenings…

Returning to the movement of the time-serpent in front of him, Menascare could see that, within this fluid, the high priestess had isolated Amkhren from those around him. The boy’s heart was beating peacefully, full of love for the woman he adored above anyone else–even his beloved grandmother. He saw nothing but Neferaset; heard nothing but her voice.

Within this, Menascare could sense her dilemma: that to keep him like this for too long would reduce his awareness of the very real threat posed by the sinister Talatat; now standing in a ring around the inner temple. Obion was nobody’s fool. He knew that something unseen was going on…

The snake that was this new time now slid forward. Event after event poured in on the boy, until there came a moment when Obion smiled and said in a voice like a sword being drawn from its sheath, “Amkren, join us…”

——————————–

Index to previous chapters:

Chapter One – Gifts From the River

Chapter Two – An Agony of Sunset

Chapter Three – The Dark Waters

Chapter Four – Touching the Sky

Chapter Five – The Fire Within

Chapter Six – The Wide Waters

Chapter Seven – The Crystal Air

Chapter Eight – The Unchosen Darkness

Chapter Nine – The Priestess Calls

Chapter Ten – Darkness at the Door

Chapter Eleven – Inundation

Chapter Twelve – Above and Below

Chapter Thirteen – The Binding Voices

Chapter Fourteen – The Flood

Chapter Fifteen – The Intimacy of Enemies

Chapter Sixteen – Old Friends, New Dangers

Chapter Seventeen – The Rule of Three

Chapter Eighteen – Rider on the Dawn

Chapter Nineteen – The Return of the Silence

—————————

Introduction to River of the Sun

In April 2015 a group of people gathered in the Derbyshire hills to enact the Silent Eye’s annual Mystery Play, entitled, The River of the Sun. The five-act mystical drama formed the backbone of that Spring weekend, and told the fictional story of a clash of ego and divinity set in an Isis-worshipping temple located on an island in the Nile, during the the fascinating period of the 19th dynasty, the time of Rameses the Great.

The 18th and 19th dynasties were a period of deep upheaval for ancient Egypt. The reign of the ‘Heretic King’, Akhenaten, saw Egypt’s religious structure torn apart, as the revolutionary Pharaoh became what Wallis Budge called the ‘world’s first monotheist’; re-fashioning the power of the many Gods with one supreme entity – the visible sun disc, the Aten, for which Akhenaten, alone, was the high priest. Many have pointed to the failure of the ‘herectic’ Pharaoh’s politics, but few have doubted the sincerity of his religious vision. He will, forever, remain an enigma.

Whatever the nobility of his goal, the actions he took were ruthless, and included the shutting down of the annual deity festivals which were the sole point of ritualistic contact between the ordinary people of Egypt and their locally-worshipped gods. In addition, Akhenaten paid little attention to the domestic and military affairs of Egypt, allowing the country’s enemies to encroach on its borders, greatly weakening Egypt’s power at that critical time for the region.

After Akhenaten’s brief reign, culminating in the Pharaoh’s mysterious death, shadowy military forces took control of Egypt, instigating the 19th dynasty in the persons of Rameses I and, soon thereafter, Seti I, whose throne name derives from the god Set – often considered the ‘evil one’ because of his slaying of his brother, Osiris.

Seti I is judged by modern historians as having been one of the greatest-ever pharaohs, yet his importance in the 19th dynasty was eclipsed by the actions of his second son, the brilliant Rameses II, whose long reign of over sixty years included much self-promotion and the alteration of Egypt’s recent history. Both Seti and Rameses II (Rameses the Great) were passionate about the evisceration of the last traces of Akhenaten’s ‘chaos’, as they saw it.

But, although, by the 19th dynasty, the the ‘Son of the Sun’ was long dead and the buildings of his embryonic and doomed city of Tel-al-Armana were reduced to rubble, something of that time remained in the Egyptian consciousness. A new kind of connection between Pharaoh and God had been established, one which elevated mankind, if only in the being of the Pharaoh, to be someone who ‘talked with God’. It was, at the very least, a bold experiment and, though the world would have to wait until the 19th century to re-discover the ‘erased’ pharaoh, the philosophical waves of that period rippled out and dramatically affected the way the incoming 19th dynasty had to repair the worship of the Gods, uniting the people of Egypt under a trinity of Amun-Ra, Khonsu and Mut.

Our fictional story is a tale of politics, friendships, mind and faith. It is set against an historically accurate background, and at a time when Rameses was due to take the throne from the dying Seti .

Returning to Thebes in his swift warship, crewed by his fearsome Talatat mind-warriors, Rameses decides to mount a surprise night-time raid on the island-based Isis temple which has prospered under the sponsoring reign of his father. Rameses suspects that the inner teachings conducted by the revered High Priestess and Priest conceal views that relate to the thoughts of the heretic Pharaoh, Akhenaten. He plans to insert himself and his warriors of the mind into the islands’s Spring rites as the high priest and priestess begin a cycle of initiation for a chosen apprentice priest who has proved himself worthy of special advancement.

The resulting clash draws everyone, including the young Pharaoh-in-Rising, into a spiralling situation where each is forced to confront their own fears as well as living out the roles which life has allocated them. River of the Sun is the story of a spiritual and political encounter from which none emerge unchanged, including the man who will shortly be Pharaoh, the mighty Rameses II, whose secret name for himself is ‘the unchosen’.

Through the eyes and minds of those surrounding the chosen priest and the ‘unchosen’ Pharaoh, the River of the Sun takes us on a tense and compelling journey to the heart of power and its eternal struggle with truth.

The chapters of the book will be serialised in this blog. The finished work is planned to be available in paperback and Kindle in the Spring of 2016.

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River of the Sun, serialised here, and its associated images, are the intellectual property of Stephen Tanham and is ©Copyright material.

River of the Sun, chapter 19 – The Return of the Silence

River of Sun logo

 

River of the Sun, chapter 19 – The Return of the Silence

Lord Menascare pushed with all his might at the edge of the damaged temple door. On the other side of the bronze olbong, Anzety, the high priest, did the same, though in the opposite direction. Both men were wet with the sweat of their efforts, but the discomfort had not diminished their determination.

Around them a sea of silent faces stared at their seemingly doomed work to partly fix the damage. Menascare cursed beneath his breath. It should have been unthinkable to attempt the repair at the very start of the restored ritual, but, looking at the twisted metal, he had felt such a depth of emotion that he wanted to make a gesture–to insert a sense of reparation–into the violated space.

One set of eyes, in particular, radiated venom – those of Obion, the Commander of the Talatat, who clutched the handle of his sword as though it were the neck of his arch rival. Menascare returned his gaze with calmness…and ignored it, turning back to his heated efforts. The room was filled with an hypnotic silence. Menasacare had chosen to do this when all participants had returned. He could easily have done it while the young priest-to-be was performing his hasty bathing and re-robing.

With a characteristic streak of subversion – the cause of so much of his troubles – he had elected to make his efforts public, brushing aside the risk of such visible exposure to failure.

In the East, seated in quietude, in the twin place of the Goddesses Isis and Mut, the high priestess sat with her eyes closed. Her calm presence seemingly withdrawn from the whole temple. She seemed oblivious to the efforts of her brother and Lord Menascare.

They were making little progress against the huge weight of the damaged portal. Tools, thought the elder man, I need tools… The thought took his mind back to much younger days when he had the company of the best stonemakers in the land. One in particular, watching his struggles to entertain the young Rameses, had taken him to the palace workshops and taught him the principles whereby a small force could rearrange a seemingly impossible weight, trading distance at one end for tiny movements at the other. He smiled at the memory of the younger Sarkur, and wondered where the Stonemaster was now? Good, men, really good men, were few and far between in this land of fear and politics. The chaos which had been the temporal harvest of the reign of the Erased still seeped through Egypt’s structures of power; whose shapes would never again resemble those of its glorious past–whatever the facade…

Tools, thought, Menascare, again. Forcing his mind from idle regrets to the needs of the now.

Anzety must have been having the same thoughts, for, shaking his head in unspoken agreement with his old teacher, he stepped out of the temple, to return, moments later, with a long, forge-twisted, brass bar and a small block of dense sandstone. Between them they positioned the crude lever. Menascare took one last look at their hasty arrangement, then both men pushed down on the long metal bar. The bronze temple door inched upwards, creaking on its remaining hinge as it rose. Too much weight was being placed on that single pivot, and the silent minds in the room tensed with the sense of impending failure – a failure that would be far worse than the initial act of damage. At the last moment, Anzety jumped across the space and lent his own considerable strength to the final positioning of the metal rings over the top of the giant pin of the upper hinge.

Menascare, now alone, could hold the weight no longer. There was a scream of metal on metal and the entire door hung between two worlds. Then with the high priest hammering his shoulder against the shining surface, a groaning ensued, whose note descended as the door sank, gently, down into its former position, overcoming the buckling of the hinge with its own weight.

There are victories that have nothing to do with death…thought Menascare.

Anzety was slumped, exhausted, against the door, his strained hands tracing wet streaks along the metal as it moved. He opened his eyes to see the miracle of a closing temple door, taking his leaning body with it as it slid into position and sealed the temple, once more, leaving him on his knees and close to sobbing.

But Menascare was not looking at his former pupil. He had turned, at some inner command, to see Neferaset emerging from her meditation. How do you describe the sound of war which has no fury? thought the mage. As if in response, the high priestess opened her eyes and did something that Menascare had only witnessed twice before in his life; once in the presence of his dying teacher, and once in his youth, in a deep sandstone cave, when his mysterious and enigmatic Goddess had first revealed herself to him.

She stopped time…

——————————–

Index to previous chapters:

Chapter One – Gifts From the River

Chapter Two – An Agony of Sunset

Chapter Three – The Dark Waters

Chapter Four – Touching the Sky

Chapter Five – The Fire Within

Chapter Six – The Wide Waters

Chapter Seven – The Crystal Air

Chapter Eight – The Unchosen Darkness

Chapter Nine – The Priestess Calls

Chapter Ten – Darkness at the Door

Chapter Eleven – Inundation

Chapter Twelve – Above and Below

Chapter Thirteen – The Binding Voices

Chapter Fourteen – The Flood

Chapter Fifteen – The Intimacy of Enemies

Chapter Sixteen – Old Friends, New Dangers

Chapter Seventeen – The Rule of Three

Chapter Eighteen – Rider on the Dawn

—————————

Introduction to River of the Sun

In April 2015 a group of people gathered in the Derbyshire hills to enact the Silent Eye’s annual Mystery Play, entitled, The River of the Sun. The five-act mystical drama formed the backbone of that Spring weekend, and told the fictional story of a clash of ego and divinity set in an Isis-worshipping temple located on an island in the Nile, during the the fascinating period of the 19th dynasty, the time of Rameses the Great.

The 18th and 19th dynasties were a period of deep upheaval for ancient Egypt. The reign of the ‘Heretic King’, Akhenaten saw Egypt’s religious structure torn apart, as the revolutionary Pharaoh became what Wallis Budge called the ‘world’s first monotheist’; re-fashioning the power of the many Gods with one supreme entity – the visible sun disc, the Aten, for which Akhenaten, alone, was the high priest. Many have pointed to the failure of the ‘herectic’ Pharaoh’s politics, but few have doubted the sincerity of his religious vision. He will, forever, remain an enigma.

Whatever the nobility of his goal, the actions he took were ruthless, and included the shutting down of the annual deity festivals which were the sole point of ritualistic contact between the ordinary people of Egypt and their locally-worshipped gods. In addition, Akhenaten paid little attention to the domestic and military affairs of Egypt, allowing the country’s enemies to encroach on its borders, greatly weakening Egypt’s power at that critical time for the region.

After Akhenaten’s brief reign, culminating in the Pharaoh’s mysterious death, shadowy military forces took control of Egypt, instigating the 19th dynasty in the persons of Rameses I and, soon thereafter, Seti I, whose throne name derives from the god Set – often considered the ‘evil one’ because of his slaying of his brother, Osiris.

Seti I is judged by modern historians as having been one of the greatest-ever pharaohs, yet his importance in the 19th dynasty was eclipsed by the actions of his second son, the brilliant Rameses II, whose long reign of over sixty years included much self-promotion and the alteration of Egypt’s recent history. Both Seti and Rameses II (Rameses the Great) were passionate about the evisceration of the last traces of Akhenaten’s ‘chaos’, as they saw it.

But, although, by the 19th dynasty, the the ‘Son of the Sun’ was long dead and the buildings of his embryonic and doomed city of Tel-al-Armana were reduced to rubble, something of that time remained in the Egyptian consciousness. A new kind of connection between Pharaoh and God had been established, one which elevated mankind, if only in the being of the Pharaoh, to be someone who ‘talked with God’. It was, at the very least, a bold experiment and, though the world would have to wait until the 19th century to re-discover the ‘erased’ pharaoh, the philosophical waves of that period rippled out and dramatically affected the way the incoming 19th dynasty had to repair the worship of the Gods, uniting the people of Egypt under a trinity of Amun-Ra, Khonsu and Mut.

Our fictional story is a tale of politics, friendships, mind and faith. It is set against an historically accurate background, and at a time when Rameses was due to take the throne from the dying Seti .

Returning to Thebes in his swift warship, crewed by his fearsome Talatat mind-warriors, Rameses decides to mount a surprise night-time raid on the island-based Isis temple which has prospered under the sponsoring reign of his father. Rameses suspects that the inner teachings conducted by the revered High Priestess and Priest conceal views that relate to the thoughts of the heretic Pharaoh, Akhenaten. He plans to insert himself and his warriors of the mind into the islands’s Spring rites as the high priest and priestess begin a cycle of initiation for a chosen apprentice priest who has proved himself worthy of special advancement.

The resulting clash draws everyone, including the young Pharaoh-in-Rising, into a spiralling situation where each is forced to confront their own fears as well as living out the roles which life has allocated them. River of the Sun is the story of a spiritual and political encounter from which none emerge unchanged, including the man who will shortly be Pharaoh, the mighty Rameses II, whose secret name for himself is ‘the unchosen’.

Through the eyes and minds of those surrounding the chosen priest and the ‘unchosen’ Pharaoh, the River of the Sun takes us on a tense and compelling journey to the heart of power and its eternal struggle with truth.

The chapters of the book will be serialised in this blog. The finished work is planned to be available in paperback and Kindle in the Spring of 2016.

————————————————–

River of the Sun, serialised here, and its associated images, are the intellectual property of Stephen Tanham and is ©Copyright material.

River of the Sun, chapter 18 – Rider on the Dawn

River of Sun logo

 

River of the Sun, chapter 18 – Rider on the Dawn

The marshlands by the great river gave way to the firmer, broken rock of the valley’s floor as the mule track climbed towards the far hills. The many trails fanned away on either side, as the possible destinations thinned to a single, rocky path. The great white horse did not slow in its thundering passage. The finest breeders in Egypt’s long history had gradually refined the purposeful form of the mighty creature which now bore its rider up the steep incline in the pale light of a the high desert’s pre-dawn, with barely a faltering of its elegant speed.

The air was cold, but the rider felt little discomfort, assured within his lithe and powerful young body of the limits of his endurance. He did, though, pull his cloak around him against the last of the short night’s biting breeze. He smiled at the brightening rocks as mighty Ra edged over the far hills beyond the East bank of the great river, covering in a breath the distance the horse had travelled in the whole time since the boatman had rowed him ashore and made ready his prepared and favourite mount.

He liked to ride with the dawning sun behind him. It brought him into alignment with that very special feeling within his breast – that sense of immense destiny. He knew his real life was about to begin–could sense his passing father’s imminent death on the wind.

Pharaoh at last! No longer just the youth, the boy-regent, the King-in-Rising. Now Egypt would tremble in obedience to the ways of his mind, to the cleverness of his strategies; and he would, of course, tell them as his campaigns brought riches flooding into Egypt’s coffers, again, how very fortunate they were to have the Unchosen as their God-King.

Except that he never used the word Unchosen. It was his private key to inner power. It was a word that described how he would spring back from adversity, overcoming what may have appeared to have defeated him, what had stood in his way, as he played with it… teasing out victory in the manner of the truly confident warrior. “Learn to build greater edifices, Egypt,” he shouted at the dawn, “you will need them to honour me!” His voice, thin in the cold air, dissipated, unheard, on the ancient rocks that were turning to gold.

Approaching a plateau, he slowed and wheeled his great steed around in a tight circle. He let it rest and breathe, reaching into his well stocked provisions to open a skin of water and let it drink. He pushed himself high in the saddle. Now facing East, he had to shield his eyes from Ra’s glory as the rays streamed along the paths he had ridden, creating a shimmering ghost of his journey. “See how Ra honours me!” he shouted at the dawn.

And then his eyes caught the newly glowing top stones of the Isis temple on the island from which he had made an early departure, secure in the knowledge that his orders would be creating havoc, below. “I will have you, Neferaset!” he shouted into the golden light, his loins surging with energy. “But when all your choices have dried like water on the sand…” the white horse pawed the rock before them both, adding to the combined symbol of power, “…then you will come begging for the touch of royal flesh!”

He thrilled at the thought, imagining how he would prolong their lovemaking, how she would marvel at his prowess as her own body betrayed her in its writhings. But, then, she would be discarded, another fallen priest, if a pretty one. Trust none of them, his father had said the last time they had talked, the last time – he now knew – that they would ever talk. Events in Thebes had turned his father’s loyalty against the resurgent priesthood. There is coming a new age, he had said. In which the royal line will need to be much cleverer than its priests… Cleverer. That had become his watchword, first-chosen or not. A new age… and the mind would be the arrow that took the new royal line forward into that golden tomorrow.

He looked down at the vision of the brightening temple on the island far below. His beloved Talatat would be waking to the possibilities of the day, would be stretching mind and body in the service of the wishes he had left in coded form, written on Obion’s scroll. Poor Menascare, he thought. What chance do you stand now? He laughed, a bitter noise against the golden force of the rising sun. Perhaps it is time for you to die along with my beloved father?

The wings of light streaming over his head formed themselves into an imagined escort as he turned Salama to face their upward path, again. The narrow plateau echoed one last time to his laughter, and then there were only falling motes of dust to mark the passage of the rider; that and the sound of thundering hooves on the single trail.

The dull ringing of two alabaster goblets striking each other was an incongruous accompaniment to the rising of the sun over the natural walls of the place Rameses had named, The Crescent of the Lost. Sarkur was uneasy in the gesture, just as he was uncertain about the wisdom of drinking temple wine so early in the day, if at all…

“Come, old friend,” said the royal rider, smiling through the unwiped film of white dust that covered his face. “Drink with me and we will mark the birth of the day that will see you finish my Tower.”

Sarkur the Stonemaster did as his companion bade him. But sipped the wine, rather than gulping it down in his companion’s fashion. “Majesty,” he said. “We do not know if there are enough hours in this day to accomplish the task!”

Despite his years of experience with Seti, the master builder took no chances with his son. It was like dealing with a snake, indeed, one of the early royal child-names of Rameses had related to that similarity – and the watchful stare of his early guardian. You had to be certain of your intent before you responded – if you responded at all… Now, in the full glare of the other’s unblinking gaze, the older man swallowed, acknowledging by gesture that he was uncertain of the wisdom of what he had just uttered.

The Regent raised his hand, and, for all his strength, Sarkur winced at the anticipated royal strike. But Rameses cupped his head to his ear. “Hear that, Sarkur?” he said, smiling in a way that was more chilling than any royal rage could be. “Do you know what that is the sound of?”

Sarkur gulped at the wine, despite his earlier resolve. He looked down over the edge of the tower. Below, and under the Regent’s careful guidance, his men had formed a perfect moon crescent around two-thirds of the base of the edifice. The pillar on which the two were seated rose out of this cradle, phallic and proud. The human crescent mirrored the canyon walls in this airless place. Seated on the ground and chanting their prayers to the distant royal household, the stone workers below kept their eyes to the ground, well away from those of the royal predator above.

“He’s dying, Majesty.” said Sarkur. “They lament the passing of their great King,” and quickly added, “and the great fortune which sees his son, the King-in-Rising being with them at this terrible time…”

“Terrible?” whispered Rameses, looking up at the clear, blue sky, with its burning heat, and smiling, cruelly.

“Would you not rather be there, Majesty – at your noble father’s bedside while he passes from this world?”

Rameses lay back onto the stone platform, letting his palms touch the stone, and feeling how the heat had begun to make the perfectly sculpted blocks intolerably hot, despite the earliness of the hour. Sarkur watched as the Regent’s fingers traced out the strange design which the Stonemaster had, himself, carved and fitted.

“My father is Pharaoh of the whole world, Sarkur,” said Rameses. “It does not matter where his body is, he will pass from all the places in this land as sweat passes from the tiny caves in the skin.”

“This, then, is your chosen place for your witness-watch?” asked Sarkur, gently.

“There is no right place,” answered the royal son. “He is a great man and his passing may be honoured by all, everywhere…” his lips formed a narrow line. “And why should I bow to the rituals of another clutch of Priests?”

Sarkur said nothing, holding his breath and willing the moment to pass.

“Life and death,” said Rameses. “Your men are making the sounds of life and death.”

“Majesty?”

“This very platform is a place of life and death…” He turned his body over, lying prone on the hot stone and looking down over the deadly edge, again. The heat passed quickly through his robes, warming his lower body. The energy reminded him of the ride up to the Tower, of the heat in his loins at the thought of Neferaset’s slow demise. “Be careful which you choose, Stonemaster…”

Rameses uncurled and sat up, his strong back sinuous and flexible in its raising of the royal head. He held out his goblet for Sarkur to join him in the gesture. The older man did so, but much more awkwardly.

“To life, then, Majesty,” the Stonemaster said.

“To death,” said Rameses, the fingers of his other hand idly tracing the edge of the strange design now set into the stone. The Cobra’s eyes were fixed on the far horizon, where, through the smooth gap in the crescent canyon’s wall, the end of the trail up which he had ridden was visible.

But Sarkur was not following the King-in-Rising’s gaze. He was studying, in minute detail, the patterns made by Rameses’ stroking fingers.

——————————–

Index to previous chapters:

Chapter One – Gifts From the River

Chapter Two – An Agony of Sunset

Chapter Three – The Dark Waters

Chapter Four – Touching the Sky

Chapter Five – The Fire Within

Chapter Six – The Wide Waters

Chapter Seven – The Crystal Air

Chapter Eight – The Unchosen Darkness

Chapter Nine – The Priestess Calls

Chapter Ten – Darkness at the Door

Chapter Eleven – Inundation

Chapter Twelve – Above and Below

Chapter Thirteen – The Binding Voices

Chapter Fourteen – The Flood

Chapter Fifteen – The Intimacy of Enemies

Chapter Sixteen – Old Friends, New Dangers

Chapter Seventeen – The Rule of Three

—————————

Introduction to River of the Sun

In April 2015 a group of people gathered in the Derbyshire hills to enact the Silent Eye’s annual Mystery Play, entitled, The River of the Sun. The five-act mystical drama formed the backbone of that Spring weekend, and told the fictional story of a clash of ego and divinity set in an Isis-worshipping temple located on an island in the Nile, during the the fascinating period of the 19th dynasty, the time of Rameses the Great.

The 18th and 19th dynasties were a period of deep upheaval for ancient Egypt. The reign of the ‘Heretic King’, Akhenaten saw Egypt’s religious structure torn apart, as the revolutionary Pharaoh became what Wallis Budge called the ‘world’s first monotheist’; re-fashioning the power of the many Gods with one supreme entity – the visible sun disc, the Aten, for which Akhenaten, alone, was the high priest. Many have pointed to the failure of the ‘herectic’ Pharaoh’s politics, but few have doubted the sincerity of his religious vision. He will, forever, remain an enigma.

Whatever the nobility of his goal, the actions he took were ruthless, and included the shutting down of the annual deity festivals which were the sole point of ritualistic contact between the ordinary people of Egypt and their locally-worshipped gods. In addition, Akhenaten paid little attention to the domestic and military affairs of Egypt, allowing the country’s enemies to encroach on its borders, greatly weakening Egypt’s power at that critical time for the region.

After Akhenaten’s brief reign, culminating in the Pharaoh’s mysterious death, shadowy military forces took control of Egypt, instigating the 19th dynasty in the persons of Rameses I and, soon thereafter, Seti I, whose throne name derives from the god Set – often considered the ‘evil one’ because of his slaying of his brother, Osiris.

Seti I is judged by modern historians as having been one of the greatest-ever pharaohs, yet his importance in the 19th dynasty was eclipsed by the actions of his second son, the brilliant Rameses II, whose long reign of over sixty years included much self-promotion and the alteration of Egypt’s recent history. Both Seti and Rameses II (Rameses the Great) were passionate about the evisceration of the last traces of Akhenaten’s ‘chaos’, as they saw it.

But, although, by the 19th dynasty, the the ‘Son of the Sun’ was long dead and the buildings of his embryonic and doomed city of Tel-al-Armana were reduced to rubble, something of that time remained in the Egyptian consciousness. A new kind of connection between Pharaoh and God had been established, one which elevated mankind, if only in the being of the Pharaoh, to be someone who ‘talked with God’. It was, at the very least, a bold experiment and, though the world would have to wait until the 19th century to re-discover the ‘erased’ pharaoh, the philosophical waves of that period rippled out and dramatically affected the way the incoming 19th dynasty had to repair the worship of the Gods, uniting the people of Egypt under a trinity of Amun-Ra, Khonsu and Mut.

Our fictional story is a tale of politics, friendships, mind and faith. It is set against an historically accurate background, and at a time when Rameses was due to take the throne from the dying Seti .

Returning to Thebes in his swift warship, crewed by his fearsome Talatat mind-warriors, Rameses decides to mount a surprise night-time raid on the island-based Isis temple which has prospered under the sponsoring reign of his father. Rameses suspects that the inner teachings conducted by the revered High Priestess and Priest conceal views that relate to the thoughts of the heretic Pharaoh, Akhenaten. He plans to insert himself and his warriors of the mind into the islands’s Spring rites as the high priest and priestess begin a cycle of initiation for a chosen apprentice priest who has proved himself worthy of special advancement.

The resulting clash draws everyone, including the young Pharaoh-in-Rising, into a spiralling situation where each is forced to confront their own fears as well as living out the roles which life has allocated them. River of the Sun is the story of a spiritual and political encounter from which none emerge unchanged, including the man who will shortly be Pharaoh, the mighty Rameses II, whose secret name for himself is ‘the unchosen’.

Through the eyes and minds of those surrounding the chosen priest and the ‘unchosen’ Pharaoh, the River of the Sun takes us on a tense and compelling journey to the heart of power and its eternal struggle with truth.

The chapters of the book will be serialised in this blog. The finished work is planned to be available in paperback and Kindle in the Spring of 2016.

————————————————–

River of the Sun, serialised here, and its associated images, are the intellectual property of Stephen Tanham and is ©Copyright material.

River of the Sun, chapter 17 – The Rule of Three

River of Sun logo

 

River of the Sun, chapter 17 – The Rule of Three

Lord Menascare, former mentor to the King-in-Rising, stood in the outer arc of the temple, close to Anzety, the high priest. He watched the care with which Neferaset approached and woke the young priest, Amkhren, whose body was lying, still deeply asleep, where he had left it. The four of them were the only occupants of the temple.

What must it be like, thought the Eye of the Cobra, to have your world destroyed, but still need to pick your way through the debris of what you held most sacred, to save another’s life? Damn you, Rameses – did nothing I taught you take root in the fertile soil of your pampered soul?

But I can do this! His anger became a fury, and the fury became a voice, projected so that the stone walls of the temple echoed in their jagged harmonics, causing every head but that of the kneeling Neferaset to look to the West. The power of Menascare’s voice was such that it reached those waiting in the passageway outside.

“Let all bear witness,”chanted Rameses’ wayward mage, “that in obedience to the King-in-Rising, Rameses, Chosen of Ra, the high priestess of this temple rightly demands our participation in the continuation of this sacred rite.”

Menascare glanced across at Obion, knowing the choice of words would be crucial. The Talatat leader tightened his fingers around the Khopesh sword he always carried. One slip of meaning and the elite commander would attack him. He knew that Obion had his orders, too – and there was no certainty that both would be the same…

“Let all know,” Menascare held up the royal scroll left by the ruler, conscious that the very edge of danger was being trod, “that by examination during the night, our mighty Regent has determined that the high priestess is fit to lead us in the further testing of the young priest-to-be, Amkhren.”

Sensing the powers that strove for mastery of her space, Neferaset seized her opportunity, “Amkhren, wake now!”

No-one of this young man’s calibre should be faced with waking in a temple whose dark wings will almost certainly toy with him until his death, mere hours from now, thought Menascare, shaking his head at Neferaset’s courage and…nobility.

The boy turned a sleepy head, then unfolded bent limbs and stretched in the unselfconscious way that young things do. He looked around the temple, startled that it was not all a dream, yet holding fast to the eyes of Neferaset whose power was focussed on him in this, his weakest moment.

The high priestess spoke softly, “You did well, Amkhren. You did what I commanded you to do. Now you must do more…so much more.”

Amkhren struggled to his feet and bowed, awkwardly, to Neferaset. “Yes, High Priestess,” he said, adding in a whisper. Light of my existence…”

Menascare watched as Neferaset’s attention shifted – to the poles of power represented by the Talatat commander and himself. He studied her, admiring what he saw, as she unfolded her lithe body from the floor and, standing once again, gathered her resolve.

“Menascare, Obion!” Her voice was firm, “I have my orders from the King. Do you support me in what I must do?”

He could reply from the heart, “I can only speak for myself, High Priestess; I have my orders too – and they are to support you–but, also, to ensure that I lend to your rituals the same eye that the King-in-Rising, received at his tasks when the Regent was the age that your young apprentice priest is now.”

Obion spoke as one who tolerated being in the temple only because the King-in-Rising had demanded it.

“I have my orders, too, High Priestess, and in the Regent’s hand. Beyond those I cannot say, since neither the Eye of the Cobra nor I have seen him since last night,” he smiled slyly, “though you may have seen a lot of him..”

“I am sure the King’s eyes are everywhere, Obion,” said Neferaset, easily deflecting the soldier’s slight, “and that he sees through both you and me as he wishes. To return to my question: do you place your forces at my command so that I may carry out in this temple what the King has instructed me to do?”

That was a brave thing to say, thought Menascare. Everything now waited on the commander’s response.

“My orders are to guard, watch and wait,” said Obion, the deadly overtones obvious in his words.

“Very well,” said Neferaset. “This place, though damaged, is still a magical temple in the high tradition of ancient Kemet, our black land. The rites here were never designed for a circle of hardened soldiers. I will need to command their movements if not their words.” she looked from Menascare to Obion and back, testing them with her eyes. “Do I have your word on this?” She fixed her gaze on Obion, her evaluation of friend and foe finished, waiting for confirmation in their actions to follow…

Menascare interrupted, stealing the space within Obion’s slower response. “The Talatat are soldiers of the mind, above all else. Their obedience is absolute and they will do as Obion commands. What that is, I cannot say…”

Confident that she had at least secured a renewed beginning for her temple authority, she turned to talk to Amkrhen.

“Priest to be,” she said, softly. “You have one turning of the sand to wash and prepare yourself with fresh robes. Be swift in body but let your mind be swifter…”

——————————–

Index to previous chapters:

Chapter One – Gifts From the River

Chapter Two – An Agony of Sunset

Chapter Three – The Dark Waters

Chapter Four – Touching the Sky

Chapter Five – The Fire Within

Chapter Six – The Wide Waters

Chapter Seven – The Crystal Air

Chapter Eight – The Unchosen Darkness

Chapter Nine – The Priestess Calls

Chapter Ten – Darkness at the Door

Chapter Eleven – Inundation

Chapter Twelve – Above and Below

Chapter Thirteen – The Binding Voices

Chapter Fourteen – The Flood

Chapter Fifteen – The Intimacy of Enemies

Chapter Sixteen – Old Friends, New Dangers

—————————

Introduction to River of the Sun

In April 2015 a group of people gathered in the Derbyshire hills to enact the Silent Eye’s annual Mystery Play, entitled, The River of the Sun. The five-act mystical drama formed the backbone of that Spring weekend, and told the fictional story of a clash of ego and divinity set in an Isis-worshipping temple located on an island in the Nile, during the the fascinating period of the 19th dynasty, the time of Rameses the Great.

The 18th and 19th dynasties were a period of deep upheaval for ancient Egypt. The reign of the ‘Heretic King’, Akhenaten saw Egypt’s religious structure torn apart, as the revolutionary Pharaoh became what Wallis Budge called the ‘world’s first monotheist’; re-fashioning the power of the many Gods with one supreme entity – the visible sun disc, the Aten, for which Akhenaten, alone, was the high priest. Many have pointed to the failure of the ‘herectic’ Pharaoh’s politics, but few have doubted the sincerity of his religious vision. He will, forever, remain an enigma.

Whatever the nobility of his goal, the actions he took were ruthless, and included the shutting down of the annual deity festivals which were the sole point of ritualistic contact between the ordinary people of Egypt and their locally-worshipped gods. In addition, Akhenaten paid little attention to the domestic and military affairs of Egypt, allowing the country’s enemies to encroach on its borders, greatly weakening Egypt’s power at that critical time for the region.

After Akhenaten’s brief reign, culminating in the Pharaoh’s mysterious death, shadowy military forces took control of Egypt, instigating the 19th dynasty in the persons of Rameses I and, soon thereafter, Seti I, whose throne name derives from the god Set – often considered the ‘evil one’ because of his slaying of his brother, Osiris.

Seti I is judged by modern historians as having been one of the greatest-ever pharaohs, yet his importance in the 19th dynasty was eclipsed by the actions of his second son, the brilliant Rameses II, whose long reign of over sixty years included much self-promotion and the alteration of Egypt’s recent history. Both Seti and Rameses II (Rameses the Great) were passionate about the evisceration of the last traces of Akhenaten’s ‘chaos’, as they saw it.

But, although, by the 19th dynasty, the the ‘Son of the Sun’ was long dead and the buildings of his embryonic and doomed city of Tel-al-Armana were reduced to rubble, something of that time remained in the Egyptian consciousness. A new kind of connection between Pharaoh and God had been established, one which elevated mankind, if only in the being of the Pharaoh, to be someone who ‘talked with God’. It was, at the very least, a bold experiment and, though the world would have to wait until the 19th century to re-discover the ‘erased’ pharaoh, the philosophical waves of that period rippled out and dramatically affected the way the incoming 19th dynasty had to repair the worship of the Gods, uniting the people of Egypt under a trinity of Amun-Ra, Khonsu and Mut.

Our fictional story is a tale of politics, friendships, mind and faith. It is set against an historically accurate background, and at a time when Rameses was due to take the throne from the dying Seti .

Returning to Thebes in his swift warship, crewed by his fearsome Talatat mind-warriors, Rameses decides to mount a surprise night-time raid on the island-based Isis temple which has prospered under the sponsoring reign of his father. Rameses suspects that the inner teachings conducted by the revered High Priestess and Priest conceal views that relate to the thoughts of the heretic Pharaoh, Akhenaten. He plans to insert himself and his warriors of the mind into the islands’s Spring rites as the high priest and priestess begin a cycle of initiation for a chosen apprentice priest who has proved himself worthy of special advancement.

The resulting clash draws everyone, including the young Pharaoh-in-Rising, into a spiralling situation where each is forced to confront their own fears as well as living out the roles which life has allocated them. River of the Sun is the story of a spiritual and political encounter from which none emerge unchanged, including the man who will shortly be Pharaoh, the mighty Rameses II, whose secret name for himself is ‘the unchosen’.

Through the eyes and minds of those surrounding the chosen priest and the ‘unchosen’ Pharaoh, the River of the Sun takes us on a tense and compelling journey to the heart of power and its eternal struggle with truth.

The chapters of the book will be serialised in this blog. The finished work is planned to be available in paperback and Kindle in the Spring of 2016.

————————————————–

River of the Sun, serialised here, and its associated images, are the intellectual property of Stephen Tanham and is ©Copyright material.

River of the Sun, chapter 16 – Old Friends, New Dangers

 

SE15 Montage Final

River of the Sun, chapter 16 – Old Friends, New Dangers

“Forgive me, high priest,” said Menascare. “Times have changed and we live in a dangerous age!  Had Rameses – or anyone else here, known that we were friends of old, the situation could have moved beyond my control!”

Sitting on the curved chair in his chamber, Anzety massaged the back of his head. The blinding headache that Menascare’s carefully delivered blow had induced was still taking its toll.

“We were hardly friends, Menascare. You were my least favourite teacher in that far-away temple, I was terrified of you. We called you the ‘Eye of the Cobra’. Did you ever know that?”

“Yes,” said the elder man, smiling ruefully. “thank you for that. The name grew in the fertile soil of the royal palace and is used today when I am not listening–and increasingly, when I am…  Nevertheless, you learned from my teaching, while others did not…”

Anzety shifted in his seat edgily, and not because of the pain in his head. “I have barely had time to think since the Royal assault on us! This situation is getting more complex every hour!  Am I to take it that things are not well between you and the King-in-Rising?”

“I have been Rameses’ mentor for more years than I wish to remember… I thought I had passed to him some of the moderation of my years, but there is missing in him a foundation of kindness, a basic trust of the rest of his world.  It is a trait that his father feared also. I worry for those in his way! His father was Seti: Man of Set – Beloved of Ptah!  Imagine a life lived with the spirit of wildness dominating your soul, but shared with the God who gave the heart a tongue and a pen!”

Anzety stood and tried to stretch some of the tension from his frame. “But, my sister and I do not act against the King-in-Rising.  We have merely adapted the old ways and merged them with a rebirth in the worship of the divine feminine. Our goal is to show that all such Goddesses are aspects of the One – aspects of the original Isis, mother of Horus, herself.  We believe that the right new rituals will release great powers of healing into the Black Land.”

Menascare reached for his wine and drained the glass. He didn’t often resort to the grape, but this was no ordinary circumstance.

“And that is a noble goal, high priest. But Rameses fears the new.  He loves it only when he is the source of it!  Take care, for you are both in great danger. The Heretic King still casts a long shadow, and Rameses explodes with rage if anything brings that dark time to mind… His father may be fired from kinder clay, but his venom for the self styled ‘Son of the Sun’ is as acute as that of Rameses.”

Despite the fact that the temple was in the middle of a cycle of initiation, Anzety poured them both some more of the rich, red wine. Temple protocol had been cast aside, and not by them… “The Talatat scare me enough!” he said.

“The Talatat!” Mensacare spat the words. “Those bricks of harsh uniformity. But you heard Rameses’ words, no doubt?” Menascare looked up at the ceiling, cursing quietly.

“That you were their creator?  I could not believe that. I assumed they were forged by Rameses himself?”

“No,” replied Menascare. “They were my creation. I engineered their minds to show how dangerously fanatical the pursuit of pure knowledge could be. I trained them in the inner ways of the mind so they could provide us with a living tableau of the outer parts of ourselves.”

The older man suddenly looked very sad. He hung his head and sighed, before continuing, “But Rameses became fascinated with their ‘purity of purpose’.  Together with Obion, he warped them so that they emerged a fearful machine.” Menascare drank deeply from his glass. “Beware them, Anzety – they are not like others; the edges of their ruthlessness have never been found…”

The high priest registered the deep lines on the face of his former teacher and decided to move the subject on.

“What will the King do now?” he asked.

“I dread to think – but I had better go and find out – assuming he is not sharing his bedchamber with your sister!”

“I think she will have skilfully avoided that…but the price may be high.  Anyway, shouldn’t you be guarding someone young with a sore neck?”

“It was time to show our King-in-Rising that there are limits to my obedience! Storming your temple was his idea and the bile still sits in my throat.” He coughed and shook his head. “In truth, your young priest lies on the temple floor getting the rest he needs. Besides, Rameses will not be checking him – he’s too busy with your sister!”

“But Obion might,” said Anzety. “From what I’ve seen, he is no friend of yours!”

“That is certainly true,” Menascare smiled. “But then, he only seeks friendship with the King – something he will never have!  Besides,” he chuckled. “He sleeps the sleep of the druggedhe will need his rest, too!”

Anzety looked at the older man and wondered about the resourcefulness needed to last this long under the eyes of a tyrant like the young ruler…

Menascare looked up from studying his hands; still thinking deeply. “Your young priest-to-be is a brave soul, too. I expected him to weep under the royal pressure, but he remained calm and resolute. He will make a good priest…”

“We hope he will be more than that…” Anzety risked much in saying it, but felt the time was right. But the look the other returned him carried a warning.

“Then you walk a very dangerous path, Anzety – one I would be a fool to be party to!”

“We are not devious,” said the high priest, trying to recover lost ground.” “we simply want to protect the glory of Egypt’s soul at a time of strife.”

“Egypt thrives on strife!  Did the Kingdoms not roll on through the Wheel of Neheh despite the many catastrophes in between?”

The Eye of the Cobra finished his wine and stood to go.

“Beware the price, Anzety, beware the price…”

With that, he left…

——————————–

Index to previous chapters:

Chapter One – Gifts From the River

Chapter Two – An Agony of Sunset

Chapter Three – The Dark Waters

Chapter Four – Touching the Sky

Chapter Five – The Fire Within

Chapter Six – The Wide Waters

Chapter Seven – The Crystal Air

Chapter Eight – The Unchosen Darkness

Chapter Nine – The Priestess Calls

Chapter Ten – Darkness at the Door

Chapter Eleven – Inundation

Chapter Twelve – Above and Below

Chapter Thirteen – The Binding Voices

Chapter Fourteen – The Flood

Chapter Fifteen – The Intimacy of Enemies

—————————

Introduction to River of the Sun

In April 2015 a group of people gathered in the Derbyshire hills to enact the Silent Eye’s annual Mystery Play, entitled, The River of the Sun. The five-act mystical drama formed the backbone of that Spring weekend, and told the fictional story of a clash of ego and divinity set in an Isis-worshipping temple located on an island in the Nile, during the the fascinating period of the 19th dynasty, the time of Rameses the Great.

The 18th and 19th dynasties were a period of deep upheaval for ancient Egypt. The reign of the ‘Heretic King’, Akhenaten saw Egypt’s religious structure torn apart, as the revolutionary Pharaoh became what Wallis Budge called the ‘world’s first monotheist’; re-fashioning the power of the many Gods with one supreme entity – the visible sun disc, the Aten, for which Akhenaten, alone, was the high priest. Many have pointed to the failure of the ‘herectic’ Pharaoh’s politics, but few have doubted the sincerity of his religious vision. He will, forever, remain an enigma.

Whatever the nobility of his goal, the actions he took were ruthless, and included the shutting down of the annual deity festivals which were the sole point of ritualistic contact between the ordinary people of Egypt and their locally-worshipped gods. In addition, Akhenaten paid little attention to the domestic and military affairs of Egypt, allowing the country’s enemies to encroach on its borders, greatly weakening Egypt’s power at that critical time for the region.

After Akhenaten’s brief reign, culminating in the Pharaoh’s mysterious death, shadowy military forces took control of Egypt, instigating the 19th dynasty in the persons of Rameses I and, soon thereafter, Seti I, whose throne name derives from the god Set – often considered the ‘evil one’ because of his slaying of his brother, Osiris.

Seti I is judged by modern historians as having been one of the greatest-ever pharaohs, yet his importance in the 19th dynasty was eclipsed by the actions of his second son, the brilliant Rameses II, whose long reign of over sixty years included much self-promotion and the alteration of Egypt’s recent history. Both Seti and Rameses II (Rameses the Great) were passionate about the evisceration of the last traces of Akhenaten’s ‘chaos’, as they saw it.

But, although, by the 19th dynasty, the the ‘Son of the Sun’ was long dead and the buildings of his embryonic and doomed city of Tel-al-Armana were reduced to rubble, something of that time remained in the Egyptian consciousness. A new kind of connection between Pharaoh and God had been established, one which elevated mankind, if only in the being of the Pharaoh, to be someone who ‘talked with God’. It was, at the very least, a bold experiment and, though the world would have to wait until the 19th century to re-discover the ‘erased’ pharaoh, the philosophical waves of that period rippled out and dramatically affected the way the incoming 19th dynasty had to repair the worship of the Gods, uniting the people of Egypt under a trinity of Amun-Ra, Khonsu and Mut.

Our fictional story is a tale of politics, friendships, mind and faith. It is set against an historically accurate background, and at a time when Rameses was due to take the throne from the dying Seti .

Returning to Thebes in his swift warship, crewed by his fearsome Talatat mind-warriors, Rameses decides to mount a surprise night-time raid on the island-based Isis temple which has prospered under the sponsoring reign of his father. Rameses suspects that the inner teachings conducted by the revered High Priestess and Priest conceal views that relate to the thoughts of the heretic Pharaoh, Akhenaten. He plans to insert himself and his warriors of the mind into the islands’s Spring rites as the high priest and priestess begin a cycle of initiation for a chosen apprentice priest who has proved himself worthy of special advancement.

The resulting clash draws everyone, including the young Pharaoh-in-Rising, into a spiralling situation where each is forced to confront their own fears as well as living out the roles which life has allocated them. River of the Sun is the story of a spiritual and political encounter from which none emerge unchanged, including the man who will shortly be Pharaoh, the mighty Rameses II, whose secret name for himself is ‘the unchosen’.

Through the eyes and minds of those surrounding the chosen priest and the ‘unchosen’ Pharaoh, the River of the Sun takes us on a tense and compelling journey to the heart of power and its eternal struggle with truth.

The chapters of the book will be serialised in this blog. The finished work is planned to be available in paperback and Kindle in the Spring of 2016.

————————————————–

River of the Sun, serialised here, and its associated images, are the intellectual property of Stephen Tanham and is ©Copyright material.

River of the Sun, chapter 15 – The Intimacy of Enemies

 

SE15 Montage Final

River of the Sun, chapter 15 – The Intimacy of Enemies

“I am not always the brutal man I portray,” said Rameses, lying to one side on Neferaset’s bed and sipping his wine. “Authority must be established before a new situation is allowed to develop. The seed must be placed, not where it might fall, but where it should grow.”

From the floor rug, where she sat, cross-legged on a simply mat, the high priestess replied, “Your dying father had no qualms about how we conduct ourselves. He chose me for the role…long ago.”

There was a touch of bitterness in the Regent’s tone when he replied, “He chose many people, priestess…!  My father did a good job of restoring Egypt’s borders, too; but my kingdom will be many times the size of his. After me, the world will look on my works and wonder at the mind that built them. I will take this Egypt and make it into something truly mighty!”

Someone as close as the black beetle crossing the floor of her chambers might have seen the flicker in her eyes, but Rameses did not.

“You lay great store by the mind?, Chosen of Ra” she asked, in a soft voice.

“Doesn’t everyone?  You have not achieved your status without much use of the mind?”

“True, Chosen of Ra, but my status is lowly compared to yours. Also I must understand, and use, the emotions of those in my care. Emotion, used wisely, can perform miracles.”

“So can fear…” Rameses smiled. “…and you can drop the ‘Chosen of Ra’ when we are alone. ‘Majesty’ will suffice.”

“The high priestess rose to her knees and bowed. “Yes, Majesty.”

“Good,” said the King-in-Rising. “Now that we are beginning to understand each other, let me ask you a little more about this mysterious island. Why are you so revered, and why is this place so shrouded in mystery?”

“I think it is simply because we are a recently established temple, Majesty.”

Rameses uncoiled his resting body like a snake, bring his feet to the floor and towering over his prey. “You ought to know by now that I will not be satisfied by such half truths!” he snarled. “There is a core of something new, here, priestess, and it goes beyond the stones of your temple! – I am not alone in finding it so, and I mean to uncover its heart.”

There was complete calmness in her reply. Her eyes were distantly focussed, as though listening to a conversation far away in place and time. “Its heart is the right word, Majesty. We seek only to rejuvenate the spirit of the worship of Isis, as we believe this has become stale.”

“Stale!” the Regent was still angry. “More like mummified!  So, yes, I can see your goal – and yet you actively revere and portray the Gods of Amun-Ra, with the twin aspects of Khonsu and Mut. Would it not have been simpler to use Isis herself?”

“Isis is there, Majesty, in the shadows. Our work is to make her a fitting mother to all the female Gods, re-uniting her with her distant origins.”

“And what of Horus then?” The royal temper was abating, soothed by the soft voice of the high priestess.

“Are you not the incarnation of Horus?” she asked, with wide eyes that emphasised her devotion to the traditions. The most ancient of the royal Gods? And, in using Khonsu and Mut as the lower aspects of Amun-Ra himself, do we not honour and obey the direction your family has set to finally rid the world of the legacy of the Heretic King, Akhenaten–the man your forebears have erased?”

Rameses found himself distracted by the dread word. “Akhenaten – the Heretic!  Do you not know that even to speak his name is punishable by death?”

Neferaset answered carefully, “If you had designs on my life, so soon, I would be dead already, Chosen of Ra…” the mistake that wasn’t slipped unnoticed into his consciousness.

A flicker of a smile crossed the tight lips as Rameses realised how artfully he had been softened. He moved his hands down his shins and leaned towards her.

“Know, then, that should I ever find that you are harbouring the slightest sympathy for the words or thoughts of the sun-drunk madman, your end will be slow, public and without the slightest mercy. Do we understand the game, Priestess?”

In answer, Neferaset slid, submissively, towards Rameses, taking and kissing his hand. The Regent pulled back with surprise; then gazed down at his hand, looking uncertain.

“Perfectly, Majesty.” said the high priestess into the silence between them.

Rameses found his heart was racing. “Isis has a worthy practitioner of her magic here . . . and you must know that I want you!” But he was less sure than his words suggested. There was a feeling that she was occupying a place in his mind that no-one had entered before.

Neferaset loosened the ties on the front of her shift. “Then take me, Majesty!  I will not resist such a royal command!” Her eyes were challenging; there was a hint of a smile.

Rameses was felt both aroused and endangered. He shook his head, slowly. “You play too well, priestess. I will not take you like this–offered to authority as a temple concubine would be–and you know it!”  He swept his arm towards her. “Away! But, I will have you, and willingly, before our encounter is over.”

Neferaset slid back along the floor to her mat. She picked up her goblet and drank some of the wine, never taking her eyes from the King-in-Rising. “Then, I await your guidance, Majesty…”

Rameses felt he had been caught off-guard. He drained his wine, and stared back at the woman who both intrigued and unsettled him. Returning to his military mind, he said, “So let me make our game of greater value. There are two in my company who are as clever as you and your brother. One is my old teacher, Menascare.” His face lined with the pressure of contrasting emotions. “Though nearing the end of his useful days, he is yet mighty in the ways of wisdom and coercion.” He shifted uncomfortably. “Before I groomed and promoted Obion, he was in line to be partner to my schemes until his comfortable death in the palace at Pi-Rameses, but lately…his mind is distracted by something–and Obion has seen his chance.”

“You mean to pit them against each other?” asked Neferaset, her eyes unblinking.

“Foolish woman,” Rameses lashed her with the word. “I mean to pit them against you, your brother and the Vessels of your impudent temple! But not in a simple way…I love strategy games, high priestess. I hope you do too?”

“With the price of failure being my virtue and probably my life, I have little choice, Majesty.”

Sensing victory, Rameses slid off the bed and joined the high priestess on the crumpled mat. He took her unresisting hand and returned the kiss. “I am not new to the skills of love, high priestess; I would ensure you enjoyed our lovemaking. Of course, should I find your own enjoyment insincere, your death would be suitably cruel…”

Neferaset closed her eyes to the sadistic image. “And am I the only one in the middle of this game of high consequence, Majesty? Or does my brother, Anzety, share this fate?”

“Your brother? Of course not!” Rameses smiled, happy at the confirmation of her naivety. “Why, your chosen young Priest is the centre of it all. It is far more effective to target someone else who is loved by another – ask Obion, the Talatat of Fear, how well that works!  And I can see how much affection you have for the boy – and he for you…”

Rameses watched the beautiful eyes close as the priestess swallowed, hard,  in the face of the picture of what was to follow. He pressed his advantage, putting as much severity into the words as possible. “You will complete his initiations before the full moon and he will emerge triumphant or broken – and this will be on your head, alone.”

Neferaset looked at him with pained eyes. “Three days! So little time, when it should take a whole year!  But that is a cruel thing to do to a young man without fault!”

“No, it is not!” said Rameses, enjoying the hunt for the mind and heart of this challenging woman. “It is a suitable sport for the King-in-Rising, and an appropriate response to an intriguing woman who sets herself, however subtly, in the way of the Royal Will!  When the moon is full and you have failed, then cruelty may play its part…”

Neferaset pulled herself straight and calmed her breathing, as she had done to face the onslaught in the temple. “Very well Majesty, you have your Royal hunt. But I have one condition?” Her eyes did not waver in the face of his deadly gaze.

“You would place conditions on the man who will shortly be your King?”

“Yes, just this – that you release the apprentice priest to sleep, now.”

Rameses reached out to take Neferaset’s goblet. He drained its contents, daring her even to think of objecting.

“You play like a girl, Priestess! You could have extracted so much more from me than this!” The wide grin split the cruel face. “But yes, I agree to your terms, though you sold them cheaply! Now I will leave you and sleep in the company of my soldiers…”

Rameses stood to go, straightening out his warrior’s clothes. “I will give Menascare and Obion their instructions.” he smiled. Separately, of course–we can have our games with them, too!”

He retrieved his cloak and swung it around his wide shoulders.

“The duty soldiers will ferry me to the bank of the great river in the morning. Once there, I will take provisions and a horse from your stables. I have need of my own company. These events are portents of much to come.” He fastened his cloak at the throat. “Did you know I was building a tower not far from here in the hills beside the desert? They will speak of the stark beauty of this tower when I am long gone…”

He strode to the door, then turned to look at the high priestess one last time.

“I am here, not just to study, you, High Priestess, but to oversee my tower’s completion. It will be a monument to my father. I will return when I am ready, but you will not know when…”

Neferaset rose and bowed. “Then we will see it as a test to be ready for you this time, Majesty.”

Rameses was enjoying himself. He looked down at the woman before him, savouring the additional authority his height imparted.

“I do not see how you could be ready under these circumstances, priestess. That is the whole point of my game – to see you kept off-guard, to expose your naked reactions within your broken temple…”

The moon was bright overhead as he stepped out beneath the stars. He began to walk towards the quarters of the Talatat, but changed his mind. Instead the King-in-Rising loosened his cloak and pulled it up around his head and shoulders. He crossed between the twin pylons into the sanctity of the outer temple buildings. There was no-one on guard. The smashed doors still hung at an angle on their ruined hinges. Lights burned inside the temple, but the sacred space had only one occupant. The apprentice priest was sleeping by the punishment block on which his head should have rested. Instead his head was cushioned by a garment that Rameses recognised as belonging to Lord Mensacare. Obion’s sword was nowhere to be seen…

Rameses shook his head. The encounter with the priestess had drained him. “Sleep well, young man,” said the King-in-Rising, feeling strangely sympathetic. “There will be tests enough in the days ahead. I am not always a monster…”

He looked down at the rich purple cloth beneath the boy’s head and shook his own.

“Menascare, you old fool…” he spoke into the air of the temple. “Did you think I wouldn’t know… or didn’t you care?” He walked towards the temple door, still speaking the thoughts in his mind. “How joyous your company was in the days of my childhood; and how deadly to my ambitions it now is…”

——————————–

Index to previous chapters:

Chapter One – Gifts From the River

Chapter Two – An Agony of Sunset

Chapter Three – The Dark Waters

Chapter Four – Touching the Sky

Chapter Five – The Fire Within

Chapter Six – The Wide Waters

Chapter Seven – The Crystal Air

Chapter Eight – The Unchosen Darkness

Chapter Nine – The Priestess Calls

Chapter Ten – Darkness at the Door

Chapter Eleven – Inundation

Chapter Twelve – Above and Below

Chapter Thirteen – The Binding Voices

Chapter Fourteen – The Flood

—————————

Introduction to River of the Sun

In April 2015 a group of people gathered in the Derbyshire hills to enact the Silent Eye’s annual Mystery Play, entitled, The River of the Sun. The five-act mystical drama formed the backbone of that Spring weekend, and told the fictional story of a clash of ego and divinity set in an Isis-worshipping temple located on an island in the Nile, during the the fascinating period of the 19th dynasty, the time of Rameses the Great.

The 18th and 19th dynasties were a time of upheaval for ancient Egypt on many levels. The reign of the ‘Heretic King’ Akhenaten saw Egypt’s religious structure torn apart, as the revolutionary Pharaoh became what Wallis Budge called the ‘world’s first monotheist’; re-fashioning the power of the many Gods with one supreme entity – the visible sun disc, the Aten, for which Akhenaten, alone, was the high priest. Many have pointed to the failure of the ‘herectic’ Pharaoh’s politics, but few have doubted the sincerity of his religious vision. He will, forever, remain an enigma.

Whatever the nobility of his goal, the actions he took were ruthless, and included the shutting down of the annual deity festivals which were the sole point of ritualistic contact between the ordinary people of Egypt and their locally-worshipped gods. In addition, Akhenaten paid little attention to the domestic and military affairs of Egypt, allowing the country’s enemies to encroach on its borders, greatly weakening Egypt’s power at that critical time for the region.

After Akhenaten’s brief reign, culminating in the Pharaoh’s mysterious death, shadowy military forces took control of Egypt, instigating the 19th dynasty in the persons of Rameses I and, soon thereafter, Seti I, whose throne name derives from the god Set – often considered the ‘evil one’ because of his slaying of his brother, Osiris.

Seti I is judged by modern historians as having been one of the greatest-ever pharaohs, yet his importance in the 19th dynasty was eclipsed by the actions of his second son, the brilliant Rameses II, whose long reign of over sixty years included much self-promotion and the alteration of Egypt’s recent history. Both Seti and Rameses II (Rameses the Great) were passionate about the evisceration of the last traces of Akhenaten’s ‘chaos’, as they saw it.

But, although, by the 19th dynasty, the the ‘Son of the Sun’ was long dead and the buildings of his embryonic and doomed city of Tel-al-Armana were reduced to rubble, something of that time remained in the Egyptian consciousness. A new kind of connection between Pharaoh and God had been established, one which elevated mankind, if only in the being of the Pharaoh, to be someone who ‘talked with God’. It was, at the very least, a bold experiment and, though the world would have to wait until the 19th century to re-discover the ‘erased’ pharaoh, the philosophical waves of that period rippled out and dramatically affected the way the incoming 19th dynasty had to repair the worship of the Gods, uniting the people of Egypt under a trinity of Amun-Ra, Khonsu and Mut.

Our fictional story is a tale of politics, friendships, mind and faith. It is set against an historically accurate background, and at a time when Rameses was due to take the throne from the dying Seti .

Returning to Thebes in his swift warship, crewed by his fearsome Talatat mind-warriors, Rameses decides to mount a surprise night-time raid on the island-based Isis temple which has prospered under the sponsoring reign of his father. Rameses suspects that the inner teachings conducted by the revered High Priestess and Priest conceal views that relate to the thoughts of the heretic Pharaoh, Akhenaten. He plans to insert himself and his warriors of the mind into the islands’s Spring rites as the high priest and priestess begin a cycle of initiation for a chosen apprentice priest who has proved himself worthy of special advancement.

The resulting clash draws everyone, including the young Pharaoh-in-Rising, into a spiralling situation where each is forced to confront their own fears as well as living out the roles which life has allocated them. River of the Sun is the story of a spiritual and political encounter from which none emerge unchanged, including the man who will shortly be Pharaoh, the mighty Rameses II, whose secret name for himself is ‘the unchosen’.

Through the eyes and minds of those surrounding the chosen priest and the ‘unchosen’ Pharaoh, the River of the Sun takes us on a tense and compelling journey to the heart of power and its eternal struggle with truth.

The chapters of the book will be serialised in this blog. The finished work is planned to be available in paperback and Kindle in the Spring of 2016.

————————————————–

River of the Sun, serialised here, and its associated images, is the intellectual property of Stephen Tanham and is ©Copyright material.

River of the Sun, chapter 14 – The Flood

 

SE15 Montage Final

River of the Sun, chapter 14 – The Flood

Rameses, second of that name and the one in rising to the throne of Egypt, looked through the widening gap of broken, bronze doorway and fixed his eyes on the woman frozen in shock in the East of the temple.

As the shrieking of torn metal desisted, he held out his warrior’s arms to push the smashed halves of the portal apart. Through the widening gap the regent could see that the eyes of Neferaset had located his face, and was staring in disbelief out of her desecrated world.

He had faced many enemies in close combat, and knew how to read the faces of those who were opposite his blade. The same look of despair greeted him now.

There was shock in the dark eyes on the other side of the wrecked temple space, but there was no terror. Well then, he thought, here’s one who can think in the space between the heartbeats…

He stepped into the temple, flanked behind by Menascare, his former mentor, and Obion, the commander of the Talatat guard. As their leaders entered, those Talatat warriors already secreted in the temple full of priests stepped forward and drew their swords, pointing them at the respective Vessels in the inner ring of figures.

“Who would dare enter a temple of the mysteries when the lights of initiation blaze across the great river?”

It was the voice of Anzety, the foolish brother of the high priestess. Slower than his sister, he had reacted before examining what was already in his eyes, but still unravelled to thought. Rameses drew his sword and was about to step forward to kill the high priest, when Menascare, in a most unexpected action, ran from behind Rameses’ right shoulder to bring the flat of his own sword down on the back of the neck of the offending man.

The high priest slumped to the floor, unconscious. Rameses looked to the East, expecting womanly outrage. Instead, the high priestess had come forward and was kneeling to the East of the altar, her hands pressed flat to the floor, as was her bowed head.

“King of the Coming Sun,” she entreated the regal invader, in a voice more steady than it should have been. “may he live, prosper and be healthy; Rameses, Justice of Ra, Chosen of Ra, this temple begs your forgiveness that we did not know of your arrival!”

Rameses looked at the prostrate figure and laughed.

“Well done, High Priestess! Our actions would have thrown many a warrior from his chariot, let alone a mere priestess.” He smiled, cruelly before adding, “But it is we who disturb your temple…” He watched and admired as she composed herself to reply, desolate amidst the ruins of her dreams.

When it came, her voice was small but steady. Her head still faced the floor, not daring to look up at her royal oppressor, “The elect of the Gods could not disturb, Chosen One!  How may we serve you?”

What an astonishing woman, he thought! I must make this last…

Rameses walked around the outer wheel of the temple in the path of Ra. He was no stranger to the design of such spaces, but preferred the halls of justice or the battlefield. Religion held little attraction for him. Yet even he was struck by the beauty of this temple. As he walked, hand on his sword, he looked around at the figures–vessels and visitors alike, who lined his path, each one frozen in the calm and deadly sweep of his vision, all kneeling, heads bowed, before him. Only his Talatat remained standing, conditioned to his rules of engagement. Tired of examining the ruins of ritual, he came to stand before the high priestess. “Rise to your knees,” he commanded.

She did so, pristine and mute, silently waiting his wish…. but strangely unafraid, he thought, smiling. What a prize!

“News travels as quickly as the Great Boat of Ra, High Priestess. I hear, daily, of the wonderful sense of life here;  of its insight and things seen, ‘as new as the dawn of Ra in the East’, from those who visit this place. Should I not, then, care to visit it myself?”

He knelt to face her, in a display of savage possession, bringing his face to within inches of hers.

“Is the King-in-Rising to be denied the last moments of his years of wandering freedom, before the golden chains of kingship weigh him down, forever?” He wasn’t expecting an answer…

The man’s voice came from behind him. He turned, angered that his toying with the high priestess had been interrupted, to see a dazed high priest rising to his knees, struggling to speak, “Chosen of Ra,” he coughed. “You find us unprepared for the glory of your visit, though not your divine presence.  Give us a little time to arrange this sacred space, that it may be fitting for your arrival among us!”

“You will know when I want to speak with you, priest!” cursed Rameses. “Keep your precious silence or I will have Menascare wield the blade as it was meant to be used…”

Before him, a more attractive voice pulled him away from the directed anger. Neferaset had closed her eyes but was still speaking. He recognised how well brother and sister were defending each other – despite the force lined against them.

“Chosen one, that is my–”

“–Your brother, yes, I know…”

He watched as she straightened her spine and adjusted her breathing, opening her eyes after the third in-breath.

“You come with a challenge then, Chosen of Ra…” Neferaset said. “…or we would already be dripping red beneath the blades of those who broke down our temple doors?”

Rameses smiled at her guile and twisted his head like a snake – something Menascare had taught him as a boy, a clever action that seemed to break the flow of events – introducing a form of chaos into an exchange…”They said I would not be disappointed with you, priestess,” he said. “When those of my Kingdom simper and slide on the ground like meek serpents, how refreshing it is to find someone – and a woman, too – who knows how to stand and look into the eyes of Pharaoh!”

In reply Neferaset looked deep into those royal eyes, and inclined her upper body towards him, mirroring his snake motion. “Like this, Chosen of Ra?”

Rameses laughed with admiration, “Exactly so, Priestess,” smiled the Pharoah-in-Rising. “My spies tell me that you run a wondrous and sacred island here, in the middle of the Great River.” he raised a hand to trace his forefinger across her brow, stopping in the middle of her forehead. “Although your temple is small in years, its fame has spread far.”

The finger began its motion, again, and completed its track across the space over her eyes. “My special guard–the Talatat around you here…” he waved his arm to indicate the warriors who had moved one step nearer the temple’s centre. “…are specially trained, though we can come to the details of that in the morning. I think you will enjoy the nature of their specialities – I’m told you have a fondness for the old ways, like my beloved but often misguided father?”

At the mention of Seti, the priestess pulled herself straighter, in what he took to be a gesture of respect. Very revealing, he thought…

She chose her words, carefully, “Your father, Great Seti, He of the God Set, Beloved of Ptah, always approved of our ways, Majesty!” she straightened out her arms to indicate the sweep of the temple. “He granted us the charter to found the temple of the Divine Feminine on this place when it was just a rock..”

Rameses nodded. His eyes hid a rage inside. When he spoke it was in a low voice. “My father is dying, Priestess – you know that. That is why this will be my last such journey for some time. I mean to take advantage of it!”

Still in her kneeling position, the priestess bowed, saying nothing. Again, she surprises me, thought Rameses. Then he yawned, deliberately, indicating that he was becoming bored with his welcome.

“I am tired, High Priestess. And these,” his hands mirrored Neferaset’s sweeping movements. “the elite of my guard, must be exhausted. You will find us food, drink and your best rooms, I hope?”

Neferaset didn’t even blink. “You will have our own dwellings, Majesty. We will sleep in the company of the Vessels.”

Rameses nodded, glad that his violence had achieved its first goal. “Good. So, let us abandon our games and retire.” He rose to his feet and only then noticed that a boy priest was kneeling, oddly, to one side of the central part of the temple. He drew the priestess’ eyes over to the figure. “Why is that boy kneeling that way and not facing me?”

Not waiting his approval, Neferaset rose and went to stand, protectively, by Amkhren.

“Majesty, your arrival interrupted his initiation as a new priest of this temple.”

“And why does he not face me, now?” asked the regent, in flat tones.

“He is under my command, Majesty – as part of his initiation. He will fail if he answers to anyone’s voice but mine.”

Rameses smiled and walked the short distance to study the apprentice priest.

“I like that – and I cannot fault his courage!  I have seen such rituals before…” With that, he picked up the flail and brought it down, harshly, on Amkhren’s back. The young man remained still and endured in silence.

Rameses barked a command, “Obion – to me!” The head of the Talatat elite guard marched from where he had been standing to join Rameses.

“Majesty?”

Rameses addressed Obion, but continued to look down at the priest. “Pick up that sword. Hold it over his neck, ready to strike.”

Obion took up an executioner’s stance and brought the heavy Khopesh down to touch the skin of Amkhren’s neck. The boy remained silent, despite his obvious terror.

Rameses spoke, softly, as though sharing a jug of beer with his military chief, “Obion, what is the penalty for one who puts high priestess above the King-in-Rising?”

Obion’s response was immediate, “Death by the sword, Majesty!”

“Then do it!” said Rameses.

This time, it was the voice of Menascare which cut through the temple’s hushed silence. “Chosen of Ra–” the older man was walking anticlockwise around the outer circle to come and stand near to them.  “–if we are to examine this temple and the minds of its priests, then we could find no better means of so doing than to watch how it conducts this initiation… to which they will be committed and not able to make changes.”

Rameses spun and snarled at his old mentor, speaking for the benefit of Obion, “He’s right of course. Though only he could engineer a situation where his own life would not be made shorter by saying it…”

Rameses turned to look around his beloved Talatat guards, all watching in silence. “Very well, Menascare!  But let us introduce you…” Rameses swept his gold-laden arm around the full temple, taking in priests and soldiers, alike. “Brothers and Sisters of the Black Land, meet Lord Menascare, friend of King Seti and my former mentor….Oh and did I say?  No? – Also creator of the Talatat, my very talented guardians…whom he now detests…”

Leaving this revelation to settle, Rameses put his hand on Amkhren’s head in a mock-fatherly way.

“Your neck is spared, young Priest… for now,” Rameses’ smile was sadistic. “though, since your obedience to the High Priestess has wedded you to this position, you can stay here, for the rest of the night… Lord Menascare can guard you, personally…”

Menascare bowed to Rameses, taking the sword from Obion, who returned to the West of the temple.

Neferaset’s voice finally faltered, “Must we torture him in this way?  He is young and has done only that which was commanded – do you not endorse such behaviour to those above him?”

Rameses enjoyed the moment. Savouring the breach in her perfection. So she cared about the boy!

“Torture!” he said, darkly. “You know nothing of torture… come, high priestess, escort us to your rooms and I will take wine with you and tell you how I intend to torture the Hittite spies who were foolish enough to venture into our borders at the last full moon!”

Rameses took Neferaset’s arm. He noticed that the touch made her shudder. That will do for the beginning, he thought.

“I promise you, priestess,” said the King-in-Rising; loud enough for all to hear. “that we will not sleep until the sun rises, again…”

Ignoring what he knew was temple protocol, he propelled the high priestess down the centre line of the broken temple space. Through the hushed and shocked silence, he could hear someone sobbing. He turned to see an old woman trying to suppress her sorrow.

“Why is that woman crying?” he asked.

“She is the boy’s grandmother, Chosen of Ra,” said Neferaset.

“Grandmother!  By the Gods, you have assembled quite a circus, here, Priestess!  Your wine better be good!

——————————–

Index to previous chapters:

Chapter One – Gifts From the River

Chapter Two – An Agony of Sunset

Chapter Three – The Dark Waters

Chapter Four – Touching the Sky

Chapter Five – The Fire Within

Chapter Six – The Wide Waters

Chapter Seven – The Crystal Air

Chapter Eight – The Unchosen Darkness

Chapter Nine – The Priestess Calls

Chapter Ten – Darkness at the Door

Chapter Eleven – Inundation

Chapter Twelve – Above and Below

Chapter Thirteen – The Binding Voices

—————————

Introduction to River of the Sun

In April 2015 a group of people gathered in the Derbyshire hills to enact the Silent Eye’s annual Mystery Play, entitled, The River of the Sun. The five-act mystical drama formed the backbone of that Spring weekend, and told the fictional story of a clash of ego and divinity set in an Isis-worshipping temple located on an island in the Nile, during the the fascinating period of the 19th dynasty, the time of Rameses the Great.

The 18th and 19th dynasties were a time of upheaval for ancient Egypt on many levels. The reign of the ‘Heretic King’ Akhenaten saw Egypt’s religious structure torn apart, as the revolutionary Pharaoh became what Wallis Budge called the ‘world’s first monotheist’; re-fashioning the power of the many Gods with one supreme entity – the visible sun disc, the Aten, for which Akhenaten, alone, was the high priest. Many have pointed to the failure of the ‘herectic’ Pharaoh’s politics, but few have doubted the sincerity of his religious vision. He will, forever, remain an enigma.

Whatever the nobility of his goal, the actions he took were ruthless, and included the shutting down of the annual deity festivals which were the sole point of ritualistic contact between the ordinary people of Egypt and their locally-worshipped gods. In addition, Akhenaten paid little attention to the domestic and military affairs of Egypt, allowing the country’s enemies to encroach on its borders, greatly weakening Egypt’s power at that critical time for the region.

After Akhenaten’s brief reign, culminating in the Pharaoh’s mysterious death, shadowy military forces took control of Egypt, instigating the 19th dynasty in the persons of Rameses I and, soon thereafter, Seti I, whose throne name derives from the god Set – often considered the ‘evil one’ because of his slaying of his brother, Osiris.

Seti I is judged by modern historians as having been one of the greatest-ever pharaohs, yet his importance in the 19th dynasty was eclipsed by the actions of his second son, the brilliant Rameses II, whose long reign of over sixty years included much self-promotion and the alteration of Egypt’s recent history. Both Seti and Rameses II (Rameses the Great) were passionate about the evisceration of the last traces of Akhenaten’s ‘chaos’, as they saw it.

But, although, by the 19th dynasty, the the ‘Son of the Sun’ was long dead and the buildings of his embryonic and doomed city of Tel-al-Armana were reduced to rubble, something of that time remained in the Egyptian consciousness. A new kind of connection between Pharaoh and God had been established, one which elevated mankind, if only in the being of the Pharaoh, to be someone who ‘talked with God’. It was, at the very least, a bold experiment and, though the world would have to wait until the 19th century to re-discover the ‘erased’ pharaoh, the philosophical waves of that period rippled out and dramatically affected the way the incoming 19th dynasty had to repair the worship of the Gods, uniting the people of Egypt under a trinity of Amun-Ra, Khonsu and Mut.

Our fictional story is a tale of politics, friendships, mind and faith. It is set against an historically accurate background, and at a time when Rameses was due to take the throne from the dying Seti .

Returning to Thebes in his swift warship, crewed by his fearsome Talatat mind-warriors, Rameses decides to mount a surprise night-time raid on the island-based Isis temple which has prospered under the sponsoring reign of his father. Rameses suspects that the inner teachings conducted by the revered High Priestess and Priest conceal views that relate to the thoughts of the heretic Pharaoh, Akhenaten. He plans to insert himself and his warriors of the mind into the islands’s Spring rites as the high priest and priestess begin a cycle of initiation for a chosen apprentice priest who has proved himself worthy of special advancement.

The resulting clash draws everyone, including the young Pharaoh-in-Rising, into a spiralling situation where each is forced to confront their own fears as well as living out the roles which life has allocated them. River of the Sun is the story of a spiritual and political encounter from which none emerge unchanged, including the man who will shortly be Pharaoh, the mighty Rameses II, whose secret name for himself is ‘the unchosen’.

Through the eyes and minds of those surrounding the chosen priest and the ‘unchosen’ Pharaoh, the River of the Sun takes us on a tense and compelling journey to the heart of power and its eternal struggle with truth.

The chapters of the book will be serialised in this blog. The finished work is planned to be available in paperback and Kindle in the Spring of 2016.

————————————————–

River of the Sun, serialised here, and its associated images, is the intellectual property of Stephen Tanham and is ©Copyright material.

River of the Sun, chapter 13 – The Binding Voices

 

SE15 Montage Final

River of the Sun, chapter 13 – The Binding Voices

“Kneel before the sacred third point!”

Amkhren fell to his knees and, once again, faced the clear lake of tranquillity at the temple’s centre. But this time, the sense of potency within his young soul threatened to overwhelm him…

The Vessel of Sekhmet was speaking again, “Behold Shemu, season of Harvest, the home of the Goddess Mut, wife of Amun-Ra, and the patron of our High Priestess, when she travels from the East and into her world.  It was the time of Shemu when the High Priestess came across you on the bank of the Nile, seven years ago. Now you have returned, on the cyclic wheel of Neheh, to that same place, but wiser. The river beside which you now stand is full of meaning and potential, but it is also the place where great fear can be generated within the soul – your Ba.  Are you a man of courage, Amkhren?

Amkhren swallowed before speaking, “I will try to be so…”

The young priest-to-be felt the body of Sekhmet kneel beside him, pressing close to his flesh, her warmth penetrating his thin robe. “That will be tested before you pass through the portal of Priesthood!” Then her deadly closeness was gone, and soft hands pulled him to his feet, guiding him along the line of the inner temple’s bounding triangle and back to the East. His feet were suddenly leaden, his body weary, as though a heaviness had dropped on him, replacing the sense of vibrant potency he had felt when standing before the Vessel of Khonsu.

He half-shuffled the distance to the Eastern point, then looked up. The impassive eyes of Neferaset looked back into his.

“Amkhren, there must be a weight… for there must be struggle. There will be many trials; but, within these seasons, there will also be gifts.” Neferaset looked over Amkhren’s shoulder. “Vessel of Sekhmet, take our priest-to-be, whose body is made made heavy by what lies ahead, on a further journey; this time around the inner Wheel of Djet, the path of eternity.” Amkhren blinked in astonishment as the high priestess’ fingers stroked polar lines from the middle of his forehead to the temples, banishing the heavy clouds from his face. He became like a person emerging from darkness, glimpsing the first rays of the dawning sun. “Let him receive the blessings of those who mark his future path…”

Sekhmet turned and looked at the high priestess. Their eyes exchanged a look of such depth that Amkhren could only wonder at the intensity of his passiveness, that he could become the target of such deliverance…

Trust, Amkhren, said the voice of Anzety in his head. Even when the darkness seems to take you… Trust in the far shore of the inner river…

As  Sekhmet’s strong fingers spun him around again to face the gentle figure of Hathor for the second time, the heaviness in his body faded, to be replaced by a feeling that the still waters of the central altar were reaching for him, flooding up his spine and changing weariness into acceptance and healing. His vision became unfocussed–not blurred, but as though he were only one of many now seeing through eyes that had been his, alone. Looking up at the beautiful and kindly figure of Hathor, the sense of himself sank beneath the clear waters that were claiming him.

“Amkhren, ” whispered Hathor. “Mine is a place of healing. When your way is harsh and your wounds seem to overwhelm your will, turn to me and I will reach into your body and heart, and fill you with the milky balm that flows from the sky, a shining flow that can never end, no matter how dark or long your days.”

Amkhren bowed to Hathor in thanks, his body bending like a reed in the great river. Then the claws were urging him around the inner circle, past the watchful eyes of Khonsu, to stand before the Vessel of Tefnut, the goddess of moisture.

“There are no waves on the water that is claiming you, as its own,” said the gentle voice of the Lion-headed woman. She held the was staff, its strange shape anchored to the floor with twin feet, while the simple stylised head watched him.

“Honour to you, priest to be. “The honeyed voice echoed the power of water – gentle and restoring, yet containing the hidden power of the great inundation within it. “Let the deeper mysteries of the world of moisture be as a breath of life to you in your trials. Never forget that the water came before the land that rose from its depths; nor that the power of moisture is only the other part of that which contains dryness.”

The reed in the river that was Amkhren bowed, unable to find the right words before this flowing presence. He looked again at the was sceptre as the claws turned him away, one more time, but he took the fleeting image with him; it seemed to be a flowing thing–not solid at all– reflecting the inner fountain that had claimed the seat of his spine, now rising up its length and flowing around his heart…

A few more steps, during which his weighty limbs regained a little more of their power, and he stood before the Vessel of Ptah.

The green skin of the God curved from a calm face, disappearing into the tight folds of a white robe, to emerge at the wrists and hands that clutched a more ornate form of the was staff – the sceptre. The presence of this god-form was overwhelming. Amkhren could feel the power of thought behind eyes that were split by the form of the ankh which crested the top of the coloured layers of the sceptre’s length. Here is creation, Amkhren, said Anzety’s voice in his head, you do not speak to creation… it speaks through you, when you are ready…your voice is its presence in the land of Egypt…

When they came, the words uttered through the Vessel of Ptah were like the water in the silver bowl at the temple’s centre, as though they were dancing patterns of light that gave life to the ghostly flow which moved, now, up the top of his spine and into his head.

Lips verdant with the power of making spoke, “Honour to you, priest to be. Look deeply into my eyes and see the power of creation! As shaper of all around you, I have the primeval beat of the heart that wishes, and the tongue that frames. Used rightly, this force can set everything in its proper place, as my consort Sekhmet will show you.”

Sekhmet moved behind Amkhren, who found himself caught in the current of love that flowed between the green god and the fierce lady lioness. His body tried to twist away from its power but the claws held him fast and his head exploded with the golden child of liquid love that overwhelmed what was left of his senses. Through the haze he heard her words, “We share with those who are ready, Amkhren–” A gentler set of claws stroked the sides of his head. “–when those whose ears have reached maturity learn to listen…”

Once more, the reed bowed, and then his feet were moving through a dead and empty space where there was, for a moment, intense sadness. Within this, Amkhren could feel the strength and resolve of Sekhmet as it guided him through the inner black. We do not know why, Amkhren, whispered Anzety’s voice in his head, equally sad, we do not know how… But, though the hand of the Lioness carried him through the void, he could feel a much more deathly grip closing on them all from the outside circle. But his young mind could not separate intuition from experience and he said nothing as Sekhmet led him, safe for now, to stand before the Vessel of Thoth.

“Honour to you, priest to be,” said the tall, Ibis-headed figure, whose curving beak nearly touched Amkhren’s forehead. “Listen deeply to my words, for they are power clothed in the substance of air.  Invoke my name to strip away the false – turning language into meaning.  If meaning is known it may be written – but only by they who live in understanding. Think carefully on these things as your trials progress. The word is far more than it seems; therefore speak only when you understand. Otherwise, let silence be your guide.”

The words were simple, yet so very powerful in their clarity. Amkhren felt their meaning burn itself into his mind, as though the beak of the Thoth Vessel had pecked them onto his flesh.

The claws of Sekhmet did not allow him further time to consider. Her movements seemed designed to tear him, always, from the edge of full comprehension – as though another journey, or even many journeys, around the great circles would be necessary for his passing through the portal of priesthood.

“Honour to you, priest to be,” said the graceful figure in the simple robe, distinguished only by a single, ostrich feather standing proud  from a narrow, red headband. “Let Thoth’s words fill you with intent. But, behind the word must lie the real; behind understanding must lie the flame of that which is true in the Eyes of Amun-Ra, not simply what is true in the minds of women and men. Therefore let your life’s search be for what is true, for that, in the final judgement before Osiris, will be the worth of your time on the great river of life.”

Beyond words, now, Amkhren could only bow to the simple figure of beauty. The claws returned for him, but, this time, with a gentler touch…And then he was standing, again, before she who personified both Mut and Isis.

The high priestess softened her eyes, seeing in his the devotion and intoxication she needed.

The Vessel of Sekhmet spoke from behind his left shoulder, “High Priestess, spiritual guide for all those who seek deeper understanding of the life and the power of She who goes beyond; your chosen apprentice has been shown the path ahead of him. I return him to your care.”

Amkhren felt his legs begin to shake. Ashamed of his weakness in the face of the woman who had plucked him from the banks of the great river, he stiffened his young body, raised his head and drew in a deep breath, banishing fear in the way he had been taught.

Neferaset studied his resolve, nodding her head, imperceptibly, in a gesture invisible to anyone but him. “Amkhren,” she began. “before you are the vessels of the Gods and Goddesses of Egypt. Not all are represented here, because one sacred place can only be host to one view; one perspective on the beyond. But those who are with us – in spirit as well as in flesh -represent a way, a path to the inner strength, knowledge and vision that awaits you – should we have chosen well… For seven years you have been worked and tested, while we searched to see if such dedication was rooted in the blown sand or had the true seed of will and endeavour that marks out those who would be great in service to the Gods…”

Gentle fingers touched the skin of his tense neck. They dropped to his shoulders and pulled him forward until he could feel the warmth of Neferaset’s skin, as he had that of Sekhmet’s. Mere inches away from his face, she looked deeply into his tearful eyes and spoke, “Before we open the portal to your future life, I must ask one final time–with your heart and mind; with your body and hungers; with your senses and that which moves joyously through them all – do you submit yourself to the continuation of this rite, from which, after this moment, there will be no turning back until death or dismal failure takes you or casts you away from us?”

With the waters flowing down his cheeks, the young man replied, “With all my being, High Priestess, you who has guarded and nurtured me… yes…”

The gentle hands on his shoulders became firm and spun him round to look out from the East, across the temple and its candle encircled watery altar, to the great bronze doors of the sacred chamber.

In startling counterpoint to Neferaset’s newfound gentleness, Anzety took one step nearer to the temple’s centre, where he struck the Moon-sceptre into the stone of the floor; the thumping sound splitting the air. “Then the real process of your training as a Priest of this temple will begin.”

The Vessel of Tefnut stepped forwards, “And it begins in the Waters…”

The Vessel of Ptah joined the new ring of command, “And it begins in the miracle of that which was never spoken yet is rendered as signs.”

The Vessel of Thoth moved silently to join his companions, “And it begins with knowledge, which must be grown and harvested, as those by the great river plough, sow and harvest the fruit of the flood when Akhet comes.”

Joining her consort, Thoth, the feathered figure of Ma’at moved inwards to enrich the new circle, “And it begins and grows in the living sea of Truth, which ever flows around those with ears to hear and eyes to see.”

Amkhren’s eyes flickered left as the Vessel of Hathor moved inwards, to speak gently, “And it begins with a great trial of healing, in which the self of a person is laid bare, and that which is poisonous is burned away, so that he may rise, again, in newness.”

In the blurred wind of the silent temple Amkhren heard Anzety’s voice, again.

“Is this the way you will begin, Amkhren?”

“Yes, High Priest.” He had spoken the reply before he could stop to consider the trap in the question.

Anzety’s voice was harsh, “That is the wrong answer!”

Losing his calmness in agitation, he pulled away from Neferaset’s gentle grasp and leaned forward to appeal to the man he considered friend. “Then I will enter this path in the way that I am shown . . .Vessel of Khonsu, God of the Moon.” The word, friend, died on his lips, correctly unspoken.

With a softer voice, the Vessel of Khonsu replied with knowing tones, “You will obey in all things?”

This time, Amkhren, sensing that the intellect had to be regained to pass this test, replied, “I will obey my teachers in all things.” Were they doing this deliberately? To return him from the heights of the emotional contact with the Neters? He could see how a man–especially a priest, needed to inhabit both worlds.

Anzety walked to a position in the West, directly opposite his sister in the East, before speaking.

“Good . . . Before you, in the centre of the temple, is an executioner’s bench, and upon it you will see a flail and a sword. You will kneel before it and offer your life to the Gods…”

With a gentle and curving push, the High Priestess sent her apprentice into the space of the temple. Amkhren followed her parting gesture and navigated the half-circle to the West before following a direct line back towards the East, daring to cross the very centre of the altar space, his simple robe almost touching the silver crescent upon which glistened the pool of the water of life. Unseen, as he passed, a signature of tiny waves was written across its surface…

Amkhren knelt before the wooden bench, placing his hands between the sword and the flail, and lowering himself to kneel so that his forehead touched the wood.

The soft sound of a woman’s feet, gliding in leather slippers, approached him. So focussed was she on the wellbeing of the boy before her, that she did not see that many of the hooded visitors in the outer shadows had turned away to face the darkness… But, pressed against the wood, Amkhren was conscious that the clutching hand of that feeling of ill intent he had felt in crossing from the place of Ptah to that of Thoth had now returned, stronger than ever.

He was about to raise his head, determined to trust his instincts and warn his beloved Neferaset, but she began to speak in her harsh tones of command before he could give voice to the urgency of his fears, “And there you will stay, though your limbs endure agony, and your mind lives at the edge of darkness. You will endure in complete silence, released only by my command – is that understood, Priest-to-be?”

It must be a test, thought Amkhren, his mind wracked by doubts. The dark forces must be part of the rite, too?

“Yes, High Priestess..” he said, his obedient voice muffled against the wood.

He heard the soft leather of her temple slippers retreat to the East; then the clear tones of command as she raised her voice, triumphantly, “High Priest of Isis, Vessel of Khonsu. Ring the Western Bell to tell the world that the ordeal of Amkhren has begun and that the Gods count his hours . . .”

Anzety approached the huge bell in the West of the temple. He raised the wooden striker, whose end was covered in layers of tightly-bound leather. Drawing back his right arm he struck the bell in its midsection. The melodic sound filled the air of the chamber, in wave after wave, ringing loud and true as it swung, like the vibrations of sound thrown up by the wings of a huge bird of prey.

But the sound which followed this dwarfed its harmony, filling the hearts of most of those in the temple with dread and horror, as the great bronze doors of the Temple of Isis shook on their buckling hinges and the screaming of torn metal filled the air…

——————————–

Index to previous chapters:

Chapter One – Gifts From the River

Chapter Two – An Agony of Sunset

Chapter Three – The Dark Waters

Chapter Four – Touching the Sky

Chapter Five – The Fire Within

Chapter Six – The Wide Waters

Chapter Seven – The Crystal Air

Chapter Eight – The Unchosen Darkness

Chapter Nine – The Priestess Calls

Chapter Ten – Darkness at the Door

Chapter Eleven – Inundation

Chapter Twelve – Above and Below

—————————

Introduction to River of the Sun

In April 2015 a group of people gathered in the Derbyshire hills to enact the Silent Eye’s annual Mystery Play, entitled, The River of the Sun. The five-act mystical drama formed the backbone of that Spring weekend, and told the fictional story of a clash of ego and divinity set in an Isis-worshipping temple located on an island in the Nile, during the the fascinating period of the 19th dynasty, the time of Rameses the Great.

The 18th and 19th dynasties were a time of upheaval for ancient Egypt on many levels. The reign of the ‘Heretic King’ Akhenaten saw Egypt’s religious structure torn apart, as the revolutionary Pharaoh became what Wallis Budge called the ‘world’s first monotheist’; re-fashioning the power of the many Gods with one supreme entity – the visible sun disc, the Aten, for which Akhenaten, alone, was the high priest. Many have pointed to the failure of the ‘herectic’ Pharaoh’s politics, but few have doubted the sincerity of his religious vision. He will, forever, remain an enigma.

Whatever the nobility of his goal, the actions he took were ruthless, and included the shutting down of the annual deity festivals which were the sole point of ritualistic contact between the ordinary people of Egypt and their locally-worshipped gods. In addition, Akhenaten paid little attention to the domestic and military affairs of Egypt, allowing the country’s enemies to encroach on its borders, greatly weakening Egypt’s power at that critical time for the region.

After Akhenaten’s brief reign, culminating in the Pharaoh’s mysterious death, shadowy military forces took control of Egypt, instigating the 19th dynasty in the persons of Rameses I and, soon thereafter, Seti I, whose throne name derives from the god Set – often considered the ‘evil one’ because of his slaying of his brother, Osiris.

Seti I is judged by modern historians as having been one of the greatest-ever pharaohs, yet his importance in the 19th dynasty was eclipsed by the actions of his second son, the brilliant Rameses II, whose long reign of over sixty years included much self-promotion and the alteration of Egypt’s recent history. Both Seti and Rameses II (Rameses the Great) were passionate about the evisceration of the last traces of Akhenaten’s ‘chaos’, as they saw it.

But, although, by the 19th dynasty, the the ‘Son of the Sun’ was long dead and the buildings of his embryonic and doomed city of Tel-al-Armana were reduced to rubble, something of that time remained in the Egyptian consciousness. A new kind of connection between Pharaoh and God had been established, one which elevated mankind, if only in the being of the Pharaoh, to be someone who ‘talked with God’. It was, at the very least, a bold experiment and, though the world would have to wait until the 19th century to re-discover the ‘erased’ pharaoh, the philosophical waves of that period rippled out and dramatically affected the way the incoming 19th dynasty had to repair the worship of the Gods, uniting the people of Egypt under a trinity of Amun-Ra, Khonsu and Mut.

Our fictional story is a tale of politics, friendships, mind and faith. It is set against an historically accurate background, and at a time when Rameses was due to take the throne from the dying Seti .

Returning to Thebes in his swift warship, crewed by his fearsome Talatat mind-warriors, Rameses decides to mount a surprise night-time raid on the island-based Isis temple which has prospered under the sponsoring reign of his father. Rameses suspects that the inner teachings conducted by the revered High Priestess and Priest conceal views that relate to the thoughts of the heretic Pharaoh, Akhenaten. He plans to insert himself and his warriors of the mind into the islands’s Spring rites as the high priest and priestess begin a cycle of initiation for a chosen apprentice priest who has proved himself worthy of special advancement.

The resulting clash draws everyone, including the young Pharaoh-in-Rising, into a spiralling situation where each is forced to confront their own fears as well as living out the roles which life has allocated them. River of the Sun is the story of a spiritual and political encounter from which none emerge unchanged, including the man who will shortly be Pharaoh, the mighty Rameses II, whose secret name for himself is ‘the unchosen’.

Through the eyes and minds of those surrounding the chosen priest and the ‘unchosen’ Pharaoh, the River of the Sun takes us on a tense and compelling journey to the heart of power and its eternal struggle with truth.

The chapters of the book will be serialised in this blog. The finished work is planned to be available in paperback and Kindle in the Spring of 2016.

————————————————–

River of the Sun, serialised here, and its associated images, is the intellectual property of Stephen Tanham and is ©Copyright material.