The Talking Darkness #writephoto

This is in response to Sue Vincent’s #writephoto ‘Frozen’ and the photo above.

He chose his moment to appear at the edge of the dark forest; the forest through which they had come on their murderous journey.

The few that knew him used his ancient name: the Talking Darkness….

Anyone in the dark green shadows looking out to the approaching night would have seen nothing. But, had they stared a while, they might have been able to make out the outline of a man in a long coat; a coat so dark that it seemed all the light was absorbed by it.

He collected the light, stored the edges of act and consequence in pockets so deep they touched the edges of time. The light he collected was the truth, the living dust of events so significant that they changed the course of history. The motes of light that made up his long coat told stories, stories so exact that those they spoke of were frozen as they watched them repeated; re-told by the mesh of momentary brightness in a manner that silenced, terrified and spoke…. the truth.

The Talking Darkness was not summoned often. Hundreds of years might pass before he was called to bear witness to the truth of another episode of collective horror.

Always, there was a bloodied body. Often that of a child… Sometimes, a very special child.

The eyes of the Talking Darkness followed the curve of the forest to the far clearing where a large fire burned. The body of a child had been placed on a bier following his murder by the ten. Four of the ten were moving the bier so that it would lie over the centre of the flames–incinerating the evidence of their deeds.

The Talking Darkness always assigned the land-trigger to something associated with the deceased – the victim. In that way, the act of justice began within the humble remains of they who were wronged, and the world around them that had been robbed.

Through closed eyes, the Talking Darkness watched as the four of ten danced away, shocked, from the consuming flames which exploded around the small body.

And the land cracked…

The eyes that had been closed opened as the curve in the forest changed shape, extending itself into the encroaching night. The path to murder had become a highway of ice, glowing and lighting half the sky with its intensity.

With ancient boots, the Talking Darkness strode along the ice-road, with every step his coat lightened in colour, matching the darkening eyes of the ten, who, led by the four, were being dragged in frozen horror towards the white heat of the child’s burning body.

It would be a long walk to the flames. There was no hurry. The full story had to be told in the bright darkness before time could move forward, again.

©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.

Primal screen

Somewhere in the frontal cortex of our brains there’s a very special junction – a place where we learned to do something truly different with our minds… Let’s call it the Primal Screen…

Our spines can be considered the highway of our historical evolution: the inherited paths of form and energy that developed from single cells in oceans, through fish, lizards and apes. At the apex of this human ‘flower’ is the brain; in which the higher concepts, such as ‘self’ and moral values reside.

Those, like me, who felt uncomfortable with science’s cold and clinical view of life as a series of accidents aimed only at the mating chamber, can now take heart that the biological sciences, themselves, have, for the past twenty years, led the way in redefining the benign complexity of life and breaking us away from the genetic ‘evolution as everything’ model that dominated the life-sciences in the past.

The modern view of the human is a very complex thing, indeed – but wonderfully so. The innate complexity of sub-atomic matter is now matched with a new science – appropriately named ‘complexity theory’ – which studies and tries to understand how ‘dumb’ matter organises itself into increasingly complex forms, as though the whole of Life is experimenting with different ways to something mysterious.

Philosophers, long ago, named this ‘Teleological’; meaning it had a purpose. The modern picture is even more complex – or beautiful, depending on your perspective. Genes do work with survival and species as in the Darwinian model; but that’s not all they do. The new science of Epigenetics shows how genes also ‘express’ their complex proteins within a lifetime to alter the human: they are a living rather than a dead code…

The understand of consciousness has played a part in the cultures of our species for thousands of years, but the division of consciousness into reliable ‘organs’ is a success story of the last century, in the form of psychology.

We can argue that this ignores mystical philosophy, yoga, and Buddhism, each of which have been around for hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of years… But the successes of psychology are real and provide a common basis for us to discuss the concept of ‘self’.

The breaking open of the greater life-sciences has changed everything, and there will come a time when all these journeys of the ‘self’ will be united with an advanced form of today’s biology; but possibly under a new and common language.

So, to return to our opening statement. What was this juncture in our evolution of ‘self’? The philosopher Gurdjieff made it one of the central tenets of his successful system of self-work. He called it Identification. It was the stage in our group evolution when we looked ‘out’ from our presumed separate bubble of ‘me’ and saw high-intensity things that were so interesting we decided they should be an extension of our selves.

Children do do this automatically. Their imagination is so vivid that the pile of rocks on that hill becomes a castle – and can stay so for many years until the maturing adult looks back one day and smiles at how he and his companions brought it to life as Castle Hilltop…

Imagination is not the only component of this extension of self. Identification involves emotions, too. That castle belonged to the boys and girls of the Hilltop Gang – and they defended it, fiercely… It not only belonged to them, it was them.

As we grow into adulthood, the identifications become stronger. Our job – that important place in society, is considered vital. Alternatively, we may develop a skill or craft that becomes our defining set of actions – an artist who locks herself away for weeks while a fine work is created is a positive example. The career-minded politician whose only goal is power, regardless of the cost is a more negative one. That shiny BMW in the top salesman’s drive might be considered a good example of the power that this kind of defining attraction holds.

Identification can be more complex and subtle, too. We can become identified with negative things, like our illnesses or states of depression; allowing them to define who we are. I am not trivialising the difficulty of working with these conditions, just pointing to the mechanism which has such a ‘locking’ power.

The core of what Gurdjieff said – and a big part of the Silent Eye’s first year course work – is to stand back from these ‘suits of armour’ and realise that we are not them. The ‘younger self’ beneath the defences and attachments is where we really live, but it takes a brave soul to begin that journey. Having begun, it actually gets easier, not harder. Each identified state has locked up a lot of the creative energy of our lives. Seeing them for what they are, with exercises to soothe the way, releases that energy… and gives it back to us as a gentle, creative warmth, which pools with its kin to empower a change in the whole being – in a remarkably short time.

Society and civilisation has its Primal Screens, too. We are in a period of global history where these are now threatening our future. As an older society we may see in others’ flag-waving an immature identification–but not be so good at acknowledging our own.

Beneath all of this is our true Self – and that kind, warm and sharing place has never changed, just been papered over like the interior of an old house. All mankind shares this house, and only a recognition of what we share, rather than our projected view of what we don’t, will enable us to free the collective healing energies to work with this beautiful planet.

At that wonderful stage in our collective lives, we may discover far more about ourselves than we thought possible. We might even discover an entirely new concept of purpose…

© 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.

Have you seen it, yet?

Do you see it all, sometimes?

Turn, doing something strange with your mind

Look back with different eyes

And see the path that led to you?

A moment of vast lucidity…

But there’s one thing you don’t see

The thing that can’t be seen

Have you seen it, yet?

©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.

The creature on the beach beyond thought

It lay there, head in the sky, gazing at the radiance. Its tail was still in the ocean of thought, the gentle waves urging it back where it belonged…

The gaps in the waves had always been there; they were the rhythm of life. But it had never thought to use them as a way through.

To where?

To beauty, certainly. The sights and sounds and smells of newness were all around it, the warm sand beneath. But it was a different newness. It lay there, laughing at the thought that newness could be new. The sea began to analyse this, pulling it, gently, back into its waves, but it pushed out its hands and grasped the glittering sand, and breathed deep the air that could only be new… and knew it was home.

Why had it never seen that, before?

Perhaps you had to be steered; gently guided into the shallows so the edge of the glittering sand became apparent. Behind it, the ocean of thought began to clamour for its attention, perhaps desperately seeing the last chance to put it back into the sleep of thought’s conditioning.

Conditioning: it was a hard word, and yet described the whole ocean; even the parts where it had tried to reason the way out of it. Life had conditioned it to love, to fear, to survive; and yet the very spark of life had not come from that sea of thought and reaction. The sea was only the cradle for that which could not be conditioned – did not react, because the real nature had a sheer power to be with the truth of anything, just being there was its truth, and all else bowed before it…

All else was its child.

The waves called to it in a different voice, now. They sang of love; of a role performed, of the golden drops of sun-kissed water flowing from the rapidly-changing body and finding their way back into the sea, where they shone – briefly – differently.

Stronger, surer by the second, he raised eyes that were new… to the Sun.

©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.

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.

Five Faces of the Macbeth Human

Exploring the faces of the ‘human condition’ should be consuming our world at the moment. We might reasonably conclude that understanding the heights and depths of our shared experience, as we drain the planet of its living life, would be of interest to us.

But we don’t…

Instead, if we ask any questions at all, we spend months looking at things from a political perspective – from power; assuming against expectation, that somehow, the political process will throw up something good for our world.

Psychopaths are having a field-day. Across the globe, they are running things, some of them even showing us how deluded we are to worry about this; that it’s all nonsense…

The story of one of the most successful psychopaths in fictional history was set in northern Scotland. A hardy group of us are shortly to spend a day driving to the town of Grantown-on-Spey, in the northern Cairngorms, to work out our personal and mythical relationships to Macbeth – Shakespeare’s fabled warrior, who, assisted by his wife, Lady Macbeth, rose from glory to bloody dominance before being toppled by forces from within himself – and herself, if you widen the mystical interpretation of the story.

We will carry with us the means to construct our own ‘Guiding Star’ – a five pointed figure well known to everyone as the pentagram.

Throughout our history, scholars have questioned the source of the negative side of being human. Since ancient times, geometric figures have been used to explore and question human nature, often being viewed as somehow ‘magical’ when they were simply an aid to what we now call psychological understanding. The value of such figures – derived from the properties of the circle – is to show how forces that act upon us – psychologically – are related to each other, and do not act in isolation. That, alone, should give us food for thought.

Within the Silent Eye, we use another figure – the enneagram, which is ‘nine pointed’ – as the basis for our self-exploration. But the pentagram is older, and considers the inner and ‘magical’ nature of mankind within a mapping of five qualities: Air, Earth, Fire, Water and one other…

Mystically, these are called the Elements. Although they derive from an age in which modern science had not thrown its analytical light on the atomic and vibrational nature of matter and energy, the philosophers of that age did not see a valid division between the inner and outer worlds experienced by our consciousness.

Because of this, the four elements were seen to be both subjective and objective, coming together in a fifth – Spirit- which opened the door to mastery and harmony in which the created and the creator were re-united, within the creation; the world in which we live and breathe and have our being.

At a simple level, the element of Earth may be seen as our foundation of physicality. It is slow and cold in its operation. Without animation from others elements, it cannot evolve.

Air is what we breathe and also how we communicate. It provides one of three elements of what makes our biology work: the other elements being the intake of Water (also emotions) and the stability of the foundational Earth. Fire is something different and is closely aligned with energy and transformation; burning off the dross of the lower forms of mortality.

The sequential alignment of the self with each of these Elements is a key process in so-called ‘magic’. For magic, we should read self-transformation; a concept for which we now have deeper psychological understanding, though psychology still does not acknowledge the deeper implications of this approach.

The key is the sequence used, and the fundamental attraction generated with what turns out to be higher aspects of the self; known as the Self. Implicit in this approach is the presence of the famous golden ratio – an intrinsic property of the pentagram, and one of the basic dimensions of biological life.

In a triangle of landscapes between Grantown-on-Spey, the highland coast at Findhorn and the historic Macbeth castles near Inverness, we will explore these relationships and the potential for alignment with the Self, using prompts from Shakespeare’s famous play. The story of Macbeth, seen as an allegory, is the story of our own confrontation with materiality and the wrong kind of ambition.

Dean Powell, who is based in the north Cairngorms, runs a local esoteric group: Lodge Unicorn n’ha Alba. Dean will be leading our group through his adopted Highland landscape in an exciting journey of self-discovery shared by all.

The Silent Unicorn is the name of a workshop (14-16 June, 2019) which will bring together the work of Lodge Unicorn n’ha Alba and the Silent Eye into a weekend of physical and spiritual exploration in the setting of the Scottish Highlands.

If this blog has given you an appetite to join us, there are still a few places remaining. Send an email to rivingtide@gmail.com and we’ll provide more details.

©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.

The Modern Mysteries

The ‘mysteries’ have been with mankind as long as we have existed. They are a collection of paths that take us inwards; restoring a sense of self deeper than that which reacts, and showing us that mankind is much more than a biological animal – though animals, and their focus on the ‘now’ have much to teach us, too.

The reason these paths work is that we are more than we appear to be. The reactive nature of the self-in-the-world, the personality, fixes it into a certain relationship with its world. This is vital for survival but not so for our potential evolution. Mankind is not a finished project. Nature can only take us so far, beyond that point we have take responsibility for our own self-development, and the power for this comes from within. To begin this, we have to loosen the grip of the world on our reactive self. When this is done, a new space emerges within our mind and heart.; a quiet, creative place that feels wholly our own. Unlike the everyday world, our energy is not robbed in this place, in fact the former reactions, seen in their true perspective, actually feed the strength of this private chamber… there is a bubbling of laughter, a lightness of being.

Developments in psychology over the past hundred years have given teachers of the spiritual a powerful vocabulary to describe the nature of the reactive self, the self-in-the-world. We see that our essential self is not what has grown up, like layers of paint, around our experience of the world. For the first time, we see that what is truly ‘us’ is not only difficult to define, but also not the layers of painted self-consciousness that have developed, year on year, since we came into the world.

At this point we begin to sense the weight of the baggage we carry. As the time spent on self-study lengthens, we see that we can let go a lot of what we thought was us, and delight in the rush of powerful energy when the unnecessary is let go. As the reactive gravity is released, we begin to sense an entirely new relationship with the world in which we live – the outer world… or is it?

With the letting go of what we thought we were, we enter a new field of confidence. This confidence is reinforced when events in our lives seems to conspire to teach us each next step that we need to learn. We look up at the sky – inner and outer and ask, “Did that really just happen?” And it did, and it goes on happening as the door of perception opens onto true relationship and we come re-evaluate our whole lives.

There comes a point where we know enough to show others parts of it. We feel a honourable debt and a desire to do this. We experiment; finding what techniques work for us and which don’t. The personality is not done away with, rather it is realigned in the service of this inner relationship – spirit will do nicely as a word, but there are many more words that can serve us well. We may even change our vocabulary as we speak to different audiences. We need have no fear, for each challenge brings its own way of speaking and showing – if we remain true to the inner vibration, which, day by day, is becoming us.

These, then, are the mysteries. They are not, nor have ever been, bound up in a fixed set of teachings, They belong to all of us, they are our birthright. They are the new world we have always had. Only the self-in-the-world was ever in the way of this, and now it serves something higher and more noble as we reach for the sky.

©️Stephen Tanham


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation 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.

You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics.


The Origin of Me

Out of a hidden fear, we seldom examine our personal origins – this sense of ‘me’. Yet, if we let go that fear, the journey can teach us so much, and leave us with an emotion of deep belonging.

We can explore this with a meditation, rather than the intellect; if you’d like a little journey?

Be quiet and become conscious that our everyday lives define us by how we react to the world. Feel all the things, now, that are defining you. Feel the tensions in your body, the worries and concerns about the day ahead. Feel the aspirations that you have; possibly today holds the chance of a furthering your ambitions? Or perhaps many of those have been defined by others… for you.

Feel how all these things resolve themselves into your body. Is the centre of your body in a knot? If so, relax it with kindness. It is only tense because you have let a state of non-consciousness make it habitual. See it, now, forgive it and free the tension. Let all the tension from whatever source become non-threatening; like a cloud you believed was solid, but which turns out to be only shaped water vapour… through which you can sink.

The real is below, and now comes into view as the tapestry of a landscape far beneath you. You are sinking, slowly, through the air towards it. Breathe gently as you sink. Let any residual tension be captured, magically, by your in-breath; and released to be part of the cloud above you as you breathe out. When this is complete, something still remains around us. We seem to have a thin layer of cloud that clings to us, shielding us from complete and open vision of our true world.

You look at the landscape coming slowly into focus below. You are a twin being: organic and something more than organic. Your purpose in life is to be present to that landscape below. You can choose what to look at, what to focus on. Now that the tensions have been turned into the cloud above you, we can choose, with complete freedom, what to become present to.

With a touch of our mind now calmed, we can revolve in this blue space and examine the world below… We see it is predominately green – the colour of life. The region of your heart resonates to this vivid colour and all that it supports…

This universal life is you, but this is not all you are… for you are conscious of it.

Hovering above the Earth in this perfectly clear air, we look at the more complex things below. As we sink, slowly, we take in the perfection of the trees in a forest. Their shapes are a representation of time, itself, showing us in three dimensions their journey of growth in four.

We see a wolf, running along a track deep in the forest. His furtive movement mirrors how we too have grown a body from the organic earth, a body that learned through intelligence, yet still has to live in state of caution and, sometimes, fear. And we are this, but this is not all we are…

A church is coming into view. Its spire dominates the little village, though it is something abstract – it has no useful organic function, unlike the other faces of life, below. And yet, in many ways, that abstraction represents a depth of thought not needed for simple survival….

The plants evolved to animals to humans. But humans are not content with simply being. They have to seek for deeper meaning, meaning that can be at odds with their organic natures. We look for meaning in our lives, but seldom examine our origins as a source of wisdom. What if we let go of who we are and become content to just ‘be’?

At the idea of this ‘merging’ there is a resistance, a not-wanting to lose this individual perspective that we are attached to; this centre of ‘me’ as it views the beautiful world. ‘I’ have collected my life, have stored and distilled its lessons, making this organic creature that I am stronger and smarter… or at least more resilient.

This Me is important. It is only through Me that things get done… As these thoughts and feelings crystallise in our minds, the thin envelope of vapour around us becomes more dense, and the landscape becomes less clear.

As though to counter this, we look down at the beautiful Earth below, we smile at how little the Me does, compared to the vast industry of nature which feeds us. Sinking slowly in the perfect air, we wonder how it would feel to lose the Me, to lose the history of Me… What would be left of the sense of Self, then?

With this, the construct of the self around us feels very fragile, like a thing that was meant to be temporary. The inner point of total awareness that has no history has become our new Self and is diamond bright, so bright that its rays crack and melt the thin layers of the cloud of self around us. In a moment of total clarity we see that we need not be defined by anything in our past – neither limitation nor identification. The view below is lost to us and we fall to Earth, struggling, as the two parts of our selves vie for our future direction. Our will to be deeper and more real prevails…

In that moment the last of the shell of self is rendered transparent and we find ourselves as newborn bird, in a nest, high in the oak tree we saw from above. Time, or rather, process, is not as before. There is a vast power at work in our transformation as the first few weeks of our new birth are condensed into eight heartbeats. By the ninth, our wings are full of power. The bright sun in the clear blue sky calls to us and we spread those strong wings, lifting ourselves off the nest and climbing into the sky.

The Earth has finished its job. The Sun of truth will teach us now.

©️Stephen Tanham


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation 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.

You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics.


 

 

Principles of Fire (6): A Tribe of Two

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“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Rumi

Jalaluddin Rumi was a 12th century Sufi mystic, whose approach to the ‘real’ was remarkably modern. This should not surprise us. Anything spiritually true will have that immediate and familiar ring about it – the sense of a homecoming, something ‘just there’ beneath the surface of our consciousness.

The Sufis knew that there is no need to use an overly ornate symbolic system to describe the psychologically-real in the human being; most of those that do were created, in times of religious persecution, to enable teaching in secret. Today, there is the danger that they become the tools of egoic gurus who use them to veil the truth, rather than light a path to it. This is not always true, but is a danger for those new to a path, who might not know the difference.

In the previous post, we examined how the primary behaviour of the egoic self is to react. Rumi’s quote, above, is directly related to this. Distilled, his words describe a self that has has built a shell around our essence – something that dwells in ‘love’. Love was the language of the Sufis: the seeker becomes besotted – intoxicated – with the discovered presence of what seems like another being inside themselves. Only much later do we see that we are the reflection of it and not the other way round…

The power of the shell that blocks out the interior love from our true Self is the power of reaction; the world ‘painted on our eyeballs’ from the last blog. The egoic, worldly self must constantly identify with reaction to life in order to maintain its illusory position at ‘the centre’. In the words of the Buddhists: there are two ways of looking at clouds passing; the first is to say “I see clouds passing”, the second is to say “Clouds are passing – there is consciousness of this.”

Nothing is lost in this, save the grip of the egoic self.  Clouds are still passing; but, in the second example there is an implied, deeper relationship between the one who was the observer and the thing observed. One of them has vanished – making the world whole, again.

Our world is one of relationship. Our bodies are instruments for receiving the electro-magnetic signals that give notice of change to consciousness. The world is my relationship to everything within it – in particular, other people in my life. In part three of this series we spoke about ‘projection’; an unconscious externalising of what ‘I am’ as though projected onto a screen. When we fall in love, we see the other as the object of our adoration, but, really, we are projecting a very beautiful and inner part of us onto the perfect screen of sympathetic person. This does not diminish love; far from it. The love felt from the other person shows us the power of love to shine an other-wordly ‘light’ into our lives. When we project on someone else in this way, we are bypassing the rigid egoic shell that keeps us imprisoned in this world of reaction. Because this intense feeling is seen in the person of another, we are free to see it without our internal ‘commentary’ – a process that would reduce it to a regurgitation of our own egoic story.

When we look at a tree, we immediately get that voice in our head that names the tree, and we begin commenting on the nature, condition, habitat and a thousand other descriptions of ‘this beautiful, living thing in front of me’. As soon as that internal dialogue – based entirely on our history – begins, we have lost the moment of beingness with the tree. It doesn’t need to be a tree. An orange, apple, painting or a thousand other things could work just as well. As an exercise, gaze round for a few minutes each day and watch how quickly the internal jabbering switches on. Then try to ignore it, as though dismissing an unruly child… hold that feeling, that brief moment of being free to see things as they are, and without fear of losing the defensive commentary.

If we do not observe ourselves well, our world will be full of that confusion, projected outwards. If we know ourselves well, we can, day by day, draw into that knowing a certainty that our role is to ‘be with’ the world. This state of being happens in stages and needs to be accompanied by a systematic journey around our selves, beginning at the egoic level. Surprisingly, this is not a chore. it is an exciting adventure, with a considerable degree of humour and emotion along the way. Above all, from the first minute, it feels a lot more real that what is happening now…

With each bit of the defensive barrier taken down, more of the real – more of Rumi’s love – will come through. We do not need to invent, nor even visualise it. Its nature is to be; we need only let it in. It was there long before ‘we’ were.

To be continued.

©️Stephen Tanham


Other parts of this series:

Part One,   Part Two,   Part Three,   Part Four,  Part Five,


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 home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.

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

You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics

Principles of Fire (5): A Tribe of One

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They who set out to discover the twin meanings of the word ‘self’ must walk a certain path. The route to the deeper, real self lies only in the journey through the everyday self. Without this study – and its consequent effects – there can be no personal transformation.

We have to learn to look at ourselves with intensity if we are to begin to glimpse the false edges of what we take ourselves to be. There are many forces at work to guide and help us. This is not a journey that is taken alone. To paraphrase the ancient Kabbalists: The universe is awake to an awakening Adam. Our birthright is the state of full and inclusive consciousness, free from the accumulation of the personal past. What prevents this state of living is the power of that past…

The ordinary, everyday self is characterised by one word: reaction. To begin to examine ourselves, we begin by studying – with intensity – how we react. We react to pain, or the threat of pain, even though it is not present. We react to pleasure and the possibility of pleasure. Between these two poles our lives are strung out like a historical washing line. On this line are familiar garments, comfortable resting points in good or bad times; places we can reside and be at home with the history of reaction contained within. Many, such as those generated in our early months, are unconscious and very powerful. They can be positive (love) or negative (paralysing fear). With the latter, if seen in the light of adult discrimination they would lose their power; but to ‘sit with them’ is truly work and better accompanied.

Some reactions are more subtle. It is hard to think in an original way. Typically, each of us belongs to a kind of ‘tribe’, where the core values of that group of people are shared among thousands, if not millions, of other members. When we belong to a tribe we don’t need to think originally, indeed it is often dangerous to do so. We risk drawing attention to ourselves, and the ultimate sanction against such behaviour is to be ejected from the tribe. Finding ourselves alone is a dreadful thing. Some people fear that more than anything else in their world.

When we begin to watch ourselves on a daily basis, the very act of self-watching begins the generation of a different ‘space’ inside us. This new, differently-aware space is what brings the early results that can be so heartening to those beginning the Work. This new space is not part of the historic egoic structure of our lives, since its very existence is to watch and study how that structure operates and has formed. The techniques that begin the creation of this space are analogous to a person realising that, from the perspective of consciousness, the world is actually projected on to their eyeballs – like a movie – with no gap between the event and the reaction to that event. The egoic self is what reacts, instantly, to this projected world. The vast majority of such reactions are pre-programmed by the personal life history; in other words, they are not truly alive…

The five senses bring us the shape and behaviour of the world around us. Patterns in our personal history tell us, immediately, if there is danger in the encroaching environment, whether physical or psychological. At the most intimate level, these patterns reveal threats to our physical existence – that which threatens the body. We do not need to process the logic of a burn from a red-hot object; the automated mechanisms from our early childhood react for us. But there was a time when we had to learn it…

Beyond that, we have patterns of emotional recognition, which are largely automatic, too, but in a different way. I can bat away the approach of a wasp in Autumn, but I can’t do the same with a bad feeling; I have to think originally about its possible origins – including searching within ‘my self’. I might not want the effort of doing that. Instead, I could reach for an alcoholic drink or switch on a movie, allowing the bad feeling to pass. Sadly, avoidance teaches nothing, whereas a naked inquiry into the newly formed internal state can teach us a lot.

Beyond the emotions is the power of the intellect: that which learns by reason. This is the slowest of all; yet allows us to form patterns that deal with very deep and often complex concepts, such as how and why people lie to others and to themselves. Reason is clever, allowing us to out-think the life-forms that came before us; using the intellectual jewel of ‘what if’. And yet reason is wholly a thing of the brain, and so is conditioned by the entirety of our personal history.

These three ‘space helmets’ – each one inside the other, like the famous Russian Dolls – are the glass through which we see the world. But our conditioned consciousness does not look at the world, it looks, instead, at the movie being shown on the glass bubbles in which we live. Our egoic consciousness is nothing more than the sum total of our personal reactions to the movies… But, it’s worse: there is nothing inside those three helmets, except the history of themselves and the historic washing line of fear and pleasure.

The riddle of this is the story of our real existence – and our wonderful potential as fully conscious creatures, connected, in microcosm, with everything.

To be continued…

©️Stephen Tanham


Other parts of this series:

Part One,   Part Two,   Part Three,   Part Four,


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 home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.

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

You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics