Fear and Love in the High Peak – part one

It’s not the best of photo resolutions, but the above image says it all. Briony saluting the Derbyshire landscape in her own way at the end of three days of the Silent Eye’s Tideswell-based workshop: Sue and Stuart’s creation; and a wonderful experience for the group of souls who braved the provocative title for the weekend…

Rites of Passage: Seeing beyond Fear

…and decided that they would examine the roots of their own fears… and face them in the warmth of loving companionship and symbolic danger.

It’s a time-honoured formula for all mystical organisations; one that brings us all to a point where the day to day ‘fog’ of habitual perception is cut through by the vividness of landscape and experience. That’s what we hope to achieve on these weekends. This one worked well – and in different ways for each person, as it should, for we all have different stories that have brought us to our ‘now’.

Sometimes, especially in reviewing such things, it’s better to start at the end. The picture (above) of Briony is of her at the ‘peak’ of the weekend; the last act of the formal part of our physical, emotional and spiritual wanderings across the ancient and mysterious landscapes of Derbyshire.

A short time later, we would be laughing in one of the oddest, oldest and most wonderful pubs in England…

But that’s for the final chapter of this short series of blogs. For now, let’s drift backwards in time to the sunshine of the Saturday morning. A day of ‘Indian Summer’ as good as any we been blessed with over the years.

Baslow Ridge

We were up high in a place called Baslow Ridge. Looking down on a series of valleys that lead to places like Bakewell, and the glories of the Chatsworth Estate.

The Eagle Stone – a place of proof of maturity, and a precursor to local marriage

The Eagle Stone stands alone, an outlier from a distant time of glaciation. It dominates the landscape like the monolith did in Kubrick’s film of Arthur C. Clarke’s story 2001: A Space Odyssey. People are drawn to it from miles around. It even featured in the BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ as the place that Elizabeth Bennett visited and climbed… to get away from it all.

It is still used by local folk as a rite of passage. Those who seek the hand of marriage with the girls and ladies of the nearby town of Baslow are expected to demonstrate their suitability by climbing the stone unaided. It’s not a trivial ascent, as this second shot of the rock shows:

The Eagle Stone close-up shows how the higher layers overhang the lower; making an ascent difficult

The Eagle Stone is an example of a sacred folk-object at the centre of a local custom; a ritual, in this case. The ritual was a gateway into adulthood–and maturity. There would be real caution – if not fear- for anyone faced with the challenge. But, with some secret help from your friends, there was only an element of danger, rather than the certainty of death…

The Riley Graves

But many in the history of these parts have not been so lucky. Going back in time to our first visit of the weekend, we were brought face to face with personal fear and sadness of a degree that would be hard to envisage in modern life… and one of the most heart-rending sacrifices we could have encountered.

It’s 1666 in a small High Peak town, not far from Chatsworth. In the space of a single week, a lone woman buries all six of her children and then her husband. No-one will help her; no-one can help her. It is the most awful piece of personal history imaginable and yet the act which surrounds it is of the highest nobility.

Stuart… showing how it should be done

And so the story – the plot – of the weekend, moves from an historic example of fear and self-sacrifice – but seen through modern eyes, through the ancient stones set in the Derbyshire landscape and their cultural and symbolic use, to its finale in a rather foreboding place, high above a valley with a dark history…

Seen like this – backwards from the end, we can appreciate the careful construction of the weekend carried out by Sue and Stuart. Sue has begun its re-telling in her Silent Eye and personal blogs. She’s a great storyteller and there is little point in my replicating her excellent eye for detail.

Instead, I will pick certain moments of significance and focus on them – and hence this backwards-in-time introduction to set the scene.

It’s a long way from the Friday meeting place at Eyam to our final (small for drivers) glass of Dark Lurcher at the Three Stag’s Heads near ‘Hanging Rock’, but it’s a fascinating journey. The weekend demanded a degree of serious intent… but we had lot of fun, too.

In the end, on Sunday morning, everyone was alone for a moment on that dark peak… Very Carlos Castenada, really…. but that’s just my personal take on it.

Next time we meet, it will be August 1666 and, in this part of Derbyshire, something remarkable, unique and utterly selfless will be about to happen.

©Stephen Tanham 2020

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 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 2020

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.

Dancing with the Ghost in the Machine

If you’ve ever been involved with anything of an ‘amateur dramatic’ nature, you will know that moment: the protagonist, hated until the final few moments (when the greater picture is revealed) shuffles off, in rags, to his doom; and the shared and questioning silence longs for the gentle and poignant soothing that only the right music can bring….

Screech, click, screech, ping, wheeeeeedle…. .

Frantic sound of fingers fiddling.

Screech, click, screech, ping, wheeeeeedle…. and then the final piece, a gentle Sufi melody cuts in… only it’s about twenty decibels too high in the flying fingers’ frantic search for sound… any sound.

The much maligned King Gilgamesh (who turns out to be only 99% schmuck) looks to the heavens in an unscripted gesture. Everyone is stunned… but for all the wrong reasons.

It didn’t happen, not yet… but it’s time to make sure it can’t…

Amateur actors – our annual workshop participants – such as the Silent Eye seems to be able to attract year on year, are wonderful people. They are enthusiastic, flexible and multi-tasking. They stand, clutching their scripts, in the middle of a space invested with spiritual emotion, power and purpose and give their all… to such an extent that, come the start of Sunday afternoon, no-one wants to leave and break up the intense camaraderie that these warm and mystical adventures generate.

There are no mistakes, just real-time variations in the script. Like Jazz, the best bits can be improvised, often with humour from above… Ask Barbara, who we once completely lost, Schrödinger-like, in the middle of Act Three in the centre of the room. To this day, no-one knows where she went.

Being the technician can be a difficult job. And, it’s near impossible to be one of the characters in the mystery play and the technician. So, the partial answer is to make the soundtrack as free-standing as possible.

The problem is the technology, or, rather, the combination of technology and the media – sound – that is required to be ‘piped’ through the technology. Most domestic music players are just not up to the job.

The epic stories of Gilgamesh the King are the oldest known legends on Earth. Using this as a basis, Stuart France has re-envisaged the story in five acts of ritual drama, where everyone attending plays their part, large or small. Stuart and Sue Vincent have crafted a workbook of nearly two hundred pages of beautifully laid out script.

I have been ‘volunteered’ to play the part of Gilgamesh, but since I have taken our technology forward, too, I’m taking no chances… These days I’d rather produce than be centre-stage.

Gone are the multiple CD machines, laid out at strategic points in the temple space of the mystery play; each one involving a lightning sprint from compass point to compass point. Gone, even, is the use of an uncooperative Apple iTunes with its incomplete staging of cues. Gone is any notion of carrying around the sound with a portable speaker – one of the past’s more heroic failures…

Instead of Screech, click, screech, ping, wheeeeeedle…. or just plain silence, we have this on the iPad screen:

It’s a deck… a sound-deck in software. It’s what professionals use to control the music and lighting for stage shows, moving with consummate timing from event to event as the production progresses. If you were into William Gibson’s sci-fi (Burning Chrome etc) it’s what the pre-internet generation used to ‘jack into’ the ‘net and control the world with…

Tired of playing games that couldn’t really argue back, they began to design real software; masterpieces that really could kick-ass… but in a good way.

This scaled down masterpiece of software, called iMiX Pro, runs on an Apple iPad – mine. This is not to say that it does all the work for you. Oh, no… shoot, man, there’s a bucketload of stuff y’all need to do up frooont! (Sorry, that’s my inner Texan coming out). I’ve been sitting at this ‘deck’ for two days and only now… am I winning. And that’s the thing with these systems, you have to get the music into the machine before the ‘ghost’ that is the combination of producer and good software design come together in glorious expletives that do sound decidedly Texan.

In the beginning, there is the raw music, or other sound files; so, as before, you have to get them onto (in my case) your Mac and into… Hmmmm iTunes.

In the process, you have to re-name the tracks you want to use so that, when they re-appear in the iMiX software, they are recognisable. So, lovingly and carefully, you work out a naming scheme that shortens the track names in order to see something of their name in the individual panels on the iPad screen. The above first window is the result.

Next, you need to take the original files and convert them into one of Apple’s ‘Playlists’. These are just collections of songs. So it’s easy. You group all the original tracks and select ‘Add to Playlist’… and off she goes. You then have all your music in a second and more pliable container.

The use of a Playlist is essential because they have to be in this format to get the group of tracks across to the iPad. Along the way you get to put them in order – no mean feat with over twenty tracks. But, finally, they are ready to be beamed (okay, wired) across to their new portable home – a bit like the NASA lunar lander making a bid for freedom from the orbiter module. Once you’ve set off for the weekend, the iPad is on its own.

An hour later, you finally figure out how you did it last time and the transfer is complete… except the Apple transfer software has lost your carefully constructed sequencing and you’ve just got the order it decides you need on the iPad. They’re all in there, somewhere, you’ve just got to find each one again. So, you think about making paper list – or contact Sue, who recognises sleep-deprivation and provides one as a list of what should be happening in each act.

A small bottle of gin later, you realise that it doesn’t matter what the Apple software has done to your weekend’s sequence because the iMiX’s colossus of a DECK is about to rescue you!

Look back to the original diagram. Each of those vertical ‘pods’ is a beautifully programmed home for your hard-won music and sound tracks. And it offers you total control over how and when that track is played…. heaven.

You can control the volume; you can trim the clip regardless of what any other piece of software has done to it. You can select its unique fade-in and fade-out. The iPad ‘pencil’ is brilliant, and, for run-time, all you need to do is tap the track ‘pod’ and the magic beings.

And, throughout this, written up the side of the ‘pod’ is the full name of the track you so lovingly created… <cue Texan sounds…>

So, two days after I began, we have the Deck, fully programmed and ready to be operated on the weekend of 26-28 April, in lightning-fast real time, by our mega-techno dude who insists on being nameless.

But he’s related to one of the Directors…

The mighty iMiX Pro DECK…

And all of that fits into a single screen (above). There will be no ‘Screech, click, screech, ping, wheeeeeedle…. or just plain silence’. So, while I won’t actually be operating the Deck, I’ll be the ghost in the machine…

Houston, we’re good to go.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to best play that ego-maniac, Gilgamesh…There are lots of ego-maniacs in the world at the moment. Very timely, that, Stuart…

Wish us luck… please. Even better, come and join us. We can fit in a few more people if you’d like to join this merry but sincere band. And we promise that you, too, won’t want to leave, come Sunday lunch…

©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.

Dwellers in Towers

Minds in Towers2 - 2

A recent trip to the beautiful Northumbrian coast threw up a chance visit to Preston Tower, one of a type known as a ‘Pele Tower’ – a fortified place of refuge for well-to-do families, built during the times of the ‘Border Reivers’ – armed family gangs who took the law into their own hands in these often un-policed borderlands between England and Scotland.

In the famous Pevsner’s Guides to the architecture of the UK, the Northumberland guide describes this type of building:

“In the 14th Century Northumberland was almost permanently in a state of warfare, and in the 15th and 16th centuries the county was still so sorely harassed by armies, gangs and thieves that a tower house was the only possible insurance a man of sufficient property could take out.”

Minds in Towers2 - 19
In the entrance room is a model of how Preston Tower would have looked in the 14th century. Only half of it remains, but that is in very good condition and considered one of the finest examples in Britain.

Towers and their dwellers have always interested me, as they illustrate a particular set of human attributes: the needs for security and the power of fear – something whose controlling power we make reference to as a block to individual spiritual development in the Silent Eye’s three year self-exploration course, where one of the archetypes encountered is just that Dweller in the Tower.

Towers have featured often in spiritual literature. The famous Tarot Card of the “Blasted Tower” is a reference to the destruction by natural forces (lightning, in this case) of the upper levels of the Tower’s construction. To find the whole origin of the essence of the card we need to go back to the Bible, where, in Genesis, it tells that, in a land after the great flood, all ‘men’ spoke the same language. They decided to build a Tower to Heaven from the ‘slime’ of the earth. God confounded their plans by causing them all to speak a different language.

Blasted Tower
The ‘Blasted Tower’ from the Ryder-Waite Tarot Deck painted by Pamela Coleman-Smith. Wikkipedia Public Domain (source)

We might assume that a kindly God would be pleased at our attempts to build a tower to reach ‘him’, but the essence of the story is that the materials used were not those that would withstand a dialogue with so powerful a being; and hence that very force – or attempted dialogue – was the source of the destruction. A mystical interpretation is that a successful tower would have to be built from below and from above at the same time… But that is a topic for another post.

Minds in Towers2 - 43
Despite its apparent size, the interior space is minimal. The arrangement of the space is entirely geared to defence rather than comfortable living.

The Dweller in the Tower is secure but cut off from the world they fear. The fear is real, as is the perceived threat, but it may not be present.

The effect of separation from the surrounding landscape is a terrible price to pay. We might say that such an approach takes us away from the ‘flow’ of life – a flow that, if embraced openly, is the key to our personal evolution. This is not an easy step, and is counter intuitive. It is the kind of step we take only when we become convinced that our life (within the Tower) is no longer capable of providing any real sustenance.

Pele towers like Preston Tower were build by rich men. They subjected their families to terrible and cramped living conditions in the name of safety. Psychologically, we might say that our obsession with safety does much of the same, today…

Minds in Towers2 - 76

What would be attractive about life in a tower? One good thing might be the view. From a good height, we can see more… but not touch or feel or smell it. This suggests an isolation of the intellectual sense, that lives its life against a ‘picture’ of the world rather than the world, itself.

Minds in Towers2 - 52
The view from the roof of Preston Tower, near Bamburgh

From that height, using that view, I could see all around me. I could compile detailed maps of the world below, bringing all that knowledge back into my tower, like a spy might – but it would always be historical knowledge. My interaction with the world below could be minimal, or as slight as I wanted it. Whenever I felt the least bit threatened, I could close the thick doors and bolt them. Then, climbing the winding staircase, I could take myself farther and farther from what might hurt me… take myself farther and farther from life, itself, replaying only the bits I wanted.

Minds in Towers2 - 23

The Tower Dweller is not a complete human in the Silent Eye’s approach. He or she is an aspect of the personality, one formed from that part of the spectrum of ourselves which is associated with fear. The Pele towers were a very good model for one aspect of the modern personality, which feels itself under threat from things real – and many more, imaginary.

It takes targeted effort and a lot of self-honesty to see these deeply- rooted patterns in ourselves. The positive side of that coin is that they are fundamentals within our self. Any changes to these ‘magnetic poles’ in ourselves will alter the whole. If we simply concentrate on the Tower Dweller within us, then our self-work will be unbalanced. Far better to circumscribe ourselves so that we can see what other aspects hold the patterns of our vital energies prisoner.

Minds in Towers2 - 47
One day, we might climb to the roof for a different reason…

One day, we might climb to that roof and look at the view, all around, for a different reason. We might have come to a vision of the potential fullness of our real selves and want to take one last look at the landscape from above, before opening the door and venturing out into that world with a very different purpose. The map will still be useful, but limited, compared with being there.

As the first breaths of our new life enter the lungs, enriching neglected inner pathways with new life, we might look back at the soaring stonework and thank the Tower; thank it for keeping us safe until we grew confident enough in ourselves to make our destination the world and not its isolated heights.

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As the sun sets on the cold stone, we might find ourselves laughing and running into that forest, creeping up to shout ‘Boo!’ to the bogeyman who we once thought lived there…

Preston Tower details: http://www.prestontower.co.uk/

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, low-cost and supervised correspondence courses.

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

©Stephen Tanham, Silent Eye School of Consciousness.

Silent Eye Summer pre-Solstice Weekend 2016



St David's montage

Shake off the Winter blues – Anticipate the Summer ahead and book now for the Silent Eye’s 2016 pre-Solstice weekend, “Whispers of the West” to take place in the ancient landscapes of Pembrokeshire, West Wales,  June 17-19, 2016.

We will base ourselves in the ancient Celtic city of St David’s near to the cathedral, whose site dates back to the 6th century. St David’s will be the main focus of the Sunday morning walk and talk. The ancient city offers a good choice of hotels and well-priced guest houses as well as a choice of restaurants.

From the magical traces of the ancient Druids, through the splendour of St David’s Cathedral to the modern and unchanged landscape of Pembrokeshire, the weekend has much to offer.

We will be conducted by a local member of the Silent Eye School who knows the landscape and its history well.

Our outline itinerary is:

17-19 June, 2016

Friday Afternoon 17 June

Drive to Whitesands beach – ice cream

Walk to St David’s Head – hut circles – Coetan Arthur burial chamber

Dinner in St David’s

Saturday 18 June

Drive to Newport via Carreg Samson and Carreg Coetan Arthur burial chambers

Walk up Carn Ingli for magnificent view

Drive to Pentre Ifan – the most impressive chamber in Wales

Drive to Nevern church – Ogham stones – bleeding yews

Drive to Cwm Gwaun for a drink at Bessie’s pub

Drive to St Gwyndaf’s church at Llanwnda near Strumble Head

Dinner at The Sloop in Porthgain or St David’s

Sunday 19 June

Walk to St Non’s – new chapel – old chapel – well

Walk to Cathedral and Bishop’s palace

Lunch in the refectory

Walk along to the bridge and up Quickwell Hill

(If people want to stay into the afternoon there is a lovely boat trip round Ramsay Island)

The cost to attend the weekend is £50.00. Hotel and meals are not included in that figure and those attending need to make their own accommodation arrangements.

Register your interest via email to rivingtide@gmail.com

(Images from Wikipedia, used under Creative Commons license)

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 40 – The Obedience of the Heart

Fawn model use thisAA

(Image source)

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 40 – The Obedience of the Heart


Little furry model animals don’t normally do much for me, but this one, placed in the middle of our usual table in the cafe, made me giggle. It had big doe-eyes, the sort you’d see in Japanese comic books. With somewhat smaller eyes, at least proportionately, John was smiling at me from across the table. I took a breath, but Rose arrived with our two lattés before I could speak.

“One of my favourites, this,” he said, still grinning like the proverbial Cheshire Cat and stealing the silent pause.

“Because it’s my birthday this mythical month?” I asked, somewhat cheekily.

He laughed. “The sign of Cancer, the crab; Glorious June…rather far in the future… won’t buy you a pressie just yet!”  he said, doing his best to copy the deer’s eyes and using them to peer, pathetically, out at the dark and wet November morning. Then he added, in response to my mock frown, “Go on then, tell me the story.”

“Okay,” I said, ready. “Heracles is tasked with capturing a wild fawn, and taking in to the Temple of Apollo, the Sun-god. He finds himself looking at a beautiful landscape. On one far hill, near Apollo’s temple, he spies the female deer, but, as he looks at it, the voice of Artemis, the huntress, comes from the disc of the moon, overhead, and warns him that the animal is under her protection and that she has nurtured it from its infancy.”

“Very good,” said John. “Was it Artemis alone who warned him off?”

“No,” I answered, “The mighty Diana, the sky huntress dear to the Gods, claimed ownership of the fawn, too. Both said they had guarded it to maturity.”

As I spoke, John leaned forward, as though listening intently, though there was nothing wrong with his hearing. In so doing, he inadvertently pushed his hot coffee mug towards my left hand, lying flat on the table top. I could feel the heat and my hand moved, automatically, away from the scalding pot.

He seemed not to notice my discomfort. “So Heracles had an easy time of this one?” he said. “He just used his powers to capture the fawn, knowing that the temple to which he was to return the creature was that of Apollo, the greatest of the Gods?”

“No–” I said, conscious that my left hand had again flinched away from something hot. I looked down and saw that his cup was, again, very close to my skin. His eyes were on me, as though  boring into my soul. It could only have been a repeated accident, so I continued. “–far from it! The two goddesses spent a year helping the golden-antlered fawn to evade Heracles, despite his great skills.”

“But he caught it, eventually?” said John.

“Yes…” I replied. “After a year of trying – it was rather sad. In his exasperation, I presume, he shot at the fawn and wounded its foot, Unable to flee, it was captured and carried by Heracles into the temple of Apollo, and remained there, claimed and healed by Apollo himself, despite the protestations of Artemis and Diana.” Suddenly, I became conscious of the burning, again. “Bloody hell!” I exclaimed, “You’ve got to be doing that deliberately!”

With eyes like a cobra his gaze never left mine, not even looking down as I moved my hand far away from the hot mug to show him what he had been doing. “And what did the fawn symbolise?” he asked, apparently unbothered by my outburst.

There was that funny ringing in my head when he said this. He had set up one of his situations while we were speaking. What was the link between my singed skin and the fawn?

“Did you need to use reason to decide to pull away your hand?” he asked, continuing to look at me intensely.

I was calming down – knowing that there would be a noble motive behind the idiot’s actions. “Reason?” I muttered, still hurt with the idea of being burned like this, even though the pain had been slight. “No, of course not – my body knew exactly what to do in reaction!”

“So it did,” he said. The intense and unsettling gaze was subsiding. “And the fawn represents that instinctive nature… but this fawn was taken from its natural state, hunted for a year by a hero, shot at the point on its body where it made contact with the earth, and then carried, lovingly on the breast of Heracles, into the highest of temples…”

There was a noise in my head that was not a noise but something more profound–more like a beating of wings…Something was opening up. I grasped at what he had said, the slight pain in my little finger forgotten. “So, an instinctive ability, not requiring reason, is hunted, despite the grasp of two goddesses, and, though wounded, successfully delivered to the Sun-god in his temple?”

“Where it heals and is returned to the same hillside on which Heracles first saw it.” His eyes had resumed their normal kindly state. The cobra stare had gone. He was now sitting back in his chair, the offending mug transferred to its normal duties.

“So, what was transformed, or rather, re-homed?”

I didn’t want him to tell me. I knew this was important. “Can I have a week to think about that?” I asked, watching him smile and nod into the latté.


Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.

All images and text ©International copyright, The Silent Eye School of Consciousness, 2015.

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 39 – Twins of Time

Sun timer in Gemini norm


I wasn’t late, but the object placed ominously in the middle of our table suggested I might be…

“Morning John,” I said, warily. “Is this supposed to tell me that time is running out – that I’d better get enlightened quick or you’ll pass the time with another acolyte?”

He stared at me, saying nothing, as I digested what I had just uttered… Then, he turned the old-fashioned egg-timer flat on its side, so that none of the sand inside was moving. “Better?” he asked, pleasantly.

“I…I didn’t mean…” I muttered, realising how presumptuous I had been. His eyes were dancing with humour, and there was no anger there at all.

“We do things…” he said. “We do things, usually out of some kind of fear, that are knee-jerk reactions, of which we are then ashamed.”

He looked at me. I nodded, composing myself and letting the tension go. “It was just that I saw the ‘clock ticking’ and felt… well, you know–got at!”

He was laughing now, and pointed at the levelled timer. “You’d rather nothing happened at all?”

It was pure mischief but I realised that I had created the whole thing. I reached across and restored the ticking sand. “You were saying,” I said, softly. “or, rather, you weren’t saying.”

“One last look at the third labour,” he said, smiling. I realised that the tiny episode was completely gone, that he had moved on – almost as though he spent most of his life observing the strangeness of ego-based reactions in others… and no doubt in himself, as he never professed to be a saint.

I fought to reclaim some high ground. “Gemini, you said? “The twins?”

He nodded, pleased I had remembered the earlier reference which we had not yet discussed.

“What do twins have to do with the trials of Heracles, do you think?”

I thought long and hard. I was beginning to get the ‘key’ to this way of thinking. Twins could refer to siblings, of course, but they could also refer to things linked at different levels, like a matching or contrasting set of rooms on different floors of a good hotel.

“We are twinned within ourselves,” I said, feeling the certainty flow through me in a way that ordinary knowledge did not. “We are twin beings…”

“And the other bit is referred to as the–”

“Soul,” I said, ready with the answer, in a way that did not upset the flow of the moment, which I was beginning to see was its perfection. I followed through on the idea that had just come to me. “And we can chose which room we live in, as long as we have enough intent – we can view the world through the eyes of the ego or the eyes of the soul… with a bit of help!”

John laughed, gently, at my finale. “Yes,” he said, his eyes filled with kindness. “We all need a bit of help from time to time – but the soul itself will help, we just have to ask it!”

“Knock and it shall be opened unto you…” I said, half dreaming the words from my childhood.

“Exactly so,” he said. “This is not a new art…”

I looked down at our table. The sands had all run into the bottom part of the glass figure, which I now realised resembled a leminscate: the figure of eight symbol of infinity… and probably a host of other things. “Time’s up?” I ventured.

“Depends where you want to live; like Heracles, once he had it figured out, you have a choice…and it’s really very simple.

I watched his eyes lead mine down to the egg timer. Feeling elated, I pulled it into the air and turned it around.

“And so, like Heracles,” he said. “With one action, you have defeated the serpent, by pulling it from its native earth, and established where you want your new home to be.”

I looked at the tiny grains of tumbling sand. Whatever I did–unless I laid the object down, sideways again–they would flow. And the flow would always be into the world, like a multi-dimensional field of spiritual gravity – that was, presumably, why we were here. But I could, at any time, raise it up, by inverting the object… just as I could choose to see things from the perspective of the soul – by asking it to fill my life, as the sand grains filled the glass chambers.

For the first time that morning, John picked up his coffee and drank some, smiling at me over the rim of the cup.

I did the same; and we grinned at each other like children.


Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.

All images and text ©International copyright, The Silent Eye School of Consciousness, 2015.

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 38 – The Three-sided Coin

Three side Greeks


“The story of Heracles and the Golden Apples begins with failure…” I said.

“It does,” replied John, sipping his latté. “Just as, in the first story, with the Wild Mares, Heracles gets a bitter lesson that never leaves him, with his failure to protect the life of young Abderis, despite his success in overcoming the wild she-horses.”

He stopped, then, and looked at me very seriously. “Failure is very important… it not only teaches us about success, it teaches us about the fragility of both – and the existence of a third … thing.”

He had lowered his voice when speaking  the word ‘thing’, as though its impact had been pivotal in his own life. For a short while I watched him drink his coffee, saying nothing. I decided we could afford to come back to it – he had, inadvertently, touched on something far below his confident exterior and I wanted to know more…

“If we didn’t have adversity, we could never really do anything, could we?” I ventured.

John looked up, shocked. “That’s really good,” he nodded. “It touches on the basic polarity of the universe. We can only ‘do’ when there is a raw material to do with.”

“And that is opposition?”

“Perhaps a better word is resistance, which removes the idea of hostility – though hostility may still apply…”

“So, sometimes we overcome the resistance and a new thing, a third thing, you called it, is born.”

“Born, yes–excellent word! Born of the struggle, just like birth itself is a struggle.”

“And sometimes we don’t win…” it wasn’t a question.

“If we always won, there could be no winning.” He sat back, drinking his coffee, looking thoughtfully upwards, shaping what he wanted to say. “But winning is as illusional as losing, since our birthright – our true birthright – is to be the agents of the right change…”

“The right change…” I said, musing. “Like the Buddha’s Right Action?”

“Exactly so,” he said. “Which has nothing to do with winning or losing, and may involve the invocation of the simplest action, or even one of deliberate sacrifice… as you so bravely chose to do with our little piece of theatre last week.”

He watched while I cringed at the memory… “Two worlds?” he said.


“Are you, perhaps, thinking about the choice of ongoing worlds that depended on your decision at that point?”

I thought back to the woman sitting at the table, forced–no, resolved–to carry on holding the world because there had been no other ‘right thing’ to do…

“You didn’t give me much choice,” I said, looking into his eyes for something.

“Would you have wanted me to–” there it was… the truth. “Didn’t it change you, in a small but significant way?”

My voice was a whisper, “Yes.”

“Success feeds the ego, unless we watch its effects very carefully,” he smiled. “And we spent many coffees talking about the outer rim of the enneagram,which is the world of the ego – to which we shall return, once our quest around this zodiac of labours is done.” He drank the last of his coffee. “Did you feel that your heroic gesture of last week fed your ego?”

“No.” I answered, truthfully. “It felt like it fed a different part of my ‘interior’.”

“And you didn’t feel you had failed in any way?”

Suddenly, it was there–the picture he was carefully painting, I grasped at it. “No–neither success nor failure… just a sense of rightness, whatever the world might have thought!”

“The world apart from Rose?”

I laughed then, remembering the unlikely partnership that occasionally manifested on the strange stage of our Monday coffee-shop meetings. “Yes… darling Rose.” I looked behind me to flash a look of gratitude at the cafe’s elderly owner; but she was nowhere to be seen.

“But last week she was there when you needed her?”

“Oh yes…”

And she was completely present to your ‘suffering’, and came, from nowhere, to stand beside you, offering the most unlikely and exact help…”

I nodded, lost in the bliss of the memory of that help.

“Heracles had a ‘Rose’, too” John said.  “but despite the skill of Nereus the shapeshifter, Heracles never saw the help being offered… Often, it’s right in front of us, but we are looking for something else, something the rational mind decides we need for the problem it cannot solve…” He allowed himself a grin.

“So, he had to find it through his wanderings around the four directions of his world, eventually discovering the key by not looking for it, but helping someone else…”

I’ll swear there was a tear in his eye as he got to his feet, grabbing his raincoat, then kissing the top of my head before striding out into the deluge of a mid-November morning. That and a smile…



Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.

All images and text ©International copyright, The Silent Eye School of Consciousness, 2015.

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 37 – Golden Apples

Hercules and Atlas Golden Apples


I made a special effort to be at Rose’s coffee shop early the next Monday morning. Despite that, he was there before me …

“Morning, John,” I muttered, trying not to let my irritation show…

“Morning, Alexandra,” said my uncle, cheerfully. It was only then that I noticed two things were–well, wrong… To start with he was sitting with his hands on his head, but with the palms facing upwards… he never did that. The second wrong thing was that he’d gathered every menu from the tables not in use and had stood them all upright on ours. Now that I was sitting down, I could barely see him over the vertical mass of laminated plastic.

“That’s a mess,” I said frankly, watching him pull that smug face. Once you were trapped in his visual logic, there was seldom an escape…

“The story of Heracles and the Golden Apples is a mess?” he asked, feigning innocence.

“No, I didn’t mean–” and then I saw the gentle nudge the ‘mess’ was giving us–a head start on the complex myth which, at first reading, was, indeed a mess…

“Oh, yes…” I said. “That’s very good…”

Rose arrived with the two lattés. I thanked her and watched her shoot a sneering glance at her long-time adversary, pretending to ignore his Manhattan skyline of a table.

“I’ll put them back… promise!” he called to her departing and disgusted back.

“Drink your coffee,” I urged, in mitigation of my earlier presumption.

“Can’t…” he said.

“Why not?”

“Because the world will fall down…”

I stared at him, getting it quickly, this time. “Okay Atlas,” I said. “Pass it to me.”

“It’s not a football,” he responded. “You have to take it–it’s a world!”

“Whose world?”

“Well, if you must know–yours! Now are you going to relieve me of it?”

Stifling a belly laugh, I got up and pretended to take the ‘world’ from his upturned palms, ignoring the Monday morning ridicule from the occupied tables around us – I had, at least, learned to endure that…

“You can’t hold it like that,” he said, grinning at me. You have to hold it over your head.”

“But then I won’t be able to drink my coffee!” I protested.

“But, it’s your world… and you did offer!”

I fought back the urge to scream. Before me, my delicious coffee, made by the fair Italian (despite her very English name) hand of one of the finest coffee alchemists I knew, was going cold. My heart began to hammer as I realised he was serious.

“You want me to sit here like an idiot carrying nothing?”

“Like now,” he asked slyly. “You sure that’s nothing…?”

I could feel little beads of sweat forming on my forehead as I strained against this fate – it was so cruel…

“Prometheus thought so, too, but he endured… for others,” he said, reading my mind.

In disbelief, I felt my arms rising to meet this outrageous obligation. As I did so he smiled and reached into the infamous black bag which I now noticed lying on his knee. He took something out but concealed whatever it was in his palm. He watched me suffering… I fought the hatred.

Then something happened that shook me. Rose appeared from behind our table and picked up my coffee cup, letting me sip it, gently, while she held it at an angle. She remained alongside me, emotionally sharing my fate and daring others to intervene.

John picked up the black bag and zipped it up. He smiled and came to stand next to Rose, placing on my saucer three small, gold-wrapped, chocolates. “Ferrero Rocher – closest I could find to a golden apple,” he said, gently. “Well done, you…”

And then he reached for the world on my head. “I’ll take this now,” he said, slinging his now empty bag over his arm and carrying the world out on his head.

As he opened the cafe door with a swiftly juggled hand, I called to him, “But you’ve not touched your coffee!”

“Offering to the Gods…” he said, his voice fading into the drizzle of a November morning.

Rose put my coffee down in front of me. “I’ll get you a fresh one on the house, to go with the Golden Apples,” she said, patting my shoulder and making me cry at the kindness of others, and its ability to go where we, alone, cannot… I felt as though there were two of me sitting, snivelling at that table–and I didn’t give a damn who was watching us both.


Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.

All images and text ©International copyright, The Silent Eye School of Consciousness, 2015.