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.

From Bakewell with love – the gift of surprise

Ben's Bit's Ballad cover

What do you do when two of your best friends put you in gaol for a crime the three of you carried out… and leave you there?
The characters of Wen, Don and Ben in the Doomsday series by Stuart France and Sue Vincent are not-so-loosely based on the three people who run the Silent Eye School. Imagine, in real life,  joining the other two one day for lunch and being told that you were being thrown behind bars… well, not you, exactly, but your character, Ben…

 

Not being the author of said books, you have little say over this, other than to object and take your proverbial bat home…
But, when the ‘terrible twins’, as Sue and Stuart have come to be known, then buy you a carefully engraved pocket watch and a copy of Oscar Wilde’s ‘Ballad of Reading Gaol’ for your birthday, the plot thickens. The gifts come with a request: to create a three-part poem in classic ballad style, as used by Wilde in what is considered his greatest work. Each segment to be used as the opener for their next three books in the new series Lands of Exile… the cheek of it!

 

Soon, though, the creative possibilities begin to emerge. Take a modern, if relatively trivial crime – the relocation of an ancient saxon monument to where it originally stood. Add the incarceration of one of the three guilty parties (Ben – me); the other two having successfully fled the scene of Ben’s arrest. Then mix in the spectrum of emotions that a ‘successful businessman’ (Ben) would feel at his imprisonment, awaiting trial… it’s a heady mix and not for the faint-hearted.

 

So, after several, sulkily-extracted pints of Guinness, I agreed to do it.

 

The result is Ben’s Bit: The Ballad of Bakewell Gaol, with apologies to Oscar Wilde, of whom I am a big fan. In the creation of it I tried to stay as true to the pathos and horror of Wilde’s own incarceration as Ben searches for spiritual meaning in his lengthening imprisonment.

 

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But Ben is not a passive character – he would not have been a ‘successful businessman’ in the first place, had he been so. He quickly passes through the first stage of the poem, entitled “Rage” and begins to explore the potential to create divisive polarity between those who control his fate. Soon, it becomes obvious that his harsh treatment has been engineered to make an example of him, to have him ‘pilloried’ in the local press as well as in the town which is the scene of his symbolic denial of liberty.

His new life, denied expression in the free world, can be seen as symbolic of the journey of the soul, ‘imprisoned’ in the world of matter.

 

‘So maggot – former pillar tall

Of their community

Examined, tried, and now your kind

Demand they end your liberty

A pillory they have prepared

For public’s careful scrutiny’

Ben's Ballad graphic composite1

 

Ben moves from the impotent early state of ‘Rage’ to the discovery that there are powerful forces at work in the local community, forces that vie for alternative exploitation of the prisoner. One, the authoritarian force, seeks to lengthen his imprisonment by implication of insanity; the other wants to use his knowledge of the esoteric and ancient nature of the relocated stone to further it’s own questionable purposes… Stage two of the poem begins the consideration of the latter, under the heading, ‘Mage’.

 

“The second force is subtly bred

As wealth and stealth extend their leach”

IMG_0434

 

By stage three, ‘Sage’, Ben has run out of options, and the psychological darkness is closing in on him. Like the often referred to ‘Dark night of the soul’, Ben must face the potential of the loss of everything; seemingly abandoned by his friends, and facing a dark future, having refused the implied help of the questionable forces operating in his dreams and visions.

 

And then… from the most unlikely source, something wonderful happens; something that lifts his state of mind. The flickering candle of his life grows stronger, though his body is still a prisoner in the Victorian cell of Bakewell Gaol.

 

“With single candle lit and says,

“It is The Will, this dark descent,”

A modern story set in the conditions of long ago, The Ballad of Bakewell Gaol sets the scene for a gripping and tense tale of a man with no alternative but to face the truth about himself… and the new shape of his life.

 

The three of us were pleased with the result. Part one of their new series ‘Lands of Exiles – But ‘n’ Ben’ is now published and includes the first segment of the above ballad. I had not expected anything further in terms of publication. We met last week in the Derbyshire hills, in our regular monthly location not too far from where poor Ben languishes… and Sue and Stuart presented me with a lovely early Christmas present: they had – a total surprise to me – published my Ballad in the form of a graphic novel – a format the Silent Eye Press has had success with in the form of Mr Fox, a graphical story of the Langsett Fire Dancers.

Ben’s Bit: The Ballad of Bakewell Gaol is a graphic novel, in poetic style, of 38 pages, written by me, Steve Tanham and designed and produced, in colour, by Sue Vincent and Stuart France. It is available in both Amazon paperback and Kindle formats.

 Silent Eye Press logo

 

The only thing that could make me happier is if a few folks bought a copy… all proceeds to the ‘Bakewell Gaol abandoned and lost souls’ Christmas fund, of course…

 

Thank you to Stuart, Sue, the much-abused and lovely town of Bakewell …. and anyone else who buys the Ballad of it’s gaol.

 

The full novel of Ben’s Bits – A Journey though Darkness, will continue to be serialised in this blog in the new year and released as a Kindle and Paperback book in the Spring.

 

All images and quoted text  ©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2015.

 

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 30 – Twins of Fortune

Hercules Lion HeadedAA

(Greek pottery image from:  http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/Herakles/apples.html)

Over the weekend, one image from the Heracles myth had haunted me – that of the victorious hero wearing the lion skin – particularly the head. The picture of the two heads occupying the same space remained in my mind right up to the moment that I entered our cafe on the Monday morning.

John was there when I arrived; but he was sitting with his back to me, at our usual table, in what was normally my chair. Rose, the owner, nodded to me as I entered the cafe, following my gaze and looking warily at my uncle, as though wondering what madness he was to perform this week.

I advanced on the figure. “That’s my chair,” I said.

“How do you know?” the back said.

I thought about that carefully, looking over his shoulder at the two coffees. Like a sentry to pleasure he barred my way, but without violence.

“Are you going to stand there, forever?” he asked.

“Are you ever going to turn round?” I responded, in retaliation.

“But I’m facing you!”

I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. “No you’re not,” I chortled. “You’re facing nothing …”

“A harsh way to describe an empty chair …” he said. “Come and fill it.”

Something still barred my way – something in me.  What was this? What essence of the now lay in this curious arrangement that was becoming more serious by the second, whispering look, look deeper, as I stood there, mute to his request.

“Turn around!” I said, unable to bear the tension any more.

“When you sit opposite me I shall be turned around,” he said, softly.

I heard myself shout, “No you won’t …” And then, in a burst of energy that was part anger and part emotional release, I reached to shake his chair, forcing him to stand and, now grinning, turn to face me – but backing into his usual place as he did so. The effect was surreal. He sat down without speaking, still smiling at me. There was no threat at all, and yet my hair felt like it was standing on end …

“It’s empty,” he said, gesturing to my seat, which had grown in importance to the point of being explosive. “But it’s not the same, is it?”

I sat down, clumsily; disliking this assault on my normality. My face had reddened and I must have appeared confused. I looked around, certain that everyone would be staring at me. As I scanned table after table, I could see that no-one was … except Rose, who held my gaze with an intense power and a deep smile which seemed to urge me on.

None of this was making any sense … and my heart was racing.

“Who are you, now?” he asked me, with nothing but warmth in his expression.

“Who …wha?” I whispered.

“Heracles and his labours …” John said, switching the topic as though he’d just finished chewing a biscuit. “At what point do you think they begin?” He was still moving backwards; becoming smaller as other things pressed into my now.

My lips were moving without words. My mind racing with images of court cases where I had been forced to reach deep into my mental and emotional reserves. One in particular loomed large in memory: a crook – a fraudster – trying to convince the jury that he had not wronged an honest man. His barrister had been so slick, so very clever, and they were winning the case …

“Both chairs were always there …” John’s voice in the background was saying. Be quiet, be quiet. My wordless lips framed the injunction, as the man on the witness stand looked across with confidence at his adviser, and I fixed him with eyes grown full with confidence … because I had seen the falseness of what he was saying; had seen the small hole in the armour they had welded him into …

“Their two-ness is necessary, but only one of them can drive the twin self,” the distant voice droned on. “And when that happens with intent, then the man …”

I was losing it. Things were rushing down a long tube, the end of which was bright – very bright. I opened my mouth to speak and the defendant opened his, forming the same words on his lying lips; his barrister rising to his feet in alarm at the turn of events; at the way the puppet had switched owners …

“Then the man can act from within …” the distant voice said.

The lying defendant spoke the truth, the vital word coming from his mouth, with his barrister screaming behind me and the judge banging his gavel to restore order …

“Then the man can act from within the lion’s mouth, because the man, who was never just a man, can reveal that he was always …”

“The sole responsible party,” said the defendant.

“The solar force,” said the man within the lion’s head.

“The soul,” said my lips; not to a cafe full of disinterested people, but to the far-away relative opposite, who was suddenly closer – so close that I could feel the warmth of his smile; and that of Rose who had come to stand behind me.

Soon after, I was gazing out at the sea. No-one was speaking. My coffee remained untouched. Instead, Rose had brought me a cup of tea, saying, “Hot sweet tea – can’t beat it after a shock like that, love.”

John’s voice was almost subvocal, “And so Heracles begins his labours at the point where he sees that he is …?”

“A soul incarnated in a necessary but devious body, rather than a body aspiring to be a soul …” I said, watching the judge leave the courtroom, shaking his head in amusement; and the guilty man’s barrister slamming his brief case onto the bench.

But the guilty man looked peaceful … more peaceful than I had ever seen him, before.

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Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.

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

Steve Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness; a place of companionship, sharing and the search for the real in life, using the loving techniques and insights of esoteric psychology. He retired from a life as an IT entrepreneur to establish the School in 2012, and, having persuaded Sue Vincent to . . .

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