The Cafe at the end of the Writing World

“It used to be called, simply, vanity publishing,” a good friend said to me, recently. She is more than just a friend, she’s the kind of good friend who tells you the truth, not always what we want to hear.

I’ve made some wonderful friends as a writer in the community. Although I’ve written a few ‘Amazon books’ as well, I’m not going to talk about them, here. This is for something far more important: a personal vision of the future and the content of self-publishing.

We can easily overlook the fact that WordPress is a self-publishing mechanism, as well as a blogging world and enabler of websites. We think of the vast machine that is Amazon books or ebooks as the dominant mechanism for getting from idea to ‘print’, although Amazon’s genius was to offer an international print-on-demand machine from which the majority of its writers – the content providers of its product – receive nothing…

I’m torn here, because Amazon does a lot of things right. I’m not sure we would have fared as well as we all did without them during Covid. The idea of ebooks is an excellent one, but…

It feels good to have a set of paper books on the shelves that bear your name as author. That’s important, because for the majority of us, that’s all we’ll get. There is an argument that the effect of our satisfaction with very little (apart from our vanity) has greatly eroded the quality of the book market. There are no certificates for good writing… Perhaps we need a General Certificate of Competent Writing.

It’s difficult to find a way through this, but some do. It’s all about marketing, of course. But experienced marketeers will tell you how much effort they have to put in, each week, to keep any income stream at all. I know of none who make more than a basic income, even those very good at it.

Perhaps the very nature of writing is changing – and, importantly, its value as an asset. My weekly blog-writing consists of three posts shared across two sites: Some fun fiction on Sunday; a Tuesday post on both Sun in Gemini and the Silent Eye, and a serious post on Thursday, usually centred on the core of what the Silent Eye does – modern mystical practice.

To me, this is more like a magazine than a book. I always stick to this weekly cycle; it allows my readers to know what’s coming. If they want to try my latest poetic offering, for example, they will always find them on a Tuesday.

The beauty of this cycle is that I always know from the stats what those regular readers actually think. Many are kind enough to tell me, on the day, what they feel about the latest post. These ‘live’ comments are at the heart of the ‘aliveness’ of the WordPress world, and the reason I view many of my readers as friends, even though I may never meet them.

In idle moments, I let my mind extrapolate from what this stuff of mine actually is, and how this ownership might evolve. The content has grown over the seven years I’ve been blogging. I’ve probably got enough there to fill fifty or so books. That’s a lot of substance, and it’s got me thinking about the real value of content, and how much more it would be worth if we, collectively, got tired of being fleeced…

WordPress doesn’t do that. It protects its ‘creatives’ very well, though it has some amusing notions about testing code.

This arrangement of the world’s content providers starving on one side of the fence, across from the mansions of the few companies that feed off it is all very one-sided,

So here’s what I think will happen if we creatives get our act together in the world of small-scale writing; as contrasted with newspapers and printed magazines. This is a world that WordPress are ideally placed to support and profit from.

Books will become less important though their content will not. The website will become the ‘iCafe’; a place in which you can get to know ‘Steve Tanham’ and find out whether you share ideas, curiosities and certain convictions. You won’t have to do this by spending days trawling through the writer’s website because there will be automated ‘avatars’ representing both your interests and privacy. These will utilise Artificial Intelligence (AI) to hold an ongoing discussion with the owner of the iCafe – the writer.

Both viewer (via avatar) and writer (cafe-owner) will only share as much as they wish, but the process will be one of gradual revealing of the ‘self’ of the cafe and its visitor. More experienced writers on WordPress will have an advantage because they will be familiar with both the methods of scammers and the ‘getting to know you’ phases of engaging with their actual and potential public.

The AI will help a lot in this, which is not intended to be a substitute for secure e-commerce or any banking practice. The modern banking apps on our phones and computers is a very sophisticated facility, one we need to support.

If your avatar likes what it sees, there will come a period when the curtains are pulled back and actual dialogue is engaged, But the AI avatar will watch over this for danger signs – if you wish it to. The Avatar and its protective settings belong to you.

It would not surprise me if Apple, with its committed focus on the privacy of our data, releases such an avatar architecture in the near future. By that time, WordPress might even work, reliably, on Apple platforms.

At the end of this process, I as a browsing person, have, effectively, made a friend. Armed with confidence that ‘I’ have integrity, am honest and a bona-fide member of this new iCafe Community, you decided to explore further. Perhaps we, across Zoom link or similar, arrange to actually ‘meet’ over a coffee. We bring our own coffee, of course. But look out for Amazon shipping seriously good coffee by drone at this point in the near-future.

Now we really talk. You’re interested in my new Sci-fi ‘book’ about how our master genes really came from outer space, and I’m fascinated by the work you’ve done on a little known but influential character in Jane Seymour’s family – about to be turned into a Zoom play.

Now this may seem like an awful lot of work to sell one book or play. But… One of the reasons this works is that I don’t know, yet, that you’ve got ten thousand followers until we’re having that drone-shipped coffee and are already friends. You are tired of being digitally abused and the avatar system prevents that. You can get to the reality of someone you like the sound of very quickly. And your delight in life is to meet and befriend ‘real’ people.

You’re happy that we both are genuine. I offer you a free digital copy of my book because I know that a good fraction of ten thousand people might just be interested. In turn, I appreciate that reading my book is a major investment in time for such a busy and successful person, but you assure me that, for the right friend, it’s fine.

The book isn’t on Amazon and it never has been. It’s in your iCafe Format, which is based on a new world public standard, but encrypted so that only those with the second part of the key (the buyers) can continue to read it beyond the trial period, when, in the spirit of ‘mission impossible’, it normally self-destructs. Because I trust you, I grant you a digital ‘key’ that allows you to send out a certain number of trial chapters to your other friends, possibly thousands of them.

I think about this and order you a drone-delivered latte of the best quality to say thank you. We have become friends, and time will show that we are two people in an increasingly enabled world-wondered-web of trusted iCafe Communities who continue to own their own stuff.

Scammers, con-persons and scumbags still exist, but they will be finding it harder to get anywhere as the AI possessed by the iCafe Circles learns from its experience… and patterns their demise.

Amazon will have moved out of books, but will own all the food we eat. And the world’s best coffee. Some you win…

©Stephen Tanham 2021

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

Fruit of the Giver

©Stephen Tanham 2021

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

Being Tango

Being is a perfect Tango with the the truth. One in which we get held tight, then bent and twisted into a new shape.

Everything vital in Creation revolves around truth. It is the axis that gives it life.

If we cultivate fantasy as a place to live, then we will not be.

We will only be a script for someone of greater being to read… Like a plot in a novel that hasn’t found its way home, yet. A dance that hasn’t found its rhythm.

©Stephen Tanham 2021

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

An Eye for the Universe?

It had all the hallmarks of a bad horror film. A mad scientist transplanting a section of human DNA onto the leg of a fruit-fly… It was doomed to end in comic failure, of course…

But it didn’t. The scientist wasn’t mad… and what happened was the most remarkable thing: a new perspective on genetics that adds another dimension to the way life and consciousness evolve in the universe…

The story begins more than a hundred years ago in the USA. Scientist Mildred Hoag was what we would now call a geneticist; but back then the word hadn’t been invented, though the concept of ‘units of inheritance’ was widely discussed amongst biologists.

Crick, Watson and Rosalind Franklin’s spiral of DNA was more than fifty years into the future.

The re-discovery of Mendel’s pioneering study of the mid 19th century on the inheritance of the humble pea plant had cast new light on how such units of inheritance worked. Mildred Hoag was on the trail of something important. She was studying why some fruit flies had underdeveloped eyes, rendering them practically blind. She knew, from statistical evidence, that the degraded eyes of her fruit flies had been passed down as part of what we would now call their genetic inheritance. For each inherited characteristic, there were two units of inheritance, one from each parent. Today, we know these as genes.

Humans and the humble fruit fly might appear to have little in common. Yet, in the type of fly known as Drosophila, approximately 60 percent of the fly’s genes can also be found in humans in a similar form. Fruit flies are tiny and easily housed. Research with Drosophila therefore provides important models of how a genetic development process is likely to unfold in humans – particular with respect to the treatment of such conditions as cancer.

Mildred Hoag was the first to discover this inherited link in the fruit fly. She named the damaged unit of inheritance ‘Eyeless’. Later, in the rapidly developing world of genetics, it was known as the Eyeless gene… which, in the light of what was to come, was ironic in the extreme…

Hoag published her findings in the 1915 American Naturalist Magazine, but it gathered little attention.

80 years later, student Rebecca Quiring was finishing her PhD with a study of a potentially defective gene in mice known as Small Eye. A vital part of her study was to determine the gene sequence, which she announced in triumph was ‘GTACG’… and then she stopped in amazement. She knew from the history of her science that Mildred Hoag’s Eyeless gene for fruit flies had been shown to have the same sequence. But that wasn’t all…

The human master gene for the eyeball is known as Pax-6. It is responsible for the entire embryonic development of the eye, switching other ‘transcription factors’ on and off as it literally orchestrates each layer of the eye: retina, skin of the cornea, then the lens and finally the iris.

Just writing this makes me think we know very little of the real power of genes…

And now the shocker: Pax-6 has the same sequence – GTACG – as Eyeless and SmallEye. They, and the human Pax-6 master gene were the same entity…

Which brings us to our ‘mad scientist’. In a report published in the UK journal Science, researchers Georg Halder, Patrick Callaerts and Walter J. Gehring detailed how they had successfully triggered the Eyeless gene to begin development of a fruit fly eye in the legs of one of their flies. They said the out-of-place eyes contained the entire eye structures, including cornea, pigment and photoreceptors, the cells that respond to light. That was dramatic enough, but they went on to trigger the human eye gene (Pax-6) on fruit flies’ legs in the same way. Again the process was successful.

You’re probably reeling in horror at the thought of a human eye staring at you from the tiny legs of a fruit fly! Indeed, the New York times ran with the headline:

‘With new flies, science outdoes Hollywood’

But the result was far more dramatic and far less horror-filled than that. The human Pax-6 gene, transplanted into the fruit fly, begun a development of a… fruit fly eye…

Patrick Callaerts describes it this way: ‘The Pax-6 master gene switches on a developmental pathway that makes the eyes for that species.’ It ‘talks to the host and says,”I understand the information coming from the human Pax-6 and I will interpret it according to the needs of my fruit-fly!”‘

Pax-6 is one of a growing number of identified Master Genes. Like the director of a complex Scottish dance, it orchestrates group of dancers, bringing them into the core of the dance when needed, then resting them when they are not. Pax-6 develops at a very early time in the embryo, when the brain is simply a tube waiting to grow a nervous system. Pax-6 is that fundamental in human development, as though the ability to see is a separate and whole ‘gift’ to mankind.

Philosophers have long considered the literal and metaphorical use of ‘light’ as analogous to both understand and wisdom. The universe began its life in the explosive light of the Big Bang.

Wherever you find eyes, you find Pax-6. But is it just sight that is orchestrated by this master gene?

The latest research on marine life show that Pax-6 is present on the underside of the ‘feet’ of starfish. The implications are that is also associated with touch and – by virtue of its ability to detect ‘scents’ in the water – with what we would view as taste and smell. Could it be that Pax-6 actually expresses and controls our entire sensory mechanism – the very basis of our experienced consciousness?

We will probably have the answers to these questions in the next few years. If this possibility is revealed to be true, then Pax-6 as the entire sensory mechanism feeding the brain with experience may well turn out to be a ‘gift from the Gods’ after all…

(Author’s note: my interest in this was sparked by a BBC series of podcasts names ‘Ingeneously’.)

©Stephen Tanham 2021

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

Return to Rhosneigr

We recently spent a few days on the island of Anglesey, just off the north-west coast of Wales. On the agenda was a personal return to Rhosneigr, an attractive village on the island’s south coast.

Rhosneigr’s heyday was in the Edwardian era when it was a highly fashionable holiday destination. Today, it is still a popular resort that has retained its charm and outstanding natural beauty. A new generation of much-needed visitors has arrived, driven by water-based activities, and they have made a huge difference to the ability of the village to invest in itself. I got to love it many years ago, and we have made occasional visits over the years – mainly in winter, as we like quiet landscapes and short breaks to help dispel the gloom of the darker months. When you’re by the sea, the world seems somehow different.

This time – in summer for a change – we were shaking off the Covid blues with a few days at a rural hotel in Amlwch, in the north of the island. On the agenda was a trip to revisit Rhosneigr. The reunion was fun, though I couldn’t help reflecting how much the world had changed from the days when I first came here, in the early 1970s.

In my mid-teens, I was invited by my girlfriend’s parents to holiday with them in Rhosneigr – the place they returned to every year.

(Above: a local map of Anglesey. Rhosneigr is located middle left, next to Anglesey Airport)

The resort is famous for its beautiful beaches, its long curving bay, and the rolling dunes; but for many of us its main claim to fame lay immediately to the west: the RAF Flight Training School (FTS) at Valley, which had a reputation for hosting some of the most modern aircraft on their testing flights…

My girlfriend’s family were staying in a large caravan on a farm at the outskirts of the village. Fathers have always protected the ‘honour’ of their daughters; and this was no exception. My girlfriend’s dad pitched a tent for me some distance away… two large fields and three thick hedges, to be exact. He was taking no chances…

I woke up early the following morning to the sound of aircraft engines. A short walk brought me face to face with a high fence. Through the fence was a bright red Gnat jet, warming its engines before hurtling down the long, military runway and into the dawning sky, waking the village with the first of a day’s worth of sorties. Later, I was told that when you grew up with the jets, you didnt hear them… The photo below shows the same type of aircraft at another airfield.

(Above: the original Folland Gnat; the kind of plane I came face to face with through the fence on my original visit to Rhosneigr. Source.)

The RAF base at Valley is still there. It was and is the place where the RAF’s next generation of pilots graduate to flying jets – a very different aircraft to the propellor-based planes used to that point. The jets now used – the BAe Hawks – are the same planes deployed by the famous Red Arrows formation flying team. The Hawk replaced the original Gnat in the late 1970s and has since become embedded, proudly, in the British psyche.

(Above: The BAe Hawk – the successor to the famous Gnat jet trainer and the jet used by the Red Arrows. Picture RAF, enhanced by the author)
(Above: The heraldic crest of RAF Valley)

RAF Valley has a fascinating story, told in its crest, which means ‘Refuge in adversity’

In heraldic language the Station Badge depicts a ‘Dragon Rampant holding a Portcullis’. For many years RAF Valley took pride in being a Master Diversion Airfield and remained open 24 hours a day to receive aircraft either in difficulty or diverted from other bases because of bad weather. The Station adopted the heraldic devices on the badge as an indication of both its location in Wales and its task of holding the entrance to the airfield open at all times.

Aircrew are also trained at RAF Valley for mountain and maritime operations throughout the world. The presence of the mountains of nearby Snowdonia and the close proximity (by jet!) of the Lake District’s Fells makes Valley the perfect location for this work.

The base is also home to the Mountain Rescue Service, the military’s only high readiness, all weather search and rescue, aircraft post-crash management team. The base holds 1,500 Service personnel, civil servants and contractors.

Many years later, on a solo camping and walking trip, I emerged from my tent in the early morning to see a strange almost sci-fi shape in the sky. As I gazed in wonder at its sharply pointed nose that seemed to be at an odd angle, I realised – with pure joy – that I was looking at the test machine that would become Concorde. It was carrying out its initial flight trials along the west coast, with the famous test pilot, Brian Trubshaw, at the controls. I never got to travel in Concorde, but I can tell you that it was one of the most beautiful things I ever watched fly.

The village of Rhosneigr is approached by a straight road that runs for nearly a mile alongside the high sand dunes all the way to the clock tower in the centre. From there, it’s a short descent via the ‘surf shack’ part of town to the popular main beach where the water sports take place. The long curve of the bay tapers off into the distance towards the town of Valley, with the airfield hidden behind the dunes to the right, although the runway comes close to the edge of town.

(Above: the typical stiff breeze makes for exciting kite-surfing. Skilled practitioners are often to be found literally flying twenty or so feet above the waves)

Over the past thirty years, Rhosneigr has grown as a centre of water activities. The bay is filled with bright ‘kites’ and other advanced ‘wind capture’ mechanisms, some of which now sport hydrofoils that raise the ‘pilot’ above the sea, reducing friction with the water and greatly increasing their speed. It’s quite dizzying to watch! Kite pilots are seen taking off to twenty or more feet above the waves, controlling their descent with skill and apparent ease, then landing to continue their crossing of the bay at break-neck speed. It’s a young person’s game, and there are always children being inducted into the next generation by their enthusiastic parents, both generations clad in shiny wet-suits.

(Above: the bay at Rhosneigr is famed for its winds – perfect for the water-based activities to which the central beach is devoted)
(Above: the older face of the central beach, with its gentler modes of crossing the bay!)

The old Rhosneigr is still there, typified by the row of the village’s most expensive beach-side properties, but it is refreshing to see how the local authorities have embraced the potential of newer ‘engineering’-based architecture. There were several new buildings of this style along the beach front. One of the best is below:

(Above: a modern engineered building on the sea front)

Soon, it was time to say goodbye. Tess had enjoyed a fabulous walk and chuck along only a fraction of the huge beaches, but we could tell she had run her fill. We took one last look at the mountains of Snowdonia, only a few miles south of here, on the mainland. Then it was time to return to our hotel.

It had been fun to return; and it was wonderful to see the place thriving. I looked up at the sky, remembering that far-away morning, and Concorde above me. There are many reasons to come back here, but that remains the finest of memories…

©Stephen Tanham 2021

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

Wanton Whimsy: 5TAG

You can see the moment they get it…

When their tone changes: “Must be just for show; the whole thing – car, suitcase left casually on the luggage rack…”

“What makes you think that?” the woman asks.

“Just look at the number plate!” The man adds, cocky…but sensing fragility.

It’s usually one of the women who sees it first.

“It’s not STAG, Ken, it’s 5TAG…”

And then Ken goes quiet, and you can see his eyes wander up to the black case, strapped to the rack, where he reconsiders whether this is really an ‘art installation’. But, in reality, he’s never heard of an art installation, so he can’t… Instead, he gazes at the car and case, wordlessly.

The woman – the clever woman who spotted the flaw in Ken’s logic – now goes quiet…if she’s the wrong woman. If she’s the right woman, she looks up at the bedroom window to wonder whether the lens reflecting like a full moon is a telescope behind bedroom glass… Or whether it’s a camera.

It’s a camera, of course. That’s what I do… I film their reactions. I’m not a voyeur. I do it for a purpose.

When she was leaving me, I begged her to give me another chance.

“I need some space,” she had said. “Take your money and go and set up somewhere nice… somewhere I might actually like living. Somewhere we’ve been where we were happy together. Wales was nice.”

“You might never find me,” I said, already losing the argument.

“That’s a risk you’ll have to take,” she said, simply.

So now I wait. My art installation is the car – the one we lovingly restored over a ten-year period, the one she loved to tour in. The black case is always there, perched on the luggage rack. There’s nothing in it… just love, and a readiness to move on.

Any day now she might just walk down this street, to the sound of the gulls and the smell of a fresh morning. If I miss her, the camera will tell me she’s been here, and hopefully, remains close. Until then I write, and film people… and hope.

The right woman is out there, I know her and I know she is…

(Photo of Triumph Stag by the author. This is a work of fiction. The car does not belong to the author, who thanks the owner for the photo opportunity)

©Stephen Tanham 2021

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

Teachers called Butterflies

(Above: Death of one world; birth of another. A beautiful Monarch butterfly emerges from the shrivelled husk of its cocoon. Image Pixabay)

The idea of life after death is a familiar notion. Nothing illustrates the inner and outer principles of this as well as the birth of a butterfly…

We’ve all seen it and marvelled. In the rays of the sun, the most exquisite creature emerges from the shrivelled husk of its cocoon, flexes and dries its wings in the warming rays, then changes the place where it lives… flying away, free, into the air.

It’s a familiar miracle, mainly discussed by children in the process of learning about the world of nature. Seldom by adults… which is strange, since it contains one of the best living examples of the transformation of the inner life.

The life cycle of a butterfly comprises four stages: egg; larva (caterpillar); pupa (chrsalis), and the adult butterfly, itself. The egg stage typically lasts between three and seven days. The tiny caterpillar emerges from the egg, formed as a voracious eating-machine which increases its body mass thousands of times before the next stage begins.

This vast accumulation of material and energy is simply fuel for the miraculous transformation that follows, but even at this stage, the caterpillar may shed its exoskeleton in response to growth. This may happen several times. Each time, the physical form changes, dramatically. But nothing is as dramatic as the change when pupation begins… Out of hundreds of eggs, only a few may survive to this stage. Nature finds safety and continuity in numbers.

Pupation is the formation of a chrysalis; a process of total enclosure in which a ‘tomb’ of silk is made. For typically the next two weeks, the organic form of the butterfly will literally dissolve itself, leaving a chemical soup which, guided by an unseen intelligence, begins to re-combine to create a butterfly, perfectly fitted to the silk cocoon in which it develops.

In the light of a summer sun, the butterfly emerges from its chrysalis with folded and crumpled wings. For the next two hours it will be massively vulnerable as its hangs upside down, pushing fluids into its wings so that they will expand and straighten.

Typically, for the next two to three weeks, the butterfly enjoys a beautiful life in the sun, during which time it will find a mate and the correct plants on which to begin the cycle of species life, again.

Some species, such as Monarchs, may live up to three months. Either way, the full glory of the flying creature is brief…

Beautiful in itself, this lifecycle has much to teach those interested in spirituality. The key elements of the butterfly’s life-cycle are analogous to a new way of looking at our own mystical progress from instinctive human to ‘winged creature’.

We, too, begin as an egg. After birth into the world where we must interact with that environment in the sense of food and impressions, we enter an early stage (the baby) where our lives are entirely eating, digestion and waste – and sleeping so that the food may be maximally transformed into bodily growth.

The caterpillar roams around its world, seeking the best food for its growth. As children, we range across a landscape in play, deepening our existence with friends and adventure, all of this building on the continuing hunger of our bodies and minds for further growth.

With sexual maturity, we reach physical adulthood, though our minds may be very immature in a fuller understanding of our world.

To what, then, does the state of the chrysalis correspond?

We can live the rest of our lives as a grown ‘child’, mating and feeding from the world. If so, then our lives will be driven from the instinctive levels of the self, leaving little room for us to question whether there exists a higher relationship with the essence of the Life that gave us physical life.

Some choose a different path. They search for what is ‘higher’ in their ‘selves’, and seek the company of those whose own investigations have produced some fruit. This is not ‘success’ in worldly things, though the latter is indicative of a focussed and disciplined life, and need not stand against the spiritual life. This is the grasping of a spiritual path. For those embarked on this way, the chrysalis becomes an important symbol.

A growing confidence in our real identity with the inner processes of life, light and love, brings us to a stage where our present self needs to be symbolically wrapped in its shroud and offered to the higher energies of life in the form of transformation. We literally invite and invoke this change, accepting that its purpose and method is beyond the powers of the brain. By crossing this abyss, we offer all we have to the symbolic butterfly within us, committing what we are and have made of ourselves to a process of regeneration.

To emerge under a different sun, winged and transformed. This is the highest act of a mystic. It may be read literally and metaphorically.

©Stephen Tanham 2021

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

Sun Train

©Stephen Tanham 2021

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

Wanton Whimsy: Test Pilot

It wasn’t his dream, but he was in it…

But someone else was, too. He knew the other as ‘Kitten’: marked in the sky by the two eyes. Kitten watched all the time; she – how did he know it was she? – presided over this place.

That much he knew… but nothing else. As long as he followed the furrows in the landscape, he knew he would be okay. If he deviated…well, he didn’t want to think about that. Easier to follow the path…

The other eyes – the controlling eyes in the sky – seemed always to be the same distance from him. But there were other objects that came closer as he walked.

Ahead there was an oak tree. He wondered how he knew with such certainly that it was an oak? His path seemed to be taking him there, so he relaxed and watched it get closer.

When he was close enough to touch it, the intensity of the experience changed. It seemed to welcome him and each of its branches seemed kissed by an edge of glowing gold that radiated pleasure at his proximity; as if they were reaching out to touch his skin with their light.

A new feeling came: a desire to speak…. He didn’t know why this was so special, but the tree recognised it too. It appeared to be listening to him.

He said–so clearly that it startled him, “Oak”, then “Oakworth!”

Far away, there was sound of the action signal, but this time it was making a different noise – one that suggested triumph.

Laughter filled the air. He looked up at Kitten’s blinking eyes. They were pleased. Her pleasure filled him with delight, and he felt a different kind of glow on his skin.

Then it began…again – the bit he always seemed to forget. The eyes of Kitten became a face, and the eyes of the face pulled him into the sky. He abandoned himself to the joy of flying and soared into the changing face of Kitten.

The room he could never remember was familiar. Soft white drapes moved, gently, in the summer breeze from the opened section of the glass wall. The breeze seemed to stroke his body. Directly over the bed was a monitor on which the words ‘Self realised in game sequence’ were flashing.

He tried to sit up, but the motion monitor in the virtual reality helmet reminded him, sharply, what would happen should he continue to move…

“Wonderful, darling,” said the woman sitting at the console opposite him. “That’s a major stage in our new core program. It will make everything else the gaming world has ever done seem trivial…”

She watched for his response, eyes like a cat. He dared not show disdain for what she was doing to him…that way lay the opposite of pleasure.

Despite his control, she saw and mocked his sulk.

“Well, you did break into my house, Peter Oakworth…and with wicked intentions!”

(Photo by the author)

©Stephen Tanham 2021

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

The Magic of Gateways

As a child, I found gateways to be magical places. I couldn’t verbalise why, but I knew that something happened when you walked through them.

As adults, we can find richer meaning in them, recognising that, however simple, they take us into a different place. They stop us in our present tracks and make us do something slightly unusual to go through them. It invokes the mythical idea that there is, here, a payment to be made, which then grants access to the beyond.

My picture, above, taken on our evening dog-walk, shows one of my favourite gateways. It’s an old and long-disused canal bridge on what was the Preston-Kendal canal. The canal was finally drained in 1958, and much of its length has been converted back for farming use. But its signature ‘slot in the landscape’ can still be seen for many miles – in fact half our garden is landscaped to incorporate it as a spilt-level feature.

The disused bridge, above, is labelled ‘Bridge 178’. The ‘turnstile’ swinging gate is not what you would normally see, and is quite heavy – to prevent sheep pushing through. On a sunny evening, the action of entering the shaded space of the underside of the arch, together with pushing the heavy gate, is ‘notable’ in that your body knows you are doing something unusual.

Our lives have gateways. As a young person, we may pass an examination, which, though our hard work, grants us access to a more mature and powerful level of our world. Our driving test is another good example. Passing it, we are given access to a different level of being able to ‘do’. We are also trusted that this new world is filled with potential dangers, and that stying true to the (highway) code we learned to pass the exam is essential if we are to be a trusted member of that level of consciousness. In the latter case, our collective safety is dependent on everyone adopting such codes. Driving on the wrong side of the road is a short-term activity…

The old phrase ‘right of passage’ expresses this well. We are granted the ‘right’ to do something; which carries with it an assumed maturity of use.

The idea of initiation mirrors this. Initiation is simply the passing through a mental-emotional gateway into what will be a new world if we take the act seriously. If we trivialise it, and want to show off with our new ‘qualification’, then we have missed the point; and are well on the way to spoiling it for others.

For millennia, those involved in providing a richer understanding of what we call the ‘self’ – and its relationship to the perceived world, have utilised these core ideas of a gateway in the construction of places of initiation. They are nothing more – or less – than gateways designed to offer the personal psychology of an individual a path through a gateway. if all things are correctly in place, the initiation will see the person arrive with their whole being focussed on the passage through that short period of intensity. Unlike the iron turnstile, above, they will have little idea of what is to happen, and this is an important aspect.

They will be directed in what to do, and that will usually involve physical movements as well as a degree of examination as to their readiness to ‘pass through’. As part of this, they will be reminded that, on the other side of the gate, they will have responsibilities to the society in which they live, as much as to themselves. The responsibility to themselves is to the truth of what they have experienced. The responsibility to the society in which they live will be to use that truth wisely.

Mystical progression does not need initiation, but it can greatly accelerate progress in the right circumstances. In the Silent Eye, we enable the student/companion to follow a scripted gateway, at home, at the conclusion of each of the three years of the course. When we are able to meet for one of our workshops, we also offer a confirmatory initiation, witnessed by others, so that the power and memory of the experience becomes part of many lives.

Gateways are beautiful things. They can be large or small. The passing of dog and man through the canal gate, above, is a simple thing; yet it contains all the elements of a more significant rite of passage. I often smile as I carefully open the gate for Tess, our collie, mindful of the fact that the heavy iron could bruise her if handled carelessly. It reminds me of the responsibility that we initiators – who once passed through such gates for the first time – have carried for millennia.

Responsibility and love are the watchwords…

©Stephen Tanham 2021

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

King’s Goblet

©Stephen Tanham 2021

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

Wanton Whimsy: Interview

The driver’s window was open. So open she wasn’t sure it had one. Parked in the sunshine at the end of a line of antique shops, it looked…alien.

The message had been precise: she was to meet him here. The ‘small square’ turned out to be a parking space; almost exactly sized to fit the strangely exotic car. She felt a slight shiver. She had a fatal weakness for the strangely exotic. It had got her into lots of trouble…

She’d never seen a car like this. The tension forced a chuckle. “Straight out of a Batman movie,” she whispered, ignoring the inner voice that said she was being stupid – it wasn’t black.

“Must it always be black?” she heard herself say, coyly. None of the passing shoppers seemed to notice the well-dressed woman talking to herself, next to the strangely exotic, cream car.

She allowed the rogue gene to lure her to the driver’s door, where she peered in. Probably get arrested if this is wrong! she mused, silently this time.

In the folds of the dark leather of the centre console was a single, red rose. Nothing else. She felt her heart racing. “Oliver Rose,” she whispered, resuming the whispering voice. “The man I’m here to meet.”

But it was a long shot, and she worried she was grasping at straws. She began to walk round to the passenger side, her tall heels clicking on the concrete, but stopped at the front of the car.

Initiative, it had said on the letterhead of the interview invitation. Printed in beautiful type with an old-fashioned feel to it. The letter was now folded into her tiny clutch bag, but she could easily conjure its image:

Rose Tech: weaving initiative into the commonplace.

And then, like a typographical invitation:

‘Does your character exemplify these characteristics?’

She supposed this was a ‘common place’; mere yards from the town’s main shopping street, on this most ordinary Saturday morning in early August.

And I’m headed for the passenger seat, she thought.… Like any other passenger…. With that, she stopped and changed direction, narrowly avoiding the striding legs of a smartly dressed man cutting the corner. The denim of his jeans was expensive… but the shoes, the shoes

She thought of the soft leather of those shoes as she got into the car, swinging the massive door closed behind her and wondering if she’d finally lost her oft-threatened marbles…

Although there was still no window, it felt strangely quiet in the cabin… As though the sheer opulence of the interior absorbed anything as mundane as noise

Her fantasy – the one that was about to get her arrested – clutched at the one remaining clue in the letter. ‘You can set your own starting date’.

“Devil take the hindmost!” she laughed into the captive summer air as she reached across the cabin to open the glove compartment. The keys tumbled out onto the thick carpet and she had to contort her body to escape the depth of the driver’s seat contours. She watched her exquisitely painted nails reaching for the shining key ring, then the soft leather of the suddenly-bright Italian shoes and the deep blue of the jeans.

Sitting back, with time performing strangely, her eyes levelled with his.

“Fancy a bit of lunch?” he asked softly.

“I’m here for an interview,” she parried, cool as he was, but thinking: and you’re not having me yet… not for a long time…

“I was thinking of a celebration,” he said, gently. “You’ve got the job.”

She started the car and reached for the carved ebony of the gear knob. The roar of the V8 was deafening… but it was a long way away.

(Photo of Morgan Aero by the author)

©Stephen Tanham 2021

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

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